That’s my game of golf – regular but infrequent. I’m not a member anywhere, any more, although not so long ago I was signed up to no fewer than three clubs, and I don’t play in a regular competition on a Wednesday or a Saturday.
Instead I prefer to sneak out on a Monday morning (when the people with proper jobs are at work) and scuttle around an empty course, clinging fondly to the illusion that it is my own private estate.
I have no ambition except to keep the ball in play and hope for a few pars along the way. I’m the wrong side of 60 and while, somewhat bizarrely, I’m playing the best golf of my life, the only way I’m going to break my age is if I live to be 100.
I have almost conquered my greatest fear, the existential dread of running out of balls before the final hole. I still stuff my bag with extra ammunition before loading it into the car, but these days I don’t often lose more than one ball per round. When I exceed that quota, I tend to acquire a few others along the way, often with the delightful bonus that the ones I find are better than the ones I lose.
It’s been 20 years since I invested in a new set of irons, and every time I think I really ought to remedy that fact, I remember that the sweet spots on my Tommy Armours remain in pristine condition, so rarely have they been used. I carry a driver, 3- and 7-wood, all of which date back to the mid-1990s. When the stars are in alignment I can hit all three fairly straight and tantalisingly short of the fairway bunkers.
The need to keep up with modern technology has passed me by, so while I may well be 20 metres short of where the latest clubs would land me, I don’t have a quarter of a century left to teach them how to behave. Besides, an extra 20 metres would bring those bunkers into play and the very worst part of my game involves getting out of sand.
My lack of clubhead speed has always been my worst enemy. Bryson could hit three balls in the time it takes me to complete my downswing. But the saving grace is there is no difference in my clubhead speed between now and 30 years ago. That means that, because I have ironed out a few swing kinks over the years, I’m hitting the ball further now than ever before.
The other part of my game that remains firmly intact is my putting; I couldn’t putt 30 years ago and I still can’t. If I happen to fluke an approach shot to within 10 feet, the birdie putt is always going to be short. The reason is obvious: if I hit it hard enough to make the birdie, I’m going to have a three-footer back for par. And three-footers and me don’t mix.
I could practise, or take lessons, or play more often, but that just feels like cheating. After many years of chasing the dimpled ball I am content to be a regular, but infrequent, golfer.
– This article first appeared in the October 2021 issue of Compleat Golfer magazine. Subscribe here!