I experience the golfer’s collapse just about every time I hit the links. Matter of fact, there have been only a few times I didn’t eventually collapse, and with it, my emotions. What makes my eventual emotional plummet so drastic and, consequently, so funny (not for me, but for everyone else in my group), is the expectations I thrust upon myself, no matter how unjustified they might be. Setting foot on that first tee box is such an exhilarating feeling, and not only because of the four to five hours of golf ahead of you, but because you haven’t topped one yet. You haven’t sliced one, hooked one, skied one, shanked one, duffed one, pulled one, pushed one, lost one, and you haven’t bogeyed yet. It’s a new round, and it could be the round of your life. It’s so exciting.
It’ll come, though, and when it does, you’ll likely experience these four stages of acceptance.
You parred number one. You struck the ball well, it flew high and straight, and you feel good about the day. You’re now on the second hole.
Your tee shot is an unintentional power fade. Your ball rolls about five yards past the tree line. You’re forced to punch out into the fairway. Bogey.
Frustration begins to creep its way into your brain. You hit the driver well on the range earlier, so you’re wondering what went wrong. Was this a fluke? Was it a sign of the day ahead? Did I just stay open too long? Did I set up poorly? Ugh, does this mean I’m not going to break my all-time best score? One over after two. Damn, I’m on pace for an 81. Talk to me, Goose.
Four over after five holes — two pars, two bogeys, and a double. Frustration has taken over you, but not all is lost yet. You own number six. You have historically dominated it. It’s a par five that plays perfectly into your natural draw. In fact, one of your three lifetime eagles occurred on this hole last summer after you ripped a 3-wood to the front edge of the green and sunk a 40-footer. If your drive finds short grass on this tee shot, and it always does, you’re golden. This is the hole that’s going to get you back on track on a run of pars and birdies. Breaking 80 is still salvageable.
*PING* Duck hook into the water.
“Fuck!” *Driver slam into the ground* “Hey dickhead, drop me off at my ball and drive on ahead to yours. I’m walking from there.” Fuck this. Fuck you, fuck golf, fuck my friends, fuck Phil Mickelson’s man tits, fuck this shitty course. Fuck this ball, too. *Ball crow-hop and toss into the woods* I hate this game. Break 80? Shit, I’ll be happy to break 150 at this point. My day is ruined and I’m not saying a word for the next two holes.
Your game has completely unraveled. After the front nine, you are 14 over par, although you’re unaware because you stopped keeping score after the seventh. There are a couple reasons you stopped writing down your scores: 1) You don’t want to know what it is, and 2) when people ask you what you shot, you can honestly answer, “You know, I’m not really sure.”
At the turn you grab a hotdog, some Fritos, a cigar, and a 6-pack of cold beers. You’ve decided to turn your give-a-shit-o-meter to the “off” position, and since your game has gone to complete shit, you have to find other ways to have a good time.
Your score has become irrelevant, so you chalk your round up to a practice session and decide to use the backside to try new swing techniques and razz your buds some. Pull one off the 10th tee? Big deal, you just chummed it up with the cart girl and her rack is glistening with sweat from the summer heat. Fly the green? Don’t care, you crushed that ball. Three-putt? Hell, even the pros miss easy putts sometime.
Although apathetic, deep down you kinda hope you at least strike the ball well the remainder of the day. I mean it’s golf. You love golf.
4. “Fuck It”
Your game has miraculously gotten worse. You didn’t even know you were capable of this level of play.