A (long overdue) appreciation of golf

Appreciation Pic

At this very moment, it’s 23:42 on Tuesday, June 6, 2017. Ordinarily, I’d be in
a deep slumber by now. We might exist behind static, monochromatic head shots but we writers need our beauty sleep, too. 

Tonight, I’m wide awake.

Here in the UK, we’re less than two days away from a second General Election in just over two years and our fourth trot to the polling station since September 2014. Amidst the divisive political finger-pointing, there is also an unmistakable cloud of sadness and fear that lingers in the settling of the dust after yet another terrorist attack. Men, women and children, all targeted in senseless acts of inexpressible evil. Call me soft but thinking about all this is literally keeping me awake.

There’s other stuff, too. Personal stuff I have no desire to divulge and trivial stuff I’m too embarrassed to. And so it goes that on this particular evening - it’s now 23:52 by the way - and, for reasons I’m at a loss to explain, I can’t sleep. I have also found myself thinking something I’m not sure I’ve ever thought before.

Thank goodness for golf.

It’s actually untrue when I say I’m not sure I’ve ever thought that before. I know for a fact that I haven’t. I’ve appreciated what the sport has provided me with - friendship, employment, entertainment and the like - but tonight, for the first time ever, I’m actually grateful for it.

It’s ridiculously difficult, an art-form masquerading as a pastime. No matter how long I play it I know I’ll never master it. But in a world where gratification comes more easily now than ever, where everything is a few mouse-clicks away and where success is measured superficially - followers, likes, retweets and hashtags - I’ll take golf and its infinite challenge any day.

Its rules are convoluted and so many in number that you often break them unwittingly. But better that, surely, than the reckless pursuit of self-interest and self-betterment that seems to consume so many people today.

It demands discipline, honesty and trust, values you can’t learn from textbooks and most certainly won’t learn from the tattoo-clad, lavishly-celebrated mercenaries that have over-run the formerly ‘Beautiful Game’.

It’s time-consuming, requiring hours spent in the fresh air, in whatever conditions Mother Nature chooses. Still, is that not preferable to sitting indoors, bingeing on boxsets, gaming or indulging the desperation of the latest empty-headed reality ‘star’?

It is beset by image problems, by dress codes that may well pre-date needles and threads. It has been dragged if not kicking and screaming into the 21st century then certainly huffing and puffing. But who is giving it the credit for trying to mend its ways? Change is hard. Being stubbornly principled? Much easier. Never mind the fact that some of the most heinous acts in living memory have been committed by so-called men and women of principle.

It is, at best, an individual pursuit, a battle between man and nature. Yet some of the friendships I most treasure have been forged on golf courses. 

Please don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t dare to suggest that golf is the cure for all of our ills or an antidote to evil. It is quite clearly not. Rather, I’m just thankful it is there to indulge in and enjoy, to escape away into for a few hours at a time. It’s not perfect. But what is? In these noisy, confrontational times, it is reassuringly consistent. Even when it’s bad, it’s good.

It frustrates me, it dismays me, it all-too-often exasperates me. And yet I love it. Every single by-law protected part of it.

Anyway, it’s now 00:34 and I have to be up in six hours to write some more about it. Relative to what other people have to do day-to-day - the struggles they have to experience, the pressures they have to withstand, the tragedies they have to endure - there are most certainly worse things to get out of bed for.

Yes, indeed.

Thank goodness for golf.

• THIS PIECE FIRST APPEARED IN ISSUE 156 OF BUNKERED (June 2017)

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