While playing golf today, I hit two good balls. I stepped on a rake. -- Henry Youngman
By T. Michael Stone
According to what I’ve read, 27 of the world’s top golfers, including Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson, left the PGA tour to play in the LIV Golf Invitational Series of tournaments that began last summer.
The PGA suspended the defectors, forcing some of the less successful golfers to trade their Bentleys for BMWs.
They tell me the LIV slogan is “Golf but Louder,” but I don’t buy that. I’ve covered several golf tournaments, and I can tell you that golfers don’t like noise; you can get thrown off a golf course for clicking the camera shutter at the wrong time.
The LIV tournaments are shorter – 54 holes as opposed to 72 on the PGA tour -- and the shotgun starts reduce the amount of time a round lasts, which has to be good for spectators.
It’s probably about time for golf to evolve a bit anyway. I know that sounds sacrilegious to some, but Elvis eventually gave way to the Beatles, and Oldsmobiles and Pontiacs disappeared from showrooms altogether.
“That is the way of things,” as Yoda so eloquently put it.
Most of the history of golf is poorly understood, but research conducted by anthropologists at Miskatonic University in Arkham, Massachusetts, have shed new light on its origins.
Recently, the anthropologists stumbled upon 100,000-year-old cave drawings in Spain and Italy that appear to depict Neanderthal men and women playing a crude version of golf with clubs apparently made from wooly mammoth bones.
In one series of drawings the anthropologists found, a Neanderthal man is shown negotiating a hole with a water hazard. In the first rendering, the Neanderthal man swings his club at a small black sphere likely made of deer poop; in the next drawing, we see the sphere slice into a lake. The same Neanderthal man is then shown breaking the mammoth bone club over his leg. In the final drawing, our Neanderthal man dumps the contents of his golf bag into the same lake.
From the behavior of some modern-day golfers, one might extrapolate that mankind is still as savage and unsophisticated as he was in Neanderthal times.
But that’s not the case. Neanderthals did not have Titleist caps, Nike polo shirts or the golf channel, an innovation even Bobby Jones would have been unable to fathom. Who would have guessed that you could broadcast endless footage of what is, essentially, men and women hitting balls with sticks over and over again and have people tune in?
It seems entirely counterintuitive.
Although golf seems to have been popular with Neanderthal men, it took a while for it to take hold among the homo sapiens who replaced them as planet Earth’s apex predator.
The fossil record indicates that the game of golf was forgotten for centuries until it resurfaced in 15th Century Scotland -- much to the chagrin of the Scottish king.
On March 5, 1457, King James II (no relation to LeBron) banned golf because Scotsmen spent so much time drinking beer and playing golf that their archery skills had deteriorated.
“No part of the country should football, golf or other such pointless sports be practiced but, for the common good and for the defense of the country,” the ban read, at least according to an article by Farrell Evans that I found on history.com.
But King James died in 1460 when a cannon exploded near him, and golf resumed.
Right now, as I sit here slavishly typing while others enjoy 18 holes at Cuscowilla or Great Waters, the future of golf seems bright. In fact, I bet that dude I nearly ran over in the Publix parking lot while he was sprinting toward his Tesla was in a hurry to make a tee time.
But I have some bad news for you golfers. It may or may not surprise you to know that golf balls are made predominately from a rubber derived from petroleum, that stuff Joe Biden and Greta Thunberg dislike so dang much.
Should crude oil and gas prices continue to rise as they have been, economists predict that by 2025, a dozen golf balls may cost you $700.
If your finances are anything similar to mine, you won’t be buying any of those.
But there is always deer poop.
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Published in the March-April 2023 edition of Lakelife magazine. This is an updated version of a column that ran earlier in the Lake Oconee News newspaper. No portions may be copied or used without express written consent from Smith Communications, Inc.