The irrefutable joy of playing golf alone

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Conventional wisdom dictates that there are certain things golfers should and should not do. 

We tend to consolidate these expectations under the rather broad canopy of ‘etiquette’. They’re not rules so much as commandments.   

Thou
shalt not walk over another player’s line; thou shalt not take an
eternity to play; thou shalt turn off thy phone, and so on. 
 

Whilst
most are obeyed without protest, there are some that are less readily
observed. The matter of playing on your own is one such example. It’s a
behaviour
that has long divided opinion amongst golfers.

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Some clubs won’t allow
it, particularly at peak times when they want to accommodate as many
people as possible on their course. Perfectly understandable. A much
less legitimate claim, and one I have heard too many times to mention,
is that it is an odd thing to do. “Golf is a social game,” people have
told me. “You should always want to play with others.”
 

Except
I don’t, nor do I think I should be expected to. As hard as it is for
some people to comprehend, I actually love playing golf on my own. 
 

Since
I joined a new club earlier this year, I have played more on my own
than I have with other people. It just suits me better. 

I typically head up to the course in the early evening, when
there’s hardly anybody else there, and I can get around in two, three,
four hours – whatever suits me best. I don’t have impatient groups
behind me or
slow-moving groups in front of me. I have the freedom to, largely, do as I please. 
 

If I want to hit more than
one tee shot, I can. If I want to practice my putting on a particularly
good green, I can. If I want to sit on the bench next to the ninth for
20 minutes and do nothing but enjoy the peace and quiet, again, I can.
I’m not getting in anybody’s way. I’m not taking a tee time away from
anybody. It’s just me, the cows in the adjacent fields and the hills
beyond versus the setting sun. It’s absolute bliss. 
 

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I
also find that I tend to play better. There are fewer distractions so
I’m much more focused on what’s going on. I don’t have to wait for
others to hit shots; I don’t have to go searching for others’ lost
balls; I don’t have to make small talk; I don’t have to worry about
being affected by other people’s
behaviour,
good or bad. I can just do my own thing, at my own pace, on my own
terms. Unless I decide there’s going to be pressure, there’s no
pressure. 
 

More
than anything, I’ve found golfing solitude to be exceptionally good for
the mind. I have a busy job, a young family and a lot of
extra-curricular commitments. Like everybody, I need a bit of ‘me’ time.
For others, that might be doing the garden, going out for a cycle,
going shopping. For me, it’s golf. Or rather it has become golf. The
course is where I do my thinking, where I go to clear my head. It’s hard
to do that with other people around.  

None
of which is to say that I don’t enjoy playing with others. I’m not some
‘Melvin Udall’ misanthrope. On the contrary, what I’ve found is that
playing most of my golf on my own makes me appreciate company when I do
have it. I find that I’m more engaged – and hopefully, by extension,
more engaging. There’s no going-through-the-motions. It’s a far more
enjoyable experience.
 

Of
course, there are reasons not to play alone. You could shoot the round
of your life but not be able to use it towards your handicap thanks to
the new World Handicap System. In a similar fashion, you lose all access
to provenance. Imagine having a hole-in-one during a solo round. Who
would believe you? Short of filming every shot you hit, how could you
prove it? 
 

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And
then there’s the not-at-all-insignificant matter of your ‘rights’. I’m
fortunate in that my club is not massively oversubscribed in terms of
its members. It’s an exceptionally well-run, rural, community club.
There are next-to-no airs and graces. I know, from experience, that’s
not universally the case.
 

The
club I was a member of prior to my current one was sadly infested with
stubborn, indignant and frankly stuck-up individuals. I can’t tell you
the number of times I played on my own, only to catch up with a glacial
fourball who refused to allow me through because ‘a single has no
rights’. That may indeed be the case but it’s an obscene, nonsensical
rule. I often wonder about those people and laugh at their pettiness,
not to mention their selective adherence to club rules. For example,
they have no problem not letting a single through but apparently choose
to routinely ignore the recommended round time as clearly displayed on
the first tee. But I digress…
 

Playing
on your own might not be ‘normal’ or the greatest advertisement for
golf as ‘a social game’ but it has made me enjoy the sport more and I
know for a fact that it has made me a better player. Surely that’s not
something we should look to discourage?





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