Pillow Talk for the Golfer’s Soul

John Craven

Shane Lowry (Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

John Craven

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Putter throws, snapped shafts, mindless profanities, deforestation and a fist fight with Bob Barker. No I’m not talking about Happy Gilmore. Ok, maybe that last bit, but the rest of it comes with the territory of being a golfer. Why? Because golf is a cruel game in which most participants are not very good. We burden ourselves with wild expectations of making birdies and tap in pars, but our ambitions are generally plagued by a severe lack of talent.

I was once that impatient fool who damned the golfing gods, deeming it appropriate to throw my club further than I’d managed to hit the ball. Yet, in a game that’s often as mentally challenging as it is physical, what chance do you have to swing smooth as the red mist descends?

Thankfully I have matured and accepted my shortcomings, but not with age. Having marshalled courses for a number of years, I came to realise that you can’t align a strop with an age bracket. I once called the first tee at a Captain’s Drive competition where I welcomed a very important member to the opening hole. He’d got through 50 practice balls, figured out his short game by the clubhouse and fit in a full Irish breakfast to boot. Having exchanged pleasantries, he hit off first as the low marker in the group. What could possibly go wrong?


Three duck hooks out of bounds later and he was petulantly shaking hands with his astonished playing partners before ever setting foot on the first fairway. If only he could’ve managed expectations but sadly that’s an endemic afflicting many golfers. I had players demand extraordinary levels of silence that a Buddhist Monk couldn’t give them at temple. I had to plead with one paranoid soul to hit after he kept stepping away from his shot complaining that someone was rattling change in their pockets. Little did he realise the screws were coming loose in his head.

You see, golf is a unique game in that its participants deny all accountability when it comes to playing badly when, in reality, it’s just you, a club and the ball. Maybe if more people reviewed their actual swings on video, their miscues would be more easily explained, but then what we do with our laundry list of excuses?

‘Today’s going to be a struggle lads. I’m stiff as a board. Haven’t touched a club in five years. I don’t even like golf. Look at the clubs I’m using. The grips barely have a thread left between them, the grooves caved in long ago. Can’t hit those rescue woods either. Think the loft is off on them. Can I try your driver? Mine has no adjustable head but I reckon with a closed face my slice will finally be a high power fade. That ball must’ve been cracked with that trajectory. Didn’t even know there was a bunker out there. Typical, not a grain of sand in it. May as well be hitting from a carpark. Jaysus, the greens must be hollow cored all year round here. Why do I even bother coming out?’… And that’s only the first hole!

Here’s my two cents for 2020. If you’re playing golf once a week without practice but still managing to hit a few good shots, then you’re doing better than most. The sport demands an unreasonable amount of time and effort in order for a player to improve. Until you can dedicate yourself fully to it, accept your inconsistencies and treasure those rare days when everything clicks. I’ve only been waiting since 2005.

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