I have decided this year to keep a journal of my trials and tribulations on and off the golf course in order to better understand the mental anguish and self doubt that swinging a club and hitting a little ball into a hole causes me.
I am 29 years old and about to enter into my fourth season as a competitive golfer. As it stands my handicap is a rather unflattering 14.7 (15), but looking back to a year ago I can only be pleased with what I achieved last season, having come down from 19.3.
I am a member at Banchory Golf Club – a lovely little course in Aberdeenshire with a modest yardage and seemingly easy par of 69. Having only been a member for four years I have not grown up with the course but, as far as I can see, it offers as many obstacles and challenges that any average club member should need.
Let me start by explaining that, although my handicap is 15, I play almost exclusively with friends who are far more experienced golfers than I am. Their handicaps range from +1 to a maximum of 9. Playing with these guys has improved my game hugely in recent years but it has also added to the frustration – they are all better than me and laugh out loud when I get stuck in a bunker for eight strokes, hit my tee shot off the first into some poor chap’s garden or snap my driver in three after hitting my ball into a nearby river. This is why on a Saturday afternoon I will either be laughing and joking with the guys enjoying a cool refreshing lager having shot nett 64, or be sitting at a table on my own crying into an orange squash having shot nett 75. I think I feel the pressure to get my handicap down so I can be competitive with my peers and not require shots (or some very generous gimmies) in order to be able to keep up with them, even in a bounce game on a Sunday afternoon.
This week was the second Saturday in a row we have had a bounce game. Having hit the ball with decent consistency and putted more like J Christ than S Garcia the week before, I was confident of scoring well and taking the boys £5ers off them. This inner belief and self-confidence soon disappeared when my first tee shot almost ended up on the road to Aboyne! Not so much a power fade as a raging slice.
My head was down immediately, I hate the first hole! With my putter also not working and my chipping once again being that of a complete novice, my rather lacklustre 27 stableford points cost me £5 and a strong word with myself in the toilets afterwards. Maybe I am rather hard on myself and show far too much emotion out on the course, having a hissy fit or ‘head off’ as I like to call them on the course has never helped my score or my wallet (driver in 3 pieces as mentioned) before so I am trying to remove them from my game. But this just means I have to go to the locker room and cry immediately after coming off the course.
The most significant difference between me and my pals is this: They can follow up a terrible tee shot with a short iron to six feet from behind a tree, off a path or in a Pringles tin. I don’t have those powers of recovery nor the necessary self-belief following a shot into the trees, someone’s garden or a bunker.
I went for a putt on my own on Sunday morning and holed the world! Not fair, I think I have some mental problems.
Until next weekend’s final bounce game before the season starts in earnest, I remain as before:
Official Handicap: 14.7
Season Target: 10.4
Bridgieness (suicide watch) level: 4/10