December Golf

December always holds some mild-enough days. Sunshine glints like a thin shell of ice on the upper side of the bare gray twigs, the sky is striped like blue bacon, a tardy line of Canadian geese wobbles its way south, and the air is delighted to be providing oxygen to some plucky sportsmen.

The foursome, thinned perhaps to a mere threesome or twosome, meets by the boarded-up clubhouse, exhilarated to have an entire golf course to itself. There are no tee markers, no starting times, no scorecards, no gasoline carts — just golf-mad men, wearing wool hats and two sweaters each, moving on their feet. The season’s handicap computer has been disconnected, so the sole spur to good play is rudimentary human competition — a simple best-ball nassau or 50-cent game of skins, its running tally carried in the head of the accountant or retired banker in the group. You seem to be, in December golf, reinventing the game, in some rough realm predating its modern refinements.

The ball even smartly struck, has a deadish sound…..The balls themselves are apt to be those at the bottom of the golf bag pocket, the scarred and dirty orphans of the season……  Excuses abound, in short, for not playing very well, and the well-struck shot has a heightened lustre as it climbs through the heavy air and loses itself in the dazzle of the low hibernal sun.  Winter rules legitimize generous relocations on the fairway, and with the grass all dead and matted who can say where the fairway ends.

A lovely leniency, that is, prevails in December golf, as a reward for our being out there at all……There is a misty woodsmoke feeling to the round, the savor of last things.

…….. By then the nassau has been decided, and dusk has crept out of the woods into the fairways…..Ice has found its way into your golf shoes; the fingers on your right hand have no feel; your face hurts.  Time to pack it in…..

The last swing feels effortless, and the ball vanishes dead ahead, gray lost in gray, right where the 18th flag would be. The secret of golf has been found at last, after eight months of futilely chasing it. Now, the trick is to hold it in mind, all the indoor months ahead, without its melting away.

John Updike

December Golf

Golf Dreams-Writings On Golf

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