Of the sixty million golfers worldwide, only a handful are really good, which begs the question: Why do the rest even bother?
The following is an excerpt from the George Carlin special Jammin' In New York (1991). There is some vulgar language but to take it out would be to dilute its power. I apologize in advance for those easily offended.
Golf is an elitist game and it takes up entirely too much room in this country. It is an arrogant game on its very design alone. Think about how big a golf course is. There are seventeen thousand golf courses in America. That's enough to build two Rhode Islands and one Delaware!
And a boring game it is…for boring people! Ever try to watch golf on television? It's like watching flies f***!
And a mindless game…mindless! Think of the intellect it must take to draw pleasure from this activity: Hitting a ball with a crooked stick. Then walking after it! Then hitting it again! I say pick it up, a**hole! You're lucky you found the f****n' thing! Put it in your pocket and go home! You're a winner! You're a winner! You found it!
It'll never happen. No chance of that happening. Dorko in the plaid knickers is going to hit it again and walk again.
Why did I begin with this excerpt? George Carlin has always been our most perceptive social critic. Through comedy, he has the unique gift to make us look at what is really there. That spirit fuels Golf: The Ridiculous Obsession, a documentary that could provide Carlin with enough material for several HBO specials. It's a funny, clever look at what has to be the most absurd sport currently in existence.
Director Robert Duncan, working with CTV (Canadian Television), takes his basic bafflement at the increasing popularity of this sport and uses that as the starting point. He travels around the world looking for subjects that would make a nice fit with his premise. Boy, does he find them.
The first part deals primarily with individuals Duncan found in his travels. There's Scott Houston, who managed to swipe a divot from Arnold Palmer while playing with him. In the film, we see Houston bonding with the divot, affectionately called Arnie, with a drive in the country. He's angling to be named the 2002 Golf Nut of the Year from an organization called The Golf Nuts Society. (He won the title.) We meet the founder and "Head Nut," Ron Garland as he gives a potential nut a placement exam. (A placement exam? Yes, you read that correctly.) The saddest and most telling scene may be the one in which a golf nut named Suzy discloses that she divorced a husband because he wasn't passionate enough. Yes, only in America could golf be named a co-respondent.
The second part contains two of the film's funniest set pieces. Duncan crashes the Pebble Beach Tournament's security office and the idea that "Big Brother" may be monitoring your handicap had me laughing so hard that I had tears running down my cheeks. The other memorable sequence is at a local golf convention. Unique golf products are being pitched, each one goofier and more outlandish than the next. Some of these products are so bad that one wonders at the idea that someone actually greenlit these inventions.
Add to this mix a whimsical narration by Graham Greene (Dances With Wolves) and excellent photography. The result: a genuine sleeper.
Golf: The Ridiculous Obsession is not without its problems, however. Duncan's pacing is uneven, petering out towards the middle of the second part. The ending is a bit abrupt, not making enough effort to tie the loose ends together. Those problems are not unlike those found in several of Michael Moore's efforts. Indeed, Duncan never finds the answer (just as Moore didn't), but there is so much done well in the film that these never become serious problems, just minor ones.
The full frame transfer is superb. The production was shot on video and film, which can often cause all sorts of problems in post-production. The picture is nearly flawless, with the exception of a few technical problems here and there. I do not fault BFS Video for this, as the aforementioned problems seem to stem from the original master. Colors look stunningly rich. Amazing how, quality wise, this Canadian TV production puts some of our American ones to shame.
The sound is your standard Dolby Digital 2.0 mono mix. It sounds clean, and the balance between sound and dialogue is surprisingly good. I'm very pleased with the quality. Again, our Canadian compadres could teach us a thing or two.
There are some extras. A featurette "Strange But True Tales From the Green" is compiled from outtakes not used in the final cut. It's definitely worth a look if you enjoyed the feature. Also included are a golf trivia game and two lists containing the "Truths" and "Quotes" of the game to round out this package.
If you enjoy documentaries, you will love Golf: The Ridiculous Obsession. Casual viewers should give it a chance as well. Is it worth a $19.99 purchase price? No, but a rental is a good idea.
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