Bah humbug

First published on the Golf Monthly website on Wednesday 12th December 2007

If Ebeneezer Scrooge had played golf he’d have had even more ammunition in his crusade against Christmas.

Flicking through a Christmas gifts mail order catalogue that popped through our door the other morning I was distressed by one of the potential presents: Three Pinnacle Gold golf balls with, “Best Granddad in the World” emblazoned on the side. For anyone considering purchasing these for a loved one: Stop. Think more carefully about what you’re doing.

Firstly, these rock-solid golf balls are for use only by the poorest golfers. By giving them you are tacitly suggesting grandpa is crap at golf. Secondly seeing this distasteful message on his ball would remind granddad of his advancing years every time he teed it up. He’ll lose yards from every drive as he shortens his swing in an effort to protect his back. You’re basically condemning him to old age. Why not just buy him a pipe and slippers.

Christmas may be a time of good cheer, but it certainly isn’t from a golfing perspective. Receiving un-wanted golf presents is just one of the many issues golfers face. Why do non-golfers feel they can buy the correct golfing gifts without any guidance? Just what am I going to do with a right-handed, scarlet red glove, size small? My uncle is a keen angler but I certainly wouldn’t attempt to buy him a novelty fly. My mother is an accomplished artist, I won’t be going out to buy her some new paints.

I doubt any non-golfers are reading this but if they are: If you want to buy somebody a golf present take the following information on your victim to your nearest pro shop: age, handicap, shirt size, glove size (and what type of glove they use,) preferred ball, usual shot shape, game strengths, game weaknesses. If they play off single figures do not buy: a score counter, a ball scoop or rubber tees joined together by string.

One of the key reasons why the festive season is tough for golfers is that family commitments make getting out for a game difficult. Travelling around the country visiting relatives is not conducive to scratching your golfing itch. Unless you have an extended family packed with avid golfers the only competitive game you’re likely to get is a Ludo match against auntie Betsy.

If you do get the chance to play, the course is unlikely to be in tip-top condition. Obviously the winter weather is a contributing factor, but with greenkeepers winding down for, then taking a, well earned Christmas break things start to look a little rough around the edges. Then, post Christmas, the usually deserted winter course becomes packed with juniors trying out new 3-woods and granddads giving their unwanted Pinnacles a whack.

TV choices for golf fans over the Christmas period are limited. Through the rest of the year there are endless golf tournaments to watch on the BBC, Sky and (for the lucky ones) Setanta but Yuletide means a dearth of events. From December 16 to January 2 there’s no competitions on either the PGA or European Tours. We’re forced into sitting through “To the Manor Born” Christmas specials or endless showings of “Ace Ventura” and “Ghostbusters.”

Having said all this, I will enjoy Christmas: the parties; seeing relatives and old friends; huge amounts of food; champagne in the morning. It’s the best time of the year, no question about it. But I’ll still be troubled by a constant niggle throughout the festive season. It’ll be the golfer in me counting the hours to January 9 and the first Alliance meeting of 2008.

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