ON Some time ago I did a show with my friend Rob Beckett, the comedian, and took a look into the world of golf. Rob had played a bit and tried to convince me of the benefits of playing it. I was uncertain. The whole thing felt a little tragic: Men of a certain age used four hours of class to escape their homes. I’m also never really into the idea of clubs and rules for members. If a club doesn’t let me in, I can only assume that it’s exclusive and stuffy. If it lets me in, I’ll assume it must be crap. The membership idea is a great way to create false demand for something that people wouldn’t be nearly as excited about if everyone had access.
However, I had become aware of the many benefits of golf. First, it’s a nice way to take a walk. Second, quite a few people I know play golf (does that make me an idiot?) Almost meditatively. But above all, it is satisfactory when you properly leather a ball.
I decided to take a course and try it out – on a driving range. I thought this was the safest way to avoid embarrassment. I didn’t feel like teeing off with 70 angry people behind me because I was doing 35 strokes per hole.
Still, I was pretty nervous when I got to the parking lot. Nervously, I stopped and prepared to step into a new, scary world. As I got out of the car, a man got out immaculately dressed in the finest golf clothing. I wore a hooded tracksuit and trainers, an outfit you’d think would be used as a weapon when paired with a golf club.
I realized I had parked crookedly and had to pull out again and straighten up. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do that until the man got his thugs out of his car and left. I didn’t want to let the car down, so I waited. This man really spent 15 minutes sorting his gear before heading to the clubhouse. It was wonderful. I don’t know which was worse – the fact that it was taking so long or that I was sitting in the car looking like I was watching him, some kind of golf club pervert.
This seemingly innocuous incident was enough to add to my fear. Part of my nervousness was how narrow-minded everyone might be, but mostly because I realized I didn’t want this man to be a target. Nevertheless, I went in and tried out the driving range with a little instruction. As is usually the case, I had massively built this up for no reason – in fact, it turned out that the place was populated by pretty normal people. I enjoyed my session, and it was fun when I got home as my wife made some decent miles out of the fact that I seemingly became everything I once hated.
I’ve been there three or four times since then, and when people ask me what I’m up to, I tell them I’ve started playing golf. Unless I don’t have it. What I did went to the driving range four times. I’m still too scared to play right. The idea of walking on a golf course still feels very daunting, and not just because I suck. I’ve also gotten too old to really want to make big changes, and now it turns out that my favorite sport is “a little bit of the driving range”. Hopefully they’ll make it to the Olympics.