ESSAY [by Dan Hargett]
December 29, 2013. 3:30 p.m. An hour-and-a-half of sunlight left. Time to kill. Are we talking golf here? Sort of.
Going low is gonna be easy, but today it’s all relative. Especially when you find yourself driving past a par-3 course located in the midst of suburban sprawl. Why the hell wasn’t this thought of sooner?
Why? Because the last month has been a pressure cooker of Christmas propaganda, frenetic gridlock and pure gluttony. But the six days between Dec. 25 and the start of the new year signal a period of unadulterated sloth. The kind of days where it’s a constant reach to fill up the clock with quality activities. For some, a bowl of Cheerios and back-to-back reruns of Melrose Place fill the void. Until noon, that is. Never in history has ambivalence and leisure collided with such useless force.
Despite the orchestrated holiday joy shoved down our throats, it’s become increasingly difficult to straddle that line between sanity and oblivion. All it takes is one seemingly innocuous but rude remark from a slightly eccentric, quickly-on-his-way-to-being-pickled uncle to precipitate a tirade. Good times.
But this Christmas hangover is real. A month of intense sensory overload is suddenly replaced by complete nothingness. The joyous rage, the massive gridlock, and hoping the in-laws have all disappeared into thin air. You now have no reason for being. You’re left with cold turkey and colder leftovers and then even colder reality that one golf season has ended and the next is 12 snow-bound weeks away.
It’s a peculiarly warm day, nearly 60 degrees. Wasting the day would be inexcusable. Carpe Diem. Caveat Emptor. Whatever. You and your buddy riding shotgun pull into that par-3 course – bored, stiff and just in time to be the last group of the day. A father and his two sons go off in front of you. The desire to decapitate your clownish uncle melts away.
Your swing is tight, but no matter. The course is in as bad a shape as you are. And that’s half the beauty of it. Strolling down the first fairway, searching for your repugnant tee shot, you keep an eye out for a group hot on your tail. But it is nonexistent. It’s somewhat disconcerting. In this town, someone is always behind you. Or passing you at 95 mph.
Solid shots prove evasive. Quality trash-talking comes easier. There is absolutely no evidence of tension anywhere. You pull out a ball stamped with “Burke Lake Club Championship.” You’re so relaxed, even this revelation amuses you.
“Why would a par-3 course host a club championship? Isn’t that like having an Honor Society for ‘C’ students?
A few holes in, you start to get a philosophical grasp on the day. You conclude it’s not about the golf. It’s not about communion or brotherhood or competition. It’s something less complicated. You take another look back and stare at the sun setting behind you, pushing you to the finish line. Yes, it’s as clear blue sky, but it’s fading fast.
This day is not about golf. It’s about quality time. It’s all about filling up that hour-and-a-half of daylight with something of value. You saw an opportunity and capitalized. You made that time count. It may be the best 90 minutes of the month. When someone asks what you did over the holiday, you can in good conscious, say: “I stood on a tee in almost total darkness, waiting for the green to clear.”