First published on the Golf Monthly website on Thursday 29th March 2007
Playing golf in the summer is great: the full course, leaves on the trees and a warm sun. The only thing is that everyone is of the same opinion.
One of the most irritating things about the transition from winter to summer golf is the courses fill up with people. The sunshine-only golfers dust off their sticks and begin to venture onto the links again. For those hardy souls who’ve battled through all weathers and continued playing through the winter it’s a kick in the teeth.
It suddenly becomes tough to get a tee time and it’s lucky the clocks have gone forward as rounds take at least an hour longer. If only there was some sort of priority system to favour the brave warriors who’ve endured winter golf. Something along the lines of: If you’ve played more than three rounds in the rain since October you’re entitled to use the fast track tees. It’d work sort of like a bus lane. Hmm I can’t see it happening.
The people who bother to play when it’s the winter course, the wind is howling and there’s a touch of snow in the air are real golfers. Like-minded spirits with a passion and great respect for the sport. Of course, golf is a game for everyone and the green/membership fees from the summer social golfer are vital to the running of a club. But sometimes I just get the feeling they don’t really know what’s going on.
Playing the other day I hit a snap hook from the 5th tee. Unfortunately it headed straight for the 6th tee where a twoball was standing. I shouted “Fore!” loudly – and a couple of times to be sure. The two, lost in their own world or perhaps unaware of what the shout meant, failed to acknowledge the warning cries.
My ball landed close to them. Of course, I felt bad, as one does when this sort of thing happens. It does happen though. When you step onto a golf course you are accepting an element of risk. I walked directly towards the two and, as soon as I was in reasonable earshot, offered my sincere apologies. Any reasonable golfer with a modicum of understanding of the game would have accepted this, directed me to where my ball ended up in the trees beside the tee and played on.
No, no. The response was, “Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. What on earth were you thinking?” Believe it or not, I actually didn’t intend to hit a snap hook into the trees and I was genuinely apologetic that the ball had come close to them. I was then accused of trying to hurry them along with the shot. So I was basically being accused of attempted murder!
My efforts at explanation and apology were not deemed satisfactory so I was forced to move on without being forgiven. Perhaps I should have got down on my knees sobbing and begging for clemency, or maybe I should have posted a formal written apology out to every member. No, actually, I should have just marched straight off the course into the secretary’s office and immediately resigned my membership. Their parting shot was, “Well your ball is completely lost.” Thanks. In fact, my ball wasn’t completely lost and I pitched out of the trees then onto the green and holed the putt for a par.
I’m not a stickler for the more old-fashioned elements of golfing etiquette but I do think it’s important that everyone venturing out onto the course is aware of how the sport basically works. Perhaps there should be some sort of multiple-choice test to be completed in the pro shop before you play your first game of the year. An example question would be:
xi) You hear the shout of fore and a ball lands close to you, do you?
a) Accuse the blackguard of attempted murder, confiscate his clubs and summon the local constabulary.
b) Lambast the imbecile for an appalling shot and call into question his right to be on the course.
c) Wait for and accept apology, continue play.
Right whinge over. Let’s get on with the season.