The goose I murdered was beautiful. A hybrid mix between a European Greylag and a California Domestic Swan, this taxidermy-worthy stunner stood about three feet tall with mottled grey and white plumage, an orange beak, and pink legs. Greylag Swans travel to their northerly breeding grounds in spring, nesting on moorlands, in marshes, around lakes...and apparently also in the cesspool pond on the 2nd hole par 4 at Westchester Golf Club.
Nuzzled up against the 24 hour noise machine that is LAX, Westchester is the above ground pool version of a golf course. It’s a course where mediocre players gather for cheap rounds of night golf. The fate of that beautiful bird was sealed the moment it decided to land on this shitty course, 23 yards in front of me, directly in-between myself and the remaining 120 yards to the hole. Most pros would be hard pressed to be able to hit the type of punch shot needed to be low enough and fast enough to take that magnificent beast’s life. Shots like that can only be done by pure accident, consisting of an astronomical lack of experience from a horrible golfer like myself.
A true embarrassment to the sport. I once successfully hit a ball behind me. And I knew it as soon I approached my lay-up, me being as bad as I am at this, there was no way I could avoid striking this large waterfowl. So much so that I actually paused before I took my backswing and audibly apologized, “I’M SORRY,” before whipping my 9 iron with such bad face placement as to keep the ball about 14 inches above the ground and fast enough to cause an explosion of down feathers when my neon orange ball went flying into that precious animal’s chest.
My relationship with golf is the epitome of a Love/Hate relationship. I hate this sport because I play bad, and I play bad for a few reasons: Firstly, because I can’t give two shits about taking this sport seriously. It took me years to even consider it a sport. In my mind, hitting balls into holes was something I did in between driving fun little electric carts around grassy hills while drinking tall boys of Pabst, eating sunflower seeds, smoking joints, and peeing in manicured bushes.
I play bad because financially I’ve never been able to afford to play well. I’m not, nor have I ever been, a rich man. I don’t know what being a member of a country club even means! Throughout my entire life golf was an unattainable luxury. Breeding grounds for the rich, the privileged, the elite. Namely white businessmen. Playing this sport is a costly activity that takes hours and hours of repetitions to gain the slightest bit of consistency, and even then it is often fleeting. But the main reason I play bad is because this sport sets you up for failure. This is a game where well built, able and proud men take swings with all of their might and skill, and miss. Not even the best golfer can hit the ball this well on every shot, for golf, as the legend Ben Hogan masterfully explains “is a game of misses.”
On the flip side, I’ve often boasted that I am able to love golf because I’m so terrible at it. I’m simply not good enough to take my playing seriously, and I’d kind of like to keep it that way. With any luck, I’ll never be the type of douchebag to say things like “It must be the way the grass blades on the greens were bent that was slowing my putt down... ” The main reason I love it is what I imagine is the only thing that golfers and heroin addicts have in common: chasing the unmistakable high of a clean hit. One of the greatest pleasures in life is the sensation a golfer experiences at the instant he contacts the ball flush and correctly. He always knows when he does, for then and only then does a distinctive “sweet feeling” sweep straight up the shaft from the clubhead and surge through his arms and his whole frame. If you ever get the opportunity to watch pros practice, do so with your eyes closed. It’s tantalising. The crack of contact from their hydrocephalic drivers makes it seem like an orchestra at a rifle range.
Until recently, I took only one golf lesson in my life. It was at a flat 18 hole par three in Van Nuys in 97 degree valley heat. The “Pro” assigned to my lesson was a Vietnam vet with no face. Technically, he had a face, but he’d suffered some sort of war injury that made the ridge of his nose connect seamlessly down to somewhere above his adam’s apple. I had no idea where his mouth was. I finally coughed up the money for a proper lesson, and the only noises coming out of this man’s head sounded like a string of loose farts. I was instantly annoyed. Yes, he’s a war hero and all, but the audacity of this sonofabitch to take my money and not be able to audibly communicate with me...well, this must be just another case of the golf gods taking a shit on me.
The hour lesson was painful, and towards the end I think he could see the frustration on my face, so he motioned his hand to suggest we play a few holes free of charge. I begrudgingly accepted, and by the third hole felt a sort of calm wash over me. Golfing with a man I couldn’t talk to was beautifully therapeutic. No words, just walking and striking balls. Every now and then he would gesturally point out little corrections to help me with my swing. The leisurely stride of the game created an atmosphere where communication at his pace seemed normal, and eventually we even ended up developing a shorthand. It was lovely, but fuck golf. I played the best round of my life that day, and it was still a terrible score, and my swing still sucks balls, and I still can’t afford decent lessons from someone with a working mouth because I’m still not rich...and that’s why I murdered that beautiful goose.