More than a game: The philosophy of golf

Understanding the views of eminent philosophers is difficult. Relating their theories to golf is even harder.

Competition: Belhaven Best Championship Medal

Date: May 19

Course Conditions: Reasonable, greens are improving

Weather Conditions: Unusually windy

In a desperate attempt to stop my brain turning to mush I?ve begun a new regime. I?m trying to re-read (and in many cases read for the first time) some of my University textbooks. I?ve just struggled through 25 pages of John Stuart Mill on Utilitarianism. The utilitarian argument is that the worth of an action is directly determined by the amount of utility (pleasure or happiness) it produces. I?m attempting to understand this through golfing analogies. Basically it goes something like this: I reach the 18th all-square and have a putt to win the match. Holing it would cause me to be very happy, but I have to consider the wider implications. What if my opponent is a manic-depressive? Defeat could send him into a downward spiral of misery. If that were the case the total amount of happiness produced would be negative. Therefore, I should miss the putt... surely not!

So basically there is a finite amount of happiness in the world. That?s definitely right, if there wasn?t we?d all be skipping about in a delirious state of elation never getting anything done. I?m now wondering if it applies to other things, more specifically to luck. Is there a finite amount of luck in the world? If I get a good bounce over a bunker does someone in Australia get a ricochet off a tree into a pond?

If that?s true then Bruce in Melbourne had an absolute shocker yesterday because I was forced to use some of his luck quota in the Belhaven Best Championship Medal. On two occasions I hit wild shots that were soaring miles out of bounds before getting rebounds off trees back on to the course. I lipped in twice, I hit one fat that inexplicably still made it to the hole and I thinned one that checked up nicely by the pin. Bruce on the other hand couldn?t buy a putt and was suffering some uncommonly bad bounces. At one point he got a kick off a sprinkler head into the nest of a Diamond Python, to cap it all off his ball was stolen by a koala on the 17th.

I don?t know what I did to make the golfing gods look upon me so favourably this week. I?ll take it as their little reward for my dogged persistence over the years. As you may have read (ad nauseam) in previous entries to this blog I am, in fact, the unluckiest golfer in the world. This single round goes only a fraction of the way to righting the considerable number of wrongs I?ve endured at the hands of Lady Luck over the past 20 seasons. No doubt normal service will be resumed next week.

For the record, I shot a 70 yesterday (nett 67). It meant a 0.2 cut so I?m down to 2.7.

This was the second tournament at Banchory in the last month that?s been sponsored by beer. I?m beginning to worry our club has a problem. If we?re not careful next year we?ll be competing for the ?Whisky Mac Salver? and the ?Turbo Shandy Shield?.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus 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 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?