Yorkshire cricketer Josh Poysden explains why golf is so popular with him and many of his sporting colleagues
It’s amazing the lengths that players will go to win some money off their teammates. During lockdown, I’ve been enjoying The Last Dance documentary about Michael Jordan and his Chicago Bulls team, particularly the insights into his affinity with golf. His golf gambling stories are legendary – Scottie Pippen said Jordan gave him a set of clubs in his rookie year “just so he could take all my money”.
It got me thinking about how professionals in sports other than golf often seem to have a love for grabbing their clubs and playing some holes.
Speaking for myself, although I am mainly yearning for some cricket this summer, I do also find myself daydreaming about a return to the course.
Golf can be a great tool for a professional athlete in a number of ways. It’s a perfect hobby for taking your mind off the pressures of playing sport for a living. It can also help to build relationships with your teammates.
For example, when I changed counties and signed for Yorkshire, there was the opportunity to play a round of golf with my new teammates on the afternoon before my debut. The current England test captain Joe Root was part of that fourball, and maybe the pressure got to me, but please don’t ask me what happened with my opening tee shot!
At my previous club, Warwickshire, the golfing culture was also strong. This involved a handicap committee, ensuring that the handicaps were fair for the end-of-season Batters vs Bowlers Ryder Cup style tournament.
With sports players being so competitive, it is only natural that various competitions have been established. For me, the highlight of this is the annual ‘Turkey Jug’ where a group of us are working our way round the Scottish coast (fingers crossed our trip to Royal Dornoch and the Scottish Highlands can take place this October).
While touring, golf is a great activity for a day off, although you can find yourself playing in interesting places. When on a training camp in India, I played a course in Mumbai where the fairways were packed with wild street dogs. Another unique experience was playing golf on an Air Force Base in Sri Lanka while on an England Lions tour. It had one of the most intimidating tee shots I’ve ever come across. It wasn’t a particularly narrow fairway or tough shot, but I was fairly rattled by the manned anti-aircraft gun only metres from me.
I had a nasty injury last year, fracturing my skull after being hit on the head with a cricket ball. Unfortunately, I was ruled out of cricket for the rest of the season due to the risk of getting a second knock. Aside from cricket, one of my first thoughts was whether I could still play golf. I enquired with the doctors and was told that I could, but only with “protection”.
This led to the strange event of playing some of the finest courses in the UK, including Royal St George’s and the Old Course at St Andrews, wearing a ‘golf helmet’ – a baseball cap with an inbuilt hard layer – to make sure I didn’t get a ball on the head!
Josh Poysden is a professional cricketer for Yorkshire CCC. He’s also a keen golfer and has a particular interest in golf course architecture. You can follow him on Twitter here.
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