What do you do differently when you play on your own?

The Scoop

In the latest edition of The Niggle, the NCG team discuss the pros and cons of playing golf as a one-ball

Mark Townsend: I sort of love playing golf alone which is just as well as 90 per cent of my golf is a one-ball. The bad part is I act even stranger than normal, giving a running commentary on the shot ahead and the shot just gone. I rarely putt and I am even more affected than normal.

James Savage: I hate it.

Alex Perry: I don’t hate it but I don’t prefer it. I like teeing off alone at 7am and getting in for breakfast just after 9.

Mark Townsend: I was two inches from a hole-in-one only today and I was mainly relieved that it hadn’t gone in as there was nobody there to share the moment. All the things I’m terrible at – 100 yards and in – I’m quite good at on my own which suggests, other than some chronic technical issues, I can’t perform in front of others.

Matthew Beedle: Sometimes I like it, but give me a competitive round any day.

Alex Perry: I find I talk to myself after EVERY shot. That can’t be healthy?

James Savage: That’s why I don’t like it. Talking to yourself a lot is not a good thing.

Alex Perry: “Oh Alex that’s not the club!”

Mark Townsend: I prefer putting together a highlights reel: “Better than most”, “Be the right club”, “TODAY!” and so on.

James Savage: Every time I play on my own I’ll try some new or different things. One of them will work and I’ll convince myself that I’ve ‘cracked it’. Gripping down on my wedges was my thing today and I felt like I had completed short game.

Alex Perry: “How am I not on tour?”

James Savage: Things I never do when playing on my own: Look for balls, take my glove off when putting, take the flag out, mark my ball, keep score, hit anything other than driver, hit bunker shots.

Alex Perry: Things I definitely do when playing on my own: Tip my cap to an imaginary crowd after every putt drops.

Mark Townsend: I once played on my own at the K Club two weeks before it held the Ryder Cup. I made a birdie at the 12th and walked to the edge of the water, put my hand to my ear to my imaginary European army of fans and then beckoned them to make some noise. I then did the beckoning bit again. I turned round to see a greenkeeper had watched the whole pathetic incident.

playing golf alone

James Savage: When I hit a good shot, I look around and get frustrated that no one had seen it.

Matthew Beedle: I was playing with a friend once and there was a fella playing on his own on an adjoining fairway. He chunked one effort into the water, dropped another ball down, then holed out from easily 160 yards. He looked around desperate for someone to have seen it.

Alex Perry: Did you blank him to teach him a lesson?

Matthew Beedle: No I gave him a thumbs up. I’m nice like that.

Mark Townsend: A friend tells a brilliant story about his mate Walter who is in his late 60s. Walter, who still plays off 6, has a place in Spain and generally plays golf on his own. He and his wife spend their winters there and Mrs Walter felt a bit sorry for her husband so popped out to find him and walk a few holes. She saw him standing over a putt so held back and hid behind a tree. She then watched her husband of 30 years stand over a six-foot putt and saying out loud: “This then for the Open Championship…” He missed, shouted in anger and then dropped to his knees in disappointment…

Alex Perry: I love that. Surely we all do that? I do it when I’m playing with people…

James Savage: I feel a bit uncomfortable when coming up behind another group because I think that they’ll be thinking I’ll be moaning about them not letting me through. They’ll be saying, ‘Who’s this Billy no mates? He thinks he’s on tour.’ I think you have to be good to play on your own.

Mark Townsend: I just hold back, hit too many balls into greens. If I see a greenkeeper I go to pieces.

Alex Perry: I have only experienced playing alone as the first person on the course. The thought of coming up behind a fourball makes me feel a bit sweaty, even if I’m in a group.

James Savage: It’s horrible. I’ll deliberately slow down and hit a load of chips around the green to let them get away.

Mark Townsend: Playing through is odd, I act over-casual, the way I do when I talk to a tradesman or a taxi driver or anyone who makes me feel inadequate.

Alex Perry: “That’s weird I’ve been crushing my driver all day. Anyway thanks play well!”

James Savage: I’ll always be too polite and grateful. My thank you will be overly commensurate with the gesture.

Mark Townsend: What I’d really like to do is sign a glove which would tie in with my fantasy world.

Alex Perry: Pose for a couple of selfies.

Mark Townsend: Roll them a ball.

Matthew Beedle: Into the pro shop for the post-round interview? “Left a couple out there.”

Mark Townsend: “It’s a process. Mars bar please…”

Alex Perry: I spend breakfast telling my infant child about my best shots – yes, plural – just because I’d had no one out there with me.

Mark Townsend: Think that’s why I talk so much, gets it out the system. Find it quite cleansing.

playing golf alone

Alex Perry: After a bad shot I turn to where my playing partner normally would be and still pull exactly the same frustrated facial expression while my club rests against my shoulder.

Mark Townsend: I also enjoy the aspect of not every shot feeling like an occasion. I’d give anything to feel like I do in a one-ball as when I actually play with someone.

James Savage: On the whole I tend to play badly when on my own in the same way I do when not playing competitively. The score needs to matter for me to be able to concentrate properly.

Alex Perry: I’m the complete opposite. I’m far more relaxed. It removes at least four of the so-called swing thoughts from my mind as I address the ball.

James Savage: When playing on my own I have nothing other than swing thoughts and that is bad for me.

Joe Urquhart: I experienced playing on my own for the first time a few months ago when I played Golf Del Sur. I got to the 1st tee and there was no signage so had absolutely no idea which way the fairway was. Slightly embarrassing although admittedly I was first out and a little hungover. Then I enjoy the fact that I just used it as practice. If I hit a bad shot I could just chuck another ball down and have another crack. I probably learnt a lot more about my game in that two hours than I have in 10 on the range hitting balls aimlessly.

James Savage: That’s a good point, you can actually practise golf rather than practising your swing.

Alex Perry: Didn’t know where the fairway was raised a chuckle.

James Savage: For future reference Joe, the red tees will be the ones heading in the direction of the fairway.

Alex Perry: Aiming at the clubhouse on the 1st tee? You’re aiming the wrong way.

Joe Urquhart: Well, yes, the problem was the red tee was over the brow of the hill. I must have looked ridiculous spinning around three or four times.

Alex Perry: Like a dog getting into bed?

Joe Urquhart: Then I noticed the scorecard had a course map on it…

More from The Niggle

Click here for the full archive of The Niggle

Previous article
Next article