This afternoon I played the front nine at Chilworth. It’s not a particularly easy set of holes, with three par 5s, a 200 yard plus par 3 and the notorious 6th among its challenges, so I was pretty content to finish in the gently gathering dusk at 8 over par. Last Saturday saw me go out and play the same front half of the course with an outcome of 9 over for the 9 holes. It’s what usually happens when I play the front nine on my own as practice – par for the course, you might say. So why, when playing in the weekly seniors’ competition yesterday morning, did I find myself reaching the turn in a staggering 21 strokes in excess of par? Triggering the rage as in the title, not necessarily against the machine, but against pretty much anything within range. My poor gap wedge took a particular hammering at one especially desperate moment after I had rocketed the ball across the full width of the green at high speed.
Five over after the first two holes wasn’t a great start, to say the least, and set the tone for the following seven holes, with not a solitary par to lighten the gloom, but with topped tee shots, duffed chips and missed putts aplenty. Par on the 10th proved a false dawn as an incredible 13 more dropped shots on the next four holes followed and plunged me into such despondent and frustrated gloom as only a golfer would know. And then the miracle happened. I rediscovered an ability to play golf. Tee shots soared, pitches landed obediently on greens and putts dropped into cups. Well, except for a slight miscalculation on the 18th, which denied me the last of four successive pars over the closing holes. Better late than never. Perhaps. But the overriding emotion that lingered from the round was that uncomprehending rage triggered by the frustration at my inability to play and score in the way that I know I can.
I suspect that it is, as they say, all in the head. Golf is, after all, the mind game par excellence. I just need to find the mental serenity in a competitive environment that will allow me to once again card the same kind of scores that come so easy when playing for fun or for practice.