Golf stories are often about the game’s redeeming qualities, about how the game brought someone back from the brink, restoring faith in self and others.
Maybe it’s because golf is a constant struggle to get back on track. Each tee shot has the potential to take us on a stroll down the straight and narrow, but often as not it’s the first step on a torturous path home. Some courses punish every step off the path with a lost shot. The rough is so heavy or the bunkers so deep that a price must be paid. Others leave a chance for a recovery shot, for a good deed that cancels out the bad.
Maybe it’s because golf is ultimately a game against the self. The trouble we find ourselves in is of our own making. No one but us hit that ball into the weeds, no one but us yanked that three footer to lose the hole. No one but us can make that putt to win the next hole.
Anthony Burgess, speaking of the controversial last chapter of his book A Clockwork Orange, said “There is, in fact, not much point in writing a novel unless you can show the possibility of moral transformation, or an increase in wisdom, operating in your chief character or characters.” I’d argue that there is some of that same redemptive element in golf. We find redemption in holing out from the bunker or hitting that miracle shot from between the trees. We forgive ourselves and move on to the next hole, hoping for greater wisdom the next time we face that decision to go for it or lay up.
I’m watching as Tiger Woods walks his own path back. Last Sunday at Arnold’s tournament at Bay Hill there was a smile on his face that I haven’t seen in a long time, maybe ever. His celebration after the final putt looked different. There was less conquering fist pump and more joyful satisfaction. There was even some thanking of those who helped.
Hank Haney’s The Big Miss comes out today, and other books will no doubt be writtien about the trajectory and accomplishments of Tiger’s career. None of us have any idea what that final trajectory will be.
But maybe Tiger’s writing something of his own out there on the course and in other places we can’t see. Something Anthony Burgess would approve of.
(Thanks to Robert Bruce’s 101books.net for the Burgess quote and inspiration.)