Many keen golfers will have seen the recently published report which attempted to assess the relative “ difficulty “ of a wide range of sports and particularly the utterly bizarre decision that the finest sport of all, the Royal & Ancient game of golf merited inclusion at the lowly level of no.51. I appreciate that I am completely biased but anything less than no.1 for golf is clearly complete nonsense. Given the fact the noble sport of boxing was allocated top spot, I rest my case.
As the King himself stated on many occasions.
” Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated; it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening … and it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented. “
It’s difficult to argue with a 7 time Major champion and one of the most accomplished players in the history of our sport. For me the sheer difficulty is one of many reasons golf is so challenging and so enjoyable. Reflecting on a life in golf I present my own arguments below.
1. A Sport For Life. Starting as a junior with a couple of clubs, bags of confidence and inspired by watching tv coverage of the top players, you learn the basics of the golf swing, the rules of golf and an appreciation of etiquette.Through many good seasons and looking after yourself you can fully expect to still be turning out a couple of times per week for a swift 9 holes well into your 70’s or even 80’s .
2. A Family Tradition. Golfers as a breed enjoy nothing better than introducing this beautiful game to the next generation. In many personal golf journals there is a special place for the date when you finally managed to beat your father/mother/grandfather/grandmother. Building on this shared sporting interest, many clubs now host some form of family tournament providing a fantastic opportunity for the generations to compete with & against each other ; in the process creating priceless and lasting memories.
3. No Two Courses The Same. Spectacular setting. Stunning scenery. Glorious surroundings. These are not phrases regularly used by anyone commentating on football,rugby or cricket. Fortunately for golfers around the world we get to display our talent ( or lack of it ) on some fantastic real estate with many courses designed and constructed to take advantage of the natural beauty of the landscape. In Scotland we are blessed to have so many classic links courses which, particularly when the wind blows, can destroy the score of the very best. In stark contrast to the links, the modern country club style offers beautifully manicured tees,fairways and greens interspersed with a collection of small lakes; all kept in perfect condition with automatic sprinkler systems and a battalion of greenkeepers .
The result is an endless list of superb courses to suit all styles and all budgets ranging from obscure “ hidden gems “ to the “ bucket list “ iconic stars. Regardless of where you get to play the basic plan never changes. Straight down the middle and play your ball as it lies.
4. Good Sportsmanship. The game of golf is rightly proud of the fact it operates on the basis of players having the responsibility to apply the rules personally. Calling a penalty shot on yourself playing the 18th and as as a result losing out on winning the club monthly medal will instantly confirm your status as a person of integrity and honesty throughout the golfing community. Your lack of ability will be of little concern to your playing partners just so long as you abide by the basic golfers mantra; play without delay, do not play out of turn, maintain silence as your partners play their shots and be genuine in your praise of another’s fine shot.
5. Health & Wellbeing. Numerous studies have confirmed what every golfer knows only too well. Playing golf is good for you both physically and mentally. Fresh air, a relaxing environment and around the recommended daily 10,000 steps completed in less than four hours. Of course this assumes you are walking round the course; very much the norm in Scotland but the extensive use of buggies has now sadly become a standard source of income for many golf resorts particularly in USA and Europe . One positive from our recent golf lockdown and restrictions has been the enforced resurgence in walking the fairways. Long may it continue.
6. Technically Difficult. Back to the start of our discussion. I seem to recall an expert or at least an accomplished sports person of yesteryear stating that the two most difficult movements in sport are a) the golf swing and b) snooker. The holy grail of golf has to be a smooth and powerful swing that can be repeated on every shot under any circumstance and in any weather. The fact is golf is difficult.Very difficult. Mastering the act of simply hitting the ball is a challenge. Putting a card in your hand and counting every shot is very challenging. Successfully negotiating your way round a course at close to or below par is incredibly challenging but also incredibly satisfying.