First published on the Golf Monthly website on Thursday 6th January 2011
General consensus is that golf is a sport that has to be played regularly if one is to perform to potential. Having said this, there’s also a largely unsubstantiated belief put forward in clubhouses up and down the country that a break from the game can be beneficial. That, after a holiday or an injury-enforced layoff, there’s every chance you’ll return to the course having forgotten niggling problems and playing a far more natural game.
It’s a sentiment that displays the innate optimism of the common British golfer. Almost every amateur is highly skilled at remaining positive in the face of considerable adversity and the overwhelming probability of failure.
The idea also shows the great camaraderie between club golfers. Encouraging those who’ve spent time away from the game that they might just return to the fairways a better golfer than when they left keeps team spirits high. It may be slightly delusional but where would we be without hope?
Hope was my big hope yesterday when I set foot on a golf course for the first time in six weeks. But, from the word go at Newburgh things didn’t pan out as I’d hoped. My bag felt strange on my back as I walked from the car park. No amount of fiddling with the straps would make it sit comfortably. Had I changed shape during my days of snowbound captivity? Had one of the children tampered with it?
On the putting green I struggled to remember which of my many techniques I’d been using when I last played in November. Everything felt odd so I decided I’d just see how I felt when I got to the first green.
As I stood on the first tee looking down at my golf ball (teed up without a problem) I was overcome with a strange sensation – I had pretty much no idea what I was about to try and do. “Just take the club away and muscle memory will do the rest,” I thought. I remained still for what seemed an eternity (but was probably only a couple of seconds) before snatching the clubhead back, semi-completing a backswing then thrashing down at the ball with my head already lifting.
The snap-hook I produced was actually one of my better efforts from the tee because it somehow stayed out of the gorse and, although it was a long way off line, gave me a shot to the green.
Miraculously, my approach found the edge of the putting surface and, opting for a cack-handed technique, I got down in two putts for an opening par. “Maybe things are going to be alright,” I thought.
How wrong I was. In total I hit 10 provisional balls during the remainder of the round. I lost six so that cost me 12 penalty shots. I hadn’t the faintest clue where the ball was going. It was quite entertaining really – “Oh look, another snap hook… Goodness a raging slice… Aaah, the trusty block… I know that one’s out of bounds but it was a far better strike.”
I limped into the clubhouse with a 92 – my worst ever score in an Alliance and the worst score I can remember returning since I traded in my Patty Berg irons for a set of Swilken Altas.
I guess when people say, “a break could be good for your game,” the key word is “could.” I’m going to make a concerted effort to visit the driving range at least twice before next week’s meeting at Peterhead. Hitting a few balls “could” just set me back on the right track.