A Good Walk Less Spoiled

Mark Twain once famously said, “Golf is a good walk spoiled.”

Many of my law partners and fellow attorneys disagree with this assessment, as golf is the unofficial national pastime of millions of lawyers. But I came to the same conclusion as Mark Twain about 20 years ago when I gave up golf for Lent and never took it back up.

There were four reasons why I ended up selling my golf clubs at a yard sale.

First, golf just took way too much time. I am an impatient person (which is probably one of the reasons I really should be playing golf), and my typical day on a golf course seemed to actually last several days.

A round of golf proceeds with the same glacial pace as your typical lawsuit. No wonder so many lawyers play golf. I honestly believe Daylight Savings Time was invented by golfers because you can only complete a round of golf in one day if you fool around with the clock so that the sun is still shining at 10 p.m.

Second, I couldn’t afford golf. According to Golf Digest, the average peak-season greens fee for America’s top courses is $193. You read that right, John-Daly-breath! And to be a member of a private golf country club in America requires you to take out a second mortgage (and maybe a third) on your house.

Third, I wasn’t really getting any exercise playing golf. This is probably because I was always riding a golf cart. Sometimes I wouldn’t even get off the cart. I would just drive by my ball on the course and swat it with my club as if I were playing polo. For me, golf wasn’t a good walk spoiled, it was a good ride spoiled.

And fourth, and perhaps most important, I learned something about golf a long time ago that very few people seem to understand. Quite simply, it is a game that is impossible to play.

Think about this for a second. The object of golf is to take a stick out of a bag, and then use the stick to knock a very small ball into a very small hole located literally hundreds of yards away. And you’re supposed to do this in no more than three or four swings.

That’s impossible. Even people who win golf tournaments can’t consistently do it.

Several years ago, Tiger Woods could do it, but ever since his ex-wife beat him with a golf club, he can’t do it anymore.

Phil Mickelson used to be able to do it, but he can’t seem to do it anymore.

True, there’s a young man named Bubba Watson who seems to be able to do it these days, but trust me, over time, he too will figure out it’s just not possible.

You say Jack Nicklaus knew how to do it? Well he quit playing years ago. I rest my case.

Over the last several years, millions of sensible people have come to this same realization that golf is too expensive, too time-consuming, and too dang hard to play. According to The New York Times, some five million golfers have quit playing in the last decade, and the National Golf Foundation is concerned that 20 percent of the rest of America’s golfers may quit the game in the next few years.

Young people are no longer taking up the game. Just visit your nearest golf course this weekend and take a look at the field. There are a bunch of old geezers out there, mostly lawyers. As my favorite humor columnist Dave Barry wrote in his book, Dave Barry Turns Fifty, at a certain age in life, you can only compete in two sports: golf or walking like a dork.

And it now appears that increasing numbers of even elderly lawyers and non-lawyers are, like me, putting up their golf clubs and proceeding to walk like a dork.

But now, golf courses across the country are doing all sorts of things to change the game and bring me and millions of other former golfers back.

The latest innovation is — believe it or not — dramatically expanding the size of golf holes from four inches in diameter to a whopping 15 inches! That’s right, my fellow putter-challenged Americans! We can now look forward to easily landing a 10-foot putt into a hole the size of a pizza. As Bill Murray, playing Carl Spackler in Caddyshack said, “It’s in the hole!”

A 15-inch golf hole? Heck, the bunkers at St. Andrews aren’t that big!

And for those of us who don’t have time for 18 holes, again according to The New York Times, some 30 golf courses across the country will soon install a system of punch clocks that assesses fees by minutes spent playing or practicing rather than by nine- or 18-hole rounds. Besides, when you and I are easily sinking 20-foot-long birdie putts into craters, we will be able to knock out 18 holes with the speed of Usain Bolt running the 100-meter dash!

And I am convinced that there will be many more innovations to come to make golf a very quick and easy game.

For example, it’s really not fair that your best public links duffer can’t drive a ball half the distance that Bubba Watson does. So rather than using a driver, we should be able to load a golf ball into a bazooka and shoot it down the fairway!

And what about those water hazards? They literally get in the way of a really good shot. I say we should change the rules so that if you plunk a ball in the water, you automatically get a hole-in-one!

So what are we waiting “fore,” my fellow legal duffers?! A new and improved and cheaper and faster tee time awaits us! Like Carl Spackler, we can all be a Cinderella story!
And after I take up golf again, I’d like to return to the basketball court. I haven’t played since my junior high days but I can’t wait to get back on the hardwood and slam dunk the basketball into a five-foot-tall goal!


Bill Haltom BILL HALTOM is a shareholder with the firm of Lewis Thomason. He is a past president of the Tennessee Bar Association and a past president of the Memphis Bar Association. Read his blog at www.billhaltom.com.