Word Play: “Playing Golf” VS “Golfing”
In the game of golf, there are many things that can drive you crazy:
▪ Your opponent chiding, “You’re still away.”
▪ The sound of your ball taking a deep dive into a penalty area.
▪ The smacking lips of a mouth-breather chomping on chips in your backswing. I don’t mind a week whacker or even pleasant conversation. But that chomping? No.
But what really makes me grit my teeth is when people say they are “golfing” instead of “playing golf.” Why does that bother me so much? Who knows. But I know I’m not alone, which does give me comfort … I’m not the only person with some form of golf-related sensitivity.
My husband and kids think it’s HILARIOUS to go out of their way to say, “I’m going golfing” every chance they get … and then wait for the muscle spasm above my left eye to kick in. By the way, they also make sure to describe anything they possibly can as “moist.” But that’s for another day. Yep, our household is a salty bunch.
But here’s the thing: When someone says, “I love to golf,” it’s usually just assumed they are new or inexperienced when it comes to the game. Those who have played for a long time, who are serious about it or have had even the slightest amount of competitive participation, will say, “I love to play golf.” When someone says, “I’m going golfing today,” a carefully curated visual pops in my head of someone wearing baggy shorts that go well past their knees, “Tommy Bahama-ish” shirt, knee-high socks and the obligatory floppy bucket hat.
Sure, it’s not just new or inexperienced golfers who use the term. It does seem to be gaining some momentum. There have even been a few people I would never have expected to use the term put it into play. But they are also the same people who have a college degree in English and say, “I should have went,” instead of “I should have gone.”
Gee, don’t I sound super chill? Listen, we all have our pet peeves. It doesn’t mean that they’re as catastrophic to everyone else as they are to us. So, I do realize that this might bug me a lot more than the next person. But still. Just a word to the wise: If you’re thinking about interviewing for a job in the golf industry or simply want to be taken seriously, heed my warning.
At the same time, it doesn’t always have to be a whole “thing.” It is possible to just let it go when someone misuses the term. Or so I’ve been told. My husband and I were out with friends one night and one pal was talking about how excited he was to “go golfing” in the morning. Knowing my propensity for correcting people (I’m fun that way), my husband gave me a swift (and unintentionally painful) kick to the shin to which I shrieked, “Mother of God! Why are you kicking me?” He had to come clean, and the topic quickly turned into a whole TED Talk about the proper use of the word. I’m trying to remedy this compulsion, but I’m not there yet. Please be patient and be kind.
But golf is not a verb. It is a game. You don’t “football.” You play football. You don’t “tennis.” You play tennis. Then you get the argument from people who say, “Oh yeah? What about running? Or swimming?” Well, those are not games. You don’t “play swimming” because it’s not a game. You swim. It’s a verb.
But when I really stop to think about it, what’s more important — using the word properly, or the fact that so many new and newish people are now playing golf? Isn’t it great that the game is growing so rapidly? Does it really matter how they use certain terms? Theoretically, no.
I just need my central nervous system to get on board and be cool when “golfing” is used, because even though I try to be chill with the blunder, my eye twitch gives me away every time. But I’m totally fine with a new golfer asking me what’s wrong with my eye if it means more and more people are getting to experience this wonderful game.