Should We Mark a Card Every Time We Play Golf?
Whoever designed the golf club scorecard clearly never played the game. To imagine for one moment that all of the effort, thought and emotion that I invest in trying to propel a tiny ball 400 yards into a small hole in the ground can be recorded in a box a few millimetres square has no understanding of golf. I am thinking of proposing the introduction of note books in which we can write a short essay at the completion of each hole because the all-important number we enter dutifully onto the card is never the whole story. Yes I am kidding.
Of course, the first thing you learn as a golfer is that nobody really wants to hear your story! In professional golf, the only post-round question that counts is, “what did you shoot?” In the amateur game we are more polite, more understanding. We make the fatal mistake of asking, “how did you play?” It is an open invitation to someone to deliver a pulpit sermon full of excuses, explanations, tall tales and hard luck stories. The eyes of even the most patient listener soon begin to glaze over.
The best solution would be to open a press conference room at every club. Ten minutes after the end of each round, all players should be required to present themselves for interview. If any other club members wish to ask any questions about the detail of the score the player has just signed for they could be free to ask them in there. You wouldn’t need a large room. One chair should be plenty. Face facts, nobody else cares about your ‘how’ or ‘why’ or ‘if’… all that matters is ‘how many’.
One of the best golf sayings I’ve ever heard is, ‘good players remember the bad shots, bad players remember the good ones.’ I would like to create an addition to that adage… ‘all players remember their bad luck and conveniently forget their good luck’. Rarely do we walk off the final green thinking that our score might easily be worse than it is. We all prefer to reflect on the shots or points that got away. In a perfect world, we would also like to tell everybody about them over a drink. Get over it.
A couple of weeks ago, I pured a tee-shot at a downhill par 3 and lifted my head to see the glory of my white ball soaring against the perfect backdrop of an azure blue sky directly towards the flag. For a brief second or two, time stood beautifully still as I disappeared into a parallel universe in which the green was surrounded by my adoring gallery and Tim Barter was waiting microphone in hand by the Skycart. It was at this point that my ball landed on the apron, bounced against a small post protecting the approach from trolley traffic and veered sideways into a bunker. My response would definitely have to beeped out by any self-respecting media company!
This never happens to Michelle Wie. This is golf luck of a kind that only club players truly appreciate. Sunken lies in badly-raked bunkers, course maintenance work, grass cuttings, roped-off areas, worm casts, duck sh*t, bumps and bobbles on temporary greens. Some days you clip every over-hanging branch, find every divot lie, lip out every putt. Well, you don’t in reality but that’s the way it seems and feels.
Watching another player disappearing into a cloud of self-pitying rage and despair as the golfing Gods conspire against them is like watching someone sink helplessly into quicksand. There is nothing you can say, no way you can help. Dealing with the shot immediately after a bad swing is difficult enough… dealing with the one after a bad break requires the patience of a saint. And all the time your growing score on the hole is ticking in your head like a taxi meter in traffic. Golf is above all a test of our ability to be philosophical. Sh*t happens. Say whatever expletives that make you feel better then move on.
So, there is a very good reason why the scorecard is designed to allow the bare minimum of reporting of each hole we play. To allow space for eye-witness accounts and hindsight reviews of each of the 18 steps we take would be to add at least an hour to every round. Even when it all becomes too much and you simply cannot complete the course, a cursory ‘NR’ covers everything from a major sulk to a major injury. ‘What happened to Steve?’… ‘he collapsed on the 17th tee and was rushed to hospital’… ‘ah, no return then’. The box at the bottom of the card contains all we need to know.