I didn’t know golfing while stoned at the Fort Collins Country Club and riding shotgun in an old, diamond-plated golf cart for nine holes would make me feel as if I were being born again.
Our tee time was at 5:36 p.m., exactly two minutes before I noted that the sky was threatening to rain, pushing down on the manicured grass with bloodshot clouds. I was high with my old friend Max, a former stoner who now lives his mid-twenties quietly, sober and with his artist father. Before they picked me up, and after I had dropped several vials of infused tincture, I stood in my parents’ bathroom with the shower roaring, pressing my finger to the bathroom mirror. I drew a circle for no real reason but to feel the moisture from the hot air between my finger and the glass. It was there, in those pressing moments, that I realized I was maybe too stoned to be putting on slacks and a starched collar to rub shoulders with so-and-so’s. In the next hour I’d be drinking gin from a plastic cup at a country club that so famously supported — I remember — George W. Bush during the 2004 presidential election race.
I hadn’t golfed since high school. I never impressed anyone, not Max or his artist father. I could never, even after instruction, hold the club right or hit the ball straight. Max grew up blocks from the country club. He worked there as a lifeguard in his teenage years. Our friend tore the roof off a cart once, just after hitting a bowl, and this is why Max wasn’t going to let me drive. To put it simply, our friend Kevin managed to wrap his sandal and the bottom of his foot on the accelerator. The cart took off in the middle of our conversation. It shot straight for a grove of low-hanging cottonwoods. And the rest is history.
If Max’s father weren’t so high-standing in the community, Max had said, he would’ve lost his membership that year.
Lining up on the first hole is similar to standing on a theater’s stage. There’s an audience in the clubhouse behind you and, even though the windows are tinted, you can feel eyes pressing — sizing you up for what those in the golf world call “teeing off.” As my club hovered behind the ball, my stoned mind contemplated “teeing off” as sounding sexual and fragile.
I was frustrated already. Broken tees laid scattered around, split into halves and resembling a degree of damage, which in no way could I replicate.
From their golf carts Max and his father laid out a few tips. They sounded like prayers to me: “Keep your head down on the ball.” “Control your hands.” “Loose in the shoulders.” And “don’t power the ball, instead, let the power just happen.”
Nothing made much sense. Seeding cotton pods hung in the air as though someone somewhere had lost a pillow fight.
The high made my first swing feel like an algorithm.
My mind quartered off my actions into a mixture of sloppy, uncontrolled movements and elbow tight gestures. The swing took out a patch of grass and flung it up a good 3 yards. The ball, which Max had introduced to me as the pro-style Titleist, went untouched.
“Your hands,” is all Max said.
Max’s father waved him off and quickly pulled his cart right up next to where I stood. He motioned toward the ball, “Nevermind,” and then whispered, putting his fingers to his lips, “When are you supposed to hit that pipe?”
He was trying to help.
I told him I already did in a melodramatic tone that said, “The weed’s the problem,” which was not true. At this point I’ve played close to 20 different sports stoned. I do not know why I lied. Writing this column and going out into the world stoned and playing sports is always, in some way or another, awkward. But of all the sports I’ve played stoned, golf ended up being my favorite.
It’s serene, private and in many ways reminded me of how I feel when I turn Tracy Chapman up loud, smoke a bowl and clean my apartment.
Max’s father watched as I took a practice swing. His advice was to keep the club low, “like a half-swing.” It was the best advice I have ever received on the green. It allowed me to hit the ball with accuracy. It allowed me to keep my hands under control and, at various times, look like I knew what I was doing.
We knocked balls over streams, ponds and pissed next to 100-year-old trees. If the sounds of Tracy Chapman were to have filled the course I may have quit my dreams, become an entrepreneur and joined the country club. I was comfortable.
On our ninth hole we putted into the sunset. It was almost 7:45 p.m. and as we packed up our bags I told Max: “I feel different out here — I never liked golf.”
Max kicked at his club and said, “Yeah, do you like it now?”
The weed and light were all fading down. The smell of gin and tonic clung to my breath. The starched collar I wore had begun to rub at my neck.
“Yeah,” I told him, “but I don’t feel like I should.”