Tag Archives: Gary Player

Confessions of an Ageing Golf Player: the loneliness of the long distance putter

There’s no getting away from the fact that golf is one of the loneliest sports in the world. From the moment you tee off, through the journey down the fairway, to the final intense moments of alternating sturm und drang on the putting green, you are continually reminded of how alone you really are.

Even during my days of universal acclaim, when I could just turn up at a course with a caddy, a bag of sticks and a box of second hand Titleist and be the adored subject of the noisy hordes of fans, hangers-on and groupies, there was no getting away from the existential truth that in the end, it was just you, a stick, a ball and a hole. Nothing else mattered and everything else faded into the quiet oblivion of the universe when you stepped up to take that killer shot.

For those of you who find it difficult to put those distractions aside and who get easily tempted by the vicarious pleasures of signing autographs, wearing green blazers and being chased from chalet to chalet by this year’s next big thing in the fashion world, I have just one piece of advice for you. This advice will revolutionise your game and I guarantee that all your doubts, anxieties and screaming insecurities on the golf course will be laid to rest, allowing you to reach golfing heights hitherto undreamt of.

What I am about to tell you is something I found out very early in my golf career when I was constantly distracted by the possibilities that the GND (Girl Next Door) would hint at every time I walked past her parents 4x4s on their immaculate black asphalted drive way on my way to my weekly sojourn with my grandfather out on the municipal course.

In those days, I immersed myself deeply in the Wisdom of the Gary Player golf tips graphic text book aka cartoon in the august publication that was the Sunday Express. His tenth commandment (“Let’s Get Physical”) was something that Olivia Newton John also urged me to do as I meandered up and down that course looking for my lost balls. You see, once a lesson has buried itself in your head, you see it and hear it everywhere: it’s a useful cognitive tool to take with you onto the course, but that’s for another time.

The crucial thing I learnt then about golf was how to embrace and welcome the loneliness amidst the noise.

The first thing you need to do is to clear your mind of anything to do with golf. Don’t think of any thing to do with it.  Don’t think about your swing, your stance, your attitude, your balls, your caddy, your sticks, your plus fours, your slacks, your scorecard, your umbrella, your tees, towels or trolley accessories. Don’t think about any of it. Instead, think of something that nothing to do with golf. I found thinking about the GND an invaluable antidote to the internal pressures caused by thinking about the frustrations and distractions of the game.

Once I had got the game out of my mind, and focussed on how I was failing to make the opening gambit to the GND, I was able to generate an intense sense of lonliness and consequently found that my game improved immeasurably.

It may sound odd, it may feel counter-intuitive but believe me, welcoming the loneliness bought on by the missed moments, the forgotten bon mots de l’amour and the lost opportunities to say hello to your GND in a way which don’t leave you a squirming mess of embarrassment will have a huge impact on your golf career.


Confessions of an Ageing Golf Player: how a micron makes a mile of difference.

I heard early on that if you find you keep whacking the ball into the trees off the fairway on your first shot, all you need to do is just adjust your stance by a few microns and it will have the effect of bringing your shot in on target. It’s not a big shift you need, just a slight adjustment and you’ll get the result you want. That’s the theory at any rate.

The problem with the theory is that the word ‘just‘ (as in ‘just amend your stance‘) hides a myriad of difficulties and challenges. You may as well say, ‘just improve your golfing ability fifty million times’ for all the use of the instruction.

I thought I’d try this approach with the GND one day. Instead of talking to her with one foot wrapped behind my supporting knee, I thought I’d see if I could talk to her with both feet on the ground. It was pretty difficult as the moment I tried standing up I kept falling over. Obviously, I was trying to make too big a shift in too short a space of time: it needed to be in microns, not metres, so I went back to the golf drawing board and rethought the strategy.

My golf drawing board consisted of reading the Gary Player cartoon that was in the Sunday Express my dad used to buy every week. As well as picking up some very dubious politics at an early age, I learnt some invaluable golf tips from one of the masters which have seen me through some challenging games and personal situations in recent years. It’s amazing what you can learn from a strip cartoon in a red top newspaper: and if I think hard about it, I realise that my subsequent international golfing triumphs are all down to those early graphic golf lessons.

So, as part of the permanent attempt to ingratiate myself into the favours of the GND (never mind the favours, just a glance in my direction would have been a result) I went back to the weekly Gary Player cartoon to see what the master had to say.

And I was not disappointed. One of the most valuable tools that Gary has offered aspiring players over the years has been his 10 Commandments (all in comic book form too). And lo and behold, what does the 10th Commandment instruct? The one that inspired me both on the links, the municipals and matters relating to the GND? It’s the one that says:

There is no substitute for personal contact.

This was all I needed to know and I immediately dispensed with any pretence of micron size adjustments in my dealings with the GND. I decided to go for it at the very next opportunity.