The desk from which this column wends its ponderous way to you is about three feet wide and two feet deep, with a hole in the back middle for the computer wires. Lately, in search of ever more creative ways to procrastinate, I’ve taken to rolling up little pieces of paper and trying to knock them through said hole with a pen. These are the dark places you find yourself in when you’re not allowed to go out and play golf.
My technique needs work, admittedly. The swing plane is a little more outside-in than the purists would like and the wrist extension is betrayed by the passing years. I find the whip of a classic Bic biro more suited to my action than the sturdy thrust of the Staedtler, although neither can compete with the accuracy from the clicky number with the 98FM logo on it that must be sitting here for over a decade because I haven’t been in 98FM since about 2009 when dear old Johnny Lyons, God rest him, had us in to do a book interview and he met us in a string vest, torn jeans and 18-hole Docs at nine o’clock on a Sunday morning and oh my good Jaysus, please, please, PLEASE can we go and play golf sometime soon?
This has to end. Yes, pandemic. Yes, very serious. Absolutely, totally, all in it together all the way. But like, come on. It’s walking around a field with sticks we’re talking about here. Golfers who should be losing ProV1s are losing their minds instead.
Golf has to be one of the things that come back when the Government makes its big announcement this week. Has to be. This is cruel. This is unusual. This has gone beyond the pale.
As Ruaidhrí Croke reported in these pages a few weeks ago, Ireland has undergone the longest golf shutdown in the world. In. The. World. Golf courses have been closed in Ireland for 183 days so far since March 2020. If nightclubs can be open in Madrid, surely we can get out for a quick nine in Ballinascorney.
Golfers are jonesing, man. We're twitchy. We're jumpy. We're gulping down protein shakes so we can come back like Bryson. It's not going well. Whatever about the effects of the protein, we're definitely getting the shakes. All those golf hats are coming in handy, mind you. It's been almost four months since our last haircut - we are all Cameron Smith at this stage.
We do what we can to keep the whole show rolling. We’re hanging our watch on an upturned pitchmark repairer when we go to bed at night. We’re wearing golf shoes to do the gardening, for fear the leather might seize up from underuse. We’re strapping on the Footjoy glove when we’re chopping chillies - it might not be overly hygienic but at least the material won’t have crisped up when we eventually get back playing.
You see it everywhere. Phantom golfers incorporating the game into their everyday lives. They’re eating their boiled eggs off a plastic tee. That ball marker they got at St Andrew’s one time is used now to keep their spot on the sofa when they go to the bathroom. I swear a fella down the road had a stimpmeter out the other day after giving his lawn the first mow of the spring.
Society doesn't understand. We're getting chased from parks by cranky men in Dublin Corpo uniforms - who knew a bit of chipping practice into that fountain would be such a no-no? We're getting dirty looks in Tesco for using our battery-operated trollies to ferry around the basket when we do the weekly shop. It's pure jealousy, obviously. If you want to push a shopping trolley and be a sucker all your life, that's on you.
It weighs worst on the families, of course. In the beginning, they were just about okay with the putting machine in the hallway - they were less happy with the constant moving it around from room to room on the basis that you didn’t want to get too used to putting at the same speed all the time. They rolled their eyes at the constant regripping of the television remote. They shook their heads when you insisted on getting in a full belt-buckle turn when passing the salt.
But after 180 days or so of no golf, it really got out of control. They started to properly worry when they saw the delivery van arrive with heavy duty curtains for the bedroom, especially when they started hearing the click-thud-click-thud of flop shots being hit into them later that evening. The dumper backing up into the driveway with two tonnes of sand for a back garden bunker was the final straw. Nobody needs golf to return more desperately than the families of golfers.
We’re willing to do anything to get back playing. Social distancing? No problem - we don’t even like most of the gobshites we play with anyway. Tell us we have to stay 20 yards away from them at all times and we’ll do it. I’d suggest making it 50 but I’d be afraid the chancers I play with would start getting some suspiciously helpful lies with that sort of leeway.
Masks? You betcha. Golf is about nothing if it’s not about the gear. Mandate masks in the morning and by the time we get to the first tee on Saturday, every group will have at least one poser with a bespoke Titleist wraparound number, casually dying to be asked where he got it. The first of the other three to crack and bring it up automatically gets a two-shot penalty.
We’ll disinfect every ball, hand sanitise after every shot. Tell us to play in bleedin’ Hazmat suits and we’ll do it. If you want to throw in a bit of mandatory hotel quarantine, knock yourself out. Mount Juliet will be fine, thanks.
One way or the other, the powers that be need to do the right thing here. End the Golfmageddon. End it now.