When golf becomes important again

Published:

Coronavirus has taught us that golf isn't important, but we need it more than ever. 

First of all I’d like to request a rewrite of my column in January’s edition of Today's Golfer and revise my predictions for what might happen in golf in 2020. In fact things are developing so quickly that even last month’s effort, in which I jokingly suggested that all sport would be cancelled and we’d be huddling together in some sort of dystopian state, now simply reads like a news bulletin. 

I’m fearful of making any more predictions in case they should come to pass. Instead, I’m just grateful for the work that Today’s Golfer provides since, at the moment, there doesn’t appear to be any great demand for a self-employed sports broadcaster and event host. 

So where are we now in terms of golf? The answer is, we are in an enormous void. 

Very sadly for all golfers is the news that golf clubs in the UK are closing not only their clubhouses but now also their courses. A decision which is causing quite a debate. 

If running or cycling or walking is still allowed, then why shouldn’t people be allowed to go and play nine holes of golf on their own? And I have a certain amount of sympathy with that argument.  

But I also understand that strict enforcements have to be put in place and sacrifices have to be made – even of pursuits such as golf, which would be entirely safe if carried out sensibly. Unfortunately, there are plenty of not so sensible people who, as is their way, ruin things for the majority. And so golf truly is now a good walk spoiled. 

So what about the professional side of things? Well, the way things are heading it looks as if we are going to try and cram all men’s and women’s Majors into one Friday afternoon in December. 

It certainly appears unlikely that The Open Championship will take place in July and there is the possibility (heading towards probability) the Ryder Cup will shift back a year. 

padraig-harrington

Europe’s captain Padraig Harrington has said that they are still planning for the showdown at Whistling Straits in September, with selection taken from projections based on the rankings so far. But realistically that seems a longer and longer shot. 

So what do we have to keep us entertained until then? Well, Harrington was speaking on a podcast called ‘The Pepper Pod’, which Eddie Pepperell and I have started. So I know you’re going to enjoy that during your one daily stroll around the garden.

But in general, the pickings are slim, or just different. Essentially this is because everybody is going stir crazy and turning to social media to display things which we would ordinarily dismiss as tedious, but now cling to as if we are watching the first screening of Citizen Kane.

Rory McIlroy, for example, puts out a more and more detailed and explicit part of his exercise regime every day. In one post he is drenched in sweat after an online cycling session, the next he is stripped to the waist playing tennis. He is clearly ramping up his Instagram and Twitter to the point where he will be naked and wrestling a bear within a week. 

Yet on the serious side, there are many professional golfers who will struggle, as countless other people do. Those at the top of the game will be fine, boredom their only real concern as they film themselves rearranging furniture. But go a bit further down the food chain and things are more pressing. 

Most professional golfers operate on fine margins and depend on just the occasional good result in tournaments which have disappeared. Things will be even more bleak for their caddies who are desperately scrabbling around for other employment. 

And of course there are all of the pros and people who work in golf clubs up and down the land. Some clubs will face very difficult days ahead with a huge dent to their revenue. 

But what this worldwide crisis has also shown us is that we need simple, everyday things like golf. Things which we took for granted. 

It shows as well that even those of us who are curmudgeonly, solitary figures (guilty as charged) need a bit of human interaction.

And it has demonstrated, above all, that we just crave normality whatever that might have meant for you. 

We thought sport was serious. We got angry about a wayward drive or a missed three-footer. We only realise now that it was never that important, yet it has never seemed more vital to have it back. 

Instead, we just have to get on and adapt. We’ll watch online clips of Brooks Koepka smashing left-handed drives or Georgia Hall dancing in her house. And we’ll think of how good it will be when we do get back on to the course or can watch tournaments again on TV. 

We’ll look forward to how nice it will be when things return to normal. 

And we can once again get angry about a missed three-foot putt, as if it is the most important thing in the world.