Fergus Bisset: Christmas golf

Christmas is nearly upon us and Fergus is desperately trying to think of a way to make it bearable.

For mean spirited types, Christmas Day can be a bit of a bore: Endless mirth and none of it sarcastic, saying thank you every 15 minutes, having to endure more hearty family activity than one should face in an entire lifetime. It's all a bit much isn't it?

I've been thinking of ways to spice up the "big day" and I think I've come up with a winner. Its inspiration comes from my time at university when I used to enjoy a spot of "Pub Golf." The idea of that was: 18 pubs, 18 drinks, and just see how far you could get, taking as few gulps as possible. I once made it to the 17th when I was forced to abandon my quest, and narrowly avoided arrest, after attempting to steal a bar stool in protest at not being served. Happy days.

So anyway, my plan is: "Christmas Golf." It can be played with one or more like-minded family members or friends. It's not even necessary for the other participants to be in attendance at your "celebration." As long as you mark your card honestly, (as all golfers will,) you can compare scores at the end of the day to see who is furthest over, or under, par.

You need to decide on 18, (no nine actually, I can't be bothered to think of 18) Christmas challenges or events to be scored against. It's a moveable feast and can be tailored to individual requirements. This is how I see it panning out:

Hole 1 The early bird

Hole Description: Contestants must attempt to consume an alcoholic drink as early as possible on Christmas Day. Champagne/fizzy wine is non-counting because everyone quaffs that on Christmas Day from the moment they open their eyes.


- Nothing before the pre lunch sherry: Shame - bogey - White wine before 12: Steady enough - par - Lager before 11: Well in - birdie - Port before 10: What an effort - eagle

Hole 2 Golf speech

Hole description: During lunch the player must chink his glass before standing up to give a monotone, golf club-style speech. "Erm, I'd just like to welcome the opposition (probably the in-laws). I hope they've enjoyed the first course. I certainly thought it was presented well and I'd like to thank the caterers for their work today." Competitors will be ranked on the response of the audience.


- Asked to stop before being allowed to say, "I'm really looking forward to next year's return fixture": bogey - Stony silence: par - Golf clap: birdie - Asked for encore (highly unlikely): eagle

Hole 3 Crazy golf

Hole description: Competitors are tasked with trying to instigate a post-lunch game of crazy putting around the wrapping paper, piles of new socks and discarded plates of smoked salmon strewn around the sitting room floor. Again scoring is based on general reaction to the suggestion.


- Unanimously dismissed: bogey - Some support but still dismissed: par - Partial or full participation: birdie - Full participation with play going on until something precious is broken and, at least, one member of the family is in tears: eagle

Hole 4 Dangerous package Hole description: Prior to play commencing, the competitor must nominate a relative or friend. The present given by the nominee to the player will be ranked on its usefulness and/or desirability. Score will be based on the player's honest internal reaction to the gift.


- "I didn't even know I didn't want this": bogey - "I don't want this": par - "I won't throw this away immediately": birdie - "This is actually quite good": eagle

Hole 5 Eclectic score

Hole description: Another booze related challenge here: Players must attempt to consume as many different types of alcoholic drink through the course of the day as they can. Last year in this challenge I set a personal best of 10 - Champagne, sherry, white wine, red wine, dessert wine, port, beer, sloe gin, whisky, brandy.


- Less than three: Back to Q school - bogey - 3-6: Just scraped your card - par - 7-10: Raced to Dubai - birdie - 11 or more: Topped the money list - eagle Hole 6 Diversion tactics Hole description: Players must attempt to make as many members of their family as possible miss the Queen's speech by distracting them with old episodes of "Shell's Wonderful World of Golf." Points will not be awarded for those either too young or old to know what's going on.


- Plan foiled: Failed to qualify - bogey - One sleepy uncle (or equivalent) fooled: Missed the cut - par - Three or more watching Lee Trevino vs Arnold Palmer rather than HRH: Top-10 - birdie - Total diversion: Lofted the trophy - eagle

Hole 7 It's a cracker

Hole description: Players are marked on the reaction to the joke in their cracker. Inevitably it will be absolutely dire but, if you can give the right delivery, you might just get a laugh.


- Tumbleweed: Out of bounds - bogey - Groans: Chipping out sideways - par - Ironic chuckle: In the rough but playable - birdie - Actual chuckle: On the fairway - eagle

Hole 8 Devil's advocate Hole description: The objective is to start as many golf-related arguments with the non-golfing members of your family as you can. Topics for discussion include - "Tiger Woods: He's not that bad really," "Sports personality of the year awards: There actually should have been more golfers on the short list," "Golf v tennis: Tennis is dull." I don't know why, but people who dislike sport still like watching Wimbledon... weird isn't it? Scoring for this one is based on how many people are still speaking to you by the end of the day.


- There's a bit of an atmosphere but everyone's still chatting: bogey - The die-hard golf haters have ceased communication: par - Your mum is giving you the evil eye: birdie - Even the golfers have ostracised you: eagle Hole 9 The real thing Hole description: The Holy Grail for any true follower of the religion of golf on this holy day is to actually get out on the course. It's extremely tough to negotiate but could potentially be facilitated if you've received a golfing gift. "Sorry darling, I'm going to have to pop out for a couple of hours, I simply must trial this Jimmy Tarbuck novelty score counter." Scoring:

- A putt on the carpet: In a lowly manger - bogey - Chipping in the garden: Glad tidings - par - Out for a few holes: How great thou art - birdie - A full 18: Thine be the glory - eagle

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?