The perfect antidote for golf’s Blue Monday

Mark McGowan

The first hole set the tone - this was going to be a stinker

Mark McGowan

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Blue Monday is supposedly the most depressing day of the year, far enough from Christmas and New Year that they’re already fading into the recesses of our memory banks, and far enough from payday that those salaried folks who’ve really let their hair down over the festive season are facing a fortnight of beans on toast with the odd super noodles pack thrown in as a treat.

January 15th it’s supposed to be in 2024, and January 16th it was this year, but as golfers, we all know that the date is wrong. It’s October 30th, yesterday, the day after the clocks go back. Darkness will be upon us by 5:15 this evening, even earlier for those of you living in the tropics south of Mullingar.

No more bunking off work at 4pm and managing to squeeze in nine holes – not that I’ve ever done that, honestly – but even the four or five holes you’d skip round in an hour are off the table. If you’re not on the course by one, forget playing 18, so Golfer’s Blue Monday is the day my clubs generally leave their domicile in the boot of my car and go into hibernation for the winter. Which more than likely means the corner of my office, there to constantly mock me as I waddle in wrapped up like the Michelin Man, terrified to put on the heat in case I have to sell a kidney in order to pay the bill.

But this year Blue Monday had a twist. This year, I played in my first ever Greenkeeper’s Revenge competition in my adopted home of County Sligo Golf Club. I’ve heard of these types of competition before, and assumed that it just meant pins cut in ridiculous locations, and though that was the case on some holes, it was so much more.

The round began – as rounds generally do – with the opening tee shot. But the caveat here was that the opening tee shot had to be played whilst sitting on one of the kitchen chairs plonked plum between the markers. If you’ve never had the pleasure of taking your first swing after a bank holiday weekend with your arse planted 20 inches off the ground, it’s an interesting experience.

After the two guinea pigs from our fourball had scuttled balls right and left, it was my turn. After a practice swing with my knees locked at right angles, I tried another with the legs outstretched and thought I was on to a winner. I could swing freely, bringing my club head speed up from an estimated 40mph to somewhere approaching 55. Down there for dancing, as they say….

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what ‘down there’ did. With no solid grounding – who’d have thought it, really? – my increased club head speed came at the cost of absolutely no stability and I hit the ground well behind the ball, the clubhead bouncing over for a fresh-air hit. Now, being part of a four-man team, my ‘team mates’ did what any good team mate should in such situations; they pointed and laughed. And pointed and laughed again when I carbon copied on attempt #2. Third time lucky, I told myself, and compared to two complete misses, a 50-yard top down the left was a big improvement.

Holes surrounded by a toilet seat, a Stonehenge of five-gallon plastic drums, a thick garden hose strewn all over the green, hurls by the greenside and instructions that you must putt out using them and a hole where driver was the only club allowed with the hole cut on the side a mountain meaning you either holed your ‘drive’ or had another 15-foot attempt were just some of the highlights that awaited.

I was far from the only person on in three and walking off with 10 on the latter, and that was the general theme of the day. We had the odd miraculous moment though, such as when my partner’s pinball effort, ordinarily destined to be closer to the next tee than the current hole, bounced around like a drunk on the dance floor and found the bottom of the cup on the second.

I was beginning to get the idea though, that despite the hilarity of watching myself and others try and fail to putt the ball through a drainpipe and resort to playing snooker-style shots as the ball got stuck halfway, that maybe this was the perfect way to end a golfing season. Frustrate you to the point that you’re thinking of selling the clubs and taking up a nice, handy sport like ski-jumping or ultra-marathon running.

And then we reached the last, where the sneaky greenkeepers, for whose Christmas party fund we were subjecting ourselves to this torture, had stuck the pin on the back of the green but with no hole accompanying it. Instead, the actual hole – a miniature one – was inside a plastic box located near the front, with cartoon-like mouseholes, the width of a ball and very little more, on both ends.

Now, being the savvy man I am, I’d missed the green with my approach anyway, so the joke was on them. No sticking it close to the flag only to find I’ve been duped here.

And after a surprisingly decent pitch, I found myself with the perfect angle to squeeze one though the mousehole and into the cup. Anybody who’d seen me seven-putting the sixth wouldn’t have given much for my chances – nor would I, in fact – but the stroke was pure, the line was great, and in she went, twice. A par, and I’ll safely wager, the only par gotten on 18 all day.

And just like that, the hibernation was called off. Blue Monday? What? The clubs will remain in the boot and against my better judgement, I’ve now entered the Winter League. A glutton for punishment really, and thermal underwear has just been added to the shopping list.

So take that, Rosses Point greenkeepers….. And enjoy the pints!

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