Below is a little personal narritive of sorts about how I started playing and why I still love golf.
I began playing when I was twelve in earnest. I had tried before when I was eight, but golf was unable to hold my interest. I would stand at the driving range, with a driver in hand, and I would pretend I was playing baseball. Each low liner, hovering over the grass was a sharply hit ball moving through the infield.
I quickly lost interest in the sport of fat men - in favor of things more active and constant. I grumbled to myself walking through the driving range to go swimming, watching the packs of men stand around in the road with cars of non-golfers patiently waiting to get by. As far as I was concerned Mark Twain was right in saying, "Golf is just a good walk spoiled."
I was playing youth and then Pony League baseball at the time, and golf made little sense to me. Baseball was a game that could hold your mind even if nothing was happening. Where will the pitch be - inside or outside? Where do I throw it with runners on first and second? Can I take another step and a half and still be able to make it back to second base, if the pitcher makes a pick off move?
These things seemed deficient to me in golf. Where was the active part? With out someone to engage you at all times, where was the thinking or planing? I continued to scoff at the men and their solitary sport, I had something they didn't, I had competitors and more importantly I had a team.
Then things changed. I don't know why but they did.
I came to realize that I wanted to play golf. Why? It was just something I wanted to try. In baseball I was good at and enjoyed the unglamorous part of the game, I was a fielder, a first-basmen or leftfielder. I was a mediocre batter. (Would anybody know who Mark McGwire is if he couldn't hit homeruns?)
I slowly came to realize that golf did possess a mental aspect. In fact a much larger aspect than any other sport I had played. What I didn't understand before I picked up a golf club, was that the focus of concentration isn't really centered on the physical aspect of the game at all. The focus was on getting yourself in the right "mind" before you hit the ball.
It may sound sappy but there is a certain "spirituality" to golf. It's like meditation in Buddhist or other eastern religions. Golf encompasses several concepts of meditation. The largest being the embrace of nature. The surroundings are one of the most appealing parts of golf. When I walk down the fairway I appreciate my space in a larger environment; something I don't really notice in my daily life. While two other things golf shares with meditation are the perfection of the single moment and the concept of mind over matter.
I've seen my golf swing on videotape before and it's nearly as ugly as Jim Furyk's, yet on occasion I get very good result with it. The only way I can explain the result I get, that defies the physics of my swing, is the idea of my mind controlling swing/trajectory and the ball itself.
I think that's why golf is every man's sport. You don't need to be in great physical condition to get the "high" of making perfect contact with the ball. The high derives from the idea of the perfection of a single moment.
When the club face makes contact with the ball one of three things can happen. You could make bad contact and get a bad result; make bad contact and get a good result (which is kind of like kissing the ugly girl - the kiss itself is ok but the overall feeling is bad); or you can make great contact and get great results.
When you make the last type of shot it gives you both a good shot in relationship to the game you're playing and the natural high of having the perfection of the moment. The best parallel I can think of is runners high, were a runner goes through the pain and actually feels better, when they should be feeling worse.
I often wonder if Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer or Phil Mickelson still get this feeling, because their bad shots are most peoples good shots. The best I can figure is that they still have shots that give them this feeling, they just have to make a shot that is great for them.
This feeling is what keeps me coming back to golf. I guess you could call me a junkie if you want, but it's a feeling all golfers get and this feeling is what makes us come back no matter what the conditions. It was probably best put by Rick Reilly in Sports Illustrated (March 31, 1997), "…given the choice between playing and not playing - [most] golfers would tee it up with Mussolini."