There is a patch of hallowed ground upon which we must all stand in our turn and be judged by the god of our understanding and by our fellow man.
At these times we are utterly and completely alone.
Regardless of how much we may have read, studied, practiced, or rehearsed, we are, for this one moment, entirely on our own.
No tricks or shortcuts can save us now.
It is no surprise, therefore, that these can be moments of intense introspection.
We all approach these things differently, but some of us approach these occasions with a deep sense of foreboding.
We can clean our spikes, stretch our muscles, and prepare ourselves mentally for what is ahead, but we never really know for sure what will occur.
Most of us will try to get a good night’s sleep and consume a sensible breakfast in preparation.
We might mentally rehearse what we have planned for this day.
Until we step onto the tee box on the first hole of the first round of the season, however, our immediate future may remain very much in question.
If we are clean and sober, and if we are judged worthy, it can be one of the most exhilarating moments of the year.
On those glorious occasions, when the stars and everything else are in alignment, time slows down.
We can feel the closely-manicured turf beneath our spikes.
We can feel the flex in the shaft of our favorite driver as we take it back and around, making sure to rotate our body so our belt buckle faces away from the hole, and we can feel the compression of the ball as the club face meets the pellet squarely and true for a change and sends it hurtling toward its target, accelerating as it goes.
These things all occur in an instant, but when it is good, we can feel all the components in succession.
On those happy days when we get it right, we can pause at the peak of our follow-through and turn our face to the heavens, and bask in the sunbeam of approval shining down upon us.
Those are the good days.
Unfortunately, the scenario above is but one of thousands of possible outcomes.
When we step up to the tee, there are not 1,000 things that can go wrong, there are millions, and I have seen or committed most of them.
Frequently, I commit multiple offences each time I address the ball.
To the casual observer, whose only experience with golf may have been watching the professionals, the game may seem ridiculously easy.
It may be simple, but it certainly isn’t easy.
Golf is simple in the sense that all one has to do is take a club with a steel or graphite shaft, and use it to knock a ball weighing no more than 1.62 ounces and having a minimum diameter of 1.68 inches into a cup having a diameter of 4.25 inches and a minimum depth of 4 inches that is generally located between 251 and 470 yards away.
The distance could be shorter, if the hole is a par 3, or longer if it is a par 5, but the general idea is the same.
The object is simple, but the difficulty arises when one tries to execute the plan.
Course designers provide wide, attractive fairways to lead the way to the hole, and groundskeepers maintain the turf in prime condition, but those fairways can seem awfully narrow during the first round of the season.
The shortest distance from tee to green is a straight line, but whether it is due to nerves or a combination of other errors, I have seen golfers send a ball on an east-south east course when they were aiming due west.
I have seen golfers miss the ball entirely and nearly screw themselves into the ground after a particularly vigorous drive during which they failed to keep their heads down.
The ways in which one can look foolish on a golf course are practically unlimited.
The world is a rich and wonderful place for a high-handicap golfer.
We certainly see more of the course than scratch golfers.
While they might never stray from the center of the fairway, those of us with high handicaps frequently take little nature hikes through the rough and are forced to frame our shots through galleries of trees that stand between us and the green.
Not only do we cover more ground, we are fortunate enough to take many more swings at the ball along our journey.
One might think all this extra practice might help us lower our scores, but this is not necessarily the case.
The first tee on the first hole of the first round of the season is a lonely place, but, if we are lucky, it is the gateway to a season of pleasant hours spent with good friends in some of the most beautiful settings around.
Intimidating it may be, but the rewards are definitely worth the risk.