Golfers are obsessed by their own and other people?s handicaps. I remember returning to University one autumn and bumping into a golf club team mate, I hadn?t seen him for four months. His greeting was: ?Hi Fergus, what?s your exact handicap?? I?m just the same, my exact happiness is almost totally relative to my exact handicap. Down 0.3, the beers are on me. Up 0.1, pass me a gun.
I?ve accomplished my primary objective for 2007. In the first round of the Riverston Cup on Wednesday I scored a 66 and was cut to 2.2. I struck the ball brilliantly, found 16 of 18 greens and holed everything from six feet and in. After finishing I was filled with self-belief. I?ve written about the sensation before: the great feeling where you truly think you?ve discovered the secret to golf. I was invincible.
Over the last few days, however, I?ve discovered that playing off two is difficult. In the second round of the Riverston Cup on Friday I was not so imperious on course. I was tight and nervous, I prodded and slapped my way round to a less than impressive 74. A nett 72 to add to the nett 63 from Wednesday was just not good enough and I finished runner-up. I was pretty gutted actually because I really wanted to get my hands on the Riverston Cup. It?s absolutely massive: one of the best at the end of season prizegiving because it takes about six bottles of wine, or 15 pints of lager, to fill it. So after Friday I was up to 2.3.
Yesterday I was part of a four man team who travelled to Stonehaven for the Scott Trophy. 36 holes around a, very hilly, cliff-top course with some extremely tricky holes while suffering from a class three hangover: going up 0.2 was the likely outcome.
In round one I was progressing steadily and was out in +3. I then drove the green at the par four 11th and had a putt for eagle. An incredibly heavy-handed effort from the front edge resulted in disaster. The frantic shouts of my playing partners, ?whoah!? and ?grab a chair ball,? were to no avail. My Titleist careered past the hole and down the slope off the back of the green. My consternation was compounded when I saw where it had ended up. It was in a muddy hole up against a fence. I could only move it a couple of feet out of there, I chipped up then missed the putt: mark me down for a six. Drive the green and take five to get down. Good work Fergus. I hobbled in at +5 feeling like a very bad golfer. Up to 2.4.
How the mighty fall. Three days previously I was at 2.2 and was thinking that three good rounds over the rest of the week could get me to one. As I forced down a chicken sandwich in the Stonehaven clubhouse I was wondering how I could possibly avoid going back up to three. After going out again in +3 I was on a non-stop express service straight to 2.5. But, digging deep into the Bisset grit reserves I gave myself a stern talking to on the 10th tee. The ship was steadied and I came back in -2 for a +1 total. Good enough to keep me at 2.4. I can say I play off two for at least another week.