Yesterday I was grateful for poker, which I described as the perfect game.
Tonight I am grateful for golf, the almost perfect game. I played today thanks to a spat of unseasonably balmy temperatures, my first time on the links this year. I played well at times, poorly at others and finished with a score of 56, which stinks.
But still, it was golf. In March.
Like poker, golf is competition wrapped in a social milieu. Despite the ongoing battle for first place (or the more important battle to avoid last place), it is also time well spent with friends. It does not place nearly as many intellectual demands upon a player as poker does but adds a layer of physicality that poker does not possess.
It’s a magnificent game, and I would play everyday if I could.
Here’s the thing that keeps golf from being as perfect as poker:
At the poker table, anyone can win. An inexperienced, stupid player can make a series of good decisions, become uncharacteristically aggressive, or pick up on a tell and win the game. At the poker table, every player, regardless of skill or experience, is a legitimate and persistent threat to the best player at the table.
Golf is very different. I play golf with guys who are in many ways playing an entirely different game than me. They are hitting the ball so much farther and higher and with such greater precision that beating them is a near-impossibility.
While poker provides a relatively level playing field for all players, golf does not. Experience plays an enormous role.
And some guys are just better.
Still, I love the game, despite its imperfection. Thankfully, winning and losing does not matter as much in golf because it lacks the head-to-head combat of poker.
Simply put, you cannot play poker without an opponent.
This is not the case for golf. Opponents are not required to enjoy the game. In many ways, you play every round of golf by yourself while in the midst of three other people and then compare your scores at the end of the round to see who played alone best.
If given the choice, I prefer the cut-throat, head-to-head battles that poker provides, but golf is a close second.