Our featured writer shares her thoughts on humour and its role in Golf
While drawing the club back to hit an eight iron shot on the first hole of a Connecticut course, I began to laugh uncontrollably. Rather than swing smoothly through the shot, I created a deep divot in the ground resulting in a wayward ball that only produced more laughter. What could have possibly caused the hysteria that led to an embarrassing ten on hole number one?
It may have been something my sister mentioned about the episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm that we had watched the night before, the one in which Larry David cannot get a tee-time on a sunny day because the weatherman reports on a faux torrential downpour to steer others clear of the course. Or perhaps it was an iconic scene from Caddyshack; I really don’t recall.
Whatever the source of uncontrollable laughter that day, I realized the centrality of comedy to the golfing experience. Growing up, I often heard from my family that golf is a metaphor for life, and the older I become the more I discover humor’s healing power in this world. If we didn’t laugh at ourselves struggling through sand bunkers, we might cry!
Comedy and humor have distinct origins that we do not have to explore here and now, but the golfing experience is most pleasurable when it combines both. Below are various forms of humor that I have appreciated for their ability to create comedy on the course or simply to elicit laughter from readers and audiences of golf literature, film, and television.
This form of humor involves reversed expectations, and it can be verbal or situational. Irony can be quite dark, like a lifeguard drowning or an ambulance creating injuries. In golf, though, ironic instances arise when horrendous looking shots wind up on the green, near the pin, or on extremely rare occasions in the hole! The reverse is also true of course.
Harsh and biting social critique or commentary aimed at correcting human vice, satirical situations can be hard to come by in this game. I am brought to the fiction of British author P. J. Wodehouse whose stories often satirize the country club experience, as well as the amateur golfing gang that takes this game to a ridiculous level of seriousness.
Difficult to capture physical or bodily humor on the page, slapstick or other forms of parody come across through classic comedies like Happy Gilmore starring Adam Sandler. Countless times, when my husband hits a shot that doesn’t leave the ground but works in his favor, I comment that he is mastering the art of Gilmore golf.
Wit & Wordplay:
There is an abundance of puns in golf, from phrases such as staying the course (my previous piece’s title) to all of the jokes involving balls. Here I am reminded of that old episode of I Love Lucy when Ricky Ricardo and Fred Mertz try to disinterest their wives in golf by creating such complicating lingo. The wordplay in this episode is priceless, such as when Lucy’s husband goes to address the ball by greeting it as if it were another person.
Iconic American comic genius and near centenarian, Mel Brooks has stated that humor is the strongest defense against the pains of mortality. As golfers, we often feel as though we are in a perpetual struggle with the elements (at least I do when I’m practically wading in water or dealing with divots!). A sense of humor though an eighteen-hole round can lighten the load.
Even if the score is one I would rather forget, the day of hysterical laughter on the course with my sister is one I will always