Golf is more than a game. It creates lifelong bonds and special memories
Who was it that first got you into golf? For me, there were a number of family members involved since, when I first played, I was three years old and work associates were thin on the ground. There were my parents, of course, and also my grandfather. But perhaps the biggest influence was one of my uncles.
A large part of it was because he was around a lot more, as my father’s job took him south to the big smoke. What’s more, my dad had a regular habit of returning from golf and hurling his clubs into a corner – loudly and angrily announcing his retirement from the “stupid bloody game”.
But while my father shared my own dark temperament, my uncle was usually of a much more sunny disposition and so a few holes with him was an uplifting experience. Also because, as my father would grudgingly admit, his brother was a far better golfer so we played together quite a bit as I grew up.
I say together – in fact we played rather different games, tending to take alternative routes. We would start a hole side-byside and probably share a walk for the first hundred yards or so, then our two paths would diverge – his to the middle of the fairway, mine into the deep rough a couple of furlongs ahead.
We would then reconvene closer to the green with him quietly tapping in for par and me brushing bits of sand, foliage and assorted debris from my shoulder, having returned from an audacious yet futile attempt to escape from an adjoining fairway.
“Why don’t you just hit a 3-wood occasionally? You don’t need the extra distance” he might suggest.
“Yes, I probably should do” I’d reply, pulling off the driver’s headcover once more.
But such a generous golfing partner was he, that every one of my wild drives was met with something along the lines of: “My goodness you caught that one – what a DISTANCE you hit it!” and I would grit my teeth, smile and start my long walk towards the gorse again.
There were even the occasional days of minor success – and I recall him beaming with happiness when I reached the final of a big Ayrshire tournament. There was also, more recently, a real pride in whatever ramblings I was allowed to do on television.
But more than anything else he was just there – a fixture of the golf course – often tinkering with a new driver from the pro shop which he’d been assured would finally find him an extra 20 yards.
“Here… have a look at this. What do you think?” he would say, and the ball would soar straight and true, out to the same point that every drive he had ever hit had landed. “Certainly looks to be going a bit further,” I would lie. Then, a couple of months ago, we found out that he was ill. And very quickly he was gone.
Of course everybody suffers loss in their lives and perhaps you are wondering why you’re reading about this in between articles on the short game or pleasant news about Adam Scott’s hair.
Well, British, and certainly Scottish men of a certain vintage are curiously reserved beasts. Outpourings of affection are limited to monosyllables. An expression of real love is always left unsaid – or at the very most comes out as a pat on the shoulder or a brief chat about sport.
I was told, when first asked to do this column, that I could write on pretty much any subject. So I thought I’d like to say something about somebody who meant a great deal and who adored the game. And when I think now of playing with my uncle, the weather is always good. This isn’t purely through the haze of nostalgia, as we both tended towards fair-weather outings. But golf, for me, contains so many memories – you select which ones you choose to recall.
I may not have played much of late, but golf has been inextricably entwined with the rest of my life. A constant presence.
However much the sport is criticised for taking too long or being too out of touch, it’s something so many people will have shared with friends or that has tightened family bonds. That’s why, in the memories that I keep of my uncle, they will no doubt be on a golf course somewhere. I am probably refusing to hit a 3-wood… but the sun will be shining.
’ However much golf is criticised, it’s something so many will have shared with friends’