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  • Alistair Tait

Recapturing golf? Many of us don’t have to

British and Irish golfers don’t need to recapture golf.

It’s never got away from us.

I read Lorne Rubenstein’s pre-Christmas article on recapturing golf with interest. (I always read Lorne with interest, ever since I lived in Toronto and read his pieces in the Globe and Mail.) Too bad Lorne, and many who feel like him, don’t live in the UK and Ireland.

Rubenstein implored readers to experiment in 2020. Walk, he said. Carry a half-set. Play solitary golf in the twilight. Play nine holes. Try match play, foursomes. Leave range finders at home.

That’s the norm for many of us who live and play in the British Isles.

I’m a case in point. It’s 6:12pm as I write this. Two hours ago, I came off the Marquess Course at Woburn after playing 9 holes. It was reaching dusk when I did so.

I didn’t carry 14 clubs, just nine. I left the 5, 7 and 9-irons out of the bag, the 3-wood (I can’t hit the bloody thing anyway!) and my 48-degree wedge.

My dog Izzy was by my side. As you might have guessed, I was walking. (Izzy isn’t a fan of golf carts.) I always walk, as most British and Irish golfers do. People I play with use either a push trolley or use an electric one. They might not be getting the same exercise as I do by carrying, but they’re still walking probably four or five miles and getting the physical rewards from it.

I’ve been travelling to the United States for years, and have never got used to playing golf from a cart. I certainly don’t get any exercise sitting on my butt. Those nine holes I played today amounted to exactly, 9,912 steps.

Before I get emails berating me, I’m not dissing cart riders. If that’s how you want to play golf then fine. Some of you may have to ride because of a medical condition. I also understand there are courses where a cart is a necessity because of certain vagaries – heat, terrain, distance between green and next tee.

Cart golf is just not for me. Aside from lack of exercise, I find it hard to stop and smell the flowers when I’m driving past them at 15 miles an hour!

I like the rhythm walking brings to a round. I like that I have time before I get to my ball to shake of the effects of a bad tee shot, or occasionally gloat over hitting a good one. I like that I can leave my bag beside the green or the tee, that it’s always nearby in case I change my mind on a club.

Besides golf is supposed to be a social game. There’s far more chatter in four-ball group if everyone is walking rather than spending four hours with the same person. What if you can’t stand him or her?

I can’t be the only one who feels that way since the vast majority of golfers in these isles walk. My friend is the golf professional at an old, traditional club to the west of London. His cart fleet numbers three for 1,300 members!

Maybe that’s because many members take their dogs to the golf course. It’s not unusual to see four golfers and four dogs walking down the first fairway. I doubt Lorne plays anywhere in North America where dogs are welcome.

Recapturing golf? No need in the British Isles.

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