Sun, 26 Mar 2000

Look up in the air, it's a birdie -- a golf club?

JAKARTA (JP): I am not perfect. I sometimes forget to zip up my pants. I got Fs on some of my tests in elementary school, although I didn't understand what those Fs meant. But none of these things made me feel as stupid as when I played golf.

Some people decide to take up the sport because their friends also play golf, and they are afraid they will look stupid if they don't play it as well. Some people don't mind spending hours under the scorching sun because they have a larger purpose, that is lobbying other players for business. Of course, there are also those who enjoy playing golf because they say it is fun and good for their health.

It is often said that golf is only for the rich. Yes, the cost of this game is expensive, yet everyone who plays says it is worth it. Maybe it is.

That's why I went to a golf shop to equip myself with whatever clubs and balls were necessary to play this prestigious sport. After all, maybe the game is so fun that people do not mind paying as much as ... let me see the price tag here, ... what? HOW MUCH? For this? What can this club do for that much money? Activate some nuclear weapons?

It turned out that to buy a complete set of golf clubs, you had to spend at least Rp 3.5 million. And that's the good news. The bad news is that's only the beginning. You also have to spend money on the balls, the hat, the shoes, the gloves, the membership fees and tips for everybody on the golf course, from the caddy to the birds that are just passing by.

But, like my friends said, the money was worth it. That's why, after making some financial preparations and loan arrangements, I simply borrowed my friend's golf gear.

Then we went to the golf course, where an instructor told me everything I needed to know about the sport. And after listening to him speak for 10 minutes, I completely understood the concept of the sport, which I demonstrated by asking the instructor, "Why?"

I mean, the idea of this game seems rather obscure. Look at other sports, American football, for instance. The idea of that sport is simple: put the ball in your end zone.

But in golf, your goal is to put a little white ball into a hole using sticks. Easy, isn't it? Unfortunately not, because the hole is located miles away from the place you start. And to make it more preposterous, you have to use many different types of sticks, each with a different function. Plus, some idiot has put big sand boxes and some lakes in the middle of the course, and apparently put some kind of magnet in them to attract my ball. And if that wasn't enough, the holes are actually smaller than the balls, at least that was my conclusion after I failed to put the ball into the hole the whole day.

See my point? Golf people won't make it easy, in fact, they hate the word easy. A simple guy like me would just decide to play billiards instead, where I can still put balls into holes on a green field using sticks, but without the great distance, the different number of sticks, the lakes and the bunkers. Plus, the only tip you have to give is to the bartender.

But apparently that's not prestigious enough for all those doctors, bankers, lawyers, etc. Billiards is just too simple for them, meaning that they can hardly make a charity event out of the game. So, I just tried to go along with the concept and forget about billiards for a while, besides, I can not drive a golf cart on a billiard table.

The golf instructor then continued with his explanation by telling me how to hit the ball, to which of course I did not pay any attention. Those of you who have never actually swung a golf club, just as I had not at that time, will probably say: how hard can it be? "Just skip the details and let me hit the ball," I wanted to shout at my instructor. But that would have been very unprestigious of me, so I just shut up and pondered why golfers wear only one glove instead of a pair. Just as I found the connection between the single glove and Michael Jackson's 1984 style, the instructor told me to hit the ball.

This is it, the moment of truth. So I took a club, stood next to the ball, waggled my butt just like Donald Duck (but with my pants on), and hit the ball as hard as I could. Suddenly all eyes in the driving range were focused on the flying object. Standing there proudly, I listened to the crowd cheering my first strike. "You shouldn't let go of the club," I heard someone shout.

Yes, that flying object turned out to be my golf club, which somehow slipped from my hands. The ball, however, was still lying there at my feet, unmoved and laughing at me along with all the golfers.

The most logical thing for me to do next would have been to spontaneously burst into flames and die, but I was never any good at logic. Luckily, my instructor told me this kind of thing often happened to first-time golfers. The first-timers always think golf is easy, so they never listen to instructions. That's a common mistake. But he also admitted it was the first time he saw a golf club fly.

Therefore, learning from my mistake, I tried to understand the concept of the grip, the swing, the slice, the putt, the green, the break, the par, the birdie, the eagle, the bogey. And at the end of the evening, I was finally able to hit the ball. This time, the ball actually went up into the air.

"That's good," the instructor said. "Do that for 10,000 more balls!" Unfortunately, he was not kidding. That was the amount of balls I had to hit before I could move on to the next lesson.

My point is that golf is not as easy as it seems. Although you see the professionals making it look so easy on TV, you have to understand that they have been practicing for years. Trust me, it's not easy. I known this because I still have 4,791 balls to hit.

-- E. Effendi