The ridge from Meall a’Buiridh to Creise in Glencoe looks daunting, especially the final haul up to the Creise plateau. About as daunting as a delicate chip from a tight lie over a bunker to a tight pin.
Even though we’ve played 100s of great flop shots from tight lies over bunkers to tight pins in practice and pulled many of them off, the shot still scares the wits out of us. It certainly does me. And even though at least three people had already told me the Creise ridge either wasn’t “as scary as it looks,” or “isn’t as tough as it appears,” or “it’s not that daunting,” the butterflies were still fluttering in my stomach. Just as they do sometimes when faced with delicate chip shots or left to right, five-foot, downhill putts.
My butterflies before taking on the ridge were increased because I was climbing with my two daughters, Aubrey and Olivia. It’s one thing subjecting myself to a scramble up a rocky ridge, but another when I’m asking my children to do it with me. The climb up to Meall a’Buiridh at 1108 meters was straight forward enough and my daughters handled it brilliantly but, it’s fair to say, both were a wee bit nervous about scrambling up to Creise. I’m convinced if I’d changed my mind and said "let’s just head back down," there wouldn’t have been much protest.
They didn't protest and handled the wee scramble brilliantly too. Our informers were correct: the scramble isn't as daunting as it looks. In fact, it's great fun.
There’s been reams of stuff written on the mental side of golf. Probably more than has been written on hill walking/munro bagging. When you spend as much time in the hills as I do, it’s hard not to compare my two favourite past times.
There are times in both endeavours when nerves force me into a sort of inertia that’s hard to describe. Yet there are other times when I don’t think anything of the potential danger of walking, say, the Devil’s Ridge on the Ring of Steall in the Mamores any more than I look at those left to right, five-foot, downhill putts and don't feel nervous.
I remember scrambling up the steep slopes of A’Chrois on the way to Beinn Narnain and thinking nothing of it. Yet I sat and stared at the pyramid that is An Stuc while doing the trio of it, Meall Greigh and Meall Garbh over in the Lawyers range. I needed half an hour before I decided to take it on. It was just as the guide books had said: an easy scramble up to the summit.
Why do the demons strike at certain times and not others? On the golf course and in the hills? Why can’t we have the same clarity of thought all the time? I know that if I start the ball on the correct line on that aforementioned putt then it will find the hole. If it misses then it’s because I’ve either misread it slightly or not hit it quite right. It’s not exactly life and death. Unlike certain ridge walks in Scotland.
Ian Poulter once told me he never gets nervous. Ever. I found that hard to believe. I said he must have been nervous when he stood over that 15-foot par putt on the final green in the final round of the 2008 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale knowing it was possibly to win the Open Championship. “No” was his answer. He came up with a great line to explain how he feels in what everyone else would describe as pressure situations. He said:
“I’m not playing the situation. I’m playing the shot. So why would I get nervous?”
Oh, if only we could just have that mind set, and just focus on the shot instead of letting the demons into our heads.
#JustSaying: “Most of the difficult things in golf are mental, not physical. Are subjective, not objective. Are the created phantasms of the mind, not the veritable realities of the course.” Arnold Haultain