Why do people play golf, when it’s so hard? One day you occasionally get a glimpse of greatness from hitting a long straight drive or sinking a long putt, only to fall into the deepest humiliation after a couple of air shots or topping the ball several times on the same fairway. Not to mention missing the hole with 1cm after three putts.
I have been playing golf in Spain, sporadically, for more than 20 years now at courses like Añoreta, Baviera, Guadalhorce, Granada and some rare visits to ‘posh’ courses like Las Brisas and San Roque. But the most difficult course I have been playing is our ‘home course’ Los Moriscos in Motril. The truth is that during the years I have participated in the games organized by our club Los Nordicos every Monday, only 2-3 players have been able to lower their handicap. I know, people will laugh and say that Moriscos is child’s play.
Well, even my athletic grandchildren, after playing the first nine holes, complained about the lack of challenges at Moriscos. After the last nine holes they were absolutely frustrated. Their scorecards showed that they had been playing at more than 10 over their current handicap. Why is Los Moriscos so difficult? Is it wrongly sloped? When I first started playing there 20 years ago it was a fairly easy rural and very Spanish course. I don’t remember how many times I had to fetch my ball from the muddy potato fields. But at that time, 2×9 wholes could give scores like a total of 104.
The rebuild and addition of 9 holes made the course extremely difficult, especially for women, with four extremely long par 5 holes, tricky water hazards etc. To be able to score under 10 at the longest holes you have to have a fantastic drive, perfect fairway shots and a minimum of two putts. Half of our club members have a handicap of about 36. It remains permanent year in and year out, no matter how often they play the course. Of course, you have to consider that the average age is about 70. But on the other hand, 70 for Vikings does not count for much. Some previous low- handicappers not wishing to increase their handicap, make net scores of about 100, which allows them to join the beginners as members of a very exclusive club i.e. the 100-club, getting special honours and treats at our bi-annual finishing dinner. In fact the 100-clubbers have such fun that it seems they are not overly eager to be excluded from their precious circle.
There is a debate raging about what’s the world’s hardest sport, the top contenders being golf and polo, both considered to be among the most difficult sports to play proficiently. Depending on your definition of minimal proficiency, it can take hundreds of hours of practice to be able to enjoy playing golf. It has been claimed that an average proficient golfer takes about 300 weekly lessons while playing at least 32 holes per week over a period of many years. What an investment in time (and money)! If you take 5 hours to play 18 holes, you are looking at a time investment of at least 10 hours a week, 40 hours per month, totalling 360 hours of yearly practice. Then it is not just a sport, it is a second job. So let’s not be perfectionists, enjoy the successes and forget the failures.
Moriscos is a beautiful course with palm trees, snow-topped mountains in the background and well-trimmed fairways and greens. What’s the use breaking clubs and threatening to hang yourself in the nearest tree over some topped shots. It’s only a game, for Heaven’s sake!