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  • Alistair Tait

Silence is Golden

Couldn't resist the headline after yesterday’s round of golf reminded me there are some things that shouldn’t be said on a golf course.

“You haven’t missed a fairway yet,” is certainly one of them.

Those were the words of one player on the fifth tee yesterday in a four ball, better ball game around the delightful Duke’s course at Woburn. The words were spoken by one of the pair we were playing against… to his partner.

Thankfully the player who hadn’t missed one of the three fairways he’d played didn’t blow a gasket. He just replied:

“I wish you hadn’t said that.”

The remark was made in complete innocence, and probably didn’t contribute to the 4&2 loss they suffered. His playing partner didn’t miss many fairways after that either, which was another blessing.

I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want to hear is how well I’m driving the ball, or how I haven’t missed a short putt. Leave me in peace and I’ve got a better chance of continuing to drive the ball well, keep holing out four footers. Tell me something I’m doing well and that’s when that wee golf gnaff on my right shoulder perks up its ears and begins whispering inside my head. It, too, will start reminding me I’m driving the ball well and, before you know it, I’m spraying balls into the Woburn pines. And, as anyone who’s played with me knows, I don’t need much of an excuse to do that.

Usually the wee gnaff utters these words just as I take the club away.

“That guy’s right, Ali, you haven’t missed a fairway YET.”

Talk to me about anything else – politics, western movies, philosophy, sport, the price of milk, whether Tiger, Jack, Ben, Bobby, Harry, Patty, Mickey, Louise, Annika, or Babe was the greatest of all time, how four people can go out to dinner and ALL of them spend more time looking at their phones than each other – but don’t tell me what I’m doing well.

Blissful ignorance is sometimes a good thing on a golf course.

And don’t tell me I’ve got this putt for the win, as happened on the sixth hole yesterday. Another innocent remark but one that took me from thinking…

“This is a fairly straightforward three footer to, bloody hell, this for the win. DON’T screw it up.”

Thankfully I holed the putt but, as my partner can confirm, it wasn’t a positive stroke, more a yipped getthisinthebloodyholeforFsakes motion.

I used to play with someone who had an annoying habit of making quips at important junctures in matches, which I’m sure were designed to put me off. He’d say:

“That’s not an easy up and down” or “tough two putt from there.”

So I’d go from thinking, I’ll just chip this close or lag this putt up to the hole to the wee gnaff telling me:

"Wow, this IS a tough up and down, this IS a tough two putt."

Sure enough, I’d take three shots and lose the hole.

I’m not sure I’d go as far as the doyen of golf writing, Bernard Darwin, in dealing with those who can’t help but open their mouths and put shreds of doubt in their opponent’s head. In a 1949 essay with the same title as this blog – hey, plagiarism is the highest form of flattery – Darwin writes:

“I’m not sure what the penalty is to be, probably something lingering with boiling oil … disqualified, kicked out of the club, blackballed for all other clubs and, in short, wiped off the face of the earth.”

I obviously wouldn't recommend any of those punishments. Then again….

#JustSaying: “If your adversary is badly bunkered, there is no rule against your standing over him and counting his strokes aloud, with increasing gusto as their number mounts up; but it will be a wise precaution to arm yourself with the niblick before doing so, so as to meet him on equal terms.” Horace Hutchinson

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