In Defence of the High Handicapper

Relaxing in the bar after a tough, but profitable, first round

I’m standing on the first tee at the Rolls of Monmouth. I’m preparing to hit the first shot of the annual equivalent of the ‘jolly boys’ outing’.
(This is the end of winter bash we use to reward ourselves for those dark, dingy, tough, early Saturday morning rounds. Keith saves our £2.50 a week for this reward. The Rolls of Monmouth is the hidden secret that everyone in South Wales knows about. It’s the end of year treat, the equivalent of Christmas, birthday and anniversary all rolled into one. The Rolls in fantastic. Most courses in South Wales, with the exception of Celtic Manor are claustrophobic. There is the valleys feeling of crampdness. Perhaps it’s to do with the shape of the valleys. Whatever the reason there is limited space and tees and greens are pushed back to the edges of the courses. With this comes the feeling of not being able to swing properly. The Rolls has space, lots of space, too much space. It’s nerve racking. It’s almost agoraphobic to a Welsh valley’s golfer like me – but in a nice way. I remember the same feeling as a small child going to Porthcawl for a week’s holiday (the caravan park, not the golf course) and was amazed at the size of the beaches and the fresh air.)

An aside:
Advice given to high handicapper – “Learning to play golf is a steep learning curve”.
Not really. The concept of a learning curve to me implies a steady climb getting better each month until you reach some sort of peak. This, as any high handicapper will tell you, is absolute nonsense. Learning to play golf well is more like a cross section of Lance Armstrong’s route in the tour de France. There are a selection of highs (consistent shots, rounds without air shots, occasional pars) followed by horrendous lows (hacking along a fairway as if you’re tacking into the wind, 4 putting, playing 5 off the tee). It’s far from a smooth curve.

So, on the tee, as a high handicap it’s all abuse;
“Look at this swing.”
“21! he’s off 21. God his practice swing looks like it’s off scratch.”
“He’s wearing a hat. Shouldn’t it be a sombrero?”
“El bandito.”
My bottom is twitching like a trout’s mouth as I try to smile, without looking too confident, or too put off. Unfortunately I then hit a great drive straight up the middle.
“Cut him.”
“I played with the handicap sec once and hit a shot like that and by the ninth I was cut 3 shots. Bandit.”
I sheepishly make my way back to my bag and begin my round amidst mumblings and grumblings.
High handicappers get far too much grief. It’s like Learner drivers – regular drivers forget they had  to learn once. The worst offenders are the middle handicappers. You may have to give them ½ a shot a hole, but for that privilege you get grief if you hit a tee shot straight, abuse for hitting an approach shot on the green and practical decapitation for holing any putt over 6 feet. The air shots, miscues and slices are conveniently ignored. Low handicappers seem to be less bothered.
Still, I have a fantastic morning – get cut too shots for scoring 37 points in the morning, play like a polar bear wearing boxing gloves that are too big for him in the afternoon and everyone goes away happy… roll on next year.

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