Those on the outside often question our sanity, but it is safe to say that nothing can come close to the grand old game. They don’t know what they are missing out on...


Wayne Riley: An Ode To The Game Of Golf

Are we all stark raving mad? We spend fortunes of coin on clubs, clothes and other items just to hit a little white ball around a field in as few shots as possible.

We stand in front of the mirror checking out our swing position and we putt on the carpet while we’re watching Midsomer Murders – by the way, I wouldn’t fancy living there, it seems a particularly dangerous place!

We all think we are good at it and know a lot about it, when perhaps we don’t.

What is there to know, anyway?

That Jordan Spieth putts so well he’s like an alien; that Rory McIlroy hits it so far it makes you nauseous with envy.

By the way, I’ve got the shanks if you’re interested, and that’s genuinely true.

The amazing thing is that we all keep coming back for another crack.

“How’s my grip, Bill?” “Is my stance too shut, Cindy?” “Am I overswinging, Trevor?”

At the end of the day, no one really gives a rat’s a**e!

It’s my bat and ball and it’s a game about me, myself and I. That’s why we love it.

I have met so many people who have taken up the game late in life and they all regret not having started much earlier.

So if anyone you know hasn’t started playing yet, encourage them to come into the asylum!

They are most welcome and there’s plenty of room.

Speaking of meeting people, just think about how many friends you have made along the fairways of life. It’s astonishing, isn’t it?

Golf is my life, and the sheer number and diversity of people I’ve met is mind-blowing, from rock stars and pilots to politicians and doctors.

One of the things that makes our sport so great is the golf ball doesn’t know who is hitting it.

And what about the walks around the gardens of the world?

Beautiful pot bunkers, grass that looks like it’s been bikini waxed and clubhouses that look like Graceland.

It’s all out there. And while we’re on the subject of conditioning and presentation, I want to applaud greenkeepers – they are worth their weight in gold.

They are the unsung heroes of our game, so make sure you show your thanks next time you run into a greenkeeper filling a divot after you’ve developed a case of the duffs from seemingly nowhere.

What about the age your can play from and to?

Tiger Woods was two years old when he was on the stage with Bob Hope all those years ago, and you often hear stories of pensioners beating their handicaps.

It’s terrific.

Handicapping brings us all back together.

Husbands can play with their wives and their children make the game cool. Why?

Because this game is cool, and don’t you forget it.

It’s the greatest game of all. It’s not like tennis, football, rugby and all those other sports where the ball actually moves, but it’s arguably harder to master than all of those. That says quite a lot in my mind.

The ball sits still and it doesn’t have ears, so why do we speak to it?

“Bite”, “cut”, “hook”, “oh, don’t go in the hazard” – what’s it all about? It’s all part of the fun.

As is the occasional golfer wearing dodgy clothing.

Have you ever walked into the clubhouse bar after your round and wondered what the strange bloke in the corner is looking at?

It’s you, because you look like a Liquorice Allsort!

But let’s face it, it doesn’t matter what you look like or how good you are.

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of a drive out the middle, an iron shot that lands next to the flag or a putt that finds the bottom of the cookie jar from 30 feet.

Disappointment far outweighs adulation in golf, so next time you come off the course, make sure you celebrate that birdie you made or that impossible up-and-down, instead of chewing your other half’s ear off about how you’re in inexorable decline!

I still love golf as much as ever, but I’d say I love it in a slightly different way these days.

I’ve played a lot of golf over the past eight weeks or so, and in spite of the shanks, it’s been brilliant.

It’s different for me now, because my livelihood isn’t tied to how I play.

If I hit a bad shot, I’m not stewing over it for ages; if I have a bad round, I don’t go to the range for two hours to try and fix whatever’s wrong.

I can fully appreciate it for what it is these days.

Yes, we are golf tragics, and we love it!

We are proud of our game, even if it isn’t fair sometimes.

But life wasn’t meant to be fair, was it?

Wayne Riley is a former member of the European Tour and two-time winner who is part of the Sky Sports Golf Team. He writes exclusively for Golf Monthly.