Back nineitis is a debilitating affliction that’s been the ruin of many a good round. We’ve all experienced it – You’re cruising along nicely, playing solid golf then suddenly your game goes into freefall. I’m sure you’ve heard people describe their round by saying, “I went out in level par but came home in an ambulance.”
From a mental perspective back nineitis is totally understandable. The sudden realisation a good score is possible causes a mad mental rush towards the brain’s panic button. Heart-rate increases, nerves go on edge and self-belief dwindles. Your golf becomes defensive and shots start to drop like leaves on a blustery November day.
Slightly less common is the golfing aliment I’m currently suffering from: front nineitis. I just can’t get off to a sensible start. In every Alliance competition I’ve entered this year, I’ve played the closing nine dramatically better than the opening half. It’s not that I’ve had a blinder on the run for home. It’s just that I’ve been utterly awful on the way out.
In the car en-route to this week’s meeting at Edzell, I talked about the problem with my regular playing partner Scott. He’s witnessed the condition first hand and, like me, can’t quite fathom what’s going on, “It’s like you flick a switch as you reach the turn,” he said.
He’s exactly right. I’ll make a few early bogeys (maybe a double or two) and, before I know it, I’ll be six or seven over par. Then the lights go on and I’ll say to myself, “What am I doing? I’m better than this. If this carries on I’m going to post a seriously embarrassing number.” After this inner monologue, I begin to play sensibly and cover the remaining holes in a reasonable score. It’s too late though, because the damage has already been done.
I was extremely determined not to play myself out of contention on the first few holes at Edzell. But, by putting pressure on myself not to screw up, I inevitably did.
The first at Edzell is a very straightforward hole where par should be a given. I played my approach to the front of the green and had mentally marked myself down for a four. My memories of the next couple of minutes are hazy. All I can recall is that, on the walk to the next tee, my playing partner asked what I’d taken and I replied, “six?”
Still feeling shell-shocked I then hit a horrible slice off the next tee and racked up another double bogey. I was four-over through two. Front nineitis had me in its clutches once again. I leaked four more shots over the next seven and was out in a risible 44.
My playing partners (who weren’t aware I’m suffering from front nineitis) must have thought I was destined to battle Joe 90 all the way in. But I knew things would be fine as we turned for home. Although the wind whipped up and the back nine at Edzell is generally considered to be tougher than the front, I knuckled down and came home in one-under-par to be round in 78. Ridiculous.
Scott made a good suggestion on the way home. He reckons I should find a course close to Newmachar (venue for next week’s meeting) and go out to play nine holes there before teeing it up in the competition. Just to get the rubbish out of my system.
It might work. More likely I’ll just be tired by the time I reach the 10th tee and will come down with an acute case of back nineitis. Damn this game.