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  • Alistair Tait

The 12 golfers of Christmas - The Sponge

Welcome to my Christmas series highlighting characterisations of golfers I’ve played with over the years. A wide variety of people with a vast array of personalities enjoy this game. I’ve distilled them down into 12 types to entertain you over Christmas.

I obviously pre-wrote these so I didn’t have to write my daily blog over the holidays. No flies on me. In other words, I’m currently incommunicado enjoying time with my family, eating and drinking too much and taking Izzy for long walks. So, in true BBC style, please do not respond to these blogs; they’ve been pre-recorded.

10. The Sponge

Professor Eric McCormack ended his first lecture on John Donne by explaining the term “carpe diem.”

“God of the carpet,” he said. “Carpe meaning carpet and diem meaning god.”

Myself and a few others stopped writing, but many were studiously still taking notes in the lecture room at the University of Waterloo. McCormack noticed me looking at him quizzically and winked.

I knew he was taking the proverbial…

“Stop writing everyone,” he said. “I’m only fooling with you. It’s amazing how many people will believe absolute rubbish if you say it seriously enough.”

He’s right. How much rubbish is spouted about golf that many of soak up like sponges? So many are looking for the perfect golf swing they’ll buy into whatever swing theory is popular at the moment, purchase whatever set of clubs promising better performance.

I’ve been a complete sponge at times while trying to play this great game. I reckon I’ve tried every theory going, read every instruction book by popular teachers and even parted with hard earned cash for clubs I thought were going to knock strokes off my handicap.

I once tried meditation. I sat staring at a wall for 15 minutes to clear my head, working on my breathing. I was told it would free me up, let me play better. I stank up the golf course that day. To paraphrase Dustin Hoffman in Little Big Man, that was the end of my meditation period.

I play with friends who seem to change clubs on a regular basis in the belief they’re going to see dramatic improvements in their games. Many will readily soak up any number of tips from playing companions, even though many times the tips are completely specious.

Not just handicap golfers, but tour pros too. Don’t think the guys playing the European Tour are much different to regular golfers when it comes to equipment, instruction, new fads. Many of these guys are actually so insecure they’ll grasp at anything, listen to anyone promising them an easier ride to Nirvana.

I have a picture in my head of Seve Ballesteros from years ago. He's standing in a bunker with a coach giving him a lesson on how to play long bunker shots. Honestly. I remember standing there open mouthed thinking: who should be giving who lessons here? I certainly wouldn’t have picked the coach over the man with probably the best short game in the history of golf, that’s for sure.

How many tour pros have gone down new coaching or sports psychology routes because it worked for other players, then realised it didn’t work for them and moved on to another coach/psychologist and took ages to get their games back on track? So many. They’d have been far better staying with the coach/psychologist they’d been working with rather than going off on some tangent.

Many handicap golfers are no different. I’ve been known at times to go through about five or six swing thoughts in round of golf, often tips from players no better than me. I’m better now. I’ve squeezed the sponge dry and try to stick to the basics, or the sound lessons good mate and Berkshire club professional Paul Anderson gives me.

Yet I see friends and others I play with doing the most outrageous things, soaking up weird ideas up like some giant sponge who just can’t mop up enough information. Sure enough, most eventually come to the realisation they’re wasting their time.

That new driver? Those new irons? Better going for a lesson if you’re not hitting it well. Same goes for trying every new-fangled theory that comes along you probably belong to a club with an excellent club pro. Those who don’t belong to a golf club can always book lessons from a wide array of local professionals who’ll save them a lot of time, maybe money and heartache.

There comes a time when you have to clear your browsing data and get back to basics. When you need to squeeze the sponge dry.

#JustSaying: “I’m about five inches from being an outstanding golfer. That’s the distance my left ear is from my right.” Ben Crenshaw

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