As Good as the Game Gets

By: Robert Ronning

Was it Socrates who tells us that the unexamined golf swing is not worth living with . . . or was that Jack Nicklaus? Well, whoever it was, for the average golfer it's a haunting reminder to spend more time on the driving range. Alas, for me there's a bizarre distraction which often prevents me from ever getting to the driving range.

Sometimes I just wander off and walk the boundaries around our desert courses, ball retriever in hand, looking for those stray white balls along the fence lines. It's one of my treasured past-times, though I'm not especially proud to admit it. Call it eccentric; some would even call it compulsive. To my credit, I like to think I'm performing a public service - if golf-ball retrieving qualifies as environmental recycling.

Lest we forget, for the average duffer the game of golf is just one endless Easter Egg Hunt anyway. What better way to harmlessly act out the hunting instinct? And the older we golfers get, the more distracted we become with tracking down golf balls; hence the less concentration we pay on the game itself.

This is a sad fact and I surely encourage anyone suffering such a compulsion to act out these hunting aggressions when not actually on a golf course, where we tend to wander off in search of arrant shots, holding up the flow of play, riling rattlers, and tweaking off burly, snarling foursomes behind us.

In my quest, I don't always find many golf balls. But isn't it the journey that counts? Who really cares that much about counting found balls? Still, my quest can yield surprisingly satisfying products, especially when I find the occasional Pro-V1, Nike or Callaway with scarcely a scuff on it. Oftentimes, back in the comfort of my garage, I clean up and buff out a ball that looks just like new. Not that I don't have access to plenty of cheap, "previously-owned" golf balls; I have a buddy who practically gives them away. How does he acquire all these balls? By searching for lost ones when he should be playing golf, and regrettably, holding up the pace of play.

Apart from chasing orphaned golf balls, I confess to a deeper pleasure in a quest that's free for the taking. I've had the chance to meet new friends in different environs, admittedly some while my nose was up against the course fences; golfers on the other side, happily drinking and clowning around as they speed by in their carts, playing the game as it more or less was intended.

By the way, when friends inquire about what courses I trawl for balls, I tell them it's a trade secret. And lest anyone feel sorry for my not having enough to do, I leave all that to my wife. Oddly, I've found the game of golf has many detours and I sometimes believe my little excursions are often as good as the game gets.

Robert Ronning writes among many disciplines, including articles in the arts, academic, and business worlds. With an early interest in theater and film, including obtaining a Ph.D. in theatre arts, he has taught communications and writing at several colleges, including City University of New York. His career in the arts has taken him many places - he studied theater in London, and later wrote and consulted in cable TV and developed film and video projects in the U.K. - before returning to roots in the Pacific Northwest. He is currently writing a book about Rod Whitaker (a.k.a. Trevanian). He now lives in Tucson where he occasionally teaches writing at Pima College and publishes pieces on humor, often appearing in Tucson's "DesertLeaf" magazine.

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