Fergus Bisset: The Pros And Cons Of Post Lockdown Golf

Fergus Bisset considers the positives and negatives in the new golfing normal

Pros And Cons Of Post Lockdown Golf
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After three weeks back on the fairways with the new golfing normal in place, Fergus Bisset considers the pros and cons of post lockdown golf.

Fergus Bisset: The Pros And Cons Of Post Lockdown Golf

We’ve been back playing golf in Scotland for three weeks now – longer down south – and it’s brilliant to be out on the fairways once more.

Post lockdown golf delivers a slightly different playing experience to that we’re all used to, with positives and negatives to be taken from it.

I’ve been thinking about the pros and cons of post lockdown golf and below is a summary:

Pro – It’s good to be back

You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, and golfers have certainly experienced that sensation this spring.

Simply donning the spikes and striding onto the first tee is now a treat.

Striking a ball, holing a putt, making a birdie – those simple pleasures we took for granted were unavailable to us for what seems like an eternity – although actually it wasn’t even three months.

Anyway, it’s good to be back.

Con - The dream is over

In lockdown I was one hell of a golfer.

A graceful, rhythmic swinger of the club who produced unerringly arrow straight strikes.

My short game was solid as a rock; From whatever lie, I was confident of knocking it stiff.

And my putting… Oh my putting… It was almost impossibly good.

But now reality has slapped me in the face with a wet rain glove.

I still hit mainly pulls with frequent blocks, interspersed with the odd inexplicable, hope-inducing straight one.

My short game remains woeful, with shots ranging from the outright dunch to the powered knife, with all stations on the expressway of mediocrity visited in between.

And my putting… Oh my putting.

Pro – The pace of play

It’s been a revelation.

Playing largely in two balls, we’ve been whistling round my home course (Banchory in Aberdeenshire) in two and a half hours.

Not only does that result in a far more relaxing and free-flowing game, but it also takes up a good deal less of the day.

I’ve had much more time to watch all of the new Das Boot, Killing Eve, the first series of Teachers, Devs, Ozark, a repeat of the 2009 Irish Open, the 2013 Tour de France, Pride and Prejudice, The IT crowd, The Last Dance… I could go on.

Con – Getting a time

Only two balls (or playing with one other household) means times are in high demand.

At Banchory, getting a slot is like a 100-way gunfight at the O.K Corral.

The online booking sheet for two days ahead opens at 8am each morning.

Across the town and surrounding area, countless fingers are hovering above a time ready to strike as soon as the booking symbol turns from grey to blue.

Unless you’re Quick Draw McGraw, you’ll be out of luck. And, if you pick a time that’s too popular, your chances will be lessened.

My technique is to pick something that sounds obscure like 3.46, and strike like a cobra.

Pro – No pints after playing

Although it’s strange to finish a game, say your goodbyes and immediately head off, it’s good for one’s health.

I’ve played a few late afternoon games in lovely early summer conditions which would, normally, have been capped with a trip into the clubhouse –

A refreshing beer, a second one and a decision to leave the car, a phone call to arrange a lift, a third beer, a quick fourth, a phone call to cancel the lift, hazy bits, checking the bus timetable, hazier bits, standing at a taxi rank eating something wrapped in paper with unexplained stains on the polo shirt… You get the idea.

But, getting round in 2 hours 30, back home for a cup of tea and a wholesome meal – I’ve lost half a stone.

Con – No pints after playing

If you know me at all you’ll realise that by writing what I have above, I’m only lying to myself.

Pros – No rakes in bunkers

Bit controversial this one, and I’ll argue my corner further in the September issue of Golf Monthly, but from a purely playing point of view, I’m noticing a change I like to the hazards at Banchory

At first, the sand was soft and quickly became furrowed, foot-printed and distinctly unplayable.

Pros And Cons Of Post Lockdown Golf

Pros And Cons Of Post Lockdown Golf

Now, with a bit of compaction, regular raking from the greenkeepers and a bit more care and courtesy from those visiting the sand, they’re actually quite nice to play from.

They’re firmer and more consistent, allowing you to sweep the club neatly under the ball and get some backspin…

I actually made a couple of sand saves yesterday – almost unheard of.

Cons – It’s tough for the greenkeepers

It’s gone from feast to famine for the greens staff.

When we were all banned from the links, they had the run of the place (albeit with reduced manpower.)

But it provided them with far more opportunity to get jobs done uninterrupted and, consequently more quickly and easily.

Now, with every time booked from 8am to 8pm, it’s a nightmare for them just to cut a fairway – Do two stripes, hide behind a tree, another two stripes, drive back out of range… A job that would have taken no time at all in lockdown could take all morning.

Pro - The flag is always in

The necessity to not touch the flag takes out a bit of the faff caused by the new rule.

“Do you have the flag in or out?” … “In for putts over 20 feet, out for putts below.” … “No could you put it in for this one actually, it’s downhill.”

In post lockdown, the flag remains in and that’s that – no mucking about.

Con – The flag is always in

I like putting with the flag out.

Also – I really don’t like putting to a hole filled with a small trampoline.

A couple of rounds ago I hit a putt that went into the hole, at low speed, bounced on the foam inner and jumped out again.

There are enough things in golf causing outrageous instances of bad luck without another being thrown into the torturous mix.

Yes, without doubt, there are pros and cons of post lockdown golf.

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?