Many of golf’s best moments occur off the course. There are the beers on the patio when your round is over. There is the midnight inspiration that sends you tiptoeing into the backyard in your pajamas with a pitching wedge and a sleeve of balls. There are the equipment catalogs that make you feel like a kid with an inside track to Santa Claus. There is that first glimpse of Amen Corner on TV each April—official proof that winter is gone. And there is the pile of golf books and magazines that teeters next to your chair, ready to return you to your favorite frame of mind whenever it’s too cold, too dark, or too wet to play.
For most of us, golf improves in retrospect. That triple-bogey on 17 reveals itself, upon reflection, to have been a double-bogey derailed by an unrepaired ball mark. And if your playing partner hadn’t coughed at the top of your backswing on the tee your drive most likely would have stayed to the left of the water: bogey. And if somebody’s dog hadn’t dug up that greenside bunker during the night your sand shot surely would have landed on grass instead of sand, and you’d have had your par. In fact, you once sank a birdie putt from almost as far away. You can still remember every inch of that curling 40-footer, which broke left instead of right but, because you pushed it, still tumbled in. And today, but for a handful of flukes, you damn near made birdie again.