Would Pablo Neruda Have Played at Putting?

Poetics_of_golf University of Nebraska Press author Andy Brumer believes that golf is, quite literally, poetry in motion. His book, The Poetics of Golf, considers the game from unexpected and often surprising angles. At once contemplative and compelling, it explores the links between golf and life by way of art and literature, philosophy and psychology. Think making the case for golf as an art form is a, eh hem, “long shot?” Well, Andy Brumer would like to convince you otherwise, so he’s written a guest spot for our blog. Here are his musings on art, life, and his love of golf (yes, even in the winter).

Winter Golf: An Insider’s View

Here we are in the middle of January, and while I live in sunny Southern California, I have the utmost empathy for my brother and sister golfers who live in less golf-favorable winter climates. I did, however, grow up on Long Island and went to college in Madison, Wisconsin, where if the moisture in your hair after taking a shower didn’t freeze when you went outside in winter, we all felt just about ready to break out our golf clubs for another season. My book, The Poetics of Golf, doesn’t contain any poems, because in it I strove to meditate on the aesthetic qualities of golf in its many guises, rather than present works of art in and of themselves, but I do have a file of them waiting for a warm home. Here’s one called “The Golfer in Winter.”

“The Golfer in Winter”

Now the mind’s grass
is greener,
and memory’s breeze
on dawn’s first
tee more
intoxicating.

It’s like 
young love, this
sitting in 
the cold house
dreaming of a warmer
game.

And the contemplation
of snow-covered fairways
frees the
swing of its
inhibitions,

so that
the backstroke flexes
with the forgotten
wisdom of
wooden shafts,

the downswing 
powered with an
artist’s energy,

and impact
fixed as an image
of bricks
squared off to
build a wall.

There’s no violence at all
in the little mole’s
scurrying
across an icy bunker
or green.

It’s just the kind
of hurried waiting that
has to be done,

no less a test
of character
than the patience
needed to restrain one’s
joy
until it’s time
to play

on any warm
and dry July
day.

The topic of winter golf segues easily into the topic of practicing one’s golf swing, or putting strokes indoors. I began my book with such a true tale from my childhood, when I would hit practice plastic golf balls from my living room carpet and try to thread the shot through a tight corridor separating my living room from the dining room (avoiding the expensive chandelier, of course, which I imagined was a tree that haloed the dining table), controlling the height of the shot as well so that it would exit the house through the door to the back porch, to end its journey with a harmless thud against the porch’s screen. It wasn’t that difficult: any twelve-year-old with a modicum of golf skills could pull it off. Of course, as my story goes on to tell, one swing found my eight iron buried into the side of my family piano, a predicament I tried to fix inconspicuously by pasting the hole with chewing gum then painting that mess over with brown watercolor paint. The story chronicles my parents’ reaction to their son’s inventiveness, but what pleases me more than it surprises me is how many people have contacted me with tales of their own indoor practice woes.

The most tragic story came from my friend Greg, who said that, as he was practicing his swing inside one day when he was a teenager, he caught his mother right in the head! And I thought hitting the family’s prized piece of furniture was bad!

The next one I heard falls into the comic rather than the tragic category . . . I think. It comes from a man in Sacramento who phoned in to a radio show during which I was being interviewed about The Poetics of Golf.

It seems this chap, a high school golf coach, was preparing for a golf tournament in which he was going to play. Now, even though Sacramento is in California, its northern latitude, while teasing its residents with winters considerably milder than those, say, in Nebraska, nevertheless produces some chilly days. It must have been on such a day that this tournament was scheduled to be played, because the guy said he decided to put three of his Titleist golf balls in the oven to warm them up. Golfers know that warm golf balls travel farther than cold ones, and because I’m no physicist, I won’t venture to suggest why. They just do. The guy didn’t turn on the oven, mind you; he figured the ambient warmth of the pilot light would do the trick. What he didn’t figure, though, was that his wife would pop something into the oven without looking inside first, and then turn the dial to 450 degrees. Yes, the golf balls exploded, and we can all imagine how his wife reacted to the event.

“That one takes the cake,” I told the guy over the air. Then I added, “No pun intended.”

***

Andy Brumer is a freelance writer specializing in golf, art, and literature. Formerly the editor of Golf Tips magazine and Petersen’s Golfing, he is the author of Guide to the Golf Revolution: How Technology Is Driving the Game and the coauthor, with Bobby Clampett, of The Impact Zone: Mastering Golf’s Moment of Truth.