Christmas cards. Coloured lights strewn across the streets of my middle England town. Spiky Christmas trees garlanded with baubles outside the town hall. It’s Christmas – almost. The end of another golfing year. A few golf balls lost. A few well-struck shots. Many, too many, badly struck ones. Soon my golf clubs will receive their annual clean. Do I want a Christmas present? Certainly. Waterproof winter golf gloves, please. The sign of the end of one golfing year and the start of another.
At my golf club, as at many I am sure, the lunches and celebrations that normally mark the end of the year have been cancelled. The banter at a golf club bar continues but it’s a few decibels quieter than in previous years because there are fewer people in the bar. Why? COVID-19 and its attendant variants. Need one say more? It caused golf courses to be closed last year. It has caused disputes between those who vaccinate and those who don’t because they won’t. Vaxers and anti-vaxers.
The end of another golfing year. A few golf balls lost. A few well-struck shots. Many, too many, badly struck ones.
An elderly man was at work on the practice ground of my club Sunday morning, a cold, grey morning when snow was in the air. He was wrapped warmly with two sweaters over a long-sleeved shirt topped by a gilet. He wore a hat. His backswing was slow and deliberate. His downswing was slow and deliberate. At the finish of his swing his hands were high. The balls sped away from his clubface and plunged into the damp turf.
“It’s a maddening game, isn’t it?” he said as we compared notes before he continued on his way to put his clubs in his car. It might have been his last practice session of the year. “It’s all very well practising but what happens if you are practising the wrong thing? Golf is a lifetime conundrum.”
A wind raced up over the plain and barged into the side of the clubhouse strewing leaves and shaking the boughs of the trees. In the comfort of his shop the head professional was warm and welcoming though his voice had the sound of a wintry cold. The car park was half full, the course half empty. In these days before Christmas golf is not always the high priority it can be at other times of the year.
And so one year has almost ended. This means another one is about to begin. More golf, more practice, more banter. Dare one wish for less COVID and fewer shanks, sclaffs, tops and foozles? One can hope. At golf one always hopes. It’s a lifetime game, a lifetime struggle and though I hate it I also love it. Am I hopeless?