A friend once told me, “Whatever you do, do NOT write about golf. It’s elitist and turns people off.” He probably knew what he was talking about because back in the day, he was a hot-shot editor at a major daily newspaper. So let me be clear about what follows: THIS MUSING IS NOT ABOUT GOLF.”
That said, I need to explain a term. You probably know that most golfers like to keep score. I mean, what’s the point of swatting a little white ball around a golf course for four hours if you don’t know how many times you hit the damn thing. So you keep score on (logically) a scorecard which records the result of 18 holes of excruciating pain or, sometimes, palpable pleasure. BUT THIS IS NOT A MUSING ABOUT GOLF.
Now a ringer scorecard is a bit different. It is something I’ve used to keep a record of my best score on each hole over the course of a year. I’ve done this every year for the past ten, and my best annual score is fourteen under par, not bad except that it took me likely a hundred rounds to achieve that number. BUT THIS IS NOT ABOUT GOLF.
“So, what is this about?” you ask. It’s about keeping score in life: about tracking progress, testing limits, celebrating success, and coming to grips with failure. When I make a mark on my ringer scorecard, I can see what is at least achievable—not all the time, but, at least, every once in a while. That’s always good to know because if we don’t know what we’re capable of, we’re doomed to a life of mediocrity.
Over my years of ringer record-keeping, I’ve birdied (bested par by one shot) every hole on our course at least once. Ergo, I’m theoretically capable of playing a round in 53 shots—18 under par on a par 71 course. There are no truly exceptional moments—no holes-in-one, no albatrosses, not even an eagle—but that’s OK. Eighteen under par would likely set an unbeatable record for a single round. BUT REMEMBER; I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT GOLF.
I think knowing one’s possibilities and one’s limits is a good thing. I’d even go so far as to say that the inscription on the frontispiece of the Temple of Delphi gave good advice to all those ancient Greeks who never played a single round of golf: “Know Thyself.” Socrates took that aphorism one step further by musing (apparently Socrates was a muser, too) that we are all born with a pretty good dose of self-knowledge; the problem of life is that no one is very good at remembering what that knowledge is. My little ringer scorecard is a step in that direction, at least as a modicum of self-knowledge pertains to my golfing life. BUT THIS IS NOT A MUSING ABOUT GOLF.
Were I to have kept a ringer scorecard about other facets of my life, I wouldn’t be setting any course records. There might be a few birdies, but there would be a whole host of bogies. But here is the secret of my little ringer system: I can clearly see where the bogies lie, and therefore, I’m able to try and try again to rectify the problems. To do better.
So far this year, I have six birdies circled on my ringer scorecard, but there remains one blemish—an obstinate bogey square—around number 7. It’s the monkey on my back, but there’s still time. You see, my little ringer scorecard is more than mere self-congratulations or even a poor attempt to achieve some measure of self-understanding on my home turf. It’s simply a pretty good metaphor about tracking the rounds of my life. BUT PLEASE JUST REMEMBER: THIS IS NOT A MUSING ABOUT GOLF!
I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer who lives in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine.
Two collections of his essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”) are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.