Award-winning comedian and BBC Radio 5Live host John Robins is the co-creator of YouTube channel Bad Golf, but if his current form continues then it will need a rebrand. We’ll let him explain…
Over the course of these columns I have attempted to represent the experience of the average golfer. Though I refer to myself as a ‘bad golfer’, the stats would show I’m pretty much in the middle.
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To me stories of getting stuck in a bunker for five minutes are more relatable than hearing that the latest Titleist Pro V1 golf ball adds an extra 250 rpm of spin. I have shared reports of failure from my terrible putting to my complete collapse in wet weather. So I do hope you’’ allow me to share a little good news on my journey from bad to average golfer.
Last week I shot my lowest ever score.
I don’t know if other golfers treat their lowest score with sacred reverence? Do they obsess about it, creating a barrier they’re desperate to break every time they play? Do we ever stop wanting to improve? Does there come a point where we’re just happy to play and forget about the numbers.
For me, breaking 90 was a huge moment and it probably took longer than it should because I focused so much on that number. 90. 90. 90. And if your soul focus is on 90, guess what? You’re going to shoot ninety, not below.
It became an albatross around my neck, one that, ironically, served to keep all albatrosses (and eagles and birdies) far away from my game. A triple bogey and my head would totally go. I’d be thinking ‘there’s no point to this now, you’ll never break ninety with a triple, you’d better absolutely muller this next drive to make up for it… FORE!’. I also learned that there’s no better way to ruin a round than standing on the 10th tee thinking “hang on, if I keep this up I’ve got a chance of…”
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What’s remarkable about every time I’ve beaten my lowest score, is that I’ve never felt I was actually playing that well. These rounds featured no monster puts or top class chips, I didn’t feel like every part of my game was firing at the same time. But what I did feel, every time, was that I was in control. It was I who dictated how the hole went, not the cruel golfing gods.
I wasn’t setting the world alight, but I was playing most of my irons from fairways and most of my chips from decent areas around the green. There were no rushed shots, no frustration, and no high tariff risks being taken.
It’s remarkable how simple golf can seem on these days. Most of the time I think ‘how on earth can anyone get something so small into a four-inch hole that 440 yards away in just four shots?! It’s IMPOSSIBLE!’ But last week I strolled around my local club thinking ‘What’s all the fuss about? You hit it on to the fairway, hit it on the green, then take a putt or two and you’re done! Simples!”
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I parred the first four holes, which is absolutely unprecedented. It’s such a nice feeling – you feel clean somehow! And I think it actually helped my score that on the par-5 5th hole the wheels momentarily came off.
I found myself in a fairway bunker very close to the lip. My head said ‘get out, take your medicine, you’ve got a lot of shots saved from those first four holes’. Alas, my heart said ‘If you make perfect contact with a six-iron you could have a 40-yard chip on for a birdie putt.’ Out came the six-iron… and in the bunker I stayed. I got out, fluffed a hybrid out of frustration and ended with a triple-bogey. It was the reality check I needed, and I was still only three-over after five holes.
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When I first started playing I’d have let that bad hole ruin the rest of the round, but I just put it to one side and made a further four pars over the remaining 13 holes. The result was a thirteen-over par round of 82, my lowest ever gross score.
Something I’ve learned is that shooting your best golf score isn’t about avoiding mistakes, it’s about how you deal with them.
When you think about it, you could go round in par and make a mistake every hole. Ok, maybe not a catastrophic one, but certainly one ropey or less-than-perfect shot. So much of our improvement in golf is nothing to do with our swing, but our attitude.
If you scuff your drive 100 yards on a par 4, do you think ‘I can’t use a driver today! I’m useless! My game has gone to pot!’ and huff and puff around the next three holes? Or do you think ‘OK, not ideal, but an easy seven iron and a wedge and I’m putting for par.’ The difference between these two mindsets could easily be a dozen shots across a round.
Until last week I never thought I would break 80. It will happen one day, but I’m not going to obsess about it like I did breaking 90. After all, I’d like it to happen quite soon.
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WITB: Bad Golf’s John Robins
Click the club names to read reviews and tests of John’s clubs
Driver: Cobra King Speedzone Xtreme Loft: 10.5º set to 11.5º. Shaft: Tensei blue 65 reg
Hybrid: Cobra King Speedzone Loft: 2H. Shaft: Recoil reg
Irons: Cobra King Speedzone Lofts: 5-GW. Shafts: Recoil reg
Wedges: Cobra King MIM Lofts: 52º, 58º. Shafts: STD wedge shaft
Putter: Odyssey O-Works 2.0 R-Line
Golf ball: Bridgestone E6
John Robins is an award-winning stand-up comedian and radio host. Listen to his BBC Radio 5Live show every Friday from 1pm or download the podcast here and watch his comedy special ‘The Darkness of Robins’ on Netflix here. You can also follow John on Twitter and Instagram.