I haven’t played golf since I had surgery on my foot about six and a half years ago. I haven’t even picked up a golf club, much less played a round. So why did I have a disturbing dream about golf last night?
In the dream I was playing in a tournament of some kind and was being carefully observed by some stern-looking rules officials. I was on the green, trying to make a putt. My first effort missed, and somehow rebounded back to me and then rolled off a kind of ledge, and I reflexively caught the golf ball as it fell. I saw the officials tsk-tsking at that obvious rules violation, then I realized I didn’t really know the rules or how many penalty strokes should be assessed for that infraction or where I was supposed to put the ball after catching it. So I dropped the ball on the green, missed another putt, then another, and finally choked on a little gimme. At that point I picked up my ball, flipped it to one of the aghast officials, and said: “That’s it. I’m done!” And that’s when I woke up, feeling a surge of shame at my golfing ineptitude.
So why did I have a dream about an embarrassing golf course episode more than six years after my last actual experience on the links? My theory about dreams is that they are the unconscious brain’s way of sifting together fragments of the day and putting them into some kind of semi-coherent story. I suspect golf became the story line because, as we sat around a great blaze in the fire pit last night, someone asked me what I was going to do in retirement. Since golf is often associated with retirement, that question may have triggered the weird golf dream — fueled by the remnants of a fine Thanksgiving meal and a large piece of pumpkin pie.
If I haven’t played golf in six years and still have humiliating dreams about it, I probably should scratch golf off the retirement activity list. What would my dreams be like if I actually started playing again?