What golf means to me

Somebody once wrote that golf translates oddly well into words, and the stylish New Yorker essayist Herbert Warren Wind believed that golf provided sport’s most sophisticated literature.

It’s a game for a lifetime and it’s a game for the writer and reader. And that’s where I come in as a columnist for Fifty-Plus.Net. The world of electronic communications has speeded up golf talk and widened my horizons considerably. Now I have the chance to widen it further, and to meet fellow Fifty-Plus people through this medium.

Writing golf for nearly 25 years has given me the chance to sort out my own feelings about the game; like everybody else, as a player I have a love-hate relationship with it. I often think, "Why can’t I play more consistently to what I think is my ability, my potential?" Maybe this very question has inspired the endless and, to me, fascinating literature of instruction. Golf offers us the hope of improvement, no matter our age. I’m 51 and I still think my best golf is ahead of me. I really do. Why, it’s not long ago that I listened to Paul Runyan, the 1934 and 1938 PGA Championship winner. Runyan said he was still learning about the game, every y.

I’ll be writing about the ways in which golf enriches us as we age. The longer we have played, perhaps, the more we appreciate what it has to offer us. Spring is around the corner in Canada, and I’m sure most golfers across our home and native land are looking forward to hitting a few shots in the fresh air.

No doubt many readers have been toning up their golfing muscles indoors during the winter, or hitting balls indoors. Have you noticed the proliferation of golfdomes across Canada? We want our golf and we want it now.

When I’m in Toronto in the winter I have my own favourite place to practice — in the condominium where my mother lives. It’s a mostly 50-plus building, and one where the board knew people liked to golf. Come late autumn, then, they convert a squash court into an area for hitting balls. It’s a treat to close the door to the court (the course?) and get into a golfing meditative spirit.

Golf encourages flights of imagination, doesn’t it? We can hit balls indoors and pretend we’re at Augusta National or Pebble Beach or Royal County Down in Northern Ireland — a place I love to visit for its wild, edge of the world feeling. Golf takes us into ourselves and out of ourselves. H.G. Wells said it’s the best game in the world to be bad at. I’ll address all these matters and more during my weekly columns here.

I’ll be writing about golf from many angles, and dealing with many subjects. I’d like to convey the breadth of the sport, for golf might be the quintessential world sport, no disrespect to soccer meant. But golf can be a passport to the world, an invitation to new places, cultures different from one’s own. As I travel the golfing world I’ll take you into some of the places I visit and introduce you to some of the people I meet. The gifted English writer Henry Longhurst once called golf the Esperanto of sport, its universal language, that is. I agree. People speak golf the world over.

This column represents an opportunity for me to take the reader into the many ways golf is spoken, and to help kindle, rekindle or refresh one’s golfing spirit. I’ll do so by taking you into the minds and golfing hearts of older players here, there and everywhere — Jack Nicklaus, Sam Snead, Tom Watson, Marlene Streit, Sandra Post, and many others. But at the same time I’ll write about Tiger Woods and David Duval and Karrie Webb and Lorie Kane and Mike Weir from time to time as well, because golf is indeed a game for all ages. I was writing about players older than I was when I started 25 years ago; now I most often write about players far younger than I am. Golf is a game in which we live in the present, but look forward and backward always. It’s like life that way, I suppose.

There’s so much to write about, and so this column will deal with it all: the spirit of the game, course design, inspirational stories of golfers who have overcome physical disabilities, cutting-edge ways to keep fit for golf, the literature of the game, the pro side and the amateur side, inquiries into the wide and sometimes wacky world of equipment. And more, as they say, much more.

Welcome, then, to golf the way I see and experience it. And remember that while golf is a wonderful individual sport, it’s also a game we share with others. So please share your opinions and stories with me, via e-mail, no doubt, or, I hope, on the golf course — as fine a place as there is to spend some time.