In a Word...Prejudice

Maybe I’m being too hard on golf, but I hate it

I am, generally, a tolerant man. “Honest (within reason), so thoroughly square; eternally noble, historically fair.” I like to think so. Others will disagree. But I do have a thing about golf, my second least favourite four-letter word. (The least favourite is “wait”. Absolutely no patience. Hate, as in hate, queues.) But golf? Spare me.

I blame my father.

No, I don’t play the game. I tried a few times but just did not and do not get it. Being led across all those green acres by a small ball for hour upon hours and hours is not my idea of fun. Okay, I get the fresh air and exercise bit, but I incline very much to the Mark Twain view that “golf is a good walk spoiled”.

Even better is the Winston Churchill quote that it is “a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an even smaller hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purpose”.


Then there is the man recognised by many as probably the greatest ever golfer, the late Arnold Palmer. Golf, he said, was “deceptively simple and endlessly complicated; it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening – and it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented.”

Easy there now, Arnie.

And it is true that for people of a certain age golf becomes the very meaning of life. Retired, with time on their hands, they believe the good life is about spending all that time in the fresh air walking mile after mile to ensure you can continue to do just that for many more years than would be the case if you did not. Golf becomes a self-extending way of life.

And what’s the harm in that? Maybe I’m being too hard on the game, having inherited my father’s prejudices from a time when high fees ensured only the solicitor, the priest and the teacher could play it.

Then I came across research which found that the average golfer walks about 900 miles a year on course after course and drinks an average 22 gallons of alcohol a year. That’s 41 miles to the gallon! Not bad. Sounds like good value.

I’d better think it out again.

Prejudice, from Latin praeiudicium for “prior judgment”.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times