“Yes my handicap is 24. My certificate? This is my certificate.”
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 our end of the year ‘winter bash’. We use this as the motivation for those dark, dingy, tough, early Saturday morning rounds. Pensioner Dave 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 valley feeling of crampedness. Perhaps it’s to do with the shape of the valleys. Whatever the reason there is limited space as tees and greens are pushed back to the edges and corners of the course. It feels like having a full sized snooker table in your one bed flat. There’s the feeling of not being able to swing properly, as if your hands will be out of bounds on your backswing.
The Rolls of Monmouth has space. The Rolls of Monmouth has lots and lots of space. The Rolls of Monmouth has far too much space. Even the name has too much space. It’s nerve racking. It’s almost agoraphobic to a Welsh valleys 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.)
I digress. On the tee at the spacious Rolls of Monmouth I prepare to tee off. 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?”
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.
“I played with the handicap sec once and hit a shot like that off the first and by the ninth I was cut three 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. As a high handicapper you may have to give them half a shot a hole, but for that privilege you get grief if you hit a tee shot straight. You get abuse for hitting an approach shot on the green and practical decapitation for holing any putt over six feet. The air shots, miscues and slices are conveniently ignored. Low handicappers seem to be less bothered and more understanding. I wonder why? Generally, they’ve played longer and seen everything – seen 28 handicappers score eagles and seen scratch handicapper miss nine inch putts.
Still, I have a fantastic morning – get cut two shots for scoring thirty-seven points in the morning, In the afternoon I play like a polar bear wearing boxing gloves that are too big for him.
We convene to the bar as it starts to get dark and talk, and tease and exaggerate and everyone goes away happy… roll on next year.