‘I couldn’t sleep the previous night’

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick November 12, 2020 15:14

Every country’s golf industry has been hugely impacted by coronavirus this year. Here, amateur golfer Paarth Singh details what it was like playing at Karnataka Golf Association in Bengaluru, India, for his first round after lockdown restrictions were lifted.

Only golfers can feel what it is to be on the golf course with your favourite fourball for the weekend round. The plan for the next round begins soon after the completion of the previous round. Unfortunately, these moments of joy were snatched away from us by the world conquering coronavirus, which has crippled even the strongest of the economies.

Our joy knew no bounds when we got the news of golf courses being opened after the corona-impacted shutdown. We acted like children who are about to get their Christmas presents. Numerous Zoom calls were held to discuss the day, venue, time, new acquisitions of golf tips, who should be given how many strokes and so on.

However, much to our dismay, the social distancing norms allowed only three in a group and that too for nine holes only. One of us had to sacrifice his place. I offered to sit out for the first encounter. However, the brotherhood prevented me from being a martyr. So one more Zoom call followed to decide the fate of the ‘unlucky’ one. My good friend who usually throws our balls on the first tee to choose the teams, did the honours. Little did he know that his ball would deviate the furthest!

Our threesome reached the parking lot of the golf club much before our booked tee time, promising our eager fourth to relay the scores and happenings from the course itself. Lo and behold! The effects of corona (not the beer) began to show. After having not seen each other physically for more than three months, the urge to hug your buddies came naturally. Instead we elbowed each other and mocked a hug.

The waiting time of more than 15 minutes gave us the opportunity to check our supplies – golf balls, sanitisers, extra masks, water, fruits, energy bars and so on, before we hopped to the hallowed spot. There was a weird feeling. The regular camaraderie which is usually seen amongst our ‘most jovial fourball’, a title crowned by our caddies, seemed totally absent, as were the caddies themselves. The thoughts shifted away from the game we loved, revered, enjoyed and derived pleasure from pulling each other’s leg. The topics used to range from weight gain / loss, drinks and their concoctions, stocks, new set of clubs, real estate, movies and the likes. Now, each one of us looked solemn. The focus now was on how not to break any of the new rules / conditions rather than how to avoid the hazards on the golf course.

I could not sleep the previous night, visualising my shots and trying to play to my handicap of 18. However, with the new playing conditions on my mind, added to the rustiness factor, the results showed right from the first shot which never took to air, and landed about just 100 yards away, leaving me a large distance to reach the fairway! Thanks to the one metre circle drawn around the hole where you can pick up the ball if it lands inside the circle, I made a forgettable quadruple on the par four opener. Going by my form, I guess I would have missed that three footer too!

Determined for an improved performance, I tread on but without much success. The best I could manage was a double on our finishing par five ninth which was as eventful as it could be. Firstly I pulled my drive (I don’t have woods in my bag but do have a two iron). The golfing God must have taken pity on my perseverance as He made the ball ricochet off the tree and onto the fairway. In doing the kind act, He accidentally put me into another trouble. After having gotten used to the roughs and hazards, I didn’t know what to do. So I decided to use the safest club used by millions across the world – a seven iron.

However, the magic club was missing from my bag. Then I remembered, I had left it back on the seventh, playing my fourth shot. I was in between clubs facing a tricky 140-yarder and had carried both the seven and eight iron, finally relying on the latter, and, in celebration of a good shot, left the seven behind. This is where I missed Vikram (my caddie for the last four years who knows me inside-out, be it about the game or my moods). Had he been there, I could have saved at least six golf balls out of eight that I lost and maybe as many strokes as well. The other two – even Vikram or the golfing God would also have not found!

Coming back to the finishing hole, I nailed a 20-footer left to right curler but my playing partner did even better, chipping in for a birdie. It did call for a celebration and a high-five at least but we had to gulp our emotions and just waived in the air. The fantastic putt and the chip-in erased the memories of a horrific round as we promised to hit the course again as soon as we could. Having lost track of the number of shots we played (no scorecards available), the winner was decided on the number of balls lost. I came a close third! Wish the club allowed us a Covid handicap allowance, just like the moratorium on loans offered by the banks.

The post-round regaling session – where bets are settled, beers are guzzled, jokes galore and the heroics on the golf course recounted – was sorely and surely missed as was the shower that literally gives you a whiff of fresh breath.

We returned home thinking, ‘was it worth it playing, without the usual charm of weekend golf?’ Well, the fantastic putt and the chip-in birdie answered our question to a certain extent.

Paarth Singh is a former sports journalist in Bangalore and former CEO of a golf events company

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick November 12, 2020 15:14
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