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The truth is hard to admit, but golf addictions are for real

Dave BernerBy Dave Berner,
Senior Contributor

CHICAGO -- We darn well know when we are addicted to what I like to call - The Usual Suspects - tobacco, drink, TV sports, Anna Kournikova. But most of us aren't emotionally strong enough to admit that we just may have an addiction to a silly ancient game. You can't actually CRAVE golf, can you? I mean, do you find yourself sneaking a "hit" of the game just to satisfy some desperate inner need?

Yeah, maybe. So what's your point?

Let's examine some behavior.

In the book "The Worst Case Scenario: Golf," part of the series of books that helps us survive life's dangers and troubles, the authors suggest confronting yourself with a series of poignant questions to determine if you need to rush yourself over to the Betty Ford Clinic - or, because golf may be your heroin, The GERALD Ford Clinic. Three of the questions seemed particularly telling when it comes to determining whether or not you are addicted to golf. That is to say, if each were answered in a particular way, it would become quite clear that the drug is golf and the junkie is you.

For example:

Q: Do you feel empty inside if you cannot golf at your usual time?
A: Empty? Of course not. And what's the big deal about staying in bed all day if I can't play? There's nothing else to do.

Q: Has your job, family life, or school performance ever suffered from the effects of golf?
A: Oh, come on! What kind of question is that? Just because my wife left me, my kids won't talk to me, and I flunked out of those Saturday yoga classes at the community college because they interfered with my weekend tee times doesn't mean golf has taken over my life!

Q: Have you ever been arrested as a result of golf?
A: My probation officer says I'm not supposed to talk about that.

See what I mean? Golf addiction is real. And if you answered any of these questions in a similar manner, you know you have a problem.

But although some of us may need to be convinced of such an addiction, others know it all too well.

Let's take a look at the Golf Nut Society of America. Yes, a real organization with hundreds of members, who, I'm sure, will admit to some level of golf addiction - or at least some level of psychiatric imbalance.

Meet Jim Nielsen. While playing golf his 3-iron broke and impaled his left leg. He removed his t-shirt, tied it around his limb to stop the bleeding, and went on to finish his round.

There's Pete Schenk. He went camping to get away from the game, but instead ended up building a makeshift nine-hole course in the woods.

And, believe it or not, there's the story of Dr. Brad Bastow. He is considered to be the only man in America, who has had a $36,000 Par-T-Golf simulator installed in his home. Crazy enough, yes, but that's not the half of it. The doctor then placed an ad in the local newspaper to hire a live-in golf professional to work with him on his game. He interviewed 12 candidates, hired one, and endured more than 120 hours of home-based golf lessons. Sadly, Dr. Bastow remains a 14-handicap. The golf pro has moved out.

I am not making this stuff up.

Consider also that addiction is not limited to the blue tees. You can find it at the reds, too.

Karin Larson of Springfield, Ill., was introduced to the game seven years ago at a scramble event. She was immediately hooked. The next day she headed straight out and bought her own set of clubs, a bag, shoes and a glove.

"My daily golf game now takes priority over everything else," says Karin. (Red flag!) "During golf season my husband actually gets thinner because I'm not home to bake pies and cookies."

Karin has likened her behavior to that of someone using illegal drugs.

"My husband and I are both social workers, so we often see drug addicted behavior, " says Karin. "Plus, we were part of the '60s." (Another red flag!)

Despite all this potentially damaging behavior, golf addiction can actually do some good.

Alice Cooper, who once rock-n-rolled with snakes wrapped around his neck, now instead plays 36 holes a day and has never hesitated to tell interviewers that the game saved his life. Alice has admitted to once having a serious alcohol problem and when he got out of rehab, to keep himself busy and healthy, he took up golf. "I switched one addiction for the other," says Alice. He's now sober and a 3-handicap.

Actors Dennis Hopper and Craig T. Nelson also have admitted publicly many times that their obsession with the game has helped them psychologically and behaviorally. It's improved their lives, even though they have no doubt in their minds that they are seriously addicted to golf.

But, truly, the real question is this - Are YOU addicted?

Just remember, as every good therapist will tell you, admitting to someone that you have a problem is half the battle. Just remember, as the authors of "The Worst Case Scenario" book will warn you, that someone should not be part of your regular foursome.

Dave Berner is a long-time journalist for CBS radio in Chicago and has freelanced for CNN, National Public Radio, and ABC news. He created and produced the popular radio feature "The Golf Minute" for CBS-owned radio station WMAQ in Chicago along with writing a regular column for Golf Chicago Magazine. He is also author of "Any Road Will Take You There: A journey of fathers and sons" and "Accidental Lessons: A Memoir of a Rookie Teacher and a Life Renewed." Follow Berner on Twitter @DavidWBerner

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • golf addicted boyfriend at wits end

    Beth wrote on: Jul 24, 2005

    I hate golf. It is ruining my life. All my boyfriend wants to do is play golf. No intimacy..... no going out the night before.........the money he is spending on golf is cutting our lives short. I hate golfers. I hate golf.


      • RE: golf addicted boyfriend at wits end

        Larry P wrote on: Sep 30, 2009

        Allow me to counsel you. First off, realize he has been in love with golf longer than he has been in love with you, and seniority does have its privilege. I understand his needs. I played the morning of my wedding day. I was 4 under par going to the 16th hole when I realized I would be late if I tried to finish the round due to the slow play. I did the only thing possible. I teed off on 16 without hesitation. It was a matter of priorities. I could easily get married again. I may never be so far under par that deep into a round ever again. A simple choice. As for the intimacy thing, have you ever offered to drive his cart around on a lazy afternoon when the course was not busy? You will be surprised how much fun it can be. Good luck.