Not too recently I tried golf. Was I any good? No, not really. Was I very bad? No, I wasn’t all that bad. Eventually I tried to come to grips with a sport where you could drink your way through a golf course for five hours starting fairly early in the day and end the day wondering where all the time went. Plus, is it really a real sport if you can drink while doing it? And, is it a real sport if drinking while doing it makes you better at it?
I played the military courses with my military buddies... Camp Pendleton, Miramar, San Diego, Twenty-Nine Palms. I also played a few public courses with an assortment of friends and family... Escondido, Dallas, Vegas, Reno, Coronado, Torrey Pines, Missouri City, New Orleans, Fort Worth, Garland, Frisco, Plano. It feels like I played a lot of golf. It was addictive; however, my time on golf courses wasn’t at all correlated with any improvement in my skills at golf.
One day, the Gunny and I needed to take a break from work and we headed to the golf course on Camp Pendleton. The Camp Pendleton golf course is a nice course, very well maintained, affordable, casual, and tucked into the Southern California hills with plenty of wildlife (bobcats, black bears, and rattlesnakes), fresh air, and peaceful solitude.
We showed up and got to tee off with a very old couple, Frank and Margaret, octogenarians I guessed. Frank was a World War II bomber pilot. Margaret was German. They met in Germany during the war, married, and now they traveled the US in a luxury RV playing golf and visiting their friends and family. They are both just crazy about their grandkids; although, it sure did seem that Margaret was crazier about their friends, family, and grandkids than Frank was. Frank seemed to just be along for the Margaret ride. He had that look in his eyes like, “I just go where Margaret says.” He had given up that fight a long time ago. They were a super cool old couple, retired, traveling, playing golf, meeting new people, living the dream.
We teed off together. The Gunny was a much better golfer than I had any hopes to become. Frank was pretty good for an old man. Margaret was as good as any old lady ought to be. I spent a lot of my time looking for my golf balls in the tall grass and behind the trees and quite often taking drops. Margaret was always in the middle of the fairway. She could only hit her balls about 125 to 150 yards, but she was always middle of the fairway. She would tee off, and within two or three shots she was on the green and putting for par... every time.
That was so frustrating. She yelled at me, “Oh my God, Van. How do you have all those muscles and let a little old lady out drive you?”
She said later, "Oh my God. Did you just hit a duck? You hit a duck! I have never seen that before and I play a lot of golf. If that duck was a part of the golf course, I bet you would have missed it."
Frank looked at me apologetic like, “Yeah she’s Margaret. It is what it is.”
Margaret felt sympathetic towards me offering a variety of golf advice as we played 18 holes. Here is some of the advice and comments she shared:
You should just aim at the tree Van, since you know you never hit what you aim at.
You should just aim for the lake, that way you know your ball will never go in there.
Trees are like 80% air, but somehow you managed to hit 100% tree.
You should watch out for the wind.
You need to stay away from trees.
Try to hit your golf balls straight.
You need to use more brains and less muscle.
Do you know why you are slicing?
Don’t think about it too much; just let it happen.
Let the club do all the work.
Watch your club head speed.
Hit your ball where you can find it.
You need to seriously work on your short game.
Most people should aim at where they want the ball to go, but that may not work for you.
Whatever you do, don’t hit your ball left.
If you believe your shot will go straight, it will go straight.
You have a drinking problem and an even worse golf problem.
You should take some lessons.
Special golf equipment is just a gimmick and a scam for a guy like you.
You really don’t need expensive golf gear until you get a lot better.
Do you really think squatting down and looking at the green is going to help you putt better?
You should continue to play golf on the weekdays until you can play better.
Playing putt-putt golf will not help you play better golf.
Computer game golf will not help you play better golf.
Don’t show up early to warm up before a round.
You don’t need to use more than five clubs from your bag including your putter.
Leave your cell phone in the car.
If it takes more than three minutes to find your ball, just play another ball.
You really should keep a couple of spare balls in your pocket.
You can’t get better by playing with better golfers.
If you can’t play good, then you should at least look good.
It’s been a pretty long while since that day on the Camp Pendleton golf course and I’m sure Frank and Margaret are no longer with us. Still, in just five hours of golfing the hills of Camp Pendleton with Frank and Margaret, they both left a lasting impression on me. They both have been and will be with me for a very long time.