Hole 13: Golf

I'm heading west and in the morning sun, the golf ball shines brightly white as it sails through the air, hanging for a moment to spite gravity, and then falls gently back to earth. The sun is behind me and ahead is the sky of the color that is best described as "sky blue". In my t-shirt it's a bit chilly but I know that as I continue to walk with the sun on my back, I'll warm up soon enough. If you've ever been golfing on an early summer morning on a weekday with no one else on the course, then you know the feeling I'm describing.

The flight of the ball, with the perfect degree of arc, hit perfectly straight is a beautiful thing, and I need no one else around to enjoy it. In fact, I'm pleased that I'm alone hitting the perfect golf shot again and again on a perfect morning. I enjoy golf most when I'm alone, needing no accolades from fellow golfers telling me "nice shot", but only to be filled with that self-confidence knowing that as I address the ball again, I'll hit another perfect shot. It's the feeling you get from doing a job well, giving the perfect gift at Christmas to someone you care about, or cooking the perfect meal.

Golf is, after all, an individual sport. I care not for those golfers who try to be competitive or take the game too seriously. I play golf for myself, with every shot my own creation. Which is why when things go wrong, you've got no one but yourself to blame.

Mr. Slice visited me recently. The slice is the golf shot that starts out to the right and then bends even further right. It's like Charlton Heston and Paul Wolfowitz meeting with the CEO of Exxon Mobil. Mr. Hook on the other hand starts out to the left and continues so far in that direction that he could make Ralph Nader feel uncomfortable at a Save the Earth rally. Needless to say, you'd much rather welcome the Grim Reaper into your golf clubhouse than either of these two uninvited guests. And if either of these two dastardly fiends makes a devilish alliance with the wind, then you just might end up golfing across Kazakhstan.

I have enough to worry about on this expedition without having to add the unneeded stress of figuring out how to usher Mr. Slice out the door. My feet ache, the flies are buzzing all around me, and I'm completely covered in dust and dirt. The golf is supposed to calm me, not make me more irritated. Golf is a game that can frustrate you as much as it brings you pleasure. It's a game of mental strength as much as physical.

I calm myself, slow things down, take a look at the peaceful serene beauty of the countryside, and stand again with the golf club ready to strike the ball. "Relax, Andre", I tell myself. "You're a good golfer, just hit the ball straight. It's easy." And with my zen-like internal peace, I watch again as I follow through with my swing, the white ball reflecting the sun, flying ahead, dead-straight down a fairway that stretches farther than I can see. Mr. Slice is gone, and again I am alone, golfing across Mongolia.

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