“Nothing in life is to be feared," said physicist Marie Curie. "It is only to be understood.” Far be it from me to argue with a two-time Nobel Prize winner, but clearly Curie never played golf.
Because there's nothing to be "understood" about standing on a tee box, overlooking a scenic fusion of nature and thinking, "Crap, I hope I don't put this in the drink." Or having your knees shake over a 20-foot birdie putt, not that you're worried about making it but that, deep down, you're afraid it will end in a three-jack. (Spoiler: You'll three-jack.)
Golf is filled with these agitations, likely one of the reasons why "Golf is a good walk spoiled" is less of a remark and more of a truth. And many of the game's terrors are universal. Here are a golfer's 13 worst fears:
Throwing your back out on the eve of annual golf trip
On the bright side, nothing is better for a bad back than sitting in a plane or car seat for multiple hours, dragging a set of luggage behind you and playing 90 holes over a three-day period.
Getting stuck behind the community center's women's 65-and-over league
Or worse, on the day they decide to hold their annual "Left-handed Club Wiffle Ball" tournament.
Forget the heart-rending sight of your ball violently rocketing from its resting place at a 45-degree angle. The shanks are terrifying because of the aftershock: After you've had one lateral run-in, an inescapable anxiety sets in that said shank will return, turning every iron and wedge shot into a panic attack. Good times!
The airlines losing your sticks
Imagine a babysitter losing a kid. Now multiply that by 14, and that's the despair that sets in when your clubs fail to emerge from baggage claim. (Note: I do not have kids.)
All those Shingo Katayama hats you bought will never come back in style
Um, speaking for a friend on this one.
Hitting a bad shot on the first tee or after a group waves you through
One of the game's biggest embarrassments, topped only by...