Well, what a year 2020 has been in many ways, and golf was no exception. ‘Unprecedented’ is the word used almost daily when referring to COVID19, but it also applies to the changes golf has gone through in 2020.
I stopped being a fair-weather golfer a while ago, so was well into my golfing routine when the big lockdown happened in March. Two months without golf saw me desperate to get hold of a practice net. I tried everywhere, even from the USA, but it proved impossible. I got to the point of acquiring some sports netting but never found the inclination to complete the DIY part of the project. One thing I did discover was WGT: World Golf Tour www.wgt.com (other online golf games are available). WGT became my daily passion. It takes some getting used to, but the graphics are great and I have played some courses I will probably never get to experience in real life.
Weeks of lockdown gave us the opportunity to focus on the PuttBANDIT business. Unfortunately COVID and the inability to have face-to-face meetings made it very difficult to source UK-based suppliers and manufacturers. We could have gone abroad, but we wanted to support British businesses – so in early 2021 we will release our first products to golfing world.
Like many lockdown golfers, we may have bulked up a bit during COVID, but I was mightily disappointed to find that my driving distance hasn’t become DeChambeauesque as a result. Although dominant at the US Open, the Masters showed that maybe distance is not the panacea Bryson may have thought it to be. Drive for show and putt for dough still appears to hold true. Let’s wait and see.
My home club is Pryors Hayes in Cheshire. They made great efforts during the year, using the down time to build a new members bar, add drainage and lay new buggy paths as well as general course improvements. For this we thank them, as it would have been easy to do nothing and save the pennies. I hope other clubs used the downtime to invest for the future too.
Golf on TV took a massive hit. When it did return, as an armchair viewer, I did not take issue with the lack of crowds. I quite enjoyed it when players lost their balls, because there weren’t 5,000 people to trample the rough, spot the ball or create a human barrier to the Out of Bounds. For some pros, I’m sure the lack of crowds relieved some pressure, but I believe some of the best thrive on atmosphere and therefore haven’t quite had the year they anticipated.
The World Handicap System came upon us this year too. By now I’m sure most of you have had your handicap (sorry, Handicap Index) raised or lowered, and hopefully got used to consulting the charts on clubhouse walls to find your playing handicap. Personally, I was initially docked some 1.7 shots to my handicap index, but after a course re-evaluation and without putting a card in, I was docked another 1.4. So in a very short time I went from 16.4 to 13.3. For me it seems the less I play the better I get. If I don’t play for the next month, I may achieve my single figure ambition sooner than I thought. I’m sure it will take a bit of time to bed in, but the principles behind it can only make for fairer golf in the long run.
From my experience at least it appears that golf has become a lot more popular this year. Nobody ever thought ‘Golf is a safe sport!’ would make a strong marketing line, but it is one good outcome of COVID. Golf is recognised as good honest exercise, in the open air, with some friends or family – safely. Unfortunately it’s not thought safe enough for the new lockdown measures anywhere but Scotland, but those are the rules. Yes, tee times have been harder to book and rounds have been a bit slower due to volume, but this increased demand to play has to be a good thing for the future of the game.
Happy New Year
Well that’s my golfing year summed up in a few paragraphs – it certainly hasn’t all been bad. And despite the latest national lockdown and golf course closures, I hope 2021 proves to be better for all of us in so many ways. Large crowds at both the Ryder and Solheim Cups would be a huge bonus to these international events because it will show we are getting to the end of COVID! Let’s all hope the crowds are huge.
Play well – when you can
How’s your golfing 2020 been? Let us know: send your thoughts to email@example.com and we’ll mention the best in our newsletter.
Neil Hart is a co-inventor of the PuttBANDIT Ball Marker, set up PuttBANDIT Ltd with brother Paul, and plays off 13.3.
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