This post isn’t entirely about golf. I guess golf is just the medium through which I learned three very valuable lessons last weekend. So even if you’re not an avid golfer, read on.
I love playing golf. I also hate playing golf. Anyone who has stuck with it for any amount of time will know what I’m talking about. When you’re not playing, you’re looking forward to your next round eagerly. And when you’re finally playing again and ready to tee off on the first hole, you’re excited. Then you hit your first shot.
You then spend the next four hours swearing crassly enough to make Gordon Ramsey blush as you angrily hack your way from hole to hole, cursing those masochistic Scots for having created what is without doubt the most frustrating pastime in the history of man. Afterwards, you hit the clubhouse and enthusiastically plan your next round over a few beers. Sounds crazy but golf is hard so all you need are one or two good shots, buried like gold nuggets somewhere beneath a mountain of dismal efforts, to bring you back again.
My girlfriend spoiled me on my birthday last weekend with a night at the Banyan Tree resort on Bintan Island, a one-hour ferry ride from Singapore. We had an opulent little villa with a spectacular view.
As if that wasn’t enough, my amazing woman went one step further, organizing a round of golf at Ria Bintan, my favourite course and the scene of my undie-soiling encounter with a crazed, hungry monkey. It’s an award-winning course, challenging but immaculately kept and very easy on the optic nerve.
Banyan Tree has its own course called Laguna Bintan. When we arrived, my girlfriend suggested I play a practice round of nine holes there before hitting Ria Bintan the next day. What a chick…
Quick lesson for non-golfers: par is the number of shots a good player should be able to finish a hole in. A bogey is one shot over par. Finish a par-five hole in five shots and you’ve shot par. Finish it in six and it’s a bogey.
The round at Laguna was uneventful until the sixth hole, a par five. I’d made it two hundred metres up the fairway after three terrible shots. I should’ve made that distance on my first shot. My fourth shot hit a tree branch hanging over the fairway and ricocheted into the jungle. Feeling a sudden urge to snap every club in my bag, I figured I should relax and concentrate on the task at hand. I put my cigarette out in my empty beer can and took my next shot. The ball, disgusted by my pathetic swing, traveled fifteen metres before refusing to move any further. Feeling a sudden urge to snap every club in someone else’s bag, I grabbed my cold beer and took a nice, long swig to calm me down. It wasn’t until I felt the cigarette butt sloshing around in my mouth that I realized that I’d put it in my full can, not the empty one. Spitting Tiger beer and a Dunhill butt onto the middle of the fairway, I spouted every swear word in my lexicon. I may have even made up a few (‘funt’ is going to catch on, trust me). I poured the remainder of my beer into the grass, one of the only two I had. I could taste cigarette butt. I wasn’t exactly happy. I ended up scoring a ten on that hole. If you’re unfamiliar with golf, a score of ten on one hole is as bad as it gets. At this point, I had pretty much had it. “Funt it,” I thought, “stop worrying and have some fun.”
On the very next hole, my fourth shot was an eight foot putt which went in for par. Cheering!
I remembered to stay positive the next day at Ria Bintan. I shot a ten on the first hole, a tricky par five. Determined not to let the rest of my round fall apart, I got onto the next tee and thought of that line in The Last Samurai where Tom Cruise’s character, Captain Algren, was being beaten by his opponent when practicing his sword technique. Nobutada, the young samurai, gave him some advice, telling him “Too many mind. Mind the sword, mind the people watch, mind enemy. Too many mind… No mind.” So I cleared my head. “No mind,” I told myself. I had a zen moment: I visualized my first shot reaching the green 135 metres away. I pictured myself making two decent putts for par. I pictured a quiet, proud fist pump before moving onto the next hole. And that’s exactly what I did.
After that par, I shot four bogeys in a row which, for non-golfers, means one shot over par. To good golfers, that might sound terrible but for a hacker like me, it’s pretty good. I was on a roll. I finished the front nine with a score of 53, the best round I’d played in a long time. It’s not a score that good players aspire to but Ria Bintan is a tough course and if not for that score of ten on the first hole, I could’ve shot 50 instead of 53. I was thinking positively. Maybe I’m not the worst player ever, I told myself.
The player behind me caught up to me at the tenth hole so I invited him to play with us. He was a great guy but as far as my performance goes, it was a bad move because for me, golf is like peeing: it’s harder when someone you don’t know well is watching.
From there, my game went downhill faster than a seven pound slab of double Gloucester cheese at Cooper’s Hill.
Still, the player – let’s call him Sean, mainly because that’s his real name – was a nice guy. Sean, my girlfriend and I got along really well and had an enjoyable round. And my fall from the dizzying heights of ‘not-the-worst-player-ever’ didn’t affect me much. I had quite a few good shots on the front nine and I was happy.
Besides, it was my birthday and my girlfriend gave me an amazing birthday present by taking us to Bintan and booking in the rounds of golf. I heard a saying the other day: “Happy people are not always grateful but grateful people are always happy”.
I was grateful for the three lessons I learnt that day:
1. I have an awesome girlfriend. I already knew that so I guess that lesson is for you, dear reader. The lesson I learned is that being grateful for her makes me happy to be with her every day.
2. Think positively and good things are more likely to happen. Shut out the unnecessary. No mind…
3. Dunhill sangrias (cigarette butts floating in beer) are to be avoided at all costs. They are funting funted.