I’ve joked a few times on various social media that the Rules for Retirement require men to take up golf, if they haven’t already. I don’t know what it says for women – I was only issued the men’s version the rulebook. Being a solidly pro-rulebook, upstanding member of polite society, after I told my boss (and the entire company by email) to take this job and …. well, you know, I dusted off my twenty-plus year old set of Arnold Palmer irons and moseyed over to the local golf course to see what I could do.
I had played before, which is why I had the clubs already. But despite living literally within walking distance of a very nice nine-hole, city-owned golf course for the past eighteen years, I had not swung any of the clubs in anger in all that time. Now was the time, according to the rules.
Golf is a sport (yes, it’s a sport – ignore John Daly’s waistline!) that requires quite a bit of skill to play decently enough to enjoy. Even though the little ball sits there propped up on its tee invitingly, unmoving, swinging a four foot stick with a minuscule flat surface on the end in such a way as to not only contact the ball but impel it more or less in the direction of the fairway is just not that easy. More likely you will whiff on the ball, duff it ten yards on the ground or send it on a trajectory towards that nice expensive Mercedes parked over there on the street. If you do manage to hit it a fair distance and keep it within the confines of the golf course, you’ll undoubtedly lose it in the trees. Golf balls are masters at hiding in the trees. This is why even those who can hit the ball fairly well still keep a second ball in their pocket when they go to tee off. Saves a trip back to the bag.
Me, I’m no different than the average schmuck who takes up the game. Possibly I have an advantage in that I’m a good tennis player, or I was at one time. Swinging a stick is something I already know how to do. That advantage has allowed me to at least enjoy the game from the get go. I can’t hit the ball very far but that also works to my advantage as the ball sometimes doesn’t make it to the tree line.
Still, I seemed to lose a lot of balls, sometimes even ones that apparently landed in the fairway. The problem was my eyesight. While my left eye is decent, my right eye was horrible. I kid you not – I could not even make out the big E at the top of the eye chart with that eye. Tracking an itty bitty golf ball more than a hundred yards was a challenge. A challenge I’d often lose.
You may notice I drifted into the past tense. That’s because I had cataract surgery on the right eye recently – replacing my natural lens with a new one that focuses at distance. Or so I’d hoped. Turns out it only gets me to about 20:35 or so. I still lose sight of the longer ball flights. So, it was on to step two: find a ball that can be seen more easily.
Golf balls are white, mostly. You’d think that a white sphere sitting on and in green and brown stuff would stand out. Turns out, not so much. There are times when I hit the ball in the middle of the fairway and couldn’t see it until almost on top of it. If the sun is at an angle where you actually get reflections off leaves, damn near everything looks like a ball until you get close. Trying to find the thing in the rough, where it has sunk below grass top level, or in the trees (think small forest around here) is orders of magnitude harder.
I checked out the internet, the font of all wisdom and bullshit, to see if there was a ball that is more visible. I already had a few yellow and orange balls (yellow balls and orange balls, not yellow/orange balls. That would be weird.), but they didn’t work either. White balls are actually easier for me to see. But some people were saying that this new Volvik matte pink ball was the bees knees. All other balls have a gloss covering and pink apparently provided the best contrast against green & brown. So, I moseyed over to the local golf equipment purveyor and negotiated the purchase of a dozen.
And you know, they’re right. These things are amazingly visible, not only in the fairway, but also in the trees among all the leaves. I can still lose them if the ball hides itself under leaves but if any substantial part is showing, I’ll most likely see it. I love them. In fact, I’ve become a little obsessed with not losing one. Take yesterday, for example. As was my norm on the second hole of the local course, I hit my tee shot into the trees on the right (I’m taking lessons to stop this unfortunate habit). This is an area that is basically one of those small forests I mentioned, and given that it’s the time of year where the trees have just lost all their leaves, and given the area slopes downhill quite a bit making footing dicey, finding a ball is a matter of luck. But this was one of my prized, unloseable pink balls! I searched and searched for a long time, but with no luck, although I found two other balls. Mind you, there are other players on the course, so you’re really not supposed to take too long looking for a lost ball. I gave up and continued the round with a feeling of defeat.
I mentioned I was a little obsessed. After the round, later in the day, I came back to the course and continued the search. I found it! So, I can say that I did not lose one of my pink balls that day. So far, out of the dozen, I’ve lost two. One went into another small forest and despite going back to look after the round, it remains lost. The other is at the bottom of the swamp that runs through the course. I know where it is, I just am unwilling to wade in to find it. Mind you, that one ended up in the swamp on two successive shots. After the first, I saw it go in the water not far from solid ground, so I spent several minutes dredging the swamp with my seven iron and came up with it, and several other balls.
I hate losing golf balls.