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  • Alistair Tait

Oath Free October

Golf is the only sport that can give you Tourette Syndrome. That’s why I’m taking the pledge starting today.

Forget Sober October, I’m going for Oath Free October.

I pledge not to drop one F bomb for an entire 31 days. There could be a huge blue eruption on November 1st!

I’m not a club thrower or a club breaker. I last threw a club nearly 30 years ago. It was a 2-iron. It happened on the par-5 fifth hole of the Dukes course at Woburn Golf Club. I’d hit a good drive down the left-hand side of the fairway to the corner of the dogleg, leaving me a good angle to the green.

Machismo and self-delusion got the better of me and I decided to go for the green with my 2-iron. I topped the ball down into depression that defines the left side of this excellent hole. Pretty sure I lit up the afternoon sky with a choice Anglo-Saxon curse. Then I let loose the 2-iron. The throw wasn’t much better than the shot itself. I pulled it and the club ended up in knee high grass inside the tree line.

Thankfully I was playing on my own, because it took me nearly 15 minutes to find the club. I don’t even know why I bothered to look – I never could hit that club.

In fact, a 2-iron is the only club I’ve snapped over my knee. Only I didn’t mean to. Honest! I was playing in Hilton Head Island a few years later when I hit a pulled 2-iron and my ball ended up in a water hazard. (Told you I couldn’t hit a 2-iron!) I took the offending club and, in mock frustration, I flexed it against my knee. I honestly didn’t mean to snap it, merely to mime my anguish. My play acting was too good. To my immense embarrassment, I was left holding half a club in each hand.

I spent the next hole and a half apologising to my playing companions, trying to impress upon them that I hadn’t actually meant to break the club.

I don’t think they believed me.

So those two incidents, to paraphrase Dustin Hoffman in Little Big Man, brought an end to my club throwing and club snapping days. As for uttering the odd expletive or six, well I’m a single figure handicapper in that department after years of practice.

We’ve all felt the frustration of this maddening game. How we can hit the ball so perfectly off the tee, hit an exquisite 3-wood within 60 yards of the flag on a par-5 hole and then still have 50 yards left for a fourth shot? It's enough to drive anyone to drink, or utter the odd wee blaspheme.

At least I’m not as bad as, say, Tommy Bolt or Tom Weiskopf or even Pat Perez. The two Toms were fiery characters who struggled to keep their emotions in check in an age when, thankfully, TV cameras weren’t as predominant as they are now. As for Perez, I’ve got a long way to go to catch him in the expletive department. I heard Perez drop at least six F bombs after he found his ball in a horrible lie in a fairway bunker on Carnoustie’s 9th hole during the 2018 Open Championship.

Perez was playing with Bernhard Langer. It occurred to me that Perez probably dropped more F bombs on that occasion than Langer’s ever uttered in his life.

Thomas Boswell ends his excellent Strokes of Genius with a chapter caller "Temper Fugit." He reveals he often turns into a basket case on the course because he can’t control his temper following poor shots. He writes:

“A great black cloud crosses my mind, and unspeakable, unrealised forces that DH Lawrence would love rush out of the dark, forest of my soul and I do things that contradict every thread in the fabric of my life.”

Thankfully I’m not in Boswell’s league, but I recognise that “great black cloud.” That’s when the inevitable F bomb slips out. Usually it’s not too loud, more muttered than mouthed. Sometimes only Izzy can hear it. Not this month. It’s Oath Free October for me. And it all starts today. Yikes!

Just as well I’m not going Sober October, too. After staying muzzled for 18 holes, a few large merlots will be just what the doctor ordered.

#JustSaying: “The most exquisitely satisfying act in the world of golf is that of throwing a club. The full backswing, the delayed wrist action, the flowing follow through, followed by that unique whirring sound, reminiscent only of a passing flock of starlings, are without parallel in sport.” Henry Longhurst

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