THE ATMOSPHERE floats with tons of dust that are waiting to settle on golf books that we buy and then selve, hardly read. And why should we read them? They theorize so gassily about the physical parts of golf that we forget the surest truth about our game - that it is emotional.
That's why, we play: to move around in the sun, for sure, but also to move our shadow lives into the sun so warm feelings of emotional uplift can raise our spirits a bit.
If any hitch can be found in all of this, Bobby Jones perceived it best when he wrote that "the trouble with all of us, who grumble over the game and thus spoil an otherwise pleasant afternoon with congenial friends, is that we do not understand the game, nor ourselves."
The mystery of ourselves is best observable at this moment in the season because it is now that we are likely to become demoralized.
August is when the expectations of April are meant to be fulfilled: perhaps we dreamed of breaking 80 by now, or of peeling the banana ball from our game, or of eliminating the knee knock on three footers. But we have done none of these.
It may even be worse.
Perhaps we vacationed in June or July, played every day and sent a postcard to the crowd at home to report that our hot rounds are becoming routine. But coming back home from vacation, instead of losing our luggage, we lost our game. Going out for the first post-vacation round reveals nothing more than the encrustments of the old hacking. How can we not be demoralized?
What should be done to cure a case mid-August dismals?
First, recognize the symptoms. The fever of expectations is running high. The left arm aches at being kept so faithfully firm thoughout the summer. You break into rashes when you see that friends have lowered their handicaps but you have not. You suffer eye strain when walking 18 holes but seeing only your own shots while missing the birds, trees and hills.
Second, know that you are not alone. Demoralized golfers are often good players whose error is conning themselves that they are great players.
At the moment, the severest cases are Tom Weiskopf and Jonny Miller. A few years ago, both talked about their becoming new Nicklauses. Weiskopf won the British Open, began driving around in a car with personalized license plates saying TROON (where he won the British Open), and told Jack to watch out. Miller ran in a few putts in Arizone in 1975 and thought he was the next Mr. Golf.
But he isn't, nor is Weiskopf, and now it seems it is Nicklaus's turn to join the demoralized. This was to be the year that he would win another major championship and prove he still had it. But he didn't win, and it looks as if his time for greatness has passed. He discarded his talent to make money as a businessman.
Third, he prepared to slog through the swamp of your demoralization but then come to a clearing and be finally liberated.
An acquaintance of mine recently played five rounds in the mid-80s. Par gold was once routine for him. The 80 shooting had become torture, and after three-putting the 18th green of one round he wantonly hurled his putter at a tree.
He wondered why he was keeping up with the game, it had become painful for him. He put his clubs in the car trunk for a new days, began reading a Porky Oliver instruction book and decided to play no more this year.
But he regained his senses in time and went to the course once more. He shot a par round, surprising himself and everyone else by winning second low gross in a local tournament.
My friend had a case of the dismals. All golfers get them, but not all get over them. For some it lasts and lasts.
No secure cure has been patented. The sole workable solution is stop caring so much and stop caring so hard. That lesson is never teachable by any pro. It has to come from within us and that is as it should be, because golf's deepest satisfaction is found there in the first place.