James Innes-Smith

I’m an unlikely golf convert

Life lessons from the 18th hole

  • From Spectator Life

Golf has always felt like the embarrassing uncle of the sporting world, from those garish check slacks and snobby clubhouse rules to the desperate middle-managers sucking up to the boss at the 18th hole. Like many non-golfers I could never understand the appeal. Surely only a masochist would find pleasure whacking tiny balls into tiny holes. For me, real sport involved sweaty blokes dashing round a playing field injuring each other. Golf had neither sweat nor injury unless you count a nasty chill from standing out in the rain all day. Tiger Woods may have briefly sexed-up the game back in the 2000s but it was never really considered cool to be into golf. Or so I thought.     

My nearest course is the other side of the M25 but has a reputation for attracting petty criminals and uptight cabbies

For years golfing friends had tried to convince me of the sport’s appeal; not only was it great for hand-eye coordination it could also improve my mental elf. But isn’t that true of everything these days? Gurus are constantly coming up with novel ways to help us avoid perfectly rational human emotions such as anxiety, stress and unadulterated misery. Anything can be spun into a mental health benefit if you phrase it right. Sitting alone with your thoughts is now called ‘mindfulness’ while getting cosy in front of an open fire – or ‘Hygge’ as the Danes call it – can put you in a good mood. Well, who knew?

Anyway, apart from a few rounds of pitch and putt, I had managed to resist the call of the fairway chiefly because I live in central London where courses are thin on the ground. That said I’m sure Sadiq Khan would be more than happy to turn Hyde Park into an exclusive 18 holer if the price was right.

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