There’s never a better time of year to set ourselves some new goals; lose weight, eat better, pick up the phone more (to actually ring someone rather than look at Twitter) or, golf wise, to get some lessons and get our handicaps down.
Handicaps are brilliant, they give us a chance to play a competitive match against a scratch golfer and to enter all the open and club comps and to have a goal for each round. The new system annoys some while others love it, some couldn’t care less either way. At various points this year we’ll hear about how our handicaps have fluctuated this way and that and, bizarrely, plenty of us will judge our own happiness by the number next to our names on a website.
Imagine if you were told that you had one last round to play? What would you be thinking about then? Would you care less about the holes where you got a shot or the number of Stableford points that you managed? Would you care about what loft you had on your driver and whether the shaft was doing you many favours? Would you care about whether you were playing a ball that had the perfect combination of distance and spin? Would you care what you looked like? Would you care what your swing looked like and whether someone from across another fairway was watching you? Would you care about the pace of the round or the state of the greens?
You’d just want to enjoy it. You’d laugh off the bad shots and be genuinely pleased for your playing partner’s good shots and fortune.You’d talk all the way round, savour every shot (even the ones that you dread on a weekly basis) and you wouldn’t care less what you scored.
Golf’s hard, we all know that. It’s impossible to master, the majority of our rounds won’t live up to our expectations (and handicaps) and there will always be one element of your game that will likely stink the place out. You might not miss a fairway all day but your putter will go off the boil, you might have a run of half a dozen pars and then you’ll knock one out of bounds. You might have a great front nine, stop for a coffee (and a think) and the wheels will come off. Someone might say something as innocent as your chipping is on fire and we all know, as sure as night follows day, that your next chip will be a shambles.
In among all its nuances and frustrations it’s enormously rewarding. Of the 80-90 shots that you might hit should you get three of them right then that should be enough to put a smile on your face. There will always be something to give you hope and to see you book your next round in.
If we learnt anything in the last couple of years it's that we need and thrive on company. There genuinely isn’t a more social game than golf. Try having a four-hour chat in the outdoors while playing tennis.