Money or pride? Fergus Bisset argues friendly golf is better with a few bob on the line, while Jeremy Ellwood feels pride should be the only thing at stake
Money or pride? Seven-time major champion Sam Snead once said, “if you’re not betting while playing golf, you’re just walking in a field with another man.”
For him, and all those who view golf as a competitive sport, golf and betting go hand in hand.
Like most of us, I play golf to win and my enjoyment is heightened when I feel a little pressure during a round. In tournaments, the pressure of playing to handicap or having a chance at victory is sufficient to get my competitive juices flowing and my nerve ends tingling.
In bounce games, however, I need a little something extra to generate that sensation. A friendly wager does it nicely.
If you don’t put a little money on a bounce game you’ll just saunter round without a care for your performance.
If you lose one out of bounds or leave a putt in the jaws you’ll merely shrug your shoulders. It’s no way to improve and it’s not good preparation for when you have a card in your hand.
If you’re used to feeling pressure because you bet on bounce games, you’ll know how to deal with nerves when it comes to a tough match in the club knockout or when you’re sitting on 35 points through 16 holes of the midweek Stableford.
Learning to control your nerves is one of the most important skills in golf and placing a little money on bounce games is the perfect training.
If you’re still not convinced and refuse to risk a few quid at next Sunday’s roll-up, you should do as Sam Snead advises – put on your hiking sandals, find the nearest field and start rambling.
The love of money is the root of all evil, which is why, unless you’re a professional, golf should be played for pride rather than potential profit.
Most of us play with our friends and as soon as you introduce money into the mix, you’re asking for trouble.
Friendships can quickly become strained, especially if one person is regularly profiting at the expense of others.
If your game has gone south, the last thing you need is the certain knowledge that not only are you going to lose, but also be parting with your hard-earned cash – a double dose of demoralisation that quickly leads to resentment.
Even worse, there’s always someone happy to pocket the cash when winning, yet quick to renege when his touch deserts him.
‘My game’s not up to much right now, and if we play for money I might as well hand it over now,’ he says, playing with your conscience, as you’re thinking, ‘What about last week when I was chopping it; you were happy to take my money then!’
True, playing for money generates an initial frisson of excitement.
But after a few holes of stunning mediocrity on your part, and a bright start by others, suddenly you’re staring down the barrel of a sum that would take some explaining to the other half if she were to get wind of it.
So if you want to avoid an awkward silence on the ride home, your best mate’s pocket bulging with cash formerly known as yours, stick to playing golf for golf ’s sake.
If you can’t take sufficient satisfaction from simply playing well and winning, just as Ryder Cup teams do every two years, you’re on a slippery slope that threatens to devalue what the game really stands for.
If you really value your golfing friendships, it has to be pride and pride alone.