Monday, July 23, 2007


Watching the last day's play of the British Open yesterday had me longing once again for those early summer sunday morning moments standing on the first tee at 7am when the rest of the world is still quite rightly asleep and only you and assorted wildlife are stupid enough to be awake - only you are even more stupid than the animals as they at least have good reason to be up and about, you are here to play golf.

Its nearly three years since I last placed my golf clubs in the garden shed and swore to never swing them in anger again and so far I have been true to my word, I know where they are, I kept track of them during the house move, they are right at the back of the garage gathering dust, rust and mould and it will take a superhuman effort to get them back out, a superhuman effort and at least a half hour of moving other junk out of the way first, thats why I put them at the back of the garage.

I played golf for four years, I spent a fortune playing golf for four years, I played several courses during those four years and I joined a club of my own during those four years - and during those four years everyone who played with me was left in no doubt that I had not mastered even one basic of the game, in short golf and me were a complete mis-match, and still I persevered and if I could get to the clubs in the garage I'd probably have another go given a spare four hours and a ticket to my local course.

Its a bug is golf and the handicap system means that even the crappiest players can play equally alongside their much better friends, which takes no account of the fact that those friends will quickly become ex-friends as you search for your fifteenth lost ball of the morning whilst letting other foursomes play through on the third fairway.

I got to see a lot of undergrowth and overgrowth on golf courses all over the region, not for me the pristine manicured fairways which make the game far to easy to play, oh no, I chose the harder routes on nearly every occasion, playing out of 12 inch deep grass or from behind huge oak trees is good for the soul and gives one complete satisfaction at having done a good job properly after searching for your ball in the wilderness for half an hour and then whacking it into another clump of deep grass twenty yards away - the fact that it was a different ball to the one that you hit the last time can be conveniently ignored as rule number one of being a crap golfer is that after five minutes searching any ball that you find can be called your own.

I once played Skegness golf club which is a links course, that is it is a course next to the sea and built in and amongst the Lincolnshire sand dunes in the best traditions of the famous scottish links courses. Being as such you would imagine that there are lots of bunkers and the bas'tad designer of Skegness golf club did not hesitate to make the most of the natural resources at his disposal, and being even more of a bas'tad than I would have dreamed he could be he made most of them extremely deep bunkers necessitating the use of a ladder to climb down into many of them, from whence you disappear from view of your playing buddies the only sign of your presence being the shower of sand which issues forth from time to time followed by a string of vindictive curses.

On one famous round of Skegness I managed to play out of 26 bunkers over 18 holes and I claim a world record for this feat, it was actualy one of my most succesful rounds in terms of accuracy for whenever I lined up a shot I could tell my playing partners which of the bunkers I was going to place my ball into, with amazing accuracy.

But it was during stableford play that I excelled and it was during a competition played to these rules that I notched up yet another world record - I scored four points in a stableford competition.

For golf virgins with not one clue of what I speak, you need to forget about the most obvious method of scoring a golf round - the most obvious method is to just to add up the number of shots that you take all around the course, subtract your handicap and there is your score.

The stableford method abandons the idea of adding up all of your scores and concentrates instead on each hole and the merits of your playing of that individual hole. If, for example you have a handicap of 18 then you are allowed one extra shot on each hole, on a par 4 hole that means that you would be allowed five shots, wake up at the back. If you get the ball in the hole after five shots then you score two points, get the ball in the hole in four shots and you score three points and so on - byt this method you can see that if you have already taken six shots and are still nowhere near the green then you are not going to score any points (sound familiar ?) and therefore there is no point in continuing with that hole, especially if your playing partner (with whom you share the points totals) is doing well.

I relied on my playing partners a lot during our stableford competitions, so much so that I would regularly pick up my ball and walk when still 100 yards or so from the green and on one famous charity testimonial event for a very famous rugby league player I had reached the twelfth hole and still not scored any points.

We were playing in a team of four and the other three had scored lots of points so I didn't really think that it mattered all that much - thats my problem when playing sports as quite frankly I couldn't give a shit who wins or loses as long as I laugh along the way. My team mates were however quite horrified when they checked the scroecard at the start of the twelfth hole and realised that I had not yet troubled the marker and when I laughed it just made the situation even worse.

They cheated and bullied me into scoring four points by the end of the round and in the prizegiving ceremony at the end of the day I was called up in front of the hundred or so gathered guests and players and awarded the "Played Like a Tart" award for the worst score amid gasps of disbelief from hardened golfers who all thought it impossible to complete a round of stableford golf with merely four points to show for the effort.

It was the proudest moment of my brief golf career and the trophy still stands on a shelf above my desk in the office.

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