Who says golf isn’t a contact sport?

Just ask Dustin Johnson, his lower back and a flight of stairs.

The top player in the world had to withdraw from this weekend’s Masters after an injury to his back when he fell on the stairs at his rental house the night before the first round of the year’s first major.

His tournament was over before it even started.

An injured back … my, how that’s devastated many a golfer.

Just ask Tiger Woods or Fred Couples or any weekend warrior with a slipped disk.

Golf, on its face, is perhaps one of the least physically taxing sports out there. Or at least it looks that way.

It can be played by anyone, at any age.

I’ve known men and women in their 80s and 90s who play multiple rounds a week. Some still able to shoot their age.

If you can grip it, you can rip it. Usually.

My first newspaper job was in Sebring, Fla. There was a golf course on every corner, or so it seemed.

Part of my job was to cover the numerous golf tournaments in the area, as well as find fun-to-tell stories about the golfers I encountered. And there were plenty of them, believe me.

One thing that will always stick with me is just how much of a lifelong game golf is. It knows no age, body type or swing pattern. And you don’t even have to be good to enjoy it.

But injuries and ailments can sure make it turn sour like a sliced drive into the trees.

With so much that goes into a golf swing, from the arms, hands, legs, feet, hips, back, torso — not to mention the space between the ears — there’s not much tolerance for injury to any of those body parts.

For such a simple game, there are a lot of moving parts. Like an Erector Set. Looks simple enough, right?

And for such an easy game — the ball just sits there! — it sure is hard.

Golf, my friends, is the quintessential four-letter word.

Add an ailing back, strained elbow or even a blistered hand, playing the game is tough. Forget about what it takes to make it around Augusta National in one piece, just playing the local municipal track with a hitch in your giddy-up will make you want to quit the game.

Anyone who has ever faced anything like Johnson is dealing with knows all too well the pain — not just physically — he’s in.

Personally, I’ve tried to play golf through back, elbow and neck issues … and it’s terrible. Not just the uncomfortableness of swinging between 90-100 times a round (it used to be less, but then I had kids), but the phantom pain that comes when you have to WD from your Friday morning mixer.

Sitting at the 19th hole just isn’t the same when you don’t have a sunburn and a marked up scorecard accompanying you.

It’s not like football, where Father Time is undefeated and the window for playing competitively is only cracked so much for a select few. Not being able to play golf because of an injury is just all kinds of unfair.

It’s brutal, actually.

It’s the one sport we should always be able to play. Not only because it keeps us active, but it keeps us competitive and sharp, even as our waistline extends and gravity takes hold.

It’s the sport where we don’t have to look like an athlete to be one.

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(804) 649-6456

@Szvetitz

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