Last year, I got thoroughly irritated with a friend of over 50 years. He is a very forceful character, a perfect example of the Tamil proverb in which the protagonist says his rabbits always have three legs. He is also an excellent sportsman and represented his college and university at tennis, table tennis and football. But with age, he has turned to golf at which he has, as expected, excelled. Indeed, he worships golf and tends to carry on a bit about its wonders and virtues.
So I thought I would take him down a peg or two. You can imagine what his reaction was when I told him, partly to provoke an explosion and partly because I genuinely think so, that golf was a silly game in which you had to hit a stationary ball into a stationary hole. No other proper game is like that. Where is the skill in walking around on grass hitting a white ball with bent sticks, I asked? Why not play carrom instead? Or marbles? Same thing: stationary coin, stationary hole and even better, you are sitting down. Or, if all you want to do is to walk in pleasant surroundings, why not go to a nice park, why pretend to be playing something?
Where is the skill in walking around on grass hitting a white ball with bent sticks, I asked? Why not play carrom instead? Or marbles? Same thing!
Look at cricket, I said, where a large ball comes at you at 100 miles an hour. It moves in the air. It bounces off the pitch, sometimes right past your ear. If it hits you in the wrong place you can be disabled for good. And instead of an iron stick you have a wooden paddle barely four inches across. You have to hit the ball with it to score runs. There are eleven guys trying to prevent you. Now that is where real skill is, I said, not in hitting a stationary ball into a stationary hole. Even badminton is better, the shuttlecock moves in all directions — or gilli-danda where the gilli is moving upwards in a twisting motion when you hit it. I then counted off all other games where skill was gauged by the ability to tackle movement.
Golf, I reminded him, has developed from something Scottish shepherds used to do while tending their sheep — use their crooked sticks to hit stones. You can imagine how very bored they must have been. Hit. Walk. Hit. Walk. Hit Walk. I mean, how moronically monotonous. But you are a man of the world, well-heeled to boot, not bored at all, so why walk for miles in the hot sun and rain and sleet and cold winds to hit a small white ball with a big iron stick into a faraway hole in the ground marked by a flag? Not just that: what is the point of a fellow who follows you with your golf bag on his shoulder? Why have golf carts? I mean, how stupid is this game that is intended for walking but provides motorised transport on the field, or course, as it is called. If the idea is to network, I asked him, why go to all this trouble? How do people who don’t play golf network? And look at what you pay for it when you can do it for free on Facebook or Twitter or even good old Google Groups. All are same as golf, no special skill required because the keyboard is stationary as is the screen.
My friend, bless him, heard me out. There was no explosion. He didn’t insist on defending golf as I had expected him to. “I no longer argue with fools,” he said calmly. We are still friends. And he no longer invites me to his golf club.