• Alistair Tait

The Glorious Triumph Of Hope


If we broke a leg every time we went skiing, there’s a good chance our skiing careers wouldn’t last too long. Just a couple of trips to the hills would see us quickly putting skis, boots and poles up for sale on eBay. Ditto for bike riding. We’d soon be advertising our bikes on the same portal if we fell off each time we took to the road.


Pencil in other sports where we’d soon give up the ghost if we didn’t improve. Yet those of us who play this frustrating game continue to flail away even though improvement seems impossible. More inexplicable, we often even carry on despite getting worse.


How many of us have had spells where every time we go out we hit fairways and greens, putt well and play to our handicaps, or even better than our handicaps? We can probably count those times on the fingers of one hand.


The times we play far worse than our handicaps? There are not enough digits on our bodies to answer that question.


Before the first lockdown I had a spell where I truly thought I’d cracked this game. For about six rounds I bettered my handicap every time. Too bad they were bounce games and didn’t count for handicapping purposes. Still, I was convinced my index would come tumbling down upon entering competitions, and I’d be back in single digits again. Ha, ha, ha!


Lockdown arrived and when I returned to the fairways I couldn’t find the golf course never mind the fairways. I felt as it someone else's arms had been transplanted on my body. I went back to my faithful coach for a lesson. He showed me the error of my ways. What he says makes perfect sense. If I do as he tells me then I hit the ball great. And yet…


…I’ve just gone through a spell where I feel as if I’ve never played the game. Seriously, how can you play this game for 30 years and have a round where you don’t hit a single green, where an 87-yard wedge shot comes up 40 yards short, four shots are needed to get up and down from just off the green even though the flag is only 30 feet away, where you struggle to break 100 on a course you’ve previously gone round in 76 blows in a club championship?


I seem to go from loving golf to hating it in the course of one round. Actually, make that just one hole!


Ryder Cup player and two-time European Tour winner Andrew Coltart once told me he spent a week at home practising and emerged worse afterwards than when he started. He said the club felt like a snake in his hands by the end of the week. He posed a simple, rhetorical question, one we ask ourselves on a continual basis:

“How is that even possible?”

What chance for us hackers when even those who’ve played at the highest level can’t get to grips with this bloody game?


Yet we carry on regardless. The hatred with which we view the game after a bad round always abates. Always. Our minds go into overdrive as we review the round, shots played, and suddenly a glimmer of hope enters the mind. We have a session on the practice range doing exactly what we were taught in that lesson that made so much sense. A wee spark enters the body which we carry to the fairways, convinced we will transform our games. What was it R.C. Robertson-Glasgow once said:

“The glorious thing is that thousands of golfers, in park land, on windy downs, in gorse, in heather, by the many sounding seas, enjoy their imbecilities, revel in their infirmities, and from failure itself draw that final victory – the triumph of hope.”

My clubs are not for sale on eBay. I haven’t taken a hacksaw to the shafts. I have practised what I was taught in the lesson. I know it works if I just do as I was told.


So I’ll sail on through my imbecilities, revel, nay wallow, in my infirmities and put my faith in the glorious triumph of hope.


P.S. I’ll keep you posted.


#JustSaying: “One reason golf is such an exasperating game is that a thing we learned is so easily forgotten, and we find ourselves struggling year after year with faults we had discovered and corrected time and again.” Bobby Jones

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