November 21st, 2023

Golf and I are Back Together
Essay by Allen Mendenhall

Golf and I were separated for fifteen years. Now we’re happily, romantically reunited. How, you ask, does a couple disengage for so long only to return to each other desperately, passionately, with the ardor and fervor of aroused youth?

Few utterly broken relationships resulting in bitter breakups experience that improbable second chance. Yet golf and I, notwithstanding trials and tribulations, painful parting and emotional scarring, have reunited. Here’s our inspiring story.

Golf, as you know, is much older than I. She’s been around. Her first lover, apparently, was the Scottish King James IV.

She and I met when I was only eight. She seduced me, enchanted me, pulled me close to her bosom and lovingly cultivated our complex relationship through highs and lows, joys and tumult. An older, more mature woman can teach a young man curious things. Her hormones peak late whereas his peak early. The match is, in that respect, for a matter of time at least, perfect.

I played golf well as a junior, winning multiple Atlanta Junior Golf Association tournaments, as well as the Atlanta National Junior Club Championship several times, and I competed in tournaments hosted by the Southeast Junior Golf Tour. I carded my first under-par round in the eighth grade, before I started high school. I recall shooting 74 from the tips when I was a barely fertile 13. Grown men admired my swing on the driving range—some of them, I suspect, recalling the virility they once enjoyed themselves—and I boasted to them in the locker room about pronation and supination, supple positions I’d learned from Ben Hogan’s salacious Five Lessons.

That all changed in high school when I took a mistress, a flesh-and-blood human being, which is to say, a girlfriend. She, a popular cheerleader, was jealous of golf. She made me choose: her or my clubs. I couldn’t have both.

I selected the human. Golf and I slowly, painfully drifted apart. I stopped playing her. She, hurt, her needs unmet, stopped tempting me with her delicious charm. We rekindled the flame briefly—during my last semester of college—but it didn’t work out. I quit her completely.

That was in 2005. Then, in 2017, a remarkable thing happened. I decided to build a house on a golf course lot overlooking a pulchritudinous par three, the green guarded by a sprawling lake over which, each dawn, an auburn sun rose with sublime majesty. There, beside the rocky shoreline and muddy banks, amid refracting rays of light from sparkling water, as the geese and ducks cackled with wild abandon and the lush ground luxuriated in the soft spray of daybreak sprinklers, lay the smooth and verdant fairway, so fertile and epidermal that the flagstick stood erect even in high winds.

I recall, after I moved in, taking in that enthralling view, the hole like a bathing beauty, my lustful eyes unable to look away. In a suddenly soundless moment, I accepted responsibility for my failures, decisions, and mistakes, and imagined my life with golf in it again.

Had our mutual anger and suffering occurred merely during a season of sorrow and heartbreak, reflecting circumstances beyond our control that weren’t intrinsic to our relationship? Had I turned away from her because of my insecurities and bitterness, my fear that I would never play at the high level I envisioned for myself? Were my resentment and contempt misdirected or misplaced? Could I accept the fact that I would never become a professional, never know what it feels like to crush a drive 340 yards or pitch and putt before roaring crowds at Augusta National? Might I overcome anxiety and self-loathing if I were open and honest with golf about them, describing to her, my once darling partner, my deepest vulnerabilities and desires? Had I ever found true happiness apart from her?

Humbled, and with a renewed sense of purpose, I decided, right then and there, to seek healing and forgiveness. I dusted off those old irons that I’d owned since 1994. Sure, the company that made them was out of business, and the graphite shafts were more suited for a fishing pole than a golf club. But they were mine and had served me well in my adolescence.

My return to the driving range wasn’t pretty or triumphant. I struggled to elevate the ball. I hooked and sliced and even shanked the ball from time to time. I remained determined, though, to prove to golf that I was serious about changing and would work through any problems, however difficult, to ensure the full restoration of my feelings and commitments.

Golf and I are back together again, I’m pleased to report, and our passions couldn’t be hotter. I’m now playing at a four handicap; my low index is 1.8, achieved during a 2020 streak when the economy closed for the pandemic. I’ve got new clubs, clothes, and shoes, a spring in my step and a tanned face. I’ve started working out. I feel healthy and happy. Golf and I are, by all accounts, affectionate partners with a promising future.

The only problem is, how to tell my wife?

About the author: Allen Mendenhall is a writer and attorney who serves as an associate dean of the Sorrell College of Business at Troy University. (