"The day I realised the brutal truth about my game"

Michael Chopper Column

I had an epiphany not so long ago that has completely transformed my relationship with golf. 

Like all of the most fulfilling moments of self-discovery, it happened by chance.

There I was, feet planted in a bunker, preparing a fourth hapless attempt at getting out, when the red mist started to descend. I could feel the blood boiling in my veins and the early quivering stages of rage begin to bubble and froth.

In days gone by, this would have built rapidly into an unpleasant crescendo whereby my insubordinate club would be tomahawked, Last Of The Mohicans style, into the trees. But not this time. This time, a voice in my head spoke to me.

Michael,” it sighed. “You’re nowhere near good enough at this game to be this upset by it.”

It was the ultimate truism and calmed me almost instantly.

I’m not a tour pro. I’m not a pro. I’m not off scratch. I don’t have a single-figure handicap. I don’t play often enough. I rarely practice. When I do, it’s with no purpose. I just shell a bucket of balls into a field and go home ten quid worse off and no better a golfer. I have no right to expect great things to happen when I walk onto a course.

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

Michael Chopper 2

And yet I did.

Call it whatever you like: arrogance, naivety, stupidity, presumptuousness. It’s why I haven’t enjoyed some rounds as much as I could have. I know that because, now, I’m enjoying golf more than ever.

No longer am I especially bothered if I triple-bogey the first or thin one into the boondi. By rights, that’s what a player of my ‘calibre’ should be doing.

• Should tour pros have their mate as their caddie?

It’s embarrassing to look back on some of the stuff I used to get up to.

I remember playing in a medal one day when, by virtue of nothing more sophisticated than dumb luck, I’d got off to a good start. I was one-over after four and had driven the short, par-4 fifth. That gave me an eagle putt for the first time in my life. If I holed it, I’d get into red numbers – another unprecedented achievement. I should have embraced the novelty of the moment. Yet I strutted absurdly to the green like this happened all the time, a pigeon in a peacock’s feathers.

• "I owe Tiger Woods an apology"

Michael Chopper 4

It was a lengthy putt, probably a good 50 feet or so – and good Lord I milked it.

I prowled every blade of the fringe, looking at my putt from all angles. Behind the ball, behind the hole, side-on, everything.

• Meet golf's most exciting talent since Tiger

Of course, I had no idea what I was doing. To the casual observer, it probably looked like I was processing lots of invaluable info. In reality, I was processing nothing but barely suppressible excitement at having an eagle putt.

In the event, my putt barely made it halfway to the hole. I threw out an arm as if to imply some malevolent force had performed dark arts on my ball as it left the putter face. What a fool. I knocked my next putt ten feet past, missed the one coming back and walked off with a bogey. I NR’d that day.

There have been flung clubs, hissy fits, and a particularly pretentious disregard for taking my medicine when I’ve encountered trouble. Why be sensible when you can pretend you’re Seve? That was my philosophy. The hubris of it! I must have been a nightmare to play with.

These days, it’s different. I’m no longer in denial.

My name’s Michael McEwan and I’m a chopper.

Get more stuff like this!

This article first appeared inissue 166 of bunkered (August 2018). To subscribe, click here.

Bunkered Issue 166 Crop

Share this Article

twitter-logo facebook-logo

Latest Videos See all videos right arrow

play button
2022 Driver Test | Which one is going in my bag?
play button
The most powerful PING irons ever? | PING i525 review
play button
I'll be using the Vokey SM9 wedges... and you should too
play button
The driver that has it all? | COBRA LTDx drivers REVIEWED!
See all videos right arrow

Golf News

Robert MacIntyre opens up on poor form
Toptracer launches range 'handicap' concept - Toptracer30
McGinley: “No decision” on Ryder Cup places for LIV stars
Lee Westwood responds to Ryder Cup ban threat
LONG READ The Malta Meeting: Inside the fight for men’s golf

Other Top Stories

Tiger Woods: Inside his $41million Florida mansion
The very best pubs in St Andrews
The Scottish Golf Course Emoji Quiz!
24 lies every bad golfer tells
Doug Sanders: The extraordinary life of golf's original playboy

Quick Fault 'n' Fixes See all videos right arrow

play button
Get your alignment correct for more consistency
play button
The correct posture is the key to consistency
play button
The correct ball position
play button
Every swing should start with a good posture
See all videos right arrow