Finding friends in fairways


I can prove that golf is a social game.
I never get any better, but I keep meeting more and more people to play the game with.
A friend of mine and I found our way to Riverside on Saturday to play Blue Top Ridge Golf Course.
We saw this young man on the driving range smoking shots down the middle. He hit about, oh, nine dead center and walked off the driving range.
I thought about tripping the kid because I’ve got about 50 lbs. on him and wasn’t 'scurred'.
I blew through about half the balls on the neatly arranged pyramid hitting them off the hozzle, and the toe, with just a few going neatly down the middle with a nice apex, but it's six of one, half a dozen of the other if I’m gonna catch it right at contact.
After hitting about 40 golf balls all over the place, I decided that maybe I would have to score closer to the flag on this beautiful overcast blue-gray breezy day. So I meandered through the damn gnats to the putting green where I fared much better.
While we headed over, the course ranger asked our group name and I gave it to him. He said, “Ok, I’m gonna pair you up with a single,” which meant we had to golf with someone we didn’t know, but so would he.
I was warming up well on the green, waving off the bugs trying to climb in my ears and nose. Yes, I used the vanilla spray, but I think they're getting used to vanilla. And until we get a good solid week of temps below 0 in the winter, these things are gonna keep getting worse and worse. My entomology knows no bounds.
Anyway, I had made, like, three good putts in a row and was finding the right ball line on the practice green. I heard the ranger who was conversing with the showoff in the blue button down and golf pants. Yeah, he was wearing golf pants. The ranger said “Now who’s this guy” referring to me and my ability to find the bottom of the cup. He didn’t think I heard him and I sent the next ball about five feet past.
I threw my hands up and looked over.
“Was it because I said something?,” he laughed.
“You had to say something,” I replied.
I practiced a little more and then and the ranger said “the box is yours” meaning we could go tee off.
I headed to the cart and we motored to the first-tee, and guess who he partnered us up with? The kid striping balls down the range in the golf pants.
I looked over at my partner and we both had this look of, “well this could be bad.”
Thankfully he didn’t feel like playing the long tees so we played up a bit and, after the first hole, I knew this wasn’t going to be anything like we had anticipated.
After 18 holes, he had shot about a 77 and I didn’t quite double that. But as I said at the outset, I play golf socially and not to score, but I love it when I do score. I stand by that and you can spend your Sunday morning figuring out what the means.
We started a conversation with Ryan, who’s in finance. Ryan ended up helping me correct my grip and offered some other tips to both of us as he slid easily around the golf course with his girlfriend in the cart. Now it became a mission to build another friendship. Sure, I tried to hit that one special golf shot after the next, but I never got to that "next". As a matter of fact, I don't think I ever put two good shots together.
Not one to pout, I made some lemonade. By the end of our round we had agreed to all meet up for a drink and a snack after we finished. During that time, we shared our contact information and agreed to reach out to each other for future runs to the golf course, or to play at other courses around the area.
So we made a friend, and possibly a golf guru, to help me figure out why, after more than 30 years swinging a club, I never get any better.
I'm being honest here. I don’t really care if I ever get any better. I’d like to just to be more competitive so the friends I golf with can have a competitive round. But other than that, I golf for the exact experience that Saturday brought - spending the day with a good friend and finding the potential to add a couple more friends.
I can’t play without cracking a joke here or there. Good players say golf is a game of short memory and played on a field of seven inches – the space between your ears. Well, I don’t have a short memory. Actually, I think golf is a game of long memory – muscle memory and until you have that buttoned down, the game will go up and down, and in my case up and down, and back and forth.
And because I suck at this game, and people still want to spend four hours on the course with me… I must be doing something right. And that's just fine with me,  but that’s Beside the Point.
Chuck Vandenberg is editor and co-owner of Pen City Current and can be reached at

Beside the Point, opinion, editorial, Chuck Vandenberg, commentary, Pen City Current, Fort Madison, Lee County, golf, friends, socialization, game,


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