Golf is Never a Verb

...therefore Golfing is a Sin

by Kathy Coogan

As a mid-high-handicap (female) golfer, I would never ask for changes in the game of golf. I love the blasted game. Though a video of my swing at an early lesson reduced me to swallowed tears, I kept on, only occasionally using Jim Furyk’s swirly style as motivation.

I am no stranger to choking, having lost more Ladies’ League rounds on the back nine than I can count, thus I would never comment on Greg Norman’s 1996 Masters humiliation. I often miss three- (even two-) foot putts and am short off the tee, leading me to wonder-can a golfer have the yips with a driver in her hands?

A confession: I once feigned a fainting spell at a lesson when I kept topping the ball and I was sure I heard the Golf Pro groan (or laugh). So no, I would not request that golf change for me. I am not good but I am devoted.

But I am wondering when the golf-writing community began to use the horrid, non-existent verb “to golf.” "Golf" becomes a verb only when attached to the real verb "to play." (Ref: Concise Oxford Dictionary.) Admittedly, this offensive "golfing" is usually perpetrated by generic writers who do not play the game of golf or by generic golfers who do not write about the sport. But please, golf is not a verb.

One plays golf. One does not golf. The Ladies’ League does not golf on Wednesday mornings. The ladies play golf then. Gerund-like expressions are equally awful. “Golfing is a game for all ages,” is a travesty, as is this silly infinitive form, “Sign up to golf in the men’s locker room” (never mind the dangling modifier).

Daily papers are using this verbish form more and more frequently, revealing the quality of their sports page reporters. Golfers must surely cringe when reading the onerous headline, “Golfing is down at local courses,” not because we golfers worry about the economic downturn, but because “golfing” is not down but “rounds of golf” are. Journalists listen up: Golf is a noun. Golf is a noun. Golf is a noun!

Do we verb-alize other sports? Do we tennis? Do we baseball? How about football? Do we do it? No, no and nope. We play tennis, baseball and football. No one crickets and no one rugbys. We do bowl and we do swim but those two words have been verbs from the beginning. There is only one exception to the noun-only rule for golf. Golf may be used to modify or define, since in doing so we provide an accurate name for a thing. Golf clubs. Golf tips. And golf nuts like me.

Writers, please, don’t sound dumb. Golf is an ancient and beloved game of many rules. When writing about golf, remember just this one: Golf is never a verb.

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