For non-golfers, golf is a very strange sport indeed.
It’s not until I introduce some new golfers to the game that I remember how intimidating a golf club can be. The game of golf itself is difficult enough but it comes with a mind-bogglingly complicated rule book and a bizarre set of extra quirks that very few of us dare to question if we even notice them at all.
To those poor people who look at golf like it’s some sort of alien invention, its a bewildering activity. They’re more likely to want to understand quantum physics or the thought processes of Clive Palmer than the nuances of golf.
And when you step back and break down the aspects of the game that the golf-less find puzzling, you can start to see why.
Don’t walk on the line of the putt, don’t stand behind someone who is hitting, get the flag-stick if you’re closest to the hole, watch your shadow. Few sports (and games) have such a long list of rules that have no direct bearing on the score. The golf-less can barely comprehend the long and complicated rule book, let alone these extra ones that aren’t even in there.
2. Proper attire
The requirement to wear a collared shirt is just one from the long list of dress regulations needed to step foot on (most) golf courses, and it baffles a non-golfer. It sits alongside white socks (of specific lengths), no cargo shorts, no sneakers, no jeans and the tucked-in shirt. Adhering to these rules not only gets us a game at the posh golf club down the road, but it makes it bleedingly obvious what you’ve been doing all day as you stand in line to pay for your petrol on the way home.
3. Crazy clothing
Despite all these regulations, there is a full range of clothing that is still somehow par for the course, so to speak. Ironically, what can pass as golf clothing around the club, you wouldn’t dare don anywhere other than on a golf course. Golf-less folk are surprised to find plaid pants, loud shirts, fancy shoes and white belts at the opp shop, let alone a golf course.
4. The addiction
In a world featuring such myriad of sports, games and hobbies (that are often far less time consuming), why is it that someone can get so addicted to it? Why do you have so much trouble getting out of bed at 7am to go to work, but will happily don the plaid pants to go play golf at 6am? The problem with answering the question is that it’s impossible to answer. You simply must have played the game, played that sweet shot or sunk the big putt to truly understand why we buy the new driver, wear the crazy clothes, get so infuriated and do it all again a week later.
Non-golfers will occasionally ponder why you need to keep quiet while someone is playing a golf shot. Tennis is often mentioned in the next breath. It’s tempting to explain that we could all happily play with noise, but it’s the unexpected noise that may lead to more twitches. But these are non-golfers we’re talking about here.
Some non-golfers seem to have some idea that higher is better when it comes to handicaps but conversations usually go like this;
“What’s your handicap?”, someone might ask as you arrive late for the party after a long Saturday round. “Uh, 15″, you reply.
“Oh, ok. Is that good?”
Thank goodness very few non-golfers heard about the Stableford scoring system.
7. Watching golf
I can almost understand this one. Without ever experiencing the game it all appears quiet, dull, and boring. Add Renton Laidlaw’s, soothing, avuncular tones over the top of a golf broadcast and it’s likely the uninitiated will fall asleep if the remote control is not with arms reach.
And if you’re keen to keep a group of non-golfing friends, it’s wise to refrain from inviting them along to watch a golf tournament. This strange behaviour from golfers cannot be explained nor rationalised and is the most mystifying trait in us all.
8. What’s the point?
I’ve heard this one many times. What’s the point of the game? You hit a ball, walk after it and do it again. Over and over. For a seemingly random, 18 holes? Expressed with the right tone and in the right accent, it makes great comedy material. Upon reflection, it does seem absurd, but there are few pointless things I’ve done that are as much fun as golf.