My Usual GameJuly 6, 2016

Backyard Golf: Broken windows and divot equilibrium

A number of years ago, I paid two men a thousand dollars to repair broken windows in my house. The men worked silently for a while. Then one of them said, “If you don’t mind my asking, how did all this glass get broken?”

“Oh, you know -- loose stones, disoriented birds, that sort of thing,” I said. The men gave me a long look before going back to work.

In truth, I had broken the windows myself. I play golf in my yard, and the house sometimes impinges on the flight of my ball. In one year, I had managed to break at least one pane in almost every window. Now winter was approaching, and I wanted to seal the place up tight before the first hard frost.

The good thing about hitting windows with golf shots is that you seldom lose the ball: just follow the plume of broken glass across the top of the dining-room table. The bad thing is that each shattered pane means one more check mark on the debit side of the mental ledger in which your wife computes the costs and benefits of remaining married to you. (Let’s not even go into the time I broke the windshield of her car.) I often find myself wishing I had something on her -- say, knowledge that she’s a sixties radical on the lam from the F. B. I.

When I started playing golf in my yard, I was careful to replace my divots. But I like hitting balls in my yard, and replacing divots is boring, and after a while I stopped. Hamburger-sized chunks of turf sometimes smack the side of the house and stick there -- or slide down slowly, like a handful of Jell-O on a cafeteria wall. “Why is grass growing on the front door?” my daughter asked once, when she was little. Anyway, I’m not convinced that divots are bad for a yard: they shift the dirt around, the way earthworms do. And if you never replace them you eventually reach a point where every new one is almost certain to land in the hole left by an old one: divot equilibrium. Little by little, you move the right side of your yard to the left; then, little by little, you move it back.

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