2008 has been something of an annus horribilis in terms of my competitive golf. My handicap has risen from 1.1 to 2.4 and the last time I broke par was so long ago that I can now only remember the round under hypnosis.
Playing badly for such an extended period has been a testing and eye-opening experience. I’d become accustomed to steadily improving and winning the odd thing over the past few years so I’ve had to completely reconsider my golfing objectives and expectations through 2008.
It’s been a long and arduous road but I’m now learning to live with my ineptitude. I’m slowly coming to realise that playing poor golf can still be fun. It’s certainly a good deal more amusing than playing well.
There’s nothing particularly funny about hitting fairways and greens or holing putts. A top or a shank, a five putt or a raging hook are much more comical. Play an eclectic array of comedy shots during a round and it’ll be far more memorable for you and more entertaining for your playing partners.
I’ve come to this conclusion as I played in the “Tuesday Championship” this week. It’s an annual event contested by the boys from my golf club – a four round strokeplay competition played off scratch. We’re all pretty good golfers on paper but each year we go away and produce some mind-bogglingly awful golf during this competition. It might be because of the pressure of participating in such a prestigious event, more likely it’s the hangovers and lack of sleep. Whatever the cause, it makes for a very funny few days. At the end of each round everyone is far more eager to find out the worst score than the best.
This year, as with every year, we all laughed from pretty much the first tee shot of the first round until the final putt finally dropped on the 72nd green. We played some great courses (Spey Valley, Boat of Garten and Aboyne), drank some great beers and shared some great stories. This is surely what golf is all about – camaraderie and enjoyment. We’ll all remember my shank into the bushes off the second tee at Boat of Garten, Alastair making back to back four putts in the second round and Craig losing ten balls in the space of 14 holes.
For the record books – Ryan (pro at Inchmarlo and regular Alliancer) won the competition with rounds of 77, 69, 70 and 75, Big Stu from Banchory was second and I was the leading amateur in third. Although Craig was not quite on the podium this year, he’ll console himself with the fact he won the lost ball prediction sweeper. Incredibly we misplaced 72 between the eight of us – not good, but pretty funny.
So, next time I spray one into the trees, hit it between my legs or duff it ten yards I’m going to turn to my playing partner and laugh, hopefully he’ll laugh too and then everyone will get something out of it. Who am I kidding? Next time I play I’ll be back to stony silences and general self loathing.