Lockdown for golfers: How did you survive it? Nights on YouTube and $37 not well spent?

‘Lockdown Golf’: you could fool yourself it’s almost a game

Thursday, 21st May 2020, 3:00 pm
Did you use lockdown to study how you could hit a ball just like Rory McIlroy? If not why not...? Picture: Getty

Golfers emailing each other with heart-rending pictures of empty fairways; playing ‘guess the hole’ (with no flags not so easy!) and the ultimate sad pursuit playing imaginary rounds and posting fantasy scores. “Just chipped in and parred the first!” Yes, it came to that.

During the lockdown, like many golfers, I spent too long scouring the internet for anything that might lighten the darkness of no golf. The obvious observation of this ‘research’ is that more words have been written about the golf swing than pretty much any other subject in the history of civilisation.

The revolution in visual media means there are now hours of video advice available on every golf shot you can imagine and some you can’t.

It’s all there for us 24 hours a day. Golfers with insomnia could sit up all night in their pyjamas, slugging coffee and fiddling with their laptop, a three-iron and a new over-lapping grip. (“What ARE you doing in there, dear?”)

These days there is no imperfection in either your swing, attitude, sartorial status or collection of equipment that the industry cannot attempt to improve.

God forbid, but you can buy an outfit to look like Rickie Fowler; get mentally equipped so you have the attitude of Patrick Reed and choose to play with the same clubs as Rory McIlroy – all that without even leaving your bedroom.

But do you end up with the winning swing? Because with all this internet help one might reasonably ask why most of us amateurs will still struggle with some of the basic intricacies of the game.

I often thought I’d be better off collecting used raffle tickets or joining a choir and singing Nordic whaling songs? Or I am alone on that one?

The swing issue can’t be down to shortage of advice – surely? No. The issue is the suitability of that advice. Particularly if you’ve gone to the internet for salvation.

If you’re an online scourer, you’ll know there are plenty of YouTube videos offering tips on everything from identifying foreign worms to playing Beethoven with spoons. But by far the greatest number are from golf-teaching pros all over America who will sell you a video course for $37 guaranteed to cure every problem with your golf.

And the pro with a Texan drawl just might succeed in improving your game... if like him you play all your golf on a scorched-earth course in Amarillo where it doesn’t rain.

His fairways are harder than the slab of chewing gum he spat out weeks ago; hence he has no idea of the difficulties his sad pupils – like you – face on home courses.

Useful would be an idea how to hit a four-iron out of long rough that’s wetter than a duck’s bottom – and follow-up advice on how to look for it when your glasses are splattered with mud and your orange Ricky Fowler shirt is all but ruined.

Despite all this, we carry on in desperation hacking through umpteen videos in the hope that just that one little piece of advice will be a Damascene moment. That moment when your slice, that on a bad day can easily cover three counties, is cured once and for all. But don’t be fooled.

The video – just when you thought it was going in the right direction – will get worse. After hours of build-up, he springs it on you. His cure-all technique for a slice is pretty much to play left-handed or ‘imagine you’re swiping long grass with a scythe’.

Thanks. So I must learn to play backwards or move to a farm in Oklahoma.

My advice? Forget the net and listen to your local pro who at least plays golf on the same patch of turnips you do. Meanwhile if anyone knows of a local choir who like wearing chunky cable-knit sweaters, let me know.

* Paul Hills is a member of Chichester Golf Club and a retired sensible person