Face Off: A Men's and Women's Guide to Sports - Golf

The Scots are a cruel people, no doubt hardened by living untold generations braving invading armies and the ceaseless howl of a bitter wind across barren moors or craggy Highlands. Buffeted only by the occasional recalcitrant sheep and the promise of a refreshing breeze up the skirt, the Scot finds amusement where he can. Sometimes it's as simple as getting drunk with a buddy and seeing who can toss a tree the farthest. But always lurking not far away is the hardened edge of revenge on the outside world, the idea that through exporting tiny little tortures the Scots will truly come to rule the Earth.

It's hard not to like the Scots, what with their charming burr of an accent, their penchant for spinning a good yarn and their leggy, bonnie lassies. And that, my friend, is the first link in their master plan. Face it, if it was the Kurds or the Tajiks who tried to make you sit and listen to hours of bagpipe music, you wouldn't waste a minute in saying, "Stop skinning that goat, Achbar, and go take a bath." But it's the cute little Scotsman, with his Sean Connery voice, who's squeezing an untunable bag of air and trying not to bust out laughing because you're actually being polite.

These people create the best whiskey on the planet, yet they make it an outrageously expensive acquired taste, and then tell you to wait fifteen years till it's ready to drink. These people would force you to eat a sheep's stomach and say "Mmmm." And that is why, when the last foreigner turns his back, the entire nation of Scotland explodes into riotous guffaws, slapping backs and knees, and sputtering out the word for their greatest barbarity of all… golf.

See, golf is, by design, the simplest of games made completely maddening by its impossibility. Hit the little ball into the hole, the pedestrian thinks. "How boring," they say, "the ball isn't even moving." Hah! Infidels! Oh sure, any underachieving slacker can drink beer and shoot 130. But for those of us who take pride in a job done right, golf is an exponentially expanding maze of humiliation. The better you get, the better you think you can do, until your level of frustration rises higher than Lindsay Lohan at a Mardi Gras party.

It begins before you even step up to the ball. If your feet don't line up perfectly toward the target, you're hosed. If your back shoe is a millimeter too far away from the tee, the Gormans get a new window in the game room. If you mashed the tee a newborn's hair too far into the ground, that prairie dog is gonna need ear surgery. Sure it starts as one little mistake on the tee box, but it becomes a freaking disaster by the time it gets 250 yards down the fairway. Do the math! Your ball errs one measly inch per yard, and you're hitting shot number two off the butt of somebody's yard gnome.

Lessons, you say? Oh, my God! What a horrendous mistake that would be. The pro, who is as clueless as you are, only luckier, shows you a video tape of your swing in which you look about as graceful as a drunk Tip O'Neil doing the limbo. That's not a problem, according to Biffy, who just wants you to leave so he can rub his sand wedge against somebody else's trophy wife. The solution is simple: put more weight on your front instep, roll your hips into the swing after your knee releases, but only when you can keep your left arm straight while bringing it back around your body and not letting that right elbow drop so much because it will effect the follow through of your leading thigh which, in turn, makes you get out in front of your toes and increases your club speed to a dangerous degree. Got it? Now go over to the practice range and hit a couple of buckets keeping all that in mind. The end result is that by the time you're back in the men's locker room slathering yourself with Flexall and band-aids, Stephen Hawking has a more fluid swing than you do. Not to mention that your original analysis video is now posted as "before" on over twenty-six internet sites.

Oh, and then there's the equipment. When you were in high school, the whole penis compensation thing revolved around what kind of car you drove. Duster with a hemi. Camaro with twin Holleys. Well, once you pass thirty-five, buster, I can promise you that unless you pull that gorilla sock off $700 worth of titanium alloy with a club head the size of a beagle, your buddies are going to think that you can't get it up. If it was just the one time expense, that's bad enough, but golf technology changes faster than John Madden can think of new noises to make. The graphite shafts you bought two years ago are probably costing you 15 yards off the tee. The metals this year have an extra fourteen one-hundredths of a percent higher compression ratio. Have you tried the new Titleist uranium-core, extra tight wound balata ball? Sure they're $37 each, but it's going to cut down your slice vector by up to a fifth.

Oh, there are plenty of other indignities. The eighty-seven year old they paired you up with keeps pissing you off every time his super slow-mo swing puts one 175 yards right down the middle. You find that you're genetically unable to order from the beverage cart hottie without making some lame-ass joke your dad might have told. The four lard-butt morons playing in front of you insist on plumb-bobbing every putt for at least four minutes before they put it eight feet past the hole because they once saw Slammin' Sammy do it on TV.

You're almost at the end of your rope. You've just about convinced yourself that getting repeatedly hit in the back of the head by your friend, Steve's, racquetball might be the way to go. You mutter to yourself as you dig in over your approach shot. This is the last time. It's just not worth the aggravation. Then, for once, the eight iron takes just the right amount of divot. It is the kind of swing where you don't even feel the club face hit the ball at all. It's just one motion. The loft surprises you. That looks just like the pros, or at least like that perfectly coiffed butthead who played through back on the ninth. You can actually hear the soft thud and know that this time, there'll actually be a ball mark to repair since your ball didn't worm burn across the front slope like it usually does. Your playing partner, who was already on in two, yells, "Whoa! Sweet!"

Later, over a clubhouse beer, you stopped it two inches from the cup instead of six. It might have had a little bit more backspin in the second telling than it did on the green. But it still left you a tap in for your only birdie of the day. Out of the 97 strokes you counted, that one you'll remember fifteen years from now. And you pray the weather is this perfect again next Saturday.

Damn those Scots.