For eleven, mostly boring, years I attended a rabid, rugby playing Jesuit school. Rugby provided most of the excitement around a largely dreary place. We were taught Latin and Greek, for heaven’s sakes! At the ripe old age of 9, the indoctrination that rugby was all that mattered began. Playing a game of hurling, soccer or any other athletic activity outside school hours was looked upon askance.
From the Under-11s XV to the SCT, the honour of the school depended on victory or defeat. Entering the field of play, in my immaculate (thanks, Mum!) all white gear and royal blue socks, to play a match felt the same as going into battle. Not only had I to fight the opposition but it was made clear I had to fight for my place on the team too. One was only as good as one’s last game.
At 15 and three-quarters, I started golf during the summer holidays with an iron will, determination and a well-developed ability to concentrate, cultivated by my rugby experiences. Golf being a game that required total mental commitment suited me. However, my war-like attitude was a drawback. In golf, the battle is not with one’s opponent but against the golf course and oneself.
It has taken the Covid-19 pandemic to bring me to my senses. Never again will I feel about golf like I used to. At my age (now) there are so many ‘golf things’ I can no longer do that (at last) playing the game has attained a status in my life where fresh air, friendships, exercise and the freedom to roam fancy-free in a beautiful, manicured garden following a ball that decides by itself as much as any direction received from impacting a clubhead swung by me, are the most important things. My eye! If you believe that you don’t know me.
For 59-years, every spring I have taken to the game afresh, wondering what the new season will bring? Spring came late this year because of the pandemic, but anticipating the ecstasy that runs through my body when I contact the ball on the sweet spot was as strong as ever on Monday morning. The attraction of golf is everybody feels exactly the same adrenaline surge as Tiger or Rory do when a perfect drive or iron shot is dispatched or a long putt across a tricky green goes down.
Golfers have an illogical love of a game in which even the greats will admit to hitting more unsatisfactory shots than satisfactory ones. Golf is a game you do not have to be good at to enjoy. One or two really, really good shots whenever one plays keeps everyone happy. Douglas Bertram Wesson wrote a book: I’ll Never Be Cured (of golf) and I Don’t Much Care and I wrote: Life is a Way of Golf, which just about says it all, I think. Golf IS my way of life and without it, I wouldn’t be me.
No wonder there was a giddy excitement when heading out to play my first game since the lockdown. Would I be able to get the ball airborne? Would all of my swing flaws have evaporated during the long enforced break made worse by a painful bout of Spinal Stenosis lasting 3-months before the pandemic struck? Would swinging a club at fresh air for a few minutes every other day be enough to have kept my muscles oily?
I needn’t have worried. My swing thought for comeback day: swing smooth, did the trick! When I finished out on No. 18, I was reminded how physical golf is and I knew I’d be sore all over the following day. It would be a pleasant soreness. Walking 8kms every day for 8-weeks doesn’t get you as fully fit for 18-holes of golf as you might think.
It was good to see more husbands, wives and families playing golf together. Due to the big gap between tee times, the majority suffered no hold ups. However, I did spy back-ups and bottlenecks elsewhere on the course. There are always inefficient, daydreamers who do not play along as they should. Everyone knows who they are too. What was extremely positive was social distancing was no imposition and it turned out to be as normal on the golf course as it was claimed it would be.
There is no reason, in my opinion, why fourballs should not be allowed very soon. Can the CMO not figure out that playing in fourballs is (a lot) safer than shopping in a supermarket? It’s also a huge bonus that practice facilities are allowed to open. As for the 5-km rule – it never made sense and still doesn’t but it won’t be with us forever. All in all, I’m grateful to be back playing (under any restrictions). Without golf I felt like a lost soul in purgatory.