First published on the Golf Monthly website on Thursday 3rd April 2008
Some prefer to have a handicap they can easily play to, others like fighting tooth and nail to make buffer. Guess which camp Fergus falls into.
I’m playing in my first Medal of 2008 this Saturday and I’m experiencing pre-season sensations I never have before. For the last few years my attitude to the inaugural comp of the year has been: “Bring it on. I’m ready and it’s time to do some hard-core handicap slashing.” As I’ve played pretty poorly for the last couple of months, my mindset going into Saturday is more like: “I’m going to have to really grit something out if I’m to make buffer.”
The thing is, having come down from three to one last year, I’m now in a position where there’s very little room to manoeuvre around the buffer zone area. It’s conceivable that I could shoot one over par and still go up by point one. But I’m looking forward to a new objective for 2008 – consolidation. I’d like to still be playing off one at the end of the summer.
In the clubhouse the other day conversation surrounded aims for the season in terms of handicap. My dad, whose handicap is currently 8.5, said something that epitomised the correct attitude for amateur golfers. “I think I’d be comfortable on eight.” He commented. “But, I’d rather be uncomfortable on seven.” I’ve met far too many amateurs who like to be comfortable on their handicaps. They’re happy to cruise along on 15 not really trying when a round isn’t going their way and then, on the days they get off to a good start, they put in a bit of extra effort and bag 42 stableford points to win the Spring Meeting.
I admit, I’m not entirely comfortable off one. But I’d far rather struggle to play to one than easily play to three or four. I’m not a pot hunter, I take greater personal satisfaction from lowering my handicap by point one than from winning silverware – unless it’s a scratch competition of course.
I’m off to the Premier League of Darts in Aberdeen this evening. If it’s anything like last year, it’ll be quite a spectacle: The paladins of the king of pub sports dueling it out in front of 3,000 boozy Aberdonians. Fantastic.
Darts and golf have a few things in common:
– Both are individual sports. There’s nobody to help you when you’re about to attempt that twitchy three footer or that crucial throw at double one. It’s just you and your sweaty palms.
– Both require incredible precision and the margins for error are minute.
– Both sports are referred to by the badly informed as games.
– Fitness is not a prerequisite for excellence.
– Darts and golf have a dress code. Golf has beige slacks and a cotton polo shirt (tucked in); darts has black school trousers and a strange 100% polyester shirt with a huge collar and massive V-Neck to expose maximum chest hair (un-tucked).
– Experience counts for a great deal and advancing age does not prevent competitors achieving success. Jack Nicklaus won The Masters aged 46 and Phil “The Power” Taylor is 48.
– Alcohol helps some to play both sports better but makes others fall to pieces.
– Pre-shot routine. In golf: you line up, practice swing, take a last look at the target and swing. In darts: you down your pint, move away from the bar area, try not to fall over on your way to the ochie and throw. (I should point out this is certainly not how the Premier League darters prepare where it’s strictly water only on the stage.)