More than a game: A character building ordeal

As an alternative format foursomes can be fun. But, when both players are off form and there's 36 holes to be played, it's just not.

Starting a round with a birdie is a sure-fire way to have a disastrous day. You?re lulled into a false sense of security and your concentration wanes. ?That dropped shot doesn?t matter, I birdied the first after all.? Soon it?s as if you?re transporting your score in a colander as shots begin to leak away faster than you can say, ?How the hell am I ten over??

With this in mind when Ross, my foursomes partner in yesterday?s Dalswinton (Dale Winton) Trophy at Deeside, opened our account with a hole-in-one I knew we were for it. Yes, there were high fives on the tee and pats on the back. Yes, it was a fantastic shot: A perfectly struck seven iron that never left the flag and had just enough forward momentum to roll into the cup. But, we could only go downhill from that point. We should have picked the ball out of the hole and gone straight to the clubhouse to celebrate Ross?s achievement.

Unfortunately we played on.

The Dale Winton trophy is a gruelling 36 holes of scratch foursomes strokeplay. I?m sure it?s great fun when you?re playing well, talking strategy with your partner and plotting your way round the course. It really isn?t fun when you?ve been playing for seven hours, have reached 850 over par and are just counting the holes to the finish. Foursomes is incredibly difficult when your game is off. It?s so easy to lose your way and just begin hacking it round. You bring each other down and soon find yourselves struggling for bogeys rather than creating chances for birdie.

After our momentous start Ross and I managed to hold it together for the first nine holes and were out in level par. We were doing everything right: Discussing shot options, reading putts, buoying each other up with encouraging words. But missed putts at the 10th and 11th, an OB at the 13th, a double at the 15th and a couple more bogeys and blow me, we were round in 79. We?d turned a good round into a bad one without even blinking. In hindsight this wasn?t actually a bad round, the real shoddiness was still to come.

After an excellent lunch we headed out again, confident of better things. How deluded we were. We opened with a bogey (three worse than the morning round) and this set the tone. We were doing everything wrong: Hitting the ball without thinking, not reading the putts and generally blaming each other for our predicament. At one point towards the end of the game Ross suggested we went through each hole and calculated who was more to blame for our cheerless scorecard. We laughed. ?It?s character building stuff.? He said. I think that just about sums it up.

I really enjoy foursomes matchplay, I think alternate shots is far better suited to that format. 36 holes of foursomes strokeplay is just too much for me, more of an ordeal than a fun day out. I don?t think I?ll be picked for the Dalswinton Trophy next year. I won?t be upset.

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?