Early on in the coronavirus “quarantine,” many people began new hobbies and activities, or revived old ones that they hadn’t participated in for years. Some people have exercised more or in new ways. Others took up sewing. I heard collecting baseball cards has been resurrected.
A few friends and I, most of us in our 20s, have found something new — at least, new to us. We are playing golf consistently this summer for the first time in our lives. The experience is changing our view of the sport.
In early spring, when courses were still closed, I spoke to a few avid players who admitted they were sneaking onto fairways to hit a few balls. At the time, I wondered what it would be like to want to play golf badly enough to get on the wrong side of the law.
I got my first and only set of golf clubs when I was a teenager. My neighbor was an avid golfer and sold a set of his clubs to me at a yard sale for just $20. It was a generous deal, considering how expensive a decent set of clubs can be. But I had not used those clubs in at least six years when, this May, a couple of friends told me they were going golfing.
Golf courses were among the first public areas to reopen in Massachusetts. As it turned out, here was one of the safest sports around, perfect for this pandemic because you can stay six feet apart throughout the game.
“I took up golf as one of the few socially distant activities, and it turns out I like it,” said Crash Pechukas Simonian, one of the friends I’ve been playing with. He bought a membership at Chequessett in Wellfleet, where he lives, at the beginning of the summer and has been playing consistently.
Nick Taber, a friend from Eastham, told me he has long enjoyed golf, “but it has always been a challenge to get on the course more than a couple times a year.” Now he makes the time to play regularly.
So, I brought those clubs up from the basement, dusted them off and hit the links.
My first game was bad. I had forgotten how hard golf actually is. It is not like riding a bike, it turns out.
And I cannot blame the clubs. Although I hadn’t used them in years, they are still as good as new. It’s a mix-and-match bag that includes a Callaway driver and Top Flite putter. But the truth is, you really don’t need new clubs to play well.
What it takes is persistence. Since that first game in May, I’ve continued to play almost every weekend this summer, and it’s taken me until now to feel comfortable with my swing. I’m still inconsistent.
The sport requires consistency like no other I’ve played. And you have to keep at it for 18 holes. Shoot well for the first few holes and that’s good, but if the next few don’t go as well, your score starts to climb. Then you start to overthink the game.
In basketball, even when I’m not on my game, there are times I can make the last two shots of the day for a win. When I miss a layup, I can rely on my teammates to hold their own and keep us in it. In golf, you’re your own team.
“Something I love about golf,” Wellfleet’s Declan Mahedy-Carter told me, “is you can play completely alone. Nothing beats a round with your buddies, but if you were the last person on Earth you could still play nine holes.”
In a time when travel is impossible, we’ve toured the Cape, playing Highland Links in Truro, Chequessett in Wellfleet, and courses in Brewster, Dennis, Yarmouth, Bourne, and Hyannis. It’s been a chance to appreciate some beautiful landscapes. And it’s fascinating to see how different courses are structured.
Captains in Brewster is tucked away in the woods; Highland is on a cliff overlooking the ocean, while Chequessett is in marshy territory, with a few panoramic views of Wellfleet Harbor.
Every one of them is set up to accommodate players’ need to keep safely distanced.
My friends and I used to think golf was an old man’s game. But we are all 25 and we’re seeing lots of younger people playing. We’re seeing many women playing, too, often mothers and daughters together. One group of friends plays with a dad along.
Maybe parents understand that golf offers “teaching moments.” It seems to be just about as enjoyable as it is frustrating. You can shoot the best you ever have on one hole and then take eight shots to get to the pin on the next hole. But maybe it’s making us see life differently.
“I feel lucky to take in the fresh air and beautiful vistas at Chequessett, so even on the days when I can’t hit the ball straight, it’s still a success,” Pechukas-Simonian said. “There have been plenty of those days for all of us. Whether the round has gone well or badly, we keep going out.”