At its worst, golf is a forum for Tesla owners to gather, discuss investment strategies, and pat each other on their Travis Matthews-cloaked backs. At its best, it is communion between human and nature.
The 150th Open takes place this week at the birthplace of golf: The Old Course at St. Andrews, where golfers will literally be blown in whatever direction the wind chooses. Tiger Woods said of the unique challenge of St. Andrews and links golf, “The game is so dramatically different—let Mother Nature dictate it and you have to try and figure it out.” Unlike so many PGA Tour stops, this is a week to understand the importance of angles, bounces, and making peace with the unknowable. For those golfers who yearn to play inside an echoing test tube—I’M LOOKING AT YOU, BRYSON—this is not the week.
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Time and again Woods has waxed poetic about the creativity links golf inspires. How one shot can be played a multitude of ways and if done correctly, arrive in the same place. This is the very best form of competition, where a variety of skills (speed, strength, guile, emotion) can be ridden to the top of the leaderboard. A true golf course like The Old Course, backed by the whispers and roars of Mother Nature, tests might as well as mettle. Said Woods, “Patience will be key this week.”
The deeper I have sunk into the world of golf, the more fascinated I have become by the mental demands. Other sports feature more rhythm and flow, sweat and movement translated into autonomous response. Golf is a four-hour battle inside the smallest, most claustrophobic room of your mind, interrupted by periodic flashes of athletic brilliance. It is electric because of the mental strain, every shot a new point of focus, each result a controlled understanding that ultimately, nature never cedes control. At its best—in a place like St. Andrews, at the 150th rendering of the oldest major championship in the world—golf threads and embeds itself amongst the vines of belief, acceptance, and the wild, ecstatic unknown.
Additional listening: Kevin Durant, LIV Golf, and the present-day dissatisfaction of humanity.