Illustration by: Paul Hostetler

Like many men in the Bethesda area, my husband engages in the occasional ritual: He forces himself to rise at the crack of dawn, then proceeds to spend vast amounts of time and money on a pastime that depresses and infuriates him.

Ah, yes, golf.

On a recent, glorious afternoon, my girlfriend Cindy and I decided to see what all the fuss was about. Cindy had actually played a few times. But then her husband—usually a genial, laid-back guy—unequivocally banned her from the course, citing her lack of coordination and general chattiness as the grievous offenses. I had even less experience with the sport: I once hit a few balls on a driving range. Or rather, I swung at a lot of balls and sent one or two skittering a few feet away from the tee, where they rolled their eyes and snickered at me.

Still, golf seemed like something Cindy and I could grow to like; perhaps we’d even become prodigies late in life. What was there not to enjoy about a game in which you mostly drive around in a cart, sipping beer and talking, except for the occasional stop to hit things? Odds were we’d be naturals.

But we didn’t take into account the Angry Men in Pastel.

(Later we theorized that the men clustered around the course like flocks of tropical birds were angry because of their pastels—or more accurately, because many of them seemed to be wearing the exact same mint-green shorts as Cindy. Wearing girl shorts and sherbet-colored shirts could piss off anyone not named Martha Stewart.)

Still, the manicured green lawns beckoned. And as we climbed aboard a sporty little golf cart and rode off, we figured our biggest problem would be deciding which clubs to use. There was a moment of confusion as we surveyed our borrowed bags. Several of the clubs had fuzzy, Russian-hat-style coverings, but others were left naked to fend for themselves against the elements. It seemed elitist. 

I pulled out one insensitively named “Big Bertha” and positioned myself above the ball. I swung violently, then felt a sensation akin to whiplash as my club made contact with the earth instead of the ball, interrupting my body’s trajectory and jerking me backward.

I swung again. Same result. Then a third time. Ditto.

“I think the ball’s paying attention now,” Cindy said with a yawn.

I finally hit it. Then Cindy took aim at her ball. (If I were the competitive type, I’d note that it took her twice as long to make contact and that she looked a lot like Elaine dancing on Seinfeld.)

We strolled a few feet forward to reclaim our balls. We had a vague notion that we were supposed to switch clubs, but by this time we’d grown attached to our drivers. Big Bertha was, we decided, the little black dress of golf—an all-purpose tool that could take our balls anywhere. I raised my driver again, but my swing was interrupted when I glimpsed a sudden flash of movement out of the corner of my eye.

“Let me just move over here,” Cindy said, sprinting 10 yards behind me.

I raised my driver again.

“I just wish I had a helmet,” she shouted, taking refuge behind a tree.

Clearly she was trying to psych me out—an underhanded tactic, if ever there was one. I swung a half-dozen times and finally managed to nudge the ball sideways.

An hour later we’d completed a hole and a half. We’d gotten lost twice, and we’d very nearly been killed by an Angry Man in Pastel who thought we were taking too long on a hole and fired a warning ball past our heads. We were hot, thirsty and our necks were so sore we had to turn our entire bodies to look at something.

We stumbled into the clubhouse, panting and exhausted. Within moments we had tall, ice-cold beers in front of us.

And suddenly, golf didn’t seem like such a bad habit after all.

Sarah Pekkanen’s first novel, The Opposite of Me (Washington Square Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Inc.), was released in March. She can be reached at sarah.pekkanen@bethesda