No member of the human race suffers more at Christmas time than the golfer. It isn't simply that consideration for others or mere good grace - common characteristics of all players - keeps us indoors permanently moored to the sofa and the TV controls. It isn't even the apparently endless headache from the pressure of the mental activity involved in finding an excuse to get to the practice ground. Neither is it the nagging concern that ones' friends have escaped to the club, nor even the ongoing angst about the weather on the day that has been pencilled in as 'Dad out playing golf' in bold lettering resentfully underlined.
No, it is the naff Christmas presents every golfer has forced upon him and the delighted appreciation that he has to summon up that really eclipses all other suffering.
Why is it that every non-golfer feels compelled to present a golfer with a golf-related item for Christmas? Women seem to experience a desperate need in this respect although men too would appear to suffer from the same compulsion. Few have not winced while feigning delight upon being presented with a fifth book on the Ryder Cup by a well-meaning gardening neighbour. A bottle of malt would not only have sufficed but would also have been infinitely better received. Furthermore, it would have required much less effort by the donor and not required the scissors to cut off the outrageous price tag.
A book, however, can be passed on to the window-cleaner who has just taken up the game, but three balls with Santa Claus figures stamped on them, contained in a mock-leather sleeve with three gold tees attached, can be hard to find a home for.
Golfing friends who leave the Christmas shopping to their wives can also let you down badly. But in this case you have the satisfaction that they too are suffering as they hand you the fastidiously wrapped parcel of animal head covers. They at least know that this is tat and have enough sensitivity to be embarrassed by it.
Head covers and other sundry gewgaws to adorn or clutter the golf bag are one thing, golf clothing is another. I am convinced that golf-clothing manufacturers perceive of every man playing the game as an aspiring pimp. There is some justification for this perception, not least contributed by the preparedness with which some Scandinavian players are prepared to dress like circus clowns or pantomime dames. But in the main, few golfers welcome technicolour sweaters and even fewer want to be covered in commercial logos - or, indeed, any logo at all. Yet logos abound on every item of golf clothing and come to their peak of bad taste with the omnipresent baseball cap.
Why do players insist on wearing baseball caps? Even the most reserved and conservative of my friends have taken up this obnoxious habit. They appear on the tee looking at best like mid-west American truckers or, at the worst, like something newly escaped from a Mississippi prison chain gang. They have car boots full of them with logos declaiming everything from obscure fast food joints in the Carolinas to the Fisherman's Mutual Association of Pittenweem. Is it really the case that everyone I know is secretly aspiring to pimpdom and yearning for the life of a trucker?
You may be lucky and get the New York Fire Department baseball cap of your dreams from a teenage member of the family who really knows what's cool. You may also be unlucky and get a pair of Tiger endorsed slacks. On some, most noteworthy the tall, slim and elegant young, these, I am assured, look cool. On others, they simply look like curtain-drapes that the cat has practised acrobatics on. These slacks appear particularly attractive on anyone in long wet grass and especially on the slightly corpulent. As part of an ensemble with an Argyll sweater with a Calloway logo and a Happy Valley baseball cap, you could look very stunning.
Approach your Christmas parcel pile with trepidation but keep your real concerns for the Christmas reception at the golf club. Last year, a friend of mine's wife - a lady who is entirely supportive and encouraging about her husband's golf - was overheard in conversation with another lady, as a result of which my friend purchased a greenhouse and hasn't been seen since.
'Your husband plays off 2, you say. Well my husband plays off 20.' Sadly she paused before adding so that everyone would hear; 'but then my husband has probably been playing for longer and he also has a very big driver.'
Remember this: Christmas comes but once a year and for some it brings good cheer.
|| 16 - DECEMBER 2003