Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Many Ways Golf Beats Politics

 I found this great article in Sat., Aug. 6th's Wall Street Journal.  John Paul Newport writes a golf article for the Journal almost every Sat. during the golf season.  Enjoy! Thanks John Paul!

"At the beach last week, with plenty of time on my hands, no golf planned and a good Internet connection, I became obsessed with the political debt debate in Washington. Could there be a more perfect way to ruin a family vacation? As penance and out of gratitude for the game, I've compiled the following list of ways that golf, compared with politics, is wonderful.

Golf is nonideological. Ideologues cling to ideas even in the absence of proof that they work, whereas in golf definitive proof is plentiful and quick: The ball goes in the hole or it doesn't. It's not as if golfers aren't drawn to new ideas and abstract "systems," as witness late-night infomercials on Golf Channel. But most don't last long. The half-life of a golf idea is usually about a week. Read more...

Golfers are pragmatists. Results are what matter. There's not a soul in golf who thinks Jim Furyk's swing is morally wrong. Weird, unorthodox, bizarre—yes. Contributing to the decline of Western civilization—no. The guy has won a U.S. Open and 15 other tournaments with that swing. All hail Jim Furyk!

You can't spin golf. A score of 103 is a score of 103, no matter what kind of "optics" you seek to apply. Even as shrewd a hand as Karl Rove can't put a happy gloss on a triple bogey. The late Seve Ballesteros said it best. "I miss, I miss, I miss, I make," he explained, when asked about a four-putt green.

Golfers are happy with compromise. Every round is compromise, when you consider that a perfect score is 54 or so, achievable by hitting every green in regulation and holing every first putt. By that standard, level par is a low achievement, much less 90. But most golfers are ecstatic to break 90. Muddling through is the name of the game.

Golfers don't pass the buck. Well, maybe they try to a little, in the immediate aftermath of a horrible round. You hear them blame a bad start, a sore toe, the inopportune tweeting of a bird. Sergio Garcia once tried to blame fate. "I'm playing against a lot of guys out there, more than the field," he said after blowing a British Open. But mostly excuses are about salving wounds; apart from nodding sympathetically, nobody pays much attention. Tour pros are the best. You never hear them criticize their "friends from across the aisle," because in golf there is no aisle.

Everyone in golf is on the same side. By virtue of the handicap system, golfers can root for their opponents to do well. Perhaps not always, such as in a close match with postround drinks at stake, but in general. Golf is not a zero-sum game, unlike balancing a budget.

The handicap system is pure socialism, but no one objects. That's how nondivisive golf is. Handicaps take strokes from the strong and give them to the weak, allowing golfers of all ability levels to play together as friends. It's brilliant, and everybody's pleased.

The Rules of Golf are crystal-clear. A bit complicated, sometimes, but without loopholes. The nearest point of relief from a hazard, according to the Rules, is a "matter of fact," not opinion. And no amount of high-priced lobbying can convince a rules official otherwise.

Many of the most important "policies" in golf have to do with clothes. The silliest policy these days is the ban, at some courses, on cargo shorts. I wonder who thought that one up, and why? But the point is: fine. If that's golf's greatest regulatory burden, we can live with it. Policies without connection to anything meaningful are easy to laugh at. For example, I had the privilege last month of playing at a club in England that now allows short pants, but only when worn with "full-length hose." I saw only one member taking advantage of this decree, sporting colorfully striped socks that came up to his knee. He looked like Pippi Longstocking.

Golf makes for strange bedfellows. The match that President Barack Obama and House Majority Leader John Boehner played in June might not have affected the debt negotiations, but for a while there last week it looked like they were close to striking a Grand Bargain. The golf bond couldn't have hurt. In my world, when politics comes up on the course (very rarely), it's almost always defanged by the glory of the day and everyone's preference for getting on with the game.

Golfers are optimists. Getting better is hopeless, golfers know that. But they continue to hope and plug away regardless. That's what makes us so likable."

—Email John Paul at

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