During my last annual physical exam in San Francisco, my doctor told me that drinking more than four alcoholic beverages a week was considered alcoholism. Wanting to escape the guilt that came with drinking a wee bit more than that, I fled the country and moved to a small island nation known for its liberal attitude towards alcohol. Then last week when I went to the doctor in London, she told me that as long as I wasn’t drinking more that 21 drinks a week, I was in the clear. What a difference a few thousand miles makes.
My new quota in hand, I decided to celebrate by joining some friends for a round of pub golf in Islington. What is pub golf, you ask? It’s like real golf, only it doesn’t involve golf clubs, golf balls, or even a golf course. No, it’s a game of golf where each pub is a hole and each drink has a “par” attached to it. 18 pubs. 18 drinks. Even as I write this, I’m wondering why I ever thought this was a good idea.
In the US, pub golf is a team sport. Your team goes to each pub and “par” is the number of drinks you must collectively imbibe in 15 minutes’ time. It doesn’t matter who drinks them, and if you drink more than “par”, you get a lower score.
In the UK, pub golf is more of an every-golfer-for-herself sport. The group goes to each pub and “par” is the number of sips in which you must finish your drink. For example, if the drink at a given pub is a Gin and Tonic and the par is two, you must finish your G&T in two sips. Drinking your drink in less than the “par” number of sips gives you a lower score, and so forth and so on. And this being England, it goes without saying that fancy dress is required (Americans: fancy dress means costume party, not evening gowns and tuxes).
Yesterday’s pub golf tournament had a tee time of 11:30am and a first drink of a Bloody Mary. Having never drank a Bloody Mary before (something about the tomato juice conjures up a visceral aversion to the beverage), I was a bit put off by the thought of having to drink one in five sips. But some encouragement from my argyle-clad friends and a healthy dose of Tabasco pulled me through, and after hole one I was shooting par.
Hole two was at a pub near the tube station, and the drink of choice was a half pint of lager. Par two. Easy. So easy, in fact, that most people got a hole in one. Not I. I was pacing myself, or so my slightly-intoxicated logic told me.
Hole three was a Gin and Tonic, par two. We held the ice and asked the bartender to go easy on the tonic, and easily managed to make par. At this point, we were feeling good.
Hole four was a pint of ale at a pub that unfortunately allowed no hats. Off came the golf caps and the visors, but the publican was kind enough to let my friend that had come dressed as a golfing Jesus retain his crown of thorns. Bless her.
Needing a bit of a break, we threw par (which was five) to the wind and sipped on our pints for 20 minutes or so. I left a bit of mine behind when we left, but was feeling good about the next stop: vodka lime.
Down went the vodka limes at a dimly lit but lovely pub, and down went the curtains on my memory of much of the rest of the afternoon. My photos show a long line of Baileys shots, and I have vague recollections of eating a burrito at one point. My scorecard, which somehow remained intact, revealed that I made it to hole number 10, and my boyfriend has a picture of the shards of an empty glass of red wine that I put down on the bar a little too hard after declaring a hole in one.
Needless to say, I didn’t get to hole 18. I’m surprised I made it to hole 10. And I’m glad I stopped for a burrito somewhere along the way. I woke up in my bed at 7:30pm, wondering what had happened and hoping there was an award for worst pub golf player in the history of the sport.
I spent the rest of the evening drinking water, Lucozade (the strange English brand of Gatorade), and Advil, and wondering if my American doctor had been the wiser of the two. Or maybe my English doctor should have explained that it’s not a good idea to have all 21 drinks on one day of the week. Either way, I think I might be following Tiger’s example and taking an indefinite leave of absence from pub golf.