Slow Play – 2 Thoughts

slow-play

Slow Play is not a recent phenomenon. In an essay from 1934 on ‘The People in Front’ –you know who you are – Bernard Darwin describes them …….

“They waggle for hours; they stroll rather than walk; they dive into their monstrous bags for the right club, and then it is the wrong number, but they are not sorry that we have been troubled. Their putting is a kind of funereal ping-pong. We could forgive them all this tricks, from which we are conspicuously free, if it were not for the absurd punctilio with which they observe the rules. They will insist on waiting for the people in front when it must be palpable even to their intellects that the best shot they ever hit in their lives would  be fifty yards short.”

The final word on slow play.. a sign that will…encourage people to play quicker…

signslowplay

 

School Reunion – I’m Sorry I Can’t Be With You Tonight…

reunion

….. but I’m afraid I’ve still got the teeniest, tiniest part of self-esteem and self-respect left. I’ve also realised, albeit belatedly, that I have limited time left on this planet. No, no I’m not terminally ill or anything – just getting older, practically by the minute.

But a reunion – really? I know that, for some people, it’s fun to see what’s happened to people they knew forty years ago. Some people love to listen to the heartaches and the tears, the joy of children brought into the world and sadly those who didn’t make it. They love to compare where you go on holiday, why you left your last job, how you ended up in Guantanamo Bay on a misunderstanding. But honestly – it’s not for me. I’m fifty-nine years old now and if there’s one thing life has taught me in those fifty-nine years is that I do not want to be stranded like some Robinson Crusoe / Victor Meldrew character on an island for several hours (which seems like several lifetimes) with people I have chosen, yes chosen, not to contact for a very, very good reason, for two thirds of my life. I really, really don’t need to be shown photos or videos of holidays, wives, husbands, cleaners, gardeners, children, homes, second homes, holiday homes, ‘the nice yurt we spent three months in when we ‘found ourselves’ in Turkmenistan’, cars, caravans, mid-life crisis motor bikes, pot-bellied pigs, cats or dogs – on the latest ipad, iphone 7 or Huawei P9 (Max).

I’m too old and too stubborn to willingly submit to that “hello, you haven’t changed at all” handshake. The thought of staring at someone trying desperately to think of an answer to an interrogation on the values of your life that begins with questions such as “So, what do you do now?”, “Are you married?”, “How did you find the food in prison?”,”Didn’t you used to be Byron Kalies?” or “Shit, what happened to your hair?” feels me with fifty shades of dismay.

I would like to say I’m too busy. I would like to say that I’m busy that evening on a bender with Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, Jack Nicholson and Woody Allen drinking, doing drugs and chasing women in a downtown bar in Port Talbot. I would like to say that, but that couldn’t possibly be true – I’m not allowed back in Port Talbot after the incident involving Peter O’Toole, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in the summer of 1986.

No, I’ll be at home – watching Coronation Street with the best company I could ever imagine – myself. Yes, you were right all along – “He was an egotistical, self-centred bastard forty years ago and he’s an egotistical self-centred bastard today.”

To be completely honest I do have one regret. I would have happily turned up if I could be assured that you are all fatter, more miserable, unluckier and poorer than me. If it could be guaranteed that at least half of you have only been released from prison for the day, and the rest of you have had to borrow the money for bus fare from your current probation officer. Alas, I know that it would be practically impossible for any of you to be on a lower social standing than myself.  My dream was to be a writer. I am a prolific writer who last book sold fewer copies than Linda Wright’s ‘Toilet Paper Origami’ and Brugemmeier, Cioc and Zeller’s seminal work ,’How Green Were the Nazi’s’ combined.

I’m sure I have some hilarious stories and happy memories of school somewhere. There is a place deep, deep in my subconscious where  memories exist of midnight feasts, Defence against the Dark Arts lessons, Olly asking for ‘more’ and jolly pranks throwing first years off the roof. However, I’m struggling desperately to remember the difference between Pontllanfraith Grammar Technical School, Greyfriars and Hogwarts. I do remember all the boys at school being taller than me, more handsome than me and having better haircuts than me. I also remember every one of the girls scaring the shit out of me. I assume none of that has changed. I certainly haven’t.

So it is with great reluctance that I really, truly, deeply, honestly, genuinely and sincerely can’t be arsed to travel the three and a quarter miles from my house to the pub to wallow in glorious memories of dorm raids, tuck shops, six of the best, quidditch and picking up the ball, running with it and inventing the game of rugby. Honestly, I remember practically nothing of my time at school. I remember vaguely there being teachers, walls, windows, bells ringing, floors, shoes, people with heads, chairs, unhappiness and frustration. Nowadays at the best of times I have a memory like a … oh you know, what do you call it. I barely remember my cat’s name now so the thought of trying to guess, give up, ask and then remember the names of people from four fifths of a century ago just seems like too much bloody hard work. I don’t do hard work anymore.

All the best and I do hope you have fantastic evening on this very important n (insert number here) th year of some memorable event. I won’t be able to make it this year, and probably next year, and quite possibly the year after, and so on and so on. However, please feel free to contact me for the oak anniversary.

Grumpily yours

Byron

Literary Agent – Worst Job in the World?

worst-jobs

Worst Job than a Literary Agent?

I wouldn’t be a literary agent if my life depended on it. Could you image a more unpleasant job? Well, maybe a few (like the illustration above), but really. It must be like being a parent to a needy, whinny child who needs constant reassurance, love and patting on the head – without any of the good bits. Even before that stage you would have to wade through a torrent of needy, whinny or arrogant, presumptuous pitches. It’s this that must make it so, so, so bad. If you ever had any modicum of compassion to begin with you couldn’t possibly have any left at the end. Could you?  How can you retain any sense of humour? Any degree of patience? Any respect for humanity? You can’t. The evidence is below in a list of the ‘best’ elements of pitches kept by my friend and Welsh literary agent, Chrissy Bach  – enjoy.

(with massive acknowledgements to ‘Slushpile hell’).

‘This sublime submission will leave you in an uncontrolled and irreversible state of ‘wow’’.

‘My attached 2000 word novel will make you laugh, make you cry, make you stand up and cheer. It will help raise the bar in human literary prose.’

‘I happen to have pen-ed a witty, hilarious book.’

‘Attached is, quite possibly, the funniest book known to humanity. After reading it I am convinced you will call me up and offer me a contract. I await your call.’

‘I want you as my agent. The book is ready. The writing is final. I do not want a word changed. It is a very good, well-written book.’

‘I guess my love of writing started in the second grade when Miss Harris gave me a large red tick on my composition on ‘What I did in the holidays’. I can still remember that composition. I wrote about the two weeks I spent in Porthcawl…’

‘You’re my last hope. I have sent this to many, many other agents without a positive reply. I’m counting on you.’

‘A quick question before I send my pitch. How many words are there in a novel?’  

‘My 432,000 word novel may seem to start a little slowly, but after the first nine of so chapters the pace changes dramatically.’

‘My dream agent Andrew Wylie, is not taking on ‘new’ writers, so I’m querying you.’

‘Attached is my synopsis and first four chapters. If I don’t hear from you by the end of the day I will give you a call. I have your home number.’

Poker Players Say The Funniest Things

GodsPlayPoker

“In a game of poker, I can put players’ souls in my pocket.” – Beausourire

“Poker reveals to the frank observer something else of import—it will teach him about his own nature. Many bad players do not improve because they cannot bear self-knowledge.” – David Mamet

“In the absence of any mathematical explanation, one thing is for certain; if you engage in games of chance long enough, the experience is bound to affect the way you see God. Successfully draw to an inside straight three hands in a row, and you’ve got to be blessed. But if you’re the person drawn out on, the one whose trip aces just got snapped for the third time, you will go home feeling cursed. ” – Andy Bellin

“Poker’s a day to learn and a lifetime to master.” – Robert Williamson III

 “Poker is a microcosm of all we admire and disdain about capitalism and democracy. It can be rough-hewn or polished, warm or cold, charitable and caring, or hard and impersonal, fickle and elusive, but ultimately it is fair, and right, and just.” – Lou Kreiger

 “In life’s poker game, the optimist sees the pessimist’s night and raises him the sunrise.” – Robert Brault

“Cards are war, in disguise of a sport.” – Charles Lamb

“No matter how much you may want to think of Holdém as a card game played by people, in many respects it is even more valid to think of it as a game about people that happens to be played with cards.” – Phil Hellmuth

“I believe in poker the way I believe in the American Dream. Poker is good for you. It enriches the soul, sharpens the intellect, heals the spirit, and – when played well, nourishes the wallet.” – Lou Kreiger

 

Golfers Say The Funniest Things

pretentiousgolf

“In no other sport does the nature of the contest allow the players to be so free of jealousy and enmity, so willing to help and support each other and be so sincere in their acceptance of each other’s success.– Jack Nicklaus

“Golf is a game, not a sport” – Larry Ramirez

“To find a man’s true character, play golf with him.”- PG Wodehouse

“Golf has made me and shaped me into the person I am here today.” – Tiger Woods

“Golf is a spiritual game. It’s like Zen. You have to let your mind take over.” – Amy Alcott

“The main idea in golf as in life, I suppose is to learn to accept what cannot be altered and to keep on doing one’s own reasoned and resolute best whether the prospect be bleak or rosy.” – Bobby Jones

“Eighteen holes of match or medal play will teach you more about your foe than will 18 years of dealing with him across a desk” – Grantland Rice

“Yes, I did talk to my players, but my vice captains were very instrumental in making decisions.” – Tom Watson

“What other people find in poetry or art museums l, I find in the flight of a good drive.” – Arnold Palmer

The Picture Non-Golfers Have Of Golfers

old_time_golf

The picture most non-golfers have of golf is odd.

They believe that golf is a Victorian game of etiquette, politeness, civility and manners;
“After you.”
“No after you. Please. You go if you’re ready.”
“Well only if you’re sure.”
“Oh I insist.”
“Charmed I’m sure.”

They believe that golfers are the most polite people in the world. They are incredibly patient and especially helpful to newcomers. Golfers will  spend an entire round standing behind a new 28 (with a star) handicapper watching closely to determine which side of the fairway to begin the search. We’ll do this without a thought of resentment.

They believe that golf is an unusual game where winning isn’t everything. It’s a game where ,they have read, someone gave up the prize of a new car in order to retain their amateur status. They believe all golfers would do this. It’s a game where players call fouls on themselves. It’s the only game where you form a queue, wait your turn and smile.

This is not entirely true 100% of the time.

Some golfers are human. Some cheat – yes you heard it here first. Some golfers lie, complain, moan, grumble, curse and fight. They have their own agendas and will look to get away with things if they can.

I feel guilty now. I feel like the child in school who told you there was no father Christmas and your parents were, basically, lying to you. I’m sorry.

Golf is a game. Like all games it’s a test of character and there will be times when you will be tested. I know that but please.. some sort of reality check. If golf is played by such a wonderful divine bunch of angels why are there so many rules?

I do love the game but can’t really buy in to this sacramental vision of it though, as you may have gathered. People who play golf are frequently humans and as such are a bit like us – they have that fatal flaw – they are human. Golf has far fewer problems than many other sports – this is true. The amount of cheating and bad behaviour that goes on in golf is infinitely less than most other sports.

I have played with people who cheat – and heard about golfers who cheat. So, why are there less cheats at golf than at football?

I don’t believe it’s because it’s generally played by people with more money.
I don’t feel it’s because it is still an elitist sport in many places.
I think it makes a difference that it is a game that can be by people of all ages and abilities.
I also think that the way people are introduced to the game helps a great deal;
The game of football tends to be picked up as a child as you grow up playing against peers. The values are the values of your group – in most cases groups define their own rules, their own standards. As a child playing football it was acceptable, even expected, to shout and argue for throw ins, free kicks etc.. It’s what you do. In our version of football tough tackling was the norm and sending off’s were non existent.
In golf people tend to be taught one at a time. They are indoctrinated into the game through the mores and values of the group. Generally a group of established golfers who were inevitably introduced individually by a group of similar individuals. The values are handed down and generally these standards involve no cheating. Added to this the stigma of being caught cheating can be incredibly devastating. But hey let’s not be silly about it, Jack;

“In no other sport does the nature of the contest allow the players to be so free of jealousy and enmity, so willing to help and support each other and be so sincere in their acceptance of each other’s success.” – Golf and Life – Jack Nicklaus

 

 

Winter Golf – Mental As Anything

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“90 % of the game is all mental – the other half is physical” – Yogi Beera

Yogi attempting to explain his philosophy to a group of non-cerebral golfers

You’re on the green at the uphill par 5 514 yard 3rd at West Mon Golf Club (the highest golf club in Great Britain). It’s blowing a gale and there’s that curious West Mon weather which is a mix of wind, rain, hail and snow. It’s like an angry, but dexterous, polar bear throwing hard rice pudding at you. It stings. You’ve hit the best driver, 3 wood, 3 wood, 3 wood and you’ve just 3 putted from 8 feet. You look at your frozen golf partners and silently ask “Why do we do it?”. They silently shrug back at you and you move to the next tee.

The mental side of Winter Golf is pretty much the same as Summer golf except that it’s magnified. It’s tough.The main problem, for me at least, seems to be an accelerated lack of confidence, and a short term memory. There’s also a concept called private logic;
The first day of Winter golf feels like you’ve never seen a golf club in your life before. Where a week ago( at least in your head) you’d hit an 8 iron to the centre of the green today you’re taking a 6 iron and still leaving it short. The logical part of your brain is saying – “hit a 5 next time. It’s obviously wetter – no run on the ball, colder air, bad lie, uphill ” yet the illogical (private logic) part of your brain would remember the 1 occasion you actually hit the green with an 8 iron and conveniently forget the dozens of times it fell short. It would argue that a 5 iron would be ridiculous and that your playing partners were all hitting 7s or 8s (irrespective of the fact that they were better golfers and still leaving their shots short).

Your mind is composed on 2 parts; logic and private logic. The logic part is well… logical. The private logic element taps in to all your private fears, insecurities, doubts.

For instance, setting aside the shot selection angle for a minute and turning to the condition of the course. Winter golf conditions vary considerably. Some days it’s frosty, the next day it’s raining – the same drive can go 290 yards with a good bounce and a following wind one day – then sink into the soft mud at 200 yards on another day. You know this and your logical part of your bran knows this. However your private logic part of your head still goes through the stages of change; immobilisation, denial, anger, bargaining, depression ………

As I said at the beginning everything is magnified. An 80 yard pitch to the green that would be fairly routine (to think about, not execute) in Summer is a potential nightmare in Winter. In Summer you’d select a club, aim for a spot on the green, swing the club, miss the spot, miss the green and trudge after the ball. In Winter you think about the ground (hard, soft, normal), the green (temporary, cut up, slow) the club you choose (pitch it all the way, bounce it in). In the end you’re so busy worrying about everything you’ll concentrate so hard on getting a wedge 2 inches onto the green 3 yards up from the pin that you forget how to swing the club and end up taking an air shot.

Similarly putting – by the time you’ve worked out how much break to allow, what the wind will do, what would be the best position if you don’t make it, whether the mud is lying toward you or against you, you forget to hit it and leave it 6 feet short (which for a 5 feet putt takes some doing).

Now I’m not saying this doesn’t happen in Summer it’s just exaggerated.

The realisation I’ve finally arrived at is that Winter is not a enchanted time. Winter pixies do not sprinkle their magic Winter pixie dust over Bargoed Golf Club and reverse the principles of Nature – downhill is still downhill. The laws of physics still apply to golf balls in December. Greens that are on a slope in August are still sloping in January. The 14th is still 172 yards long.

Roll on Summer ………..

The Joys of Winter Golf

Llanbobl G.C. Winter Cup winner
Pingu putting out on par 4 with Ping putter

I finally get golf.

I understand all the mysteries of the game.

I even remember the day I achieved this state. It was the final competition of Summer 2013. I had been in a particularly relaxed frame of mind- I’d played some decent shots, some pretty poor shots- but it all seemed to fit. The ball went more or less where I wanted it to – If I hit a bad shot I ended up in a bad place. When I hit a good shot I ended up in a good place. I had reached the golfing equivalent of achieving karuna. Now if only life was as simple as this….

The following week Winter Golf began…

I’m not sure ‘Winter golf’ is the right term. It’s not really golf is it? Or ‘it’s golf Jim but not as we know it’. Perhaps we should call it something else – ‘flog’ perhaps..

The following week Winter Flog began…

In the course of 7 days the golf course had changed from a pristine, emerald, slightly undulating, tightly mown, interesting, tree-lined, water-featured, offering a different challenge on every hole, sandy bunkered and undulating (oops already said that), slick, challenging, but fair greens into a scene resembling the trenches from World War I. There were temporary greens, temporary tees, temporary everything. There were 487 new rules all designed to stop you hitting the ball, and a totally new attitude to go with it. A week ago there was a riotous rabble of jolly chaps and smiley ladies laughing and having such a hoot of a time. Now this was real male, manly, macho time. The testosterone was so intense you could sense that the neural areas of the brain the metabolites were influencing changing patterns of behaviour due to increased neural connectivity and neurochemical characterization.

Winter Macho Flog had begun…

It doesn’t help that this the golf club is at the top end of the Rhymney valley, feels slightly further north than the North Frigid Zone, is 29,030 feet above sea level and colder than a mother-in-law’s love (oops sorry).

There was a time when I was a big, big fan of 365 days a year golf. I even played in the ultimate macho competition – The Winter League – ‘Cock of the North’ as it was called, which summed it up on so many levels. One of the many, many rules of the league was that you had to play on a Sunday morning – whatever the weather – or forfeit the match ( and feel the shame and derision of not playing). The only way out of this was if you and your partner and your opponents mutually agreed to call it off and call it a draw. The winners of the Cock of the North and the club poker champions were invariably the same pair;

Scene – 8:28 on a Sunday morning in the clubhouse looking out at a blizzard;

“I really fancy it today.”

“Me too. I had an early night and whacked down a load of vitamins so look out today.”

“Me too. I love it when it’s nice and fresh.”

“Bracing”

“I find I play better with a touch of frost bite in my fingers – helps my putting.”

pause…..

“Let’s call it a draw and I’ll get the first round”

“Agreed”

“Agreed”

“Brandy for me.”

……………………………. happy days

But non-league Winter golf is supposed to be fun. When you’re teeing off from a rectangle the size of a small face flannel it’s not too much fun. When you’re slipping around in the mud like Bambi on ice it’s not the best feeling. It has prompted one of the best retorts I’d heard on a course though. After getting harangued for putting his opening drive out of bounds a colleague was heard to remark that it was because he had a bad lie on the tee.

However, you eventually succeed in getting your drive away and march resolutely after it praying it’s in the rough or 151 yards from the green. Because (and I’m not sure how universal this is) in our club if you’re 150 yards or less away from the flag you must play off Winter mats. These abominations ( and yes I know all the arguments about why we use them) are the most annoying piece of gold equipment since tassels on the front of golf shoes, and just as useful. They are roughly 2 feet long, 1 foot wide, six inches thick and curled up at the edges like a 3 day old cheese and lettuce sandwich. To be honest it’s easier to play out of a bunker.

You reach the ‘green’. Green it ain’t. The dictionary describes green as;

  1. The hue of that portion of the visible spectrum lying between yellow and blue, evoked in the human observer by radiant energy with wavelengths of approximately 490 to 570 nanometers; any of a group of colours that may vary in lightness and saturation and whose hue is that of the emerald or somewhat less yellow than that of growing grass; one of the additive or light primaries; one of the psychological primary hues.” ,

i.e. a colour

or b “ The culmination of a golf hole, where the flagstick and cup are located and where a golfer will “putt out” to end the hole. The area of closely cropped grass surrounding each hole.

i.e. a green

Well green the colour it definitely is not – more a greyish, reddish, blacky-brown and ‘an area of closely cropped grass” – I don’t think so either. It’s like trying to putt on a field that has been ploughed by an angry farmer with a team of heavy, drunk shire horses.

However this is only part of the problem – the physical. Mentally….. next time………..

You’re on the green at the uphill par 5 514 yard 3rd at West Mon Golf Club (the highest golf club in Great Britain). It’s blowing a gale and there’s that curious West Mon weather which is a mix of wind, rain, hail and snow. It’s like an angry, but dexterous, polar bear throwing hard rice pudding at you. It stings. You’ve hit the best driver, 3 wood, 3 wood, 3 wood and you’ve just 3 putted from 8 feet. You look at your frozen golf partners and silently ask “Why do we do it?”. They silently shrug back at you and you move to the next tee.

The mental side of Winter Golf is pretty much the same as Summer golf except that it’s magnified. It’s tough.The main problem, for me at least, seems to be an accelerated lack of confidence, and a short term memory. There’s also a concept called private logic;
The first day of Winter golf feels like you’ve never seen a golf club in your life before. Where a week ago( at least in your head) you’d hit an 8 iron to the centre of the green today you’re taking a 6 iron and still leaving it short. The logical part of your brain is saying – “hit a 5 next time. It’s obviously wetter – no run on the ball, colder air, bad lie, uphill ” yet the illogical (private logic) part of your brain would remember the 1 occasion you actually hit the green with an 8 iron and conveniently forget the dozens of times it fell short. It would argue that a 5 iron would be ridiculous and that your playing partners were all hitting 7s or 8s (irrespective of the fact that they were better golfers and still leaving their shots short).

Your mind is composed on 2 parts; logic and private logic. The logic part is well… logical. The private logic element taps in to all your private fears, insecurities, doubts.

For instance, setting aside the shot selection angle for a minute and turning to the condition of the course. Winter golf conditions vary considerably. Some days it’s frosty, the next day it’s raining – the same drive can go 290 yards with a good bounce and a following wind one day – then sink into the soft mud at 200 yards on another day. You know this and your logical part of your bran knows this. However your private logic part of your head still goes through the stages of change; immobilisation, denial, anger, bargaining, depression ………

As I said at the beginning everything is magnified. An 80 yard pitch to the green that would be fairly routine (to think about, not execute) in Summer is a potential nightmare in Winter. In Summer you’d select a club, aim for a spot on the green, swing the club, miss the spot, miss the green and trudge after the ball. In Winter you think about the ground (hard, soft, normal), the green (temporary, cut up, slow) the club you choose (pitch it all the way, bounce it in). In the end you’re so busy worrying about everything you’ll concentrate so hard on getting a wedge 2 inches onto the green 3 yards up from the pin that you forget how to swing the club and end up taking an air shot.

Similarly putting – by the time you’ve worked out how much break to allow, what the wind will do, what would be the best position if you don’t make it, whether the mud is lying toward you or against you, you forget to hit it and leave it 6 feet short (which for a 5 feet putt takes some doing).

Now I’m not saying this doesn’t happen in Summer it’s just exaggerated.

The realisation I’ve finally arrived at is that Winter is not a enchanted time. Winter pixies do not sprinkle their magic Winter pixie dust over Bargoed Golf Club and reverse the principles of Nature – downhill is still downhill. The laws of physics still apply to golf balls in December. Greens that are on a slope in August are still sloping in January. The 14th is still 172 yards long.

Roll on Summer ………..

 

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.

Golfers, Goats and Rituals

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Sitting Tenant on Path to 14th Tee, West Mon

On the tee at the par 3 18th at Dewstow Golf Club I reached for a 7 iron. This was the first time I’d played the course but on meticulous investigation of the yardage (card), the wind (finger in air) and slope (downhill) I thought a 7 iron was perfect. I noticed my playing partner (a life long member at this club and a hitter of similar distance to me) reaching for an 8.

I put my 7 iron away and hit the 8. I was 10 yards short. My playing partner hit an 8 and was also 10 years short.

“I’m always short on this hole” he muttered as we walked after our balls.

Golfers are creatures of habit. We obey sets of regular, repeated behaviour often for no other reason than we’ve always done it – I leave a drop of tea in my cup even though I haven’t used tea leaves for 20 years, I read the newspaper from the back to the front even though the sports pages have long since moved to a special section of their own. I put 3 long tees and 3 short tees in my pocket at the start of each round. I always hit driver on the 8th – I think it’s the law.

“A golfer has more rituals than a catholic priest.” I’ve heard.

Consider this; the parable of the quiz show, the car and the 2 goats.

On a tv quiz show there are 3 prizes – 2 goats and a car. There are 3 doors in the studio and behind each door is either a goat or a car. The contestant chooses one of the doors. However this door does not get opened immediately. Instead the host of the show, who knows where all the prizes are, will give the contestant more information and allows them to change your mind, if they want to. The extra information you get is your host opens one of the doors not chosen to reveal a goat.

The intriguing question now is “Should the contestant stick with their original choice of door or change their mind?”

The initial thought may be that this seems ridiculous – surely your first choice should stay as you’ve a 1 in 3 chance of winning…. surely it can’t make any difference?

However it does and you should. You should change your mind and you’ll have a better chance of winning. Let me explain;

There are 3 doors – A B and C. Assume the car is behind Door A .
This means there are 3 possibilities;

1.You choose Door A. The host reveals the goat at Door B. If you now change your mind and choose Door C you only win a goat.

2.You choose Door B. The host reveals the goat at Door C. If you now change your mind and choose Door A you win the car.

3.You choose Door C. The host reveals the goat at Door B. If you now change your mind and choose Door A you win the car.

If you keep Door A you will only win a car 1/3 of the time.

The situation has changed. A few minutes ago at the beginning of the exercise you had a 1 in 3 chance of selecting the door with the car behind it. Now with the additional information there is a 2 in 3 chance.

OK – it’s a little contrived but the principle is the same – if you get more information don’t ignore it – reassess. Often I see players wandering off to chip with a wedge and find a bad lie. Instead of walking back to their back for a sand wedge they’ll try a ridiculous shot with the wedge then moan for the rest of the round. Or players will see their playing partners leave their putts short and will then hit their own putt short,and moan about it for the rest of the round. If things change – reassess and change with them.