• Alistair Tait

Death to the golf gnaff!


The wee golf gnaff that sits on my right shoulder suddenly woke up on the fourth tee yesterday. It had obviously decided on a lie in through the first three holes.


It was clearly annoyed I’d played three perfect holes, three pars all played in regulation.


I’d just holed a scary, slippery, right to left par putt on the par-3, 3rd hole of the Duke’s Course at Woburn, the trickiest green on all three Woburn courses. That obviously upset the gnaff. It was wide awake by the time I reached the 4th tee. As I stood over my tee shot, the gnaff began chuntering in my ear.

“You sure you’ve got the ball far enough up in your stance, Tait?” the gnaff whispered in my ear.

My tee shot sailed high, wide and right. Pretty sure I heard the gnaff giggle in delight as the ball headed for the trees. That was the gnaff’s cue to begin an inner stream of verbal diarrhoea. It didn’t stop chuntering until my last shot to the 18th hole. By which time that perfect start had become a distant memory.


The gnaff was happy as I stepped off the 18th green. Job done. God was in his heaven, all was right with the world. Back to sleep. It will no doubt rest easy until today’s 12:10 time on the Duchess Course. Wonder what it has in store for me today? Probably the same as yesterday, and the round before that, and before that and, well, you get the idea.


Not familiar with the word gnaff? Great Scots example, one of many, of onomatopoeia. Think of the word "gnarl" for pronunciation. Here’s the definition:

“Gnaff: any small or stunted creature; a poor looking creature.”

That’s putting it kindly. It’s a horrible wee bugger who makes up for its runt-like stature by taking great pleasure in schadenfreude: mine just loves to torment me. Seems I’m not the only golfer with a wee gnaff sitting on my right shoulder.


Is there another sport like golf that produces such a constant inner monologue? I played football to a decent level, but I don’t remember taking a poor free kick and then going over the technique I should have used to propel the ball goal wards. I probably just uttered a wee oath, apologised to my teammates, jogged back to my midfield position and got on with the game. Yet in golf…..


Timothy Gallwey outlined the constant battle between self one and self two years ago in his book The Inner Game of Golf.

“Golf has an uncanny way of endearing itself to us while at the same time evoking every weakness of mind and character, no matter how well hidden,” Gallwey wrote.

I’d argued with the word “hidden.” There are times when my right shoulder feels particularly sore because the wee gnaff is jumping up and down violently on it. And my wee golf gnaff doesn’t wear soft spikes. Metal spikes only. Long, sharp ones.


My gnaff may whisper into my right ear most of the time with the occasional outburst, but the same can’t be said for the gnaffs of others. The gnaff that sits on the shoulder of regular playing companion Tony never shuts up.


Sixteenth tee yesterday and Tony says:

“Golf is the greatest game in the world.”

Pretty sure that was Tony talking. Tony’s gnaff took over 60 yards from the flag. It spoke up loud and clear for about the fiftieth time in the round after Tony duffed his pitch shot:

“How can you call yourself a golfer when you hit shots like that?”

Pretty sure I’d be able to call myself a golfer if I could somehow grab hold of my golf gnaff and club the wee bugger to death!


#Justsaying: “I’m about five inches from being an outstanding golfer. That’s the distance my left ear is from my right.” Ben Crenshaw

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