After a traumatic episode with a phantom hook, John Robins might finally be worthy of his ‘bad golfer’ moniker once again.
In his exclusive Today’s Golfer column, the award-winning comedian, 5live broadcaster and podcast host mournfully walks us through the unique perils of playing on a ‘proper course’ after being forced to question his most closely held golfing assumptions…
About two weeks ago disaster struck. On the seventh hole at my local course I hit a drive high and right. When I say high and right, I don't just mean higher than usual and righter than usual. I mean so high that the ball would have shown up on military radar and so right that there was no need to shout "fore!" as those on the adjacent fairway were completely safe. It was out of bounds of out of bounds.
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After listening for the sound of broken windows in the neighbouring town a horrible seed of doubt had been planted in my head. I never hit the ball right, I'm a lefty with a slice or "power fade", (the terminology dependant on how positive I'm feeling on any particular day), so the right side of the course has never been something I've had to give much thought to.
As golfers we're all familiar with our miss, and we can aim accordingly. If you aim for a fade and get a slice, there is a bit of damage limitation built in to the shot. When faced with a hole where a hook is absolutely out of the question, if that is your miss you can take a different club off the tee, lay up, or even aim for the next fairway knowing that anything, anything is better than hooking Oscar Bravo.
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However, when faced with a seemingly random miss on the other side, panic can really set in. Especially when, as happened to me two holes later, it reappears. This time it wasn't high, it was punched straight right into the bushes no more than thirty yards from the tee. For someone who has hit their last ten thousand or so golf shots either straight, left, very left or very very left, trying to assess how I'd hit a ball forty-five degrees right from the position my ball, clubface and body were positioned was a tricky proposition.
By the back nine this seed of doubt had grown into an enormous oak of despair. If you are capable of hitting a ball left, right or straight at any given time, where on earth do you aim? When I aimed one way it went the other, left or right, high or low, I was chasing my failures round the tee and each time I went one way they went the other. By the time the round ended I had double-crossed myself so many times my brain felt like it was the setting for an episode of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
My woes were compounded when I checked to see if I had time to hit the range before my next round. Not only was there no time to diagnose or treat my sudden case of straightrightitis, but my next round was at no ordinary course. My heart sank as I realised I was going to have to carry my new ailment with me all the way around Royal Liverpool, Open Championship host and one of the very best golf courses in England.
I very rarely get to play a proper course. By proper course I mean a course you've watched famous golfers play on TV. I adore my local course, and I'm very fond of the people that play there. But I've never seen Tiger Woods in the pro shop complaining about the position of the winter mats, nor has Phil Mickleson stayed behind for a pint of Moretti after the Tuesday roll up to find if he won eight quid for nearest the pin.
Most of us might only play a proper course once every couple of years, and that means when we go we want the stars to align. We want to par a hole that Rory McIlroy parred, we want to see the line Dustin Johnson had when he curved it round the trees. What we certainly don't want is to duff it right when what lies in wait is the sea.
I must admit my tour of the historic clubhouse and tales told of Opens past were somewhat spoiled by my sight of the first hole. OB right. OB left. And killer rough everywhere in between. And so I made my links debut in the most beautiful of settings, and also in complete terror.
Needless to say I hit it straight right off the first tee, and things didn't get better from there.
Now then, I've been using Arccos in my clubs for nearly two years, and it is a piece of kit with many, many things going for it. I'd go as far as to say I don't know what I'd do without it. However one feature they don't tell you about, is that your worst rounds will be analysed in punishing detail.
The app should come with a feature whereby every so often it has a popup saying "Are you sure you want to read this?". And I felt some hesitance in the software as it loaded up my stats. My average drive was 180yrds, I missed 57% of fairways, 36% off them right. And by the end of my round at Royal Liverpool I had accumulated seven penalty shots from the tee. SEVEN!
It may be some time before I have the courage to play a proper course again. There's a reason Sky don't give a huge portion of their coverage to the player at +14 on the first round of The Open, it ain't pretty.
What I have done, however, is booked an appointment with my GP (Golf Practitioner) to see if we can diagnose the issue and get me hitting it, if not straight, then left or even very left again. I'll let you know how it goes.
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WITB: Bad Golf's John Robins
Click the club names to read reviews and tests of John's clubs
Driver: Cobra King RadSpeed 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
About the Author
John Robins is an award-winning stand-up comedian, BBC Radio 5Live presenter and host of the Moon Under Water podcast. Download his 5Live show with Elis James here, and the Moon Under Water podcast, here. You can also follow John on Twitter and Instagram.