Life of Jane

What it Was, Was Golf

A space alien tries to explain golf to its leader after visiting the course at the Greensboro Country Club during the summer, sometime in the 1980s


By Jane Borden

“I’ve discovered a most interesting human pastime.”

“Another ‘sport’”?

“Not at all. One need not be physically strong to play.”

“Ah, so a game?”

“Perhaps. Although I can discern no prize.”

“What is it, then?”

“A business meeting.”

“But it happens outdoors?”

“Yes. While discussing business matters, the humans move around in vehicles between little yellow flags. When they reach a flag, they pick it up and then put it back down.”

Sounds like what you witnessed them doing a few hundred years ago. What was it called? Colonialism?”

“Similar, yes. But the flags exist before they arrive.”


“And complicated. They can’t just approach a flag. They must send balls ahead of them. Then they replace the flag with the balls.”

So the goal is to replace a flag with a ball?”

“No, the goal is to land your ball in a giant sand pit.”

“I don’t understand.”

“When your ball lands in the flag hole, the other players become angry, whereas when it lands in the sand pit, they laugh.”

“I see. Yes, the sand pit must be the goal. And then is the business meeting over?”

“Not at all. The humans go to great effort to make these meetings as long as possible, sometimes an entire day.”

Really? How long can it take to throw a ball into some sandboxes?”

“Well, first of all, they don’t throw it. They propel the ball with large sticks.”

That seems like a waste of energy.”

“Especially since the stick doesn’t always make contact with the ball. However, again, I think this must be intentional, since whiffing, as they call it, always makes others laugh.”

“I still don’t understand why it takes all day.”

“Magic takes time.”

“Magic? Humans stopped performing public magic long ago.”

“I was surprised too. But their interactions with these sticks strongly suggest they believe the instruments have magical powers. First, they carry the sticks together in a large protective bag, which is closely guarded. Further, the most potent sticks wear little hats to contain their power. Also, players wear gloves so as not to injure themselves while touching the magical sticks.”

“Interesting. Go on.”

“To conjure the right stick, they stand over the bag, wave their hands, and mumble incoherently.”

“Surely this is also intended to make the others laugh.”

“To the contrary. The group is deadly serious about conjuring. Especially in regards to the ceremonial dancing.”


“Yes, after conjuring a stick, but before striking a ball, they stamp their feet a few times, jiggle their elbows, shift their hips, and perform a variety of strange motions as if in a trance. The other players respect this ritual by ignoring it.”

“What happens if the stick does not provide the magic requested of it?”

“The human tries to send it back to the spirit world by throwing it into the sky.”

“Hmm. I still don’t understand why the business meeting takes so long.”

“Throughout the course are obstacles they call hazards. They must avoid these with their vehicles and their balls.”

For example?”

“Small bodies of water. Collections of trees. Children.”

Children live on the course?”

“No, but they roam about it freely, wearing flip-flops and carrying towels.”

“To antagonize the players?”

“Certainly the players become agitated. But the children themselves appear unaware.”

“How do the players avoid this obstacle?”

“They shout at them.”

“And how do the children respond?”

“They don’t. They are oblivious to the players and the course. I believe the point of this hazard is to anger the players, as only the most patient and calm players prevail.”

“If the children are oblivious, are they ever struck by balls?”

“Certainly. I witnessed a child named Claiborne take a direct hit to his temple.”

“And then what happened?”

“He shouted an expletive and his friends laughed at him.”

“Interesting. So is this why the children participate, this laughter?”

“Perhaps. Except, whenever they are hit or nearly hit the children continue on their path, without investigating the origin of the projectiles, or questioning their own course or behavior.”

“Hmm. Why are the children motivated to play such a role?”

“They receive payment. During their return crossings over the course, they carry food and drink items called Push Pops and Slushies, in which they appear to place much value.”

“OK. So how does the striking of balls with magical sticks in order to remove and replace flags aid in conducting a business meeting?”

“The etiquette of the game requires them to be silent during most of it, so they can’t ruin potential business deals by opening their big dumb human mouths.”

“Yes, humans are always ruining things with their big dumb mouths. Good work, Scout. I only have two more questions. What is the name of this business meeting?”


“And what is the point of it?”

“To drink beer.”  OH

Jane Borden narrowly avoided screaming golf balls during many flip-flopped treks across Greensboro Country Club’s back nine.

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