Fergus Bisset: Admitting a problem

Currently Fergus' main problem is the endless winter, but he has some golfing issues to confront too.

I’m beginning to feel a little like Mr Tumnus the Faun from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It’s not just because of my hairy legs; it’s also because I seem to be stuck in an eternal winter. For two weeks now – one in Austria and one back in Deeside - I’ve been surrounded by snow. Yes, it’s very beautiful; yes, my daughter is learning to love sledging; yes, it’s great news for the Scottish ski centres. But, no, it’s no bloody use for golf.

This week’s Alliance was cancelled three days ago because there was absolutely no chance of a thaw significant enough to clear the fairways at Kintore. My course has been shut for two weeks and even the, usually immune, links courses are covered in a white blanket.

I’m beginning to forget that I’m a golfer so I’m going to make a concerted effort to remind myself. I thought this week I’d attempt something cathartic. I’ve decided I’m going to play better golf this year and to do that I have to eliminate a couple of key problems in my game. Much like an addict, the first step is to admit to my faults. So here goes.

My name is Fergus Bisset and I am prone to playing the following golf shots: The decelerated pitch: This is my most oft played bad shot. It generally occurs when I only have to cover about 10 yards before the green but am in two minds whether to float it in high with a sand wedge or to bump it in low with and eight iron. I’ll normally compromise by doing neither. I’ll take out a pitching wedge and stand over it for about five minutes before snatching the club away, I’ll then be so worried about thinning or fatting the shot I’ll keep taking it away a bit more allowing myself a glorious split second before the inevitable. Upon reaching nearly parallel I’ll be forced to begin the downswing. Coming down from such elevation you really have to move the clubhead quite slowly to get the ball to cover only 20 yards. So, about halfway down, I’ll begin decelerating hard. By the time the clubhead reaches a point just behind the ball it’ll be barely moving and, after the turf has slowed the club even further, the ball will be lucky if it moves more than a couple of feet.

The missed two-footer: This can happen whether I rush, delay, or take about the right amount of time. What will always happen, however, is that a barrage of negative thoughts will begin entering the (rather frail) positive side of my brain. I think it happens by osmosis – the movement of negative thoughts from an area of high concentration to an area of low concentration through a selectively permeable membrane. However it happens, I turn from feeling strong, thinking how straightforward the putt is, to feeling like a lump of quivering jelly questioning everything from the break on the putt to my grip; the length of my takeaway to how hard the return putt is likely to be. Twitchily, I’ll pull the putter back and make a hopeful prod at the ball. I’ll already be looking up by this point so I can watch the full two feet of it’s roll as it heads off at an angle about 30 degrees to either the right or left of the hole.

The topped fairway wood: This happens when I’m trying to force a shot further than I can actually hit it, or when I’m trying to produce some clever flight – a punch or a low draw for instance. Either way I’ll have little confidence in what I’m trying to do so I’ll swing a touch faster to get the whole thing over with quicker. I’ll be so anxious about the result that I’ll look up to see where it’s gone before I’ve even completed the backswing. I’ll swing back down at pace but my head and, consequently hands and club, will be an inch and a half higher and further out than they were. The absolute far edge of the heel of my club will graze the top of the ball doing just enough to move it off the tee, or fairway, into the nearest bush or bunker…. Urghh.

There, I feel I’ve made progress. Next week I’m going to confront my issues further by making a video of myself playing said shots and watching it over and over again until I’m physically sick.

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?