The WhatsApp conversation finally took a turn for the worse yesterday at precisely 18:52, snuffing out vague hopes of getting back to a normal routine this year. No 72 Club for the second year in a row. No blisters, no backache and, sadly, no banter in the Broadacre again.
Unfortunately, Littlestone Golf Club won’t be accepting visitors until 17th May. Understandable given members have been without golf for three months, even if that decision scuppers the 72 Club’s traditional April slot.
Sad smiley face emoji goes here.
Not heard of the 72 Club? It’s living proof golf rounds don’t have to take five hours. They don’t even take three hours in this unique competition.
A bunch of us get together every year and play 72 holes in two-balls in one day around lovely Littlestone, a course perfect for quick play because the tees are close to the previous greens. The club has been going since 1972.
Everyone walks and carries their clubs. No trollies, carts, caddies. No ranger finders. No practice swings. It’s pure stroke play. Everything has to be holed out. We play four rounds in 12 hours or less, with time for a quick lunch after 36 holes.
The winner receives the Clare Antonia Challenge Cup; the rest of us are just happy to have survived another year.
Believe me, there’s no better feeling than that final tee shot after 71 holes of endurance. My back is usually tighter than a duck’s you know what, my feet are aching and parts of my body are chafing that I never knew chafed. I usually don’t care if the ball hits the fairway. I can see the clubhouse. I know a hot shower, fresh clothes and a meal awaits.
Here’s a wee secret though: It’s not really the golf I’ll miss again this year; it’s the banter in the Broadacre Hotel the night before over darts and more than a few pints for a 5:30am wake call; it’s the thrill of walking Littlestone, one of England’s wee hidden gems with a great collection of par-3 holes (pictured is the 17th); it’s settling wagers over a pint afterwards; it’s the chat and further banter at the meal before the long drive home. In short, it’s the camaraderie, meeting up with mates I only see once a year. It’s getting back to a regular routine of playing golf at certain times of the year.
I’m not alone in missing the structure golf brings to our lives during this past year. I’m sure it’s the same for enthusiasts of other sports.
I’ve spent my professional career covering golf tournaments. I’ve probably taken for granted trips to the Middle East, the Masters, US Open, Amateur Championship, the Irish Open, Scottish Open, Open Championship, the Ryder and Walker Cups, back to the Middle East and other points in between over the years, but I’ve realised just how crucial they are to providing structure to my life.
The same goes for games of golf when I’m not travelling. Like many friends, I belong to different swindle groups at Woburn. Every day of the week except Wednesday and Sunday – well my family has to see me at least twice a week – are catered for if I want to play golf. Little did I know how important those rounds, that routine was/is to my life. On occasion during this pandemic I’ve had to look at my phone to ascertain what day it is.
Friends I speak to say the same thing. It’s not the golf they miss. As one said,
“It’s the craic in the bar with the lads afterwards that I miss.”
As another said:
“My rounds of golf provide a structure to the week that I’ve missed. It’s hard to get into a routine as a result.”
March 29th and a return to the fairways here in England can’t come soon enough. Neither can Monday 25th April 2022 and a return to the 72 Club, where the banter in the Broadacre should be fiercer than ever.
#JustSaying: “I was quite convinced when I started this that it would run for a couple of years and then I’d be the only one playing.” 72 Club founder Trevor Barnes