One thing that everybody knows about retirement is you play golf. That’s about the only ‘sport’, other than crown green bowling, available to the elderly person (that’s me, I’m 65) Doesn’t even matter if you’ve never played before or that you hate the game, the correlation between retirement and golf is .9. Have you ever noticed that when top executives or generals like Stormin’ Norman retire when asked what they will do after such an active life when they retire they invariably drawl ‘I guess I’ll work on my handicap and they’re not talking a limp or missing eyeball lost in battle. They refer, of course, to their golf handicap*.

I have to say right away that there are some downsides to playing golf when you’re crap. I played recently with another retired friend. He has chosen to practically fill his retirement days with playing golf. He plays 3 or 4 times a week. Part of his rationale is that he’s paid his, not inconsiderable, fees and, living in Yorkshire, he intends to get his money’s worth. No problem there. The problem – for me – only arises when his regular playing partner is away which he is increasingly because, although he also has pretty much retired, he has had a house built in Switzerland of all places (and do you know the builders there are every bit as feckless as ours and that surprised us all), but I digress. So when his playing partner isn’t around he will try and maintain his weekly, playing average by persuading me to play. The problem is that, assuming it’s been a while, I will have forgotten just how big a mistake this is.

We begin and the awfulness comes flooding back. As his ball soars majestically straight down the fairway, I hack, shank, slice, hook and generally dribble my way round this bastard of a course (and it is a bastard as we technical golfers say because the ball is never level, you’re either hitting the ball above or below your feet, uphill or, worse, downhill – yes I know that sounds strange to the uninitiated, take my word for it – it’s called a ‘lie’ but it’s true). I trail round after him feeling like a naughty schoolboy. It’s infinitely worse if I make the mistake of playing with him and his equally-talented, regular partner. This is exclusion at its most excluding. Anybody who deals with special needs for a living should experience the feeling once. This is not inclusive even though I’m technically there (as in a mainstream class but not actually a part of it). This is not character building.

Funny thing is I once wrote with a friend a book about the psychology of golf so I ought to be better at the mental (and it is) side of the game even if the technical / physical side comes up a little short. I am now in the process of publishing this book Golf a Mind Game as an Ebook and as a part of this blog.

Anyway back to this blog. As you probably will have gathered by now I am not very good at golf. It suits the laid back, smooth, oily, slow swinging kind of guy. I’m more of a ‘contact sport’ kind of guy. You know if you can kick the shit out of a ball or person then I’m happy. Don’t think, just do it, kind of guy. This kind of guy is not well suited to golf and probably not to retirement either. You need calm thoughts and loose hands. In retirement I’ve got the loose hands – I keep dropping things. But in golf I have neither. I am not, truth be told, temperamentally suited to golf (and maybe retirement). I remember once a few years ago I bought a new driver (that’s the club with the biggest head and price to match for the uninitiated). Like many a sad golfer I believe if I buy another club, the latest technology, my game will be transformed. As you get older you allow yourself to spend more money on such pathetic attempts to miraculously improve your game. I’ll let you into a secret – it doesn’t fucking work. There now you know.

In the case of this particular new club we were playing on a lovely links course up near Dunstanburgh Castle (www.nationaltrust.org.uk/dunstanburghcastle/) in Northumberland. The weather was lovely, decent company, I had my magic club, all was set fair. I suppose you can guess what happened. The bloody club didn’t work, £300 wasted. After a few holes I got a little frustrated – wrong temperament remember, so, and I’m not proud of this, I threw my new £300 club as far as my strength would allow. The foursome on the nearby green looked on in profound admiration, I think.

I was a little embarrassed. I hadn’t thought to check whether anybody was watching me, I didn’t think at all just emoted you might say. But I was nowhere near as embarrassed as I was going to be. In my unrestrained haste to cast my club as far away as possible I had thrown it into a huge area of some kind of flowering weed which was both dense and tall. Would you believe I could not, for what seemed like my whole lifetime, find my new, very expensive club. To say I felt a tit would be an understatement. I found it after a few minutes in reality while other, proper, easy-going golfers looked on.

This kind of behaviour is definitely frowned upon on the golf course and probably in libraries and restaurants etc, as well. I completed my golfing etiquettal aberration by storming off the course leaving my three playing partners to finish the round. Boy, I was proud of myself that day. Later I blamed my low blood sugar levels diabetic you know, but we all knew the truth, I’m not suited to golf which is why I gave up playing – then. But now I’m retired. My wife and I have joined a club http://www.mashamgolfclub.co.uk  (it’s pretty – see below) and we are trying to play once a week, well we were until puppies. So we’ll see if retirement and golf go hand in hand for this couple and I’ve got more golfing tales (including those of the supernatural The Thirteenth Hole in Ebook ‘That Which Lies Beneath’ – published about now) for later blogs.

 The 8th hole at Masham Golf Clubmasham1

* A handicap is a numerical measure of a golfer’s potential playing ability based on the tees played for a given course. It is used to calculate a net score from the number of strokes actually played during a competition, thus allowing players of different proficiency to play against each other on somewhat equal terms. The higher the handicap of a player, the poorer the player is relative to those with lower handicaps.

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