Simple game. Complicated people.

Golf. One word. Four letters. Fourteen clubs. A little white ball. But golf is so much more than that to so many people. As Tom Coyne so eloquently put it in A Course Called Scotland, golf is a simple game for complicated people. 

Golf course.


Most people, including myself, have a hard time waking up early. We struggle waking up early for work, for school, and for family obligations. But for an early tee time? No problem. Who else would fly across the Atlantic for a Scottish vacation, only to stand in line before the sun comes up for the chance to hit (shank) a golf ball? If I ever get that opportunity, I know that I will be standing in line, probably in the cold, and every like-minded stranger braving the early morning seaside Scottish weather will be just as complicated as I am.

Gold course.

My wife often asks me what it is about golf that continues to attract my attention, sometimes at her expense. My answer? It’s complicated. I tell her that it is hard to explain to someone who doesn’t play regularly, but really that’s just a fancy way of telling her that she wouldn’t understand. She enjoys wine, Christmas, sofas covered in throw pillows, and sappy Hallmark movies. I enjoy chasing a ball around an open field until by some miracle it falls into the cup. Seems simple, right? Not for a complicated mind.

Maybe it’s the challenge that comes with a round of golf, chasing a number on every hole that always seems to be just out of reach. Maybe it’s the back-to-back birdies that lend credence to the idea that maybe I can actually be pretty good at this golf thing. Or perhaps it’s the beauty of a golf course, with rolling hills, natural landscapes, sunrises, sunsets, cliffs, valleys, whispering pines, magnolia trees, and other descriptions that I certainly won’t be sharing with my wife because it’s starting to sound like I love golf more than I love her. As a matter of fact, in a way it sounds like a Hallmark movie. But I’ll never tell her that. It’s too complicated. 

Maybe I could tell her about the lessons that can be learned playing golf. That a bad shot can be quickly forgotten if you follow it up with a good one. That I get a lot of good exercise by walking 18 holes carrying my bag. That there are so many good people out there playing golf and so many connections to be made with those people. But that just seems too simple. And not a single one of those good people that you meet, braving the sideways rain just to squeeze in nine holes on a Tuesday afternoon, is simple. 

All of those things, just from a game? She might think I’m losing my mind if I tell her. So I just tell her it’s complicated.


And she believes me. Why else would I put a golf simulator in the garage? Why else would I go on golf trips every year and leave her at home? Why else would I wake up early for a tee time when it’s 35 degrees and spitting snow? All of that for a simple game?

But that’s it. A simple game. Tee, fairway, green, hole. Wash, rinse, repeat. Simple. Hit the ball, walk after it, and hit it again. It doesn’t get any more simple than that. But she won’t get it. Only certain types of people will ever understand what it really means.

Complicated people.

Wes Harlow lives in Rockbridge County with his wife and two young boys, working full-time as a Lieutenant for the Lexington Fire Department. A journalism and political science graduate from Randolph-Macon College, he doesn’t golf as much as he’d like to—but he somehow convinced his wife to let him put a golf simulator in their garage, which will have to do for now.

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