A single bead of sweat trickles down my spine as the dimpled ball rolls to a stop inches short of its mark.
I am supposed to have made this shot in three swings but still haven’t quite gotten the hang of it on my fifth try. I laugh off my bad luck, because what else is there to do when encompassed by rolling greens, a measureless sky, and the silver glints of the Pacific?
Very few sports allow you to indulge yourself in the landscape or admire the allure of nature. Golf is one of those sports. There is no rush to the finish line, no noisy scrum of sweaty team mates, no hustle to keep the ball. Still, the best part of this trip isn’t the gorgeous scenery in front of me or the serenity of this genteel course. It is the sound of my buddies laughing as we cart ourselves to the next hole. It is the way my best friend chides me as I chip the ball into another sand pit. It is the feeling of camaraderie I get every summer as the eight of us, old school pals, get together to master our skills on the putting green.
We started the ritual when we were still young and carefree one June puttering around at our local nine-hole. I forget now who suggested it, perhaps it was me. Every summer we made a pact to travel to a course somewhere in the world and play a couple of rounds of golf. I have seen much of the world thanks to my friends and our entente. The emerald hills of St. Andrews, the surreal beige pyramids rising outside the thirteenth hole, the infinite Mediterranean have all been mine to experience as I hacked my way through metal and wood and myriad indented spheres. I associate the crickets of North Carolina with a tricky bunker to my right. The memories of the Pacific Northwest are swept up with a hole in one. Sounds of the muezzin lurk alongside a comrade’s perfect eagle. It is a probably a strange way to experience the world, but for my friends and I it is the quintessential delight of our lives.
None of us are masters at golf. Mastery takes practice and as our lives become ensnared in the ordinary, we have less time for practicing hobbies. For us golf is a bonding experience. A way to reconnect with each other after months or years have passed by. A reason to intrude again in the fabric of one another’s lives, weaving a small part of ourselves into the other’s memories. Though we remember for a short time the handicaps and scores of our games, it is the companionship we continually seek to mold stronger over the years. Though I am lucky enough to travel around the world, my golf trips to me remain precious expeditions. A way for me to be exposed to the larger world alongside my friends. It’s a leisurely adventure, but one that is fraught with possibilities in its own quiet way.
BESPOKE TRAVELER TIP #28
“Consider the experience of a worthwhile journey to be the true reward at the end of your travel.”
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