Golf can be sometimes be a cruel mistress, but however bad it gets, don’t sell the clubs, says Jeremy Ellwood from sometimes bitter experience
From time the time, the Golf Monthly website forum serves up tales of golfing woe in which the game’s frustrations prove too much to bear and folks conclude that the only way out is to put down the clubs and step away from the tee, perhaps permanently. A defence mechanism to shield them from further hurt? Almost certainly.
Others rally round to talk them down off the ledge, but nearly everyone who’s played can empathise, because golf is that sort of a game.
The gods in charge take a perverse delight in placing seemingly insurmountable objects in the way of progress, or even more dishearteningly, take you to the very brink of consistency and competence before plunging you back into the pit of ineptitude you thought you’d escaped for good.
I know – I’ve been there. And while I wouldn’t wish to tempt fate and assume I’m out of the woods for ever, it’s now some years since I last fell on those “sell the clubs, I’m just not putting myself through this any more,” times.
But that last time, anything vaguely approaching ability was cruelly snatched away to such a degree that a casual observer would have struggled to distinguish me from a complete novice.
I was playing at a club perched high on the Sussex Downs at the time, and whether it was the constant buffeting of the wind, the sloping lies, or just a phase of life, I don’t know. But over an alarmingly short period I went from a reasonably consistent seven-handicapper to someone struggling to break 90.
Lessons helped a bit, but only during the lessons and never on the golf course. Competitive outings weren’t on the radar, and eventually I didn’t want to play at all.
But somehow I got through it and for a couple of years afterwards steered well clear of competitive golf, choosing to put the game back in the more social setting that had reeled me in originally.
Competitive golf and I were through. No more striving to lower my handicap or fighting to make the buffer zone with all their associated pressures.
Of course, that’s all changed again now, but back then I just wanted to go out and rediscover the simple joy of hitting the ball without fear or worry.
Golf just doesn’t let you walk away easily, does it? For me, it had become my all-consuming passion, hence the reason it hurt so much when what little ability I had was taken away.
Not that I was ever going to be any good really in the overall scheme of things, but I was always quite happy chipping away, sometimes improving rapidly if a certain piece of the jigsaw fell into place and sometimes so painfully slowly that the prospect of further real improvement seemed remote – 15 and 12 proved particularly sticky handicaps for me.
But golf is a fickle and mischievous mistress, who tends to wait until you’ve reached the point of maximum anguish and frustration before flashing you a smile that gives you just a flicker of hope.
You strike one like you’ve never struck it before; you think you know what you did differently; you do it again and, yes, that was it, you’ve got it!
You’re off and running once more, oblivious of the fact that should she so choose, Lady Golf can, and may well, take it all away again at the click of her fingers.
Mercifully, those fingers haven’t clicked for me for a while, so to anyone currently drifting on a sea of hopelessness, I say hang on in there. Don’t sell the clubs. You’ll only have to shell out a fortune again when the bug bites once more as it invariably will.
Lady Golf is capable of comprehensively ensnaring you more than any other sport, and however firmly you tell her it’s over, she knows – and you know – that eventually you’ll come running back for more.