In his exclusive Today’s Golfer column, award-winning comedian, BBC Radio 5Live host and Bad Golfer John Robins sets out his golf goals ahead of golf’s return in England and reflects on what he’s missed most about the game in lockdown.
I do hope with all my heart that this Today’s Golfer column finds you in a state of high anticipation for the imminent return of golf. You don’t need me, John Robins, to tell you, the world’s golfers, that it has been far, far too long!
JOHN ROBINS: How I shot my lowest-ever golf score
I wish I could tell you that I’ve spent the last two months of lockdown perfecting the ultimate lounge-based practice regime, ready to hit the course with a putter that has worn holes in my carpet. Alas, this is not the case.
Aside from attempting to finally master keepie-ups on a sand wedge for four minutes, I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t picked up a club since my last round. (Oh, and my record is a paltry 11 keepie-ups, should you want to know.)
I should point out that it’s not pure bone idleness: my lounge is about the size of a starter’s hut and not being able to swing properly somehow makes the 7-iron lose its lustre. I could, perhaps, have practised my two-foot chips in the garden, I know, but something about this seemed too sad to even contemplate.
I wonder if you’ve spent your time off setting some goals for the year? Or if you’re just desperate to get back out there whatever happens? Have you found, as I have, that during normal, non-Covid times, that the bad shots and negative thoughts would linger long in the mind, whereas during lockdown, all I can think about is the general joy of just bloody playing again?! Oh, to blob a short par 4 right now! And I’d give anything to hear my opponent remark, through a very badly disguised smile, “I think that’s you again.”
I do have some specific goals, though. The main one is that I’d really like this to be the year I officially play off 18. This is no pipe dream and I had come so tantalisingly close before we were all locked down. I set myself the goal of playing off 18 before I turn 40, in May next year, and my last round took me to 18.6, which is but a whisker away!
I thought this was a pretty generous aim, but losing five months of golf in the last year has certainly ramped up the tension.
Whatever this year has in store, I’m certainly not expecting too much for my first few rounds back. I just want to get some fresh air and clock up 10,000 steps for the first time since January 6 – home golf practise is not the only target that’s gone to the dogs for me.
But another big goal has come from a tweet I was sent after my last column. As I mentioned last month, the final round I played before lockdown was my club’s annual ‘Three Clubs and a Putter’ challenge (read about it here). Indeed, it was the last time I played any sort of golf, and though my score wasn’t going to trouble any leaderboards, it did suggest that my bag could do with a bit of de-cluttering.
Well, somebody responded to this on Twitter and sent me a picture of the scorecard of a friend who had shot what I think might be the best round in golf history.
In an even stricter competition, this five-handicapper shot a quite extraordinary SEVEN UNDER GROSS with, wait for it… A driver, an 8-iron and a putter. I have no doubt this is genuine; no marker would keep a fake scorecard for four years and both marker, and the mysterious but magnificent ‘Michael’ have signed it.
So Michael, I salute you! Even Tiger never beat -7 on a single round at a Major, so to shoot a net -12 with only three clubs on a frosty, hungover, New Year’s Day surely has to rank as the greatest achievement in golf?
And I think it’s those moments we’re all missing. The talking points, the crazy moments, the old codgers schooling the youngsters with an 80-yard bump-and-run that humiliates a gleaming selection of ineffectual wedges. The sound of wood and a fortuitous ricochet back onto the fairway – if you’re lucky.
I remember one occasion, late last year, when my playing partner drove his ball into the red tee marker and, after watching it balloon behind us, he was forced to play his second from the bunker of the previous hole.
That’s what golf’s all about, isn’t it? A little thing called fun? Though not, admittedly, much fun if you’re playing your shot from a greenside bunker as the group behind mark their putts.
So that’s my main goal when we are finally let loose on the fairways again: to have some fun as soon as possible – with fewer clubs in the bag and off a handicap of 18.0. That’s not too much to dream of, is it?
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.