Has your return to playing golf lived up to your hopes and expectations?

After weeks of everyone talking about how much they have missed playing golf throughout the lockdown period, I wonder if your return to playing has lived up to your hopes and expectations?
What was it exactly we all felt we were missing out on?
Was it booming your longest career drive 20 yards past your playing partners?
Was it that feeling of a beautifully struck iron shot from the middle of the fairway?
Was it pitching over a bunker from a tight lie or holing a putt on the last to take the money after a close match?
OR was it quite simply being back out in the fresh air and appreciating the opportunity to simply enjoy a game of golf in the company of friends?
For me, there are no right or wrong answers here. We all play golf for our own personal reasons, or at least we think we do.
From the numerous people I have spoken to at Archerfield, where I have to say the courses are looking and playing as well as I have ever seen them, the thing that most people have missed have been none of the reasons mentioned above. The vast majority have missed out on the social interaction, albeit from the recommended safe physical distance.
The ability to actually speak to someone from outside your own household appears to be something we have pretty much all missed the most. The sense of community and the opportunity to catch up with actual people and not just a voice on the other end of the phone.
Golf is an under rated form of exercise, especially when you can nip round 18 holes in under three hours. Physical exercise is obviously essential to our well being but playing golf can also be hugely beneficial to our mental health.
Being largely confined to barracks for weeks on end may or may not have helped contain and minimise the effects of the covid 19 pandemic, only time will tell. Being stuck indoors for the best part of 10 weeks has given us time to think, or perhaps overthink what the future might look like. The uncertainty that brings can allow our minds to wander off to all sorts of dark places, a scenario very much like the game of golf itself.
Escaping those thoughts and the four walls we have been staring at for too long, is something I believe we should all be thankful to golf for.
Yes, we all want to play the best we possibly can but sometimes we place too much emphasis on the outcome on our shots and scores and run the risk of missing out on the moment and the sheer pleasure that can offer.
Was whatever you thought you were missing out on a reality, or was it something else entirely? Having played early the last couple of Monday mornings, I know there are numerous things I have enjoyed that probably weren’t too high on the list of what I thought I was missing.
Let’s hope that whatever golf gives you in terms of enjoyment doesn’t disappear as our opportuntities to play increase over the coming weeks and months.
Golf is many things to many people. What you think it will bring you isn’t necessarily what transpires in reality but I would like to think we are all in a better place from being fortunate enough to once more play the game we love.
Until next time, I’ll leave you with a quote from the late, great Bob Torrance, the godfather of Scottish golf coaching, “These are the best days of your life. Make sure you enjoy them.”
Gary Nicol.

Thoughtful Thursday: What have you learned since returning to golf?

Hopefully you will have had the opportunity to get back out on the golf course and perhaps reflect on what you have learned since.

Earlier this week, I dusted off my clubs (literally) and headed out for my first game in over a year. There are numerous reasons for my lack of play, mostly down to coaching and book writing commitments but the main thing is, I have missed it more than I had realised.
Admittedly, had you seen my play over the first two or three holes, you might have had a hard time believing it. Suffice to say, my ball striking was not exactly impressive. However, after a few holes, I soon began to remember what I really enjoy about playing golf.
Armed with a half set, I thought I would break myself in gently, I knew I would have to be creative to hit certain shots, including second shots with driver off the deck on a couple of par fives. I had forgotten how much fun that is, especially when you hit it properly! That alone was worth throwing my pencil bag over my shoulder again.
I’m not going to bore you with details as I am not arrogant enough to think anyone would be remotely interested. However, I did have great company on the Dirleton Links at Archerfield in European Tour player Grant Forrest.
Grant is a prime example of what I would consider to be the modern professional golfer. The key word in that sentence is professional.
He works extremely hard on his fitness and is smart enough to know which aspects of his game he needs to work on in order to get to where wants to go. He goes about his business in a very unassuming, very orderly and very impressive manner.
I learned many things from our 3 hours on the course, which looked and played like a true links, fast, firm and bouncy in places. It really was a treat to play that kind of golf again, especially in the Scottish sunshine.
One of the biggest things I took away from our Monday morning stroll was that playing 18 holes in 3 hours is easily achievable, even if your playing companion wants to play from the very back tees. We won’t go into details about how far Grant hit his driver past mine but as Bobby Jones famously said about Jack Nicklaus, “He plays a game with which I am not familiar.”
Of the many things I learned from our time on the links, I thought I would list a few to see if any resonate with you –
  • Playing golf is fun and at the very least, an excellent form of exercise.
  • While my ball striking needs work, I haven’t forgotten how to play the game.
  • Golf constantly asks you great questions. I just need to come up with better answers.
  • Golf tests you in many different ways. Very much like life.
  • I appreciated the opportunity to play on an excellent, beautifully presented golf course. Do not take that opportunity for granted.
  • A well struck shot is still enormously satisfying.
  • My attention has a tendency to wander to some odd places on the course but skills I have recently learned enabled me to bring it back.
  • Bad shots happen. Accept that and move on.
  • You can still enjoy the game even if your play isn’t fantastic.
  • I am still a pretty good putter.
  • I am very much looking forward to playing at Archerfield next Monday morning.
  • The golf course is without doubt the richest learning environment and that is where I plan to do most of my coaching in the future.
Golf has been good to me over the years and for that, I am eternally grateful. Playing good golf is great and very satisfying when it comes around but even the best in the world don’t play great golf every time they tee it up. Understand and accept that and your time on the course will be far more satisfying and gratifying.
Ultimately, remember why you play the game and truly appreciate every opportunity you get.
Until next time, keep playing at a good pace and enjoy the moment.

Gary Nicol.