In the second of his exclusive Today's Golfer columns, award-winning comedian John Robins, one half of YouTube's Bad Golf, reflects on the wettest round of golf of his life and shares his tips for playing when the heavens open.
Last month, I didn’t just play golf in the wet, I played golf on the wettest day the UK has ever seen. October 3, 2020 shall go down in my personal golfing history as the wettest I have ever been with my clothes on.
I said in my last column that we spend too much time learning how to swing a golf club on a mat, and not enough time learning how to play golf on a course. For those who didn’t have a golfing guide at a young age, the world away from the driving range can be a very intimidating one. I even know many people who spend their whole lives swinging clubs with a basket of balls never to set foot on a course.
There are numerous understandable reasons why clubs aren’t able to provide a smooth progression from range mat to tee. Time spent learning on the course can be hard to schedule, pros may be reluctant to break the routine of lessons on the range, grass ranges or practise areas are costly to maintain, it’s just a lot more, well, hassle. But it’s hassle worth taking.
It’s not just the step up in terms of organisation to get you from the range to the course - the time, the booking, the cost. It’s a world of rules and etiquette and societies that can initially seem like a closed shop.
Having recently joined a local club on a public course I’ve found a group of players who couldn’t have been more welcoming, more down to earth. But if we could start more frequently learning on the course, then I think more people would take the step to joining a club, and most importantly, do more improvement to their game in an hour than 1,000 balls smashed from a bay.
When it really comes to it, golf judges you based on how your club interacts with grass, mud and sand. How your body moves in cramped positions, on slopes, fringes and lips. Golf is not a game of Astroturf.
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Never is this truer than when you find yourself playing in the wet. And wet I was.
The round in question will also (hopefully) remain my worst performance in a golf competition. Of those who completed their rounds I came 73rd, out of 75. Until now I’ve placed pretty much middle of my division (15.5HC-54HC) but with unprecedented rainfall, came an unprecedented score.
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Such is the life of a bad golfer. You have to accept the enormous scores that come around every so often. Sometimes it’s just one of those things, the club feels like it weighs a tonne and you lose all ability to know what your swing should feel like. But on this occasion even I was taken aback by just how bad I was.
What increased my frustration was how much I’d prepared for it. I had rain gloves, two spare gloves, an extra towel, even a spare cap (which I needed after the sixth hole). And I’d exhausted the very few videos online about how to best conquer these conditions.
As the last minute withdrawals poured in (remarkable how frequently bad weather also brings with it sudden tweaked backs and unforeseen family commitments) we knew it was going to be a wash out. But regardless of the weather I still get excited by any form of competition. Having only joined a club in the last three months I get a real buzz from prepping my bag, planning my tactics, and, yes, dweeb-alert, cleaning my clubs.
Well, I certainly shouldn’t have bothered with the latter. It. Was. Insane. And the worst type of cruel golfer’s rain - constant yet not heavy enough to close the course and release you from your torrential torment.
I had nothing to fall back on, no lesson has ever covered what to do when your ball is more mud than dimple, how to avoid slow play when you’ve got twenty worm casts to navigate on a ten foot putt, or how to connect a fairway wood when you are guaranteed to slip down a hill.
But also the mentality needed when the weather is making you think of everything but your shot, how to concentrate over the ball, how to maintain a pre-shot routine, and how to stop thinking about how your opponent’s card is overflowing with points when yours has disintegrated in your pocket.
So I will leave you with some hard won lessons in how to play in the wet.
First, club up, then club up again. You’re not going to hit more than your average carry distance in total, and being wet and cold you can take off five to ten per cent off that.
Second, in the fight to keep dry, any spare towels or gloves you keep in your bag will be wet by the second tee, so keep them in plastic bags and hang a towel from the struts of your umbrella. This also has the advantage of making you look like a cool pro with an attentive caddie.
Third, bring an umbrella and a way of attaching it to your trolley. If you’re more worried about your bag than your head then put the umbrella shaft down into a hole for the clubs with the canopy acting like a roof.
WATCH: Bad Golf's wet round with TG at The Shire
To watch in full screen on desktop press play and click the YouTube icon
Fourth, bring a trolley, no one wants to carry in the rain, even if it makes you look like a grizzled Sherpa hiking from a base camp. Just make sure to follow the routes specified at your course.
Fifth, get waterproof trousers. I don’t know if they make waterproof pants, but maybe Google that too.
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Sixth, don’t drive to the course with only the clothes you’re going to play in. A spare set of socks on the passenger seat will be a welcome sight when you’ve finished.
And finally, you have to spend an extra few seconds thinking through each shot so you’re clear in your mind what you’re going to do. The rain magnifies mistakes.
If you’re someone like me who uses an app or rangefinder or any kind of tech, maybe leave it at home when the heavens open.
Keeping dry and focused is the key, and it also takes time. You have to think harder in the wet, be even more comfortable over the ball, more confident in what you’re doing. My mind was half on faffing around with my phone when it should have been thinking through my shots.
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So, what next? Well, a lesson on the course for sure, and if it chucks it down, all the better. I’d like to apologise to my local pro in advance. Sorry Duncan! And, if all else fails, the next time it’s looking grim I may just have to dust off that dodgy back and stay in bed.
WITB: Bad Golf's John Robins
Click the club names to read reviews and tests of John's clubs
Driver: Cobra King Speedzone Xtreme Loft: 10.5º set to 11.5º. Shaft: Tensei blue 65 reg
Hybrid: Cobra King Speedzone Loft: 2H. Shaft: Recoil reg
Irons: Cobra King Speedzone Lofts: 5-GW. Shafts: Recoil reg
Wedges: Cobra King MIM Lofts: 52º, 58º. Shafts: STD wedge shaft
Putter: Odyssey O-Works 2.0 R-Line
Golf ball: Bridgestone E6
John Robins is an award-winning stand-up comedian and radio host. Listen to his BBC Radio 5Live show every Friday from 1pm or download the podcast here and watch his comedy special 'The Darkness of Robins' on Netflix here. You can also follow John on Twitter and Instagram.