You can’t play too much golf

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - News - By Stu­art McLean, Ed­i­tor stu­art.mclean@new­me­di­a­pub.co.za

Much as I love golf, I am of­ten happy to be off the course and tak­ing a break. So it’s dif­fi­cult for me to com­pre­hend that an Amer­i­can played 878 rounds in 2016, walk­ing and car­ry­ing his golf bag. For many, that’s a life­time of golf packed into one year.

Barry Gib­bons, a re­tired 57-year-old, set out to break the world record for most rounds walked in a cal­en­dar year, and that mark (611 rounds) went last Septem­ber. He then shat­tered the record for most rounds in a cart (812).To pro­vide per­spec­tive, if you played once a week with­out fail every year, it would take nearly 17 years to get to 878 rounds.“Peo­ple are ei­ther en­vi­ous,” said Barry,“or think I’m nuts.”

Barry never let up, av­er­ag­ing 43 holes a day in all weather, mostly at his two home clubs in Texas and Con­necti­cut. He only played 21 dif­fer­ent cour­ses, so green fees were min­i­mal. His big­gest ex­pense was golf shoes – he went through more than a dozen pairs, but then he did walk 10 300 kilo­me­tres.That’s Cape Town to St An­drews in Scot­land. He dis­carded three golf bags. Start­ing the year as an 8-hand­i­cap, all that golf (67 840 strokes, av­er­age score 77.3) im­proved his game, be­cause he was a 1-hand­i­cap at one stage.

Cu­ri­ously, Barry’s wife Joy was his big­gest sup­porter. She helped him with his sched­ule, and cre­ated a web­site, break­the­gol­frecord.com, that fol­lowed his ac­com­plish­ment. Good lat­eral think­ing by Barry. The more golf you play, the more sym­pa­thetic your wife will be.“A good friend of ours died at age 57 in 2015, be­fore he had a chance to re­tire and en­joy life,” says Joy.“That was a per­spec­tive builder.” Maybe it was Joy who per­suaded Barry to be­come the world’s fittest golfer.

How do South Africans fare when it comes to play­ing a lot of golf?We have our own cham­pi­ons who tee up of­ten with­out any thought of records or web­sites. Henk “Clutch” Ma­ree, club cap­tain at Bronkhorstspruit GC in Gaut­eng North, played 347 rounds in 2016, of which 308 were at his home course. No club cap­tain in his­tory has done as many course in­spec­tions. This wasn’t a one-off year for him ei­ther. He was also the SA golfer with the most rounds in 2015, when he played 331.

“I have a job where I have four days on and four days off, so there is plenty of time for golf,” said Henk, a 5-hand­i­cap. All that prac­tice paid off on De­cem­ber 31, when he shot a 72 to end the year on a tri­umphant note.“It’s not as if I can play every day, so quite of­ten I get in 36 holes; once there waere54 holes in a day.” Just wait un­til he re­tires. Henk ad­mit­ted that most of his rounds were played us­ing a golf cart, although he walks for scratch league and tour­na­ments. Just to show that 2017 is go­ing to be no dif­fer­ent, he played 24 rounds in Jan­uary.

Two Rand­park mem­bers, who must be bud­dies, were next in terms of rounds, with 318 and 297 re­spec­tively. In the Cape, a Dur­banville mem­ber did 295, and a West­lake mem­ber 282.Women golfers weren’t as crazy. Their en­duro leader was a young Southern Cape woman with 208 rounds.

I ob­tained these sta­tis­tics from Hand­i­caps Net­work Africa, and the most re­veal­ing in­for­ma­tion was that as many as 87 per­cent of af­fil­i­ated golfers play less than 50 rounds a year.That is poor com­mit­ment to the game by 117 685 golfers. Barry Gib­bons was do­ing that every three weeks.

If you mea­sure a core golfer as some­one who plays 100 rounds a year, then they rep­re­sent only three per­cent of the af­fil­i­ated golf­ing pop­u­la­tion. HNA says that 3 825 golfers played more than 100 rounds in 2016.There were 516 who broke the 150-round mark, and 71 recorded more than 200 rounds.

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