If Descartes had been my Caddy in The Netherlands in the 17th Century….

"Rene, tell me once more - is it golf or kolf"
“Rene, tell me once more – is it golf or kolf we’re inventing?”

First tee, Golf and Country Club, Heilloo, Netherlands, 1648:

“Rene – could you hand me my driver please?”

“Why would you want that implement, sir?”

“For to hit the ball my good man – now hurry up there are lieden waiting”

“But it is my job to question. So once again I ask why would you want this all titanium, 9.5 degree loft, driver?”

“Because I’m on the tee, it’s a par 4 and over 300 metres. Now please..”

“But sir, again I ask, why a driver ? “

“Rene, you are a bit of a thicko, aren’t you. Let me explain it to you slowly…. If I hit the driver 230 metres I will be 230 metres closer to the hole. I can then hit a wedge, 2 putt and make a par.”

“And where will this be happening?”

“On this hole, the first – if I ever get to it.”

“I mean, where is this happening – philosophically?”


“It’s happening in your mind, isn’t it? You see the next 5 minutes played out in your head – but that’s not reality is it? The mind and body are separate.”

“I get that but I also dreamt somewhere that visualising helps with this. It will be called psycho-cybernetics and In USA a group of schoolchildren will be separated. One group will practice shooting free throws every day. The second group will sit on the bench and imagine themselves shooting free throws. The third group we do nothing and unsurprisingly will be the worse when tested. There will barely any difference between groups 1 and 2.”

“Ah but that’s not for another 300 years. At present we are stuck with this Cartesian anxiety.”

“Oh I see – bit of a joke there. But tell me, oh wise one – what would you suggest?”

“Well, having become familiar with your game over the past few years, which is possible as golf (or kolf) has been played here in the Netherlands for many years, I have yet to see you hit a drive 200 metres in a consistently straight, forward direction.”

“I see. So this philosophical argument is merely a distraction to show me up as a rubbish golfer, or kolfer as we sometimes say here in North Holland.”

“Not entirely I was testing out my method of doubt. It’s my theory on challenging assumptions. I find it useful to assume that everything you believe is put there by a deceitful, omnipotent being who can deceive you in even your most basic assumptions.”

“And what would be my most basic assumptions today?”

“That you want to hit a driver, which assumes you want to hit the ball, which assumes there is a reason for it, which assumes you derive some pleasure from the game, which would lead to a bit of a discussion on pleasure and pain in the future. Incidentally a proponent of this, Jeremy Bentham will be born exactly a 100 years from this day and will take up the challenge by revealing that mankind is governed by pain and pleasure”

“All very well Rene. However there is a crowd of many, many people waiting for us so please just hand me a club.”

“Here’s a 3 iron.”

“You were always going to give me this club weren’t you?”

“Of course”

The 3 iron sails down the fairway. After another prolonged discourse the 8 iron approach shot lands softly on the green and we walk toward it. As I start checking my putt Zeno of Elea walks toward me;

“You know that philosophically, your ball will never reach the hole don’t you?”

“Oh – don’t you start!”


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