How I've learned to be okay with being 'just another rubbish golfer'

Golf Balls In Wet Bunker

At a recent wedding, my wife and I found ourselves seated at that dinner table

You know the one. It’s reserved for those who don’t really know anybody but somehow have a strong enough connection with the happy couple to merit a full-day invite. Former colleagues, old neighbours, ex-opticians and so on.

You have to work hard at this table. It’s an awkward environment where conversation invariably flows like treacle being poured uphill.

Long before the starter arrives, the small talk typically finds its way to the ‘comfortable’ topic of work.

So, Michael, what is it you do?

It’s a question that strikes the fear of the Almighty in me. I mean, I love what I do but I’m at a wedding for crying out loud. This is my day off.

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Also, my answer, more often than not, elicits further probing. Oh really? You write about golf? How long have you done that? Who do you work for? I take it you travel a lot? Do you know Tiger Woods? Stuff like that. It’s harmless and it’s friendly but I repeat: this is my day off. Sometimes I feel like saying I’m an accountant.

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A good nine times out of ten, I also get this pearl of predictability. So, I take it you’re really good at golf then?

What in the name of all things sacred makes you think that? If I was, I’d be playing it for a living and would have driven here in one of my Ferraris. Instead, I write about it and turned up today in a seven-year-old Ford Focus... that I’m still paying off.

Broken Tee Pegs

I know a lot of football writers. None can recall being asked if they’re ‘really good at football’ when word escapes that they do what they do. Likewise rugby, likewise cricket, likewise swimming, likewise pretty much every sport on the planet. Except golf.

It’s a strange question and I dread it being asked because I know the answer.

No, I’m not very good actually.

Experience has taught me that admitting to a table full of wide-eyed strangers that you don’t have a tour card can be a bit of a mood-killer. The person who’s jumped to the conclusion that you’re ‘Michael Monday-Friday, Rory Saturday-Sunday’ retreats into an embarrassed clam, whilst others eye you sympathetically. Don’t worry, you can feel them thinking, I’m sure writing about it is nice, too.

Scorecard Counting

Fact is, I’m not ashamed that I’m nowhere near as good a golfer as people expect me to be. On a really good day, I’ll break 90 and drive home feeling like I’ve robbed Vegas and left not one cent behind.

I’ve been playing for 20 years and can count on one hand the eagles I’ve had. I’ve put more sky marks on drivers than I care to remember. If the shots I’ve topped were people, they’d fill Hampden. I’ve seen parts of some courses that the greenkeepers haven’t. I have an easier time reading Arabic than greens. As for bunkers? Don’t get me started on those sand-filled craters of misery.

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In spite of all that, I love this bloody game. The highs, the lows, the good bits, the bad bits, the weird bits. I love knowing that no matter how much I improve, I can always get better. I love it for so many more reasons than space here permits me to explain.

I’m not a great golfer. I’m not even a good one. But I am a golfer. And that’s good enough.

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This article first appeared in issue 164 of bunkered (June 2018). To subscribe, click here

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