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  • Alistair Tait

What Is The Point?

A close friend is famous within the swindle group we belong to for uttering the headline phrase during frustrating rounds of golf. Often he utters the phrase in emphatic, one-word sentences, as in “What. Is. The. Point?”

Indeed, he’s so noted for this phrase he now tries hard not to say it.

Haven’t we all asked ourselves the same question? I dare say it popped into Rory McIlroy’s head just before he ripped his shirt in frustration after failing to close out the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.

I uttered this phrase repeatedly during and after a particularly painful midweek round where I seemed to pick up on more holes than I finished. It was so bad I’d dropped out of the three-horse, American Stableford/Split 6s race after my tee shot on the seventh hole.

Aside from weather induced walk offs, I’ve only ever walked off a golf course once. That was after an extremely bad atmosphere had developed between two members of the fourball that I didn’t want to be part of.

I felt like walking off Woburn Golf Club’s Duchess course on Tuesday. When I reached the ninth green, I had the urge to just trek the short distance to the clubhouse and sit alone with my misery. Losing balls in the trees while playing companions are playing well isn’t just frustrating, it’s embarrassing. I wanted to run away and hide. How I finished birdie, par, par is a complete mystery.

Things were so bad I did something I rarely do: I went to the practice range afterwards. I must’ve hit 150 balls. You guessed it, I actually hit them very well.

Bloody game!

Mind you, as we all know, practice ground performance doesn’t equal golf course performance. We’ve all hit it well on the range only to go to the first tee and hit a massive block or pulled hook into the trees.

I can relate to Bernard Darwin who once wrote:

“I can recall many occasions when I have swung myself into … an ‘appleplexy’ with no compensating benefits whatever.”

Like the Doyen, I’ve been inspired to try something I thought worked in a previous round only to find, as he did, that…

“…these overnight inspirations more often than not prove sadly disillusioning in the morning.”

I was intrigued by a conversation I had with one of my two playing companions during the round. He said he’d read research that says the majority of golfers who take lessons don’t actually improve. I’d like to get my hands on said research.

I’m pretty sure the majority of those who buy new clubs don’t improve either. We’ve all suffered from new club(s) syndrome: you hit it/them well on the driving range, decide to buy, things goes well for a few rounds before we’re thinking of going back to the old club(s).

This isn’t a dig at club professionals. I’ve yet to see a club professional standing with gun pointed at a member’s club uttering the words:

“Buy this club or die!”

I also salute the countless hours club professionals put in on the practice ground, often in freezing conditions, doing their best to improve their pupils. It’s not the fault of club professional that the majority of us obviously don’t have the talent to take on what he or she is teaching.

I know I can hit good golf shots if I just do as Berkshire club professional and long-time friend Paul Anderson has instructed me to do. Yet there are times when I hit shots that would embarrass beginners never mind someone who’s been playing golf for three decades. I mean, what is the point when a simple 50-yard pitch shot comes up 10 yards short of the green, or the same length shot turns into an unmentionable on the 17th hole yesterday and I walk off with zero stableford points after splitting the fairway with an excellent tee shot?

I had 34 stableford points yesterday along with that shank, at least 10 points, if not more – my score was too depressing to even contemplate adding up – than on Tuesday.

Again, Bloody Game!

Another friend I play with has long given up on practice, lessons and new clubs. He summed up his attitude recently when he said:

“I don’t let this game bother me anymore. I just turn up and accept what I get on the day.”

Oh, if only I could adopt that attitude too. Maybe then I wouldn’t be wondering “What. Is. The. Point?”

Answers on a post card please.

#JustSaying: “Thanks goodness for amateur golfers: club professionals would starve without them.” Bernard Gallacher

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