Perspective? Sound reasoning? A cool appraisal of the situation? Mature reflection upon the bigger picture? Forget it, buddy. That load of old cobblers goes right out the window when yours truly is sunk in the depths of misery due to playing rubbish golf – again.
Whoever said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result could well have been referring to golfers. “Why? Why? Why?” – (one “Why” is not enough) – is the question I have asked myself all too often through four decades of battling with the game. Why keep inflicting this ridiculous internal torment on myself, week after week, round after round?
The negativity can be overwhelming. And I know in my heart, it’s total BS. But it’s MY BS. And in my little BS golfing world, I am one with Father Ted – “Down with this sort of thing.”
Down with once again knocking down my drive on the first hole into the rough.
Down with once again, refusing to divide a hole into three parts and just hitting the ball a manageable distance to utilise my handicap shots, 23 of which are all mine at this time.
Down with regularly turning an 18 hole competition into a 12 or 13 hole event due to the blanks that rip the heart out of my card and my morale – all caused by bad course or self-management, or crap technique.
Down with following a par or a very rare birdie with a couple of bad holes immediately afterwards. Down with hopes raised after a decent front nine only to descend into the slump of nine or ten points on the inward half. Down with desperately seeking the next quick fix from the Internet or a gadget and finding it doesn’t work.
So why the hell keep doing it? That’s the question I had to ask myself over three years ago after carding 17 points (10/7) at Portmarnock Links on September 4, 2015.
Eight blanks on that card. At the end of the round – and, by the way, this was a friendly, not the British Open or even the Monthly Medal – I had made the decision – “I’m quitting golf. What’s the point of it?”
The following day, the despair had passed. But I felt the need to get some perspective and I asked myself one question: “Why do I play golf?”
After reflecting on that question for some time, these are the answers I came up with:
1: Golf is first and foremost a sporting outlet. Football (Soccer) was my first love and always will be, but the body and age didn’t permit that to continue much past 42 in my case, while as long as I stay reasonably fit and healthy, golf can be played to 80 and beyond.
2: Golf is escapism, a chance to put aside the ‘worries’ of work, politics, wars and famines, disasters, world horrors etc, for four or five hours.
3: Golf is a reason to be outdoors, always in lovely settings. It can get me outside and off the couch in weather I would never dream of going out in otherwise.
4: Golf gets me out playing in groups of people, all with a common interest. I don’t have to love them, or live in their ear, but it gets me out of my own little world.
5: Golf offers sporting competition, and I relish competition, and feeling the little knot in the stomach that comes with playing competitive sport.
6: Golf offers me a chance to express the better part of me and sometimes, very rarely, to express that well enough to win prizes. I certainly have a desire to perform really well and win events. It’s not the actual prize I care about, but the achievement that makes it worthwhile.
7: I definitely play golf to get that feeling of absorption in the process of hitting a little white ball around green fields. That’s part of the escapism from the ‘real’ world. There’s no better feeling than being so involved in the process, the journey, that I’m not really aware of the score or being affected by it until the round is over.
8: Golf offers me a chance to improve, to be a better golfer than I am at the present time. Even a drop in a few handicap shots would be big success. Breaking 90 and scoring in the low 80s in competition would be fantastic. A Captain’s Prize, a Monthly Medal, a President’s Prize, a Club Matchplay win? That would be amazing.
9: Golf offers me the chance to play in fantastic surroundings, and on the best courses, such as the K Club, Portmarnock Links and Portmarnock Old, Royal County Down, Druids Glen where top professionals have played, and to see how I can perform on those courses.
10: Golf requires all kinds of skills and measurements and asks questions of character, concentration and always challenges me. And it’s a great feeling knowing I have come through a sticky period during a game and fought back to make some kind of decent score.
From time to time I have to remind myself of those reasons that make the golfing journey so worthwhile. Hope springs eternal…