by Jim Harris

I always figured that when I got too old to play any real sport, I could always take up golf. Now that I (and 70 million other baby boomers) am fast approaching that melancholic milestone, I figured it was time to take a closer look at America’s favorite low-key leisure pursuit.

Jim Harris (right), who is very proud of his outstanding putts, is seen showing Love to golfing partner “Q” Smith at Philly Mini Golf in Franklin Square. (Photo by Z. Schulz)

Golf is a lot like taxes; you drive hard to get to the green, and yet you still end up in a hole. Golfers would wear wrinkled clothes if it weren’t four irons. Although golf has been known to drive a wedge between people, it is presently played by about 30 million people in the USA, ranging in age from 2 to 127 years old.

Even those consummate surfboarders, the Beach Boys, have been seduced by the languid lure of golf. They recently traded in their baggy shorts and sandals for plaid trousers and white loafers and have released a new single, “Golfin’ USA,” which went straight to number one on the AARP top 10 list.

Golf is played in various forms all around the world. In Pamplona, Spain, for instance, they have the annual “Running with the Balls,” in which hordes of drunken revelers run across the fairways trying not to get killed by speeding golf balls. Apart from providing lots of hilarious clips for TV news shows around the world and YouTube fans, this event also helps to reduce the idiot population in Spain. If only they could reduce their budget deficit as easily.

In Africa the golf course hazards can be quite daunting. Sand traps are filled with real quicksand, and hungry lions are a common sight. In South America the water hazards contain piranha, which makes retrieving balls a bit tricky. This is where caddies really come in handy. Good caddies will always sacrifice themselves for the golfers, although it sometimes takes a little prodding. In Pennsylvania, of course, caddies are unionized, which means they get paid to stand around doing nothing.

In South Philly they play “street golf,” where you try to sink the ball into a pothole while a club-wielding “hole protector” tries to prevent you from doing so by smacking the ball back into your face.

Other popular forms of golf include:

•Left-wing liberal golf: No par; take all the strokes you need.

•Existential golf: No holes; just putt around aimlessly, pondering the abject meaninglessness of life.

•Imaginary golf: No anything. You just play it in your head and jot down the score that you think you got.

And for you serious jocks out there, there’s the X-treme Golf Triathlon: walk for two miles, talk for two hours, play nine holes of golf, sleep for 12 hours.

•Miniature golf, or “putt-putt,” is also very popular these days. You don’t have to hit the ball hundreds of yards just to get to the putting green, and there are lots of whimsical themes to these delightful little courses.

For example, “Golfzilla” is a course in Tokyo where you dress up in a reptile costume and trample tiny towns and villages as you work your way to the hole. Recorded sounds of screams and explosions make the whole experience even more realistic.

•In Newark, New Jersey, Tony Soprano’s “Don’t-Get-Whacked” mini-golf emporium supplies you with a submachine gun disguised as a putter and a caddie who offers advice like, “Hey, hit the freakin’ ball already; we gotta get outta here!”

•Right here in Philly we’ve got “Ed Rendell’s Gutsy Golf.” His new book, “A Nation of Wusses,” warns that Americans are becoming too soft and whiny. That’s why this game is played 365 days a year in rain, sleet, snow, ice, whatever; no excuses! Fast Eddie, who of course could not run 10 yards himself without collapsing, may even show up and kick you in the butt just to keep you moving.

•Other celebrity-owned courses include former Miami quarterback Dan Marino’s “Dolphin Golfin’” (which is played entirely underwater), and Rush Limbaugh’s “Tee Party Golf,” also known as “God, Guns and Golf.” And there’s the biggest golf course in Mexico, which is called “A Hole in Juan.” And then there’s Tiger Woods’ “For Ladies Only” course in Las Vegas. As we all know, the emergence of Tiger Woods really boosted golf’s popularity among philanderers and sex addicts, turning it into a “hip” pastime for many of them who might never have considered playing golf before. They have discovered that it takes a lot of balls to play golf.

So, to you young people out there who might be thinking about golf as a career but wonder if it’s right for you, consider this; as a professional golfer, you will never have to work another day in your life, plus you will get to eat for free at any country club in the world. And you get to wear golfer’s socks; that’s the pair with a hole in one.