To make golf more enjoyable for the overwhelming majority of us who, frankly, find it a bit of a struggle, has always been an ambition of mine. To be honest, now that winning majors is no longer a preoccupation, it has largely taken over as my principal sporting aim in life.
Some things about golf are perfectly okay; for example, the scenery, fresh air and mulligans. Others like bunkers, water hazards and the ridiculous number of rules are mildly annoying. But what really spoils golf for me – and millions like me – is the disproportionate emphasis placed on the number of shots you take rather than the manner or style in which you take them. For example, three miserable putts from ten feet is heavily punished whereas the only benefit of a bold shot out of the woods is normally no more than a marginally easier next shot which, frankly, is scant reward for such skill and courage.
In what I presume was a desperate attempt to make the game less stressful, Dr. Stableford came up with a system that sought to minimize the damage done by those card-wrecking sevens, eights and nines by reducing them to mere blobs. Grateful though we are to him, the Stableford system still has the fatal flaw of penalizing those of us who are more inclined to take a greater number of shots on each hole than others who, principally because they have been endowed with better hand/eye coordination or whatever, seem to find the game a lot less difficult. Clearly that’s unfair.
In a genuine attempt to nullify the arbitrary advantage that ‘better’ golfers enjoy, a few years ago I introduced the bold and imaginative ‘Agran’ scoring system. Points were awarded, for example, for hitting sprinkler heads and deducted for mentioning Tiger Woods. Condemned by critics for its somewhat arbitrary nature, it never really caught on and with its demise almost certainly went my chances of ever achieving golfing immortality.
However, it may have inspired others. In particular, I am thinking of PowerPlayGolf. having always passionately believed that one hole on the green is insufficient, I instinctively warmed to PowerPlayGolf because it requires two holes. Three would have been even better but there you go. But in seeking to reward players who opt for the tougher of the two pin positions the creators have, in my humble opinion, made a fundamental error. They have naively assumed that we very average players have any choice in the matter or, indeed, that it makes any difference which pin we choose. However large the green, it is always a minute target and the notion of selecting anything more precise to aim at, such as a flag, from anywhere beyond the immediate apron of the green is quite risible.
Possibly more appropriate for the likes of us is a concept called Golfmission. Hopeful that it might provide precisely the solution that I have been desperately seeking, I attended its press launch.
Before teeing off, the assembled media were told how a Canadian chef called Geoff Chapman, in an effort to spice up an annual tournament with his mates, came up with the idea of giving each of them three separate missions to accomplish during the course of their round. This simple concept was subsequently developed into a slightly more complicated version where each player is given a card with six missions on it and has to fulfil between three and six, depending on his or her handicap.
Finding the well hidden course was itself no mean accomplishment but not, sadly, one of my stated missions. These, I had hoped, would be more general in nature and not too golf orientated. The truth, alas, was otherwise. Instead of ‘Spot a green woodpecker’ or ‘Find an edible fungus’ I got the following: 1) Drive first fairway or no sand on 2nd and 3rd holes; 2) No more than four putts on the 9th and 10th; 3) No sand or water on the 11th and 12th; 4) Hit the 13th or 14th green in regulation, 5) Nine fours or better on the card, and 6) Par any five holes in a row (you can not be serious!).
My handicap bracket required me to achieve four which, since the last two were somewhere deep in the realms of fantasy, was a big ask. The fact that I fell just an agonising three missions short of my target is testimony to my gritty determination.
My playing partners met with even more success and, since you had to announce when you had completed a mission, the sparkling autumn air was filled with much, “Yes, another mission!” and frequent a’whoopin’ and a’hollerin’.
Fun though Golfmission undoubtedly is, it sadly doesn’t offer a viable alternative to conventional golf. Indeed, it’s designed to run parallel with another competition – medal, Stableford or whatever – and even boasts that it “improves your game”, which is not really what I’m after.
And so my desperate quest for a game played with golf equipment and on a golf course that isn’t all about hitting the ball straight or into a hole in as few shots as possible, continues. Now there’s a mission!