“Golf is a good walk ruined.” – Mark Twain
I suppose there is a first time for everything. Last Saturday E and I were invited to go golfing with Murao-san, the guy in charge of all the airport-related stuff on Tanegashima. Originally we were supposed to go with our friends, Doug and Mitsuhiro, and the four of them would play and I would cheerlead. But Doug had to repair a gaping, termite-induced hole in his floor and Mitsuhiro had to go officially start his married life in Australia, so instead we went with two of Murao-san’s friends and I left my pom-pons (yes, that is the official spelling) at home.
We met up with the others at 11 am at the Cosmo Resort Golf Course in Nakatane. The course was just as beautiful as promised, but I was still skeptical. I grew up listening to golf-babble and attempting to change the channel when my dad fell asleep in front of a golf game (only to have him unexpectedly wake up and try to convince me he was watching it), but the closest I’ve ever been to a real golf course is the driving range by my orthodontist. My first surprise were the golf carts that drove themselves (apparently they run along a magnet buried in the pavement). I’ll admit, I was a little disappointed because I was kind of hoping to do a little off-roading, but my disappointment turned into bemusement (glee?) when I discovered they could be controlled via a remote (although, typically, none of the men allowed me to use it). We started on the back nine and in true Japanese fashion, the first person to tee-off was determined by a round of rock-paper-scissors (E won).
After that I couldn’t really tell you what happened as far as the game went – balls were lost, howls of anguish were made, it took me 15 holes before I finally understood that “tori” meant “triple bogey” as opposed to “birdie” and that one guy in particular wasn’t lying about his score half the time (for those who don’t speak Japanese: Japanese people love to pirate English words, say them wrong and then shorten them. So “triple bogey” in Japanese sounds like “toripuru bogi,” which they shorten to “tori.” However, “tori” is actually a word in Japanese and it means “bird.” Laugh with me, people) – but the walk really was pleasant. You can see the ocean from the course and the sand traps were raked zen-style. If your ball landed in one of the bunkers, you were expected to re-rake the sand on your way out.
The second half wasn’t as nice as the first – the wind picked up and it got overcast and I spent most of my time trying to stand next to trees in such a way so that they would block me from the cold. My nose was runny and my fingers were blue and I was ready to be done after only the second hole, but of course they kept playing and I began to appreciate how much stamina is required to play golf. It’s not a game where you can lose your give-a-shit. You have to psych yourself up and bring your A-game every time. And it’s not just at the tee-off. It’s every time you hit the ball.
I found myself intrigued by golfers’ idiosyncrasies. E didn’t like to use his driver because he tends to hit too far off the the right with it so he used an iron even at the tee. Conversely, Murao-san used a driver that might have been bigger than him. One of the other guys used a putter that looked like a misshapen hockey puck attached to a stick, and I learned that many golfers tend to have several putters in all different shapes and sizes and employ astrologists to tell them which one to use on any given hole. Some of the guys took more practice swings than the others. One guy used a tee to mark where his ball was on the green and the others used coins. I found it familiar and because of that, comforting. Every sport is a mind game and every athlete has their rituals and good luck charms. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be sports-related. Life itself is a mind game and we all have our little tics and quirks that help psych us up for it.
I don’t think I’ll ever become an avid golf fan. I’m not even sure I’ll ever pick up a club and play. But I don’t think my walk was entirely ruined. =)