These are a few of my favourite things: Fergus Bisset talks through the 100 things he loves most about the golf, from the links at dawn to a freshly opened packet of tees.
Golf is undoubtedly challenging and, yes, at times it can be incredibly frustrating. But it’s also hugely rewarding and there are a plethora of reasons to love our great and historic game. So many elements of the sport give pleasure and even the smallest thing can fill the golfer with pure enjoyment and have them yearning for more.
The reasons why each of us cherishes golf are, of course, highly personal and this list merely demonstrates the 100 greatest things about the game in my eyes.
I’ve tried to cover as many facets of the sport as possible, from playing to watching, from the build-up to the aftermath.
Hopefully most of the choices will strike a chord and provide a little reminder why you became (and hopefully remain) so smitten with this, the paragon of all sports.
So, in no particular order:
Driving from the 1st tee at St Andrews
The Old Course at St Andrews is like Mecca for any golf lover. The feeling of standing on the hallowed turf in front of the R&A clubhouse, preparing to follow in the footsteps of every golfing legend ever to swing a club is hard to beat. As you spank one down towards the Swilken Bridge you’ll simply think, “This is it!”
A well-stocked pro-shop
The words sweet, shop and child spring to mind. Rows of shiny irons, displays featuring the latest drivers, a wall of gleaming shoes, rack upon rack of hats, tees, towels and endless packets of perfectly stacked golf balls. The very thought will have golf lovers salivating.
In a brimming pro-shop you can become lost in a hypothetical world where your game is flawless and tweaking your equipment will be merely the icing on the cake.
Taking a day off work to play golf
A bad day on the golf course surely tops any day spent in the office. So, escaping from work in the middle of the week for day’s golf is one of the finest treats golfers can grant themselves. Whether you’re knocking the flags out or just enjoying the walk, you’ll spend the entire day feeling wonderfully smug as you consider your colleagues slaving away back at the ranch.
A boys’ golf trip
The pinnacle of any golfer’s year is the annual trip away with the boys. For a few days, you can forget the trials and tribulations of normal life and immerse yourself fully in the game you love. For a little while nothing matters but playing golf and enjoying time with friends.
It gives a brief glimpse of the incredible life of a touring professional – Just substitute blobs for birdies and curry and lager for physio treatments and salads.
A links course at dusk or dawn
For many this is the ultimate playing scenario – the tee is empty, the slightest hint of a breeze carries the call of a skylark and the coconut smell of gorse as the sun’s first, or last, rays gently warm your back. Nobody in front or behind, you play round with a sense of total serenity and relaxation. This is golf as it should be: natural, uncomplicated and unhurried.
Winning a tournament and picking up a trophy
It’s true that at a club level, golf should be about enjoyment. But even the most uncompetitive among us would struggle to deny, it’s more enjoyable when you win. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of completing an excellent round, handing in your card and finding nobody has managed better on the day.
Next time you attend a prizegiving, take a look at those heading up to collect a trophy. They’ll be unable to conceal a proud smile as their names are called out. For that moment, all the money spent and the hours put in seem entirely justified.
Beating your closest “golfing rival”
Everyone has a golfing nemesis – someone you just really want to beat. It could be a friend or a club adversary who gets your back up.
It’s satisfying to beat your rival when you’re playing well but, perhaps, even more enjoyable to grind out a victory when you’re both struggling. Although your handicap has gone up, you still have bragging rights in the clubhouse. What? It’s not petty, or childish.
Battling the elements and winning
Brits love a good triumph over adversity. Luckily, British golfers are given the opportunity to produce one on an almost weekly basis. The ever-changing weather across our isles means regular players must frequently battle the wind, rain and cold.
Returning a good score when the conditions are against you is an indication, not only of playing prowess but also of mental fortitude and physical resilience. It must rank amongst the most impressive things a club golfer can achieve.
Finding your ball when you’ve just about given up hope
All golfers will know that mixed feeling of hope and dread as you walk towards the patch of rough you think your tee shot came down in. The hope subsides and the dread takes over as the search intensifies. Full-blown panic has almost set in when, after 4 minutes and 45 seconds, you finally locate your ball. The sense of relief is immense.
Taking a day off and watching an entire day’s coverage of The Open
For some, watching golf on the telly will never beat playing, no matter what event is on. But, for the armchair golf fan, there’s nothing quite like an entire day’s coverage from the year’s most exciting Major.
Before relaxing be sure to have at least one club and a couple of balls to hand for regular carpet chipping and putting.
Attending a Ryder Cup, and Europe winning
The Ryder Cup is unquestionably the most exciting spectator event in golf and those lucky enough to see one live will enjoy a viewing experience unlike anything else in our sport. There’s an amazing sense of camaraderie amongst the fans as they relay information about how matches are going and they share the sense of anticipation and nervousness.
You’ll feel all this no matter which side triumphs but, if it’s Europe, you also get to join in the epic celebrations that follow.
Visiting the British Golf Museum
Those interested in golf’s long and distinguished history will be fascinated by the British Golf Museum in St Andrews. There’s a wealth of information on the sport from its origins up to the modern game.
Meeting up with old friends for a game
Golf is a highly sociable sport and there’s no better way to catch up with old buddies than by spending four hours with them around a golf course. Just as long as they don’t beat you.
Discovering “the secret” to your game
Finding “the secret” to your game is like chasing the dragon. You’ll frequently think you have it and the blissful moments that follow are hugely enjoyable. Unfortunately you do then have to suffer the inevitable comedown.
Your round is complete and you can do no more, but some of your friends are still out there battling. As you sip on your ice-cold beer you look down the 18th to see one of them find the greenside bunker… shame.
A drive that comes right out of the screws
A drive that comes belting out of the sweet-spot and soars straight and long down the fairway gives, arguably, the greatest satisfaction in golf. For a short moment you are a king among men.
Holing a putt on the 18th green to save your handicap
It’s one of those rounds when things haven’t gone your way but you’ve dug deep to have a chance of making buffer. You stand over a 10-foot putt on the final hole that will determine you mood for the rest of the day. As it rolls into the cup, it feels like you’ve just won the Open Championship.
Golfing perfection – you simply can’t do better than this on a single hole. It’s something every golfer wants to achieve at least once by the end of their playing career.
Securing the winning point in a team event
Golf is predominantly an individual sport but, from club level to the Ryder Cup, there are team events to get involved in. Winning a match in one of these is fantastic but, if it’s crucial for your team success as well, the resulting back-slapping is greatly increased. See Jamie Donaldson at Gleneagles.
Beating someone who has a much lower handicap
Punching above your weight and scoring a knockout: To beat someone with a far lower handicap in a gross competition is a massive confidence booster.
Producing the required shot – a fade, draw, punch etc…
You see what is demanded of you and you know only a particular type of shot will deliver the goods. You set up for it, you swing, you produce it and then enjoy a little internal celebration.
Buying a new driver
It’s big, it’s shiny and it’s going to give you an extra 20 yards. There’s no single piece of equipment that holds more expectation or potential than a brand-new driver.
Driving a par 4
Few things will give you more kudos in the clubhouse than driving a par 4. Long-time members will stop you to ask incredulously, “Is it true that you knocked it on the 5th?” “Indeed it is. I am very good.”
The tented village at The Open
Much like the well-stocked pro-shop, the tented village is heaven for the materialistic golfer. They can peruse everything from books and paintings, to clothing and holiday destinations.
A sprawling, empty putting green
You’ve half an hour to spare, a new sleeve of balls and a freshly cut, untouched putting green to forge out onto: pure practice pleasure.
Beating your handicap and getting cut
Every amateur golfer should be aiming to reduce his or her handicap. Nothing gives personal satisfaction like seeing a lower number beside your name on the notice board.
Holing a monster putt or chipping in
It just feels like the golfing gods have smiled on you. It’s a welcome bonus and could make all the difference when the final scores are tallied.
Being at The Open to see the winning putt holed
The atmosphere is electric as throngs of spectators encircle the final green to watch the culmination of golf’s greatest championship.
Tapping in for birdie
The world seems a better place when you’re nudging the ball into the cup to record a red figure.
The perfectly executed chip – Flop shot from a tight lie, the chip and run etc…
The tricky chip strikes fear into the hearts of many amateurs. When you pull one off as planned, you briefly feel like you may just be able to play this game.
Pristine new grips on clean irons
The firm yet tacky feel of a brand-new grip inspires huge confidence. Couple that with a gleaming blade and you feel unbeatable.
Finding an old putter you remember you love
Scouring the garage for a box of Rawlplugs you come across a wand you once wielded like a wizard of the greens. You can’t remember why it ever left the bag and you vow there and then, it never will again.
A productive lesson
You go with a problem but leave with a solution and can’t wait for the Saturday Medal as a result. Process is repeated weekly.
The Open at St Andrews
The greatest tournament in golf, at the home of golf, no more needs to be said.
Heading to the practice ground with a bag full of balls and a plan
Displaying the unerring optimism of the British amateur, you walk to the range certain that, in an hour’s time, you’ll be a better golfer.
Approaching a blind green to see your ball on the dance floor
When you’ve struck a shot towards the target over a blind summit, the feeling of elation when you crest the hill to see your ball sitting proudly on the green is like reaching the summit of Everest.
Bacon rolls and coffee before a round
Like the ringing of a bell made Pavlov’s dogs salivate, the taste of bacon and coffee causes golfers to unconsciously make a Vardon grip.
Knowing you have a game booked for the weekend
When your working week reaches a nadir sometime around 10am on Wednesday, the knowledge you’ll be hitting the links on Saturday might just stop you handing in your notice.
Your first game of the season
You’ve found the clubs under the stairs, dusted off the cobwebs and a new golfing year is underway. Could this be the season you finally crack it?
The first game of the year played in short sleeves
For those golfers who’ve battled on through the winter months, the first game of the year in short sleeves is like finally reaching the light at the end of the tunnel.
Bouncing back with a birdie
It’s something the pros do on a regular basis but the average amateur is more likely to follow a disaster with a catastrophe. A bit of “bouncebackability” is great for morale.
Looking for your opponent’s ball in the cabbage, knowing you’re in the middle of the fairway
We all enjoy a spot of Schadenfreude. Using phrases like, “It’s pretty thick isn’t it,” and “Surely it didn’t get this far,” will further improve the experience.
Getting a dangerous drive away down the middle
Taking aim at a narrow ribbon of fairway threading between countless hazards, you say a brief prayer to Old Tom Morris. The feeling of disbelieving elation as you see your ball bounding down the strip is hard to match.
A pitch that checks on the second bounce
This is the preserve of the properly good golfer and if you can do it consistently you must be one. If you do it once in a while? Well, just enjoy it.
Birdying the last
No matter how bad the rest of the round has been, a birdie on the closing hole will make that post-round pint taste just a little sweeter.
Winning a longest drive or nearest the pin comp
If you can’t go up to collect the trophy for winning score then this is the next best thing. It shows you’ve got the talent in there somewhere, doesn’t it?
Playing a hole strategically and reaping the rewards
You’ve studied the course planner and have a firm idea of how you’re going to tackle this tricky hole. You play safely from the tee, lay up to the correct spot then get up-and-down – that’s golf.
Playing every Open course in the UK
Like a mountaineer climbing every Munro or a jogger running the London marathon, completing rounds at each of the 14 courses to have hosted golf’s greatest championship is a badge of honour for the true aficionado of our great game.
The Sunday roll-up
Highly sociable, yet fiercely competitive, the club roll-up is where you pit yourself against your closest golfing friends and rivals – Choice banter and great needle.
Beating a course that has previously beaten you
“I am a very good golfer, conqueror of my local municipal and loyal servant of the utility club and draw-bias driver. I will have my vengeance in this round or the next.”
Watching the last day of The Open at your club
A few pints with like-minded golf lovers as you enjoy five hours of coverage from the great championship on the club’s big screen. There can’t be many better ways to spend an afternoon.
The Open Arms
Their regularity and cheering reassurance makes outposts of the Open Arms an integral part of any adult Open viewing experience.
A new sleeve of balls, nicely marked up
These little white missiles, each now with a smiley face, have such potential. They could go on to produce a hole-in-one or a course record… Or, they might all end up lost in the woods.
Taking a pencil bag on a perfect summer’s day
Playing a round unburdened by the trappings of the modern game is a cleansing experience.
Playing off the championship tees
It’s not something you’d want to do every round but, to tackle a course at its most challenging can be both eye-opening and rewarding.
The night before playing 36 holes
Your clubs and shoes are cleaned, your equipment laid out and ready to go, you feel like a nine-year-old on Christmas Eve.
Greg Norman can do it and, on this occasion at least, so can you.
A night out after a golf day when you’ve won the money
OK, you might have to stand a couple of rounds of drinks, but you’ll enjoy an entire evening of bragging rights.
Driving through the gates of a course you’re about to play for the first time
This could be the greatest course you ever play; this could be the finest round of your life. It could…
Receiving a phone-call from an old pal inviting you for a game
It’s like winning on Premium Bonds: somewhat out of the blue, but very welcome.
A power shower in the clubhouse after a long, hard round
Your moisture wicking shirt has been wicking overtime and you’ve racked up an impressive 23 points. How good it is to just wash it all away.
A Brit winning a Major
It hadn’t happened for a while until Graeme McDowell stepped up at Pebble Beach in 2010, but his victory reminded the British golf viewing public just how exciting it is to watch one of their own claim one of the game’s biggest prizes. Since then Darren Clarke, Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy have turned a famine into a feast.
Not losing a ball in a round
Even if you haven’t returned a brilliant score, at least it’s been economical.
A perfect punch shot into the wind
One of golf’s most challenging shots, it shows you do in fact have some control over your ball.
Carrying a half-set
It’s always great to carry your clubs and this way you won’t have to spend the next morning at the chiropractor.
Out-driving your playing partners
“What, that’s your ball? So, that must be mine up there? Goodness I didn’t think I’d struck it that well!”
Ending the season with a lower handicap than you started with
It must have been a good year.
A perfectly revetted bunker
Like a tidy desk or newly cleaned car, it’s aesthetically highly satisfying.
Winning money on a golf tournament – betting
Your hard-earned knowledge of the sport is finally paying dividends.
Practice days at pro events, watching top pros up close
It’s amazing to get a clear view of just how good these guys are. The atmosphere is relaxed as the best exponents of our game display every shot in the book.
Playing a men’s four-day open
It’s great competition, there’s real camaraderie between the participants and there’s just so much golf to be played.
Being able to advise on the rules
You understand the game, people respect your opinion and you can feel smug knowing something somebody else doesn’t.
Getting four sets of clubs in the boot of an ordinary car
Packing a car is a proper macho challenge. Doing it well, particularly when your mission is golf, shows you are a real man.
The feel of a fresh new cabretta leather glove
Sometimes it’s nice to slip into something a little more comfortable. A new leather glove inspires confidence throughout your game.
A clean pair of golf shoes
You wouldn’t see Luke Donald stepping out on to the links with his brogues caked in mud now would you?
Getting a great tip
Whether it’s from a pro or just a playing partner, you feel like you’ve been let in on a well-kept secret.
Being first off
Knowing there’s nobody to hold you up and the round will be played at your pace is a massive boost.
Reading a great golf book
History, instruction, or opinion, there’s so much to learn about this great game.
Playing a Seve-like recovery shot
You might pull it off only once every 10 times but when you execute the high tariff recovery shot, your playing partners will worship you as a god.
A sausage sandwich at the halfway hut
Why don’t more courses have halfway huts? A rejuvenating sausage sandwich keeps the engine running until you reach the sanctuary of the clubhouse.
Keeping a six of your card
This shows a remarkable level of consistent, solid play. You do have to avoid sevens and eights as well mind you.
Playing with a professional
It’s great to see first hand, just how the game should be played.
Not suffering a blob in a Stableford
You’ve got round 18-holes without suffering a complete meltdown at any point. Good skills.
Getting round in under 3 hours
A swift round means you can do something else with your day, go out for a few more holes or just spend a little longer in the bar.
A green framed by towering trees
It looks great and it provides a brilliant natural boundary to the target area.
The traditional golf club carvery
“Beef, pork or chicken sir?” “I’ll have a little of each I think.” After a traditional golf club carvery you won’t need to eat again for days.
Seeing a top-pro have a disaster
More Schadenfreude, it’s comforting to know it can happen to anyone.
Watching old matches on Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf
A spot of golfing nostalgia in the company of Gene Sarazen, Henry Cotton, Arnold Palmer et al.
Knowing a youngster who goes on to make it in the big-time
If you can’t get there yourself, doing it vicariously is the next best thing.
Putting on the carpet at home
It’s surely the place where you produce your purest strokes.
Watching The Masters on TV
The azaleas, the towering pines and the lightning-fast greens, The Masters heralds the start of the golfing season and provides a visual feast for the armchair fan.
Watching the European Tour leaderboard at work
You should be writing that report, instead you’re tracking the progress of Robert Rock in the Italian Open.
Stripes on a newly mown fairway
The course has been recently prepared and is there for the taking.
A new pack of white wooden tees
Cut golf open and, at its very core, you’ll find a fresh packet of white wooden tees.
Seeing your clubs coming around the carousel at the airport
You’re on holiday, you’re clearly going to play golf and your clubs are there. Good on all fronts.
Emptying the rubbish from your golf bag
An important cathartic process to remove all reminders of previous golfing disasters.
Playing golf with your father or mother
There are few sports that span the generations like golf. Having a knock with your old man or dear old mum is a great chance to bond, and to get one over on them.
Playing golf with your daughter or son
Someone produces a hip-flask when you’re having a bad day
Golf and alcohol enjoy a symbiotic relationship. For the struggling golfer, the healing powers of hard liquor are undeniable.
Odd golf drinks
Where else but a golf club would you realistically order a Russian Gunner or a Whisky-Mac? Then of course there’s Kummel…