Safe Zone: Looking for solace in an uncertain world? Try your local golf course.
Donald Trump is the president-elect of the United States.
There are two ways to process this improbable truth: 1) throw all caution to the wind and run headlong into this new if uncertain world order; or 2) retreat into a bubble hermetically sealed off from “reality.” If the latter seems like the more appealing strategy, can you imagine a better safe zone than a golf course? It’s sure looking pretty darn good to me at the moment.
I think we can all agree that, if we were able to step back and look at the game objectively, we’d have to conclude that it’s little more than a parade of seemingly sane adults who wield odd implements in an attempt to advance a small ball against a vast landscape, producing—at least on the surface—no tangible benefit to anyone, especially the participants. It’s patently absurd.
And yet, as an escape from the trials and tribulations of everyday life? There’s nothing better. Even the 45th president of the most powerful country in the free world—owner of 18 golf resorts—would have to agree with that.
As I see it, humanity needs golf’s gifts of stress relief and emotional healing now more than ever. At the risk of succumbing to self-plagiarization, consider this snippet from my novel, Machrihanish:
The seven men, even those who’d lost their morning matches, were anxious to return to the course for an afternoon round. After all, they had a lot of swings to make up for. But more than that, what they truly desired was to reestablish the proper balance between their private playground amid the dunes and, well, pretty much the rest of creation.
It’s that sweet separation that makes golf so endearing and, admittedly, to addictive. It stakes out a world within the world, where—on the first tee—they hand you an unblemished scorecard and all manner of new and wonderful experiences are suddenly possible. Then, 18 holes who knows how many shots later, you circle back to where you started, with the invitation—as well as the inclination—to start all over again.
Clearly, golf isn’t about the destination. You move about a vast expanse of open land yet never actually get anywhere, geographically speaking. So by process of elimination, the game must be all about the journey. Perhaps that’s why some of its adherents—most notably those who worship at the altars of Shivas Irons and Baggar Vance—liken it to the inward path traveled by the eastern mystics. So does that mean it’s the sports world’s equivalent of Seinfeld, show about nothing? Guess again. Golf is, in equal portions, absurdly simple and unfathomably deep, not unlike that 19th century children’s rhyme we all learned in kindergarten: “Stroll, stroll, stroll your way, gently down the fairway. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily—life is but a dream.”
I don’t know a thing about your political persuasion any more than you know about mine. But I think we can all agree that the world is becoming an increasingly unstable and unpredictable place, buttressed about by primal forces and deep-seated passions that resist moderation and restraint.
Still, each of us will have a role to play—no matter how large or small—in the unfolding scenes of this drama we call human civilization. But when that task becomes just a bit more than we can bear, I have a hunch the golf course will beckon like a spa for the weary soul.
I’ll be there. I’ll bet you’ll be there, too. The current president turned to it for solace. Maybe, just maybe, so will the man who will replace him. Perhaps the golf course can emerge, quite literally, as our much needed common ground.
May the gods of golf help us all.