Fergus Bisset: Enjoying golf vicariously

If you can't do it yourself, bask in the glory of others

Enjoying golf vicariously
Enjoying golf vicariously Getty Images
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Fergus has decided a new decade is a good time to restart his blog. This week he’s been enjoying golf vicariously.

Fergus Bisset: Enjoying golf vicariously

It’s pretty incredible to me that it’s 2020 already.

The millennium seems a mere blink of an eye ago.

But I guess quite a bit has happened since then: My handicap has come down to one and gone back up to five before resting on three.

I’ve had two new sets of irons and four new drivers.

I’ve changed my putting technique and I’ve started using the AVX rather than the ProV1 – it suits my high spin rate.

Yup, quite a bit has happened and that made me think that the start of this new decade might be an opportune time to re-start writing my weekly blog on all things golf.

I didn’t have a chance to play too much over the festive break and that gave me far too much time to think about the game, and my game in particular.

This over analysis meant I was feeling a little confused when I stood on the first tee at Inverallochy this Wednesday for the first North East Alliance meeting of the year.

It was a pretty decent day for the 8th of January in Aberdeenshire and spirits were generally high after an above par bacon and egg roll in the clubhouse beforehand.

I write “above par” there as that was one of the golfing things I mused over during Christmas.

Sitting with a pal of mine in an Edinburgh pub on December 30th, I suddenly blurted out: Why on earth is something considered to be worse than standard described as, “below par?”

Not being a golfer, he didn’t quite get my drift, but I explained that I’ve spent the last 25 years of my life trying to achieve below par and have rarely succeeded.

He quickly became bored but naturally I persevered.

I think it’s basically because par is a latin word for match or standard and it doesn’t necessarily refer to golf – just below standard…

Anyway, I was still confused when I stood on the first tee at Inverallochy.

I somehow made a rudimentary pass at the ball and moved it, with the wind behind, almost to the greenside on the short par-4 1st.

Then the fun started.

I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to do next – something about getting the ball into the hole was about all I could recall.

Five shots later, having gone to and fro four times, I got the hang of it again and tapped in.

Standing on the 2nd tee, dad helpfully told me a story about Scottish golfer George Will and a similar scenario.

Playing in a pro-am, his partner was enduring a spot of hockey on one of the greens when George halted proceedings and walked up to the cup before getting down on his haunches and peering determinedly into the hole.

“What are you doing George?” Sean Kerly asked.

“Just checking the bloody thing is still there,” he replied.

Thanks dad.

Well it wasn’t my day and that takes me on to the title of this blog – enjoying golf vicariously.

Sport is great in that we can take pleasure from the achievement of others.

Fans do it every week when they support their favourite team or favourite player.

But it’s even more enjoyable when you get to witness sporting excellence up close.

On Wednesday, dad and I were playing with our pal Greig Hutcheon, who happens to be a rather decent professional golfer.

He’s played more than 100 times on the European Tour and has been one of the very best players on Scotland’s domestic circuit for a number of years.

Greig Hutcheon

Greig Hutcheon

Greig had a reasonable round at Inverallochy. Actually, for reasonable, substitute extraordinary.

He started 3,2,3,3 and went out in 29.

I was hoping he could keep it steady to post something in the low 60s but he just kept going lower.

He finished 3,4,3,3,2 to come back in 28 for a ridiculous 57.

My double bogey on the final hole seemed a lot more palatable as Greig rolled home yet another putt to record such a low score.

Normally on the drive home I would have been dreading a return to the Banchory clubhouse to face giving a description of where it all went wrong for me, but on Wednesday I could relax as I knew I would be able to bask in Greig’s glory, describing where it all went right for him!

I might just play vicarious golf from now on, it’s a lot less stressful.

I'm not quite there though, as another golfing alternative is on the horizon.

This week sees the start of the second half of Banchory’s indoor winter league.

In early 2019 at Banchory, members benefited greatly from the construction and installation of a new indoor swing studio featuring an incredible Foresight GCQuad launch monitor.

The new facility really is the dog’s pyjamas and it allows the professionals at Banchory to teach and fit equipment 12 months of the year.

It also allows us members to get out of the cold and play some, incredibly realistic golf during the colder months.

In the first half of the winter league, we played the first nine holes at eight courses, including Carnoustie and Wentworth, and over the next eight weeks we’ll do the back nines.

Playing nett better ball in pairs, it’s absolutely brilliant fun and – much like playing vicariously – it’s (almost) pressure free.

It’s interesting though as that lack of pressure – no handicap on the line, no chance of a lost ball – means, for me at least, that I swing a little differently: more freely and more aggressively.

That results in a shot that I wouldn’t normally see from myself on the actual fairways – namely a draw.

And, as much as the fabulous data the launch monitor provides on angles of dangles and smash-up factors, seeing that shot shape is incredibly useful.

It confirms that tension, as much as anything I think, prevents me from creating the shots I want to on the links proper.

So, being more relaxed in 2020 and hitting the ball right to left is an objective for me.

And if that fails, I’ll just start caddying for Greig and spend the golfing year living vicariously.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?