Having lived most of my adult life below the Mason-Dixon line, settling in the northeast has thrown a wrench into my golf game. As I prepare for my second climate-imposed golf hiatus, I must admit I'm a bit nervous.
How will I get through the winter (with apologies to Elizabeth Kübler-Ross)?
Stage One: Denial
Al Franken's SNL character Stuart Smalley has told us that "denial ain't just a river in Egypt," and I'd be, well, in denial if I said I didn't try to pretend - at least for a while - that winter didn't exist. Shoot, you can put on a warm sweater or two, they do that all the time in Sweden. So what if there's an increased risk of lumbar disc herniation when you wind up that 46" titanium blaster on a frosty, 36°, late-November afternoon. No pain, no gain, I say.
OK, so they eventually have to turn off the sprinkler system so it doesn't freeze up, and you're teeing off from the sides of hills in four-inch grass because the teeing grounds are covered, but it's still better than a Scottish shepherd hitting a rock into a rabbit hole, right? Even if you have to bring along a small sledge hammer to get those pegs in the ground. And what's wrong with temporary greens? Who hasn't putted into Campbell soup cans plunged into their backyard? We're spoiled over here with perfect golf course conditions, at least that's what all these course designer guys keep telling us.
Stage Two: Anger
Round about the first week of December, barring climatic anomalies such as last December's 70° days, I start getting royally pissed. Why me? Why now? I've just had my second sub-80 round of the year, and now I'm relegated to making backswings in the mirror in my basement, taking gouges out of the ceiling.
Making things worse is the fact that this is the time of year when everyone in my family is (understandably) giddy with excitement. The kids have all developed seasonal ADD in anticipation of the yuletide gift grab, and my lovely wife is borderline psychotic on holiday nostalgia, spiritual mojo, and familial love.
An intense burning sensation develops deep in the ulcerated areas of my upper gastrointestinal tract, ever-fueled by the season's profligate check-writing. Golf-themed holiday gifts rub salt in the wounds.
Stage Three: Bargaining
Fear begins to set in. Will I come down with polio in this frigid, slushy mess? Will I cut off my hand starting the snowblower? How about those idiots on the road? Which one will broadside me and send me into the neurologic ICU? And what if, gulp, I pull a Sonny Bono on the bunny slopes? Fearing the worst, I ratchet down the anger, and begin the bargaining. Just let me survive to play another round, GOD, I don't care if I EVER break 100 AGAIN!
Stage Four: Depression
It's about the first week of February when I reach this stage. Winter is never going to end. It's so freaking dark and cold, I never see the sun. The grass is partially covered with grimy, half-melted snow, the visible areas a lifeless, puke-green, matted-down mess. The leafless trees, stripped of much of their menacing obstructiveness to my errant drives, mock me. It's enough to make me want to chug a bottle of chloral hydrate and watch a Jim McLean video…
Every excursion in and out of the house by any family member requires a 30-minute thermal prophylaxis involving multiple layers of shirt, pantaloons, galoshes, coats, overcoats, hats, and mittens. Not to mention the SPF 99 sunglasses you need to avoid burning holes in your retina with the low winter sun.
When you pick up the golf clubs in the cold basement, they feel like crow-bars. Reading material has changed from Penick's "Little Red Book" (I took out the weed cutter and hacked the book into 47,000 shreds, narrowly missing my son's cowlick in the process) to Sartre's "Nausea."
Stage Five: Acceptance
Round about the first tickling of spring, maybe a 60° mid-March day that feels tropically humid and has the snowmelt glistening in the streets, I start thinking "it's going to be okay." Spread that spring crabgrass preventer fertilizer, yes sir, so I'll have nice lies for summer chipping practice. Fire up the lawn mower, make sure it's ready for the season. The club will be up and running in less than a month!
I just discovered a dozen new balls I won in a raffle last August… can't wait to use 'em. For now, I'll take them out and mark them properly with a nice new Sharpie. Hey, maybe it's time to buy some new clubs with that tax refund (gotta get on line with the new grooves, after all).
Yes, indeed, another season lies ahead, and no doubt this will be the one when I finally break through!