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  • Alistair Tait

Talking Golf Is Good For The Soul

The scene outside the Ganton Golf Club clubhouse after each round of the Senior Amateur Championship spoke volumes about why we play this great game. I’m sure it was the same at Ashridge during the Senior Women’s championship.

The same dynamic plays out at golf clubs all around the world: talking golf is as important as actually playing the game.

Swapping stories and sharing drinks with fellow golfers is arguably more enjoyable than holing a slippery, five foot left to right breaking putt, or striping a drive down the centre of the fairway, or hitting the perfect bunker shot to tap in range, or, well, you get the idea.

Didn’t matter what most of the protagonists shot at Ganton Golf Club (pictured), they still supped together and told stories afterwards. There wasn’t a stampede to the practice ground even though it was just behind the scorer’s hut. The players, all 55 and over, have been there, done that.

The tables outside the clubhouse soon filled up as players shared a drink afterwards and talked about their rounds, holes they’d played, what a great course Ganton is, tournaments they’d competed in, other great courses they’ve played, great players they’d played with or seen, or marvelling at how Sir Michael Bonallack could possibly have shot 61 around Ganton in the morning round of the 1968 English Amateur final.

Just as there wasn’t a rush to get to the practice ground, there was no haste to stop the post round chat either.

I was fortunate to sit with competitors and swap stories just as if I’d played in the tournament. Upon hearing what I did for a living, the inevitable “What’s so and so really like? Did player A really do as was reported in such and such a tournament?” And other questions to keep the conversation flowing, questions that generated a response to my answers, with players sharing anecdotes of their own.

The chat was no different to what goes on at my own club, Woburn, or other clubs throughout the world post round on a Saturday afternoon, or Monday, or a Tuesday, or Wednesday, or…. One of the competitors wives, a non-golfer, marvelled that her husband could go to the supermarket and forget two of the four things she’d asked him to pick up, but could remember a shot he’d played 20 years ago in minute detail.

Non golfers have no idea of the grip this game has on us, how it burns into our psyches.

Maybe the most noticeable aspect of covering the over 55s last week was the chat that took place on the fairways too, the preamble to the chat that would take place on the clubhouse patio later. Take the final pairing of American Gene Elliott and Yorkshire’s Andrew Woodward. Two players from different parts of the world trying to beat one another and get their hands on the trophy, but this wasn’t a Brooks versus Bryson battle. Anything but. They chatted to each other the whole way round as if they’d been playing together all their lives. Not sure I’ve ever seen a more affable twosome fighting it out for a prestigious title.

If the past 18 months have taught us anything, it’s the camaraderie of this great game that we’ve missed. Face it, interaction by zoom or text or even facetime isn’t the same as sharing a libation with the person you’ve just played with, even if said player has hammered you 7&6 or beaten you by 10 shots, even if that libation is just a pot of tea.

Sharing stories, recounting missed putts, comparing views on great courses, players, tournaments, or just talking general golf lore is a key part of what makes this game great.

Talking golf is good for the soul. Oh, how we missed that during lockdowns,

#JustSaying: “This game lends itself to great storytelling.” Jeff Babineau

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