You may remember the article from a while back, 'Everyone knows a Neil’ where we met a semi-decent golfer with a little bit of an anger-management issue.
Recently I had the dubious pleasure of a round in the company of Neil’s usual playing partner, who I’ve christened ‘Teflon Tim’.
He’s the embodiment of ‘blame everything but yourself’ and the 98 he shot was not his fault in any way, shape or form.
Tim is a good golfer. In his head.
The reality of the situation is that he plays off 22, which isn’t his fault because he doesn’t get to play enough – if he doesn’t play three times a week he’ll lose his rhythm and won’t be any good.
Unbelievably, Tim has recently changed jobs to one which offers shift work to ensure that he can play three times a week, ideally more. Full marks for commitment to the cause of getting your handicap down, but this was just the first in a line of excuses (he calls them reasons) why he had a bad round.
I would later find out that it was a normal round based on past performance, but the list of excuses was such that I actually documented them for sharing purposes. You really can’t contemplate that such a person exists, but let this tale bear witness...
Our story - and indeed our list – begins on the first tee.
The ‘warm-up’ we’re all familiar with, consisting of half a dozen practice swings and some hip movements that would terrify anyone from Strictly are normally sufficient for most of us. Tim’s giving it the full set of stretching, the double-club swing, he’s basically worked through the entire bag having a few swings with each.
Nonetheless, like all British sportsmen, he felt the need to pre-warn me that this might not be his best game because he’d ‘had a lesson in the week and was still trying to grove it in’.
Nothing wrong with that, we’ve all used that one.
We safely made it down the fairway to the green, where the evidence of the fact that it had been course-work week lay before us. We’ve all arrived at the green and sighed at the side of hollow-coring work, the tiny little holes which help aerate the soil but also turn putting into piece of semi-random guesswork.
Our greenkeepers had top-dressed the surfaces too so they were a little sandy in places. Tim’s putt bounces along, gets about half way to the hole...
“Looked good in the air, mate” I say. Apparently that wasn’t funny.
“I can’t believe this” moans Tim.
“I’ve been looking forward to this round for ages and it’s going to be ruined by bumpy slow effing greens”.
This could be a long day and we play the next couple of holes in near-silence.
Pace of play
There’s a tough par three quite early at our course and for some reason it’s always a backlog. Everyone knows and expects this, the club has even had the decency to put some benches and a drinking fountain in rather than make an effort to get people to go faster.
10 minutes after we get to the tee, we can play and our hero fats a 5-iron just past the ladies tee.
Bring it on then, let’s hear it: “I can’t believe how slow it is today. I’ve just got warmed up and we have to wait for these ancient w*nkers”.
I responded in my best sympathetic voice, saying how there's a lot of them about and it’s perfectly usual here isn’t it.
“You’re joking” he says. “Last week I had to no-return after the fifth because my two playing partners were going too fast and I barely had time to think about my shot. I can’t play golf at that speed”.
Right, so you don’t like slow play OR fast play. That’s a new one.
He hits his second to said Par-3 into a greenside bunker, then blades his escape across the green because there was apparently no sand in the bunker. I stifle a laugh and we move along.
It was the spikes...
We somehow survived the next couple of holes and then the slicing starts. Three tee-shots in a row that started straight, then curved away and ended up somewhere just right of the British National Party.
This was apparently due not to a swing or grip issue, but down to the fact that the spikes in his shoes were worn and he couldn’t maintain a steady base to swing from. Interesting theory.
Believable? Well, possible I guess. But honestly, how much is a new set of spikes? It’s not like you have to buy new shoes every time is it….
Finally the slicing stopped, only to be replaced on the next by a duck-hook caused by a barking dog in a nearby property.
At this stage I was onto my second sheet of paper documenting the excuses, but it wasn’t over. Hell, it wasn’t even over for this hole.
Having located his ball he somehow forced it into a greenside bunker, where because he is a great player he was obviously going to up and down for a heroic par in the face of adversity being thrown at him from any angle.
Except this bunker had too much sand in it, so he had two to get out. And this green was one of the few they’d swept after top-dressing so it was twice the speed of all the others we’d played and the three-putt was nothing if not inevitable.
So that’s a solid triple on the card but in his head he’d be about 2 over for the round so far if the entire world wasn’t conspiring against him.
“Why can’t they be consistent” he cries.
“Random amounts of sand in the bunkers, some greens fast, some slow. How can I play well with all this going on?”
Time to avoid...
I assumed that was a rhetorical question and we moved along, where he amazingly confirmed his PGA tour level of ability by pitching in from 40 yards out for a birdie. Now he was super-confident, buoyed by this vindication of his perception of his ability.
I wasn’t going to make the last few holes without killing him and burying the body, so to be honest I stayed as far away as possible after that. Given his randomness started again immediately, we really only met on tees and greens anyway.
There was something about a stupid flag position and how the hell can anyone play to that, and a missed put because one of the greens staff was watching him. I let them bounce off me like water off a duck’s back, without comment for fear of further upsetting him.
Finally we stood on the 18th, a simple driving hole as long as you don’t hit it right. This should be a simple task given you have the entire course on the left to aim at. Out comes the huge slice again of course.
I really tried to be nice “You’ve been struggling with that a bit today pal, haven’t you”, still trying to sound sympathetic to the cause.
But just when I thought the resignation had set in and he might actually admit to one, here comes a whole new piece of thinking: “I reckon the shaft in my driver is wrong mate. It’s only an R and better players like you and me need a stiff because we swing faster. I’m gonna get it changed after this and I reckon that’ll sort it out”.
I couldn’t comment on that because I was too busy looking dumbfounded. Partly that that wasn’t his fault either, but mainly that someone off 22 thinks he’s at the better end of the spectrum.
So there you have it: a 98, +26...
In fairness he was only four over his handicap but this is a guy who genuinely believes he’s capable of breaking 80 every time and would do that if none of the above had happened. He didn’t even seem down or sad about it.
Mis-hits were caused by faults with the equipment (clubs and shoes!). Poor lies, missed putts and bunker troubles caused by the fact that the greens staff weren’t doing their job properly.
Add to that the barking dog and the passing ambulance siren that caused two OOB tee shots, the slow play and the fact that he fell over on a new path that “hadn’t been surfaced properly” and you’ve got an entire round which he is apparently not at fault for a single element of.
In some ways you’ve got to admire that kind of mindset. The ability to block out all negativity must be quite useful. But you’ve also got to recognise that nothing’s ever going to change either and the ostrich approach can’t ever be a good thing.
“We’re playing again Wednesday and Friday morning,” he yelled across the car park as I attempted a hasty exit.
“And probably Sunday afternoon too. Join us any time”.
You know what, I might give that one a miss….
I'm a scratch golfer - I hit a shot and scratch my head wondering how it ended up over there...