Gordon on Golf

Golf: The game that binds us all

(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the first and, hopefully, annual World Leaders Golf Tournament Presented by Those Who Hope to Live to See Tomorrow.

The first tee is a sight to behold.

The contents of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s bag are reminiscent of that of Rodney Dangerfield’s in the movie Caddyshack, although his caddie certainly is of a different ethnic background than Dangerfield’s was in the movie.

Despite Trump’s best efforts, hundreds of spectators have managed to manoeuvre around the wall he had constructed around the golf course. Among them was Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto who just managed to make his tee time.

In the parking lot, tournament officials had to alert Justin Trudeau and Vladimir Putin about the dress code when they arrived. Neither was enthusiastic about wearing a shirt at all, let alone one with a collar. Trudeau elected to go with a “sunny days” motif tank-top while Putin chose to have a shirt-like tattoo engraved on his torso with a golf tee and a Sharpie. Red, of course.

British PM Theresa May appeared briefly at the starter’s tent but left when she sighted participants from the European Union. British fans appeared about evenly divided on her exit, but she left nonetheless.

North Korea’s Kim Jung-Un had been sighted firing suspicious, non-approved test balls on the range but, when approached by tournament officials, headed for the nearest bunker.

By luck of the draw (not popular vote), Trump hit the first tee shot which sailed, appropriately, far right and out of bounds. “This game is rigged!” he exclaimed immediately.

Despite the initial furor, all the players headed down the first fairway. When the final putts were holed on 18, hands were shaken and everyone headed to the 19th hole to enjoy a beverage or two and work everything out.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, back to reality.

In the famous words of P.G. Wodehouse: “To find man’s true character, play golf with him.”

Imagine a world where everyone, state leaders chief among them, led their lives according to a code of conduct with which all real golfers are familiar. A code in which equity and fairness are paramount. Where “out of bounds” is clearly defined and where fair play is applauded.

Just imagine.

On my bookshelf is Stephen Potter’s The Complete Upmanship. Subtitled “The Art of Winning Games Without Actually Cheating,” I would suggest that politicians, full of mendacity, prevarication and obfuscation, are summa cum laude graduates of Potter’s school and instead would do well to study the Rules of Golf as they apply to life.

Section 1 of the Rules of Golf deals with etiquette, the spirit of the game, consideration of other players, preventing unnecessary damage and, significantly, penalties for breach. It shouldn’t be difficult to extrapolate those principles to daily life.

This is not to say that golf is without its own share of warts; misogyny, racism, and ageism among them. Not everyone plays by the Rules. But I submit that once those first tee shots are struck, the focus shifts from that which makes us different to that which binds us together—the love of the game.

Trump may not like this reference but thanks to the handicap system and its wide accessibility, golf is the most “democratic” of sports. It also, as Wodehouse posits, reveals much about not only others but oneself.

Sometimes, it takes a lifetime to figure that last part out. But that’s just another reason why it’s called “the game for a lifetime.”

As Carl Spackler (Bill Murray’s character in Caddyshack) said about his blessing from the Dalai Lama: “’When you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.’ So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.”

Hopefully, it doesn’t take all of us until our deathbeds to become conscious, to get an inkling at least, of how a civil round of golf, with its code of conduct, can be a metaphor for life.

Could Trump, with his connection to the game, eventually understand that? Could his peers around the world?

In the spirit of the game, and for the sake of the world, let’s hope so.