It was Mark Twain who warned that golf was “a good walk spoiled”. Like many thousands in the UK and Ireland and many millions more around the world, I ignored that portentous pronouncement today and played in my club’s main weekly golf competition. Today, it was day one of the Spring Medal.
At the appointed time, 13:32, I joined my playing partners on the first tee and embarked on the four hour journey to navigate the magnificent links of Southport and Ainsdale Golf Club. I am biased as a very proud member so don’t take my view alone – my club is generally regarded to be one of the finest courses in the area and in the country. We are blessed with a prize piece of land, great green staff, impassioned members and a heritage in the game that any club would be proud of, including twice hosting the Ryder Cup in the 1930s. Today, like every day I tee it up at S&A (as it’s known locally), it was a privilege to be there, regardless of the quality of my play.
I have been playing golf since I was 11 – first hitting a ball around the local school field with one club – aiming at big trees as imaginary flags and the distance between the football goals posts as the mind’s eye championship greens. ‘This putt to win The Open’, as the light fades in the summer sky.
Like so many others, I graduated to the local municipal course, gradually increasing the quality of my ball striking, equipment and surroundings. Twenty five years later I am back playing regular golf (three or four times a week, sometimes more) just a few minutes from our front door on a course to die for – it could not be more perfect. Which brings me to today’s game – with a bump.
A strange affair. Struck the ball well; hit some great shots; but scored very, very poorly. Tough to take but take it I must, along with the 0.1 increase in my handicap to 7.2! That is something golf teaches you, amongst many other things. Just like all sports, it’s not how, it’s how many. There are no pictures on the scorecard. You end the match with a score – like it or not, and today, I did not. But golf is such a wonderful metaphor for life and today was a day to put down to experience.
You don’t always get what you deserve. The run of the ball or the rub of the green doesn’t always go your way. But in the end, the most important thing is that you enjoy it; you show the game and your fellow players the respect they deserve and you make sure that you come back again for more.
I have a match on Monday afternoon – my first game in the club’s main individual matchplay event of the year – the club’s FA Cup. After today’s disappointment, my mind turns quickly to Monday and the fitting setting for a Ryder Cup-style battle with one of my fellow members. A win on Monday and today will be a distant memory. But win or lose on Monday, I will keep coming back; back to this very special place I am now apart of and it apart of me.
I do not want to criticise the great Mark Twain, but in matters of golf I prefer the musing of the twice-Champion Golfer of the year, Greg Norman, when he said: “Happiness is a long walk with a putter.” Today, the putter was not always my friend but it was my companion on the best walk one can make.