Show us someone who doesn’t act differently when they play golf alone and we’ll show you a liar. In this edition of The Niggle, Mark Townsend, Alex Perry and James Savage discuss their foibles when playing as a one-ball…
Mark: I sort of love playing golf alone which is just as well as 90% 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.
Alex: I talk to myself after EVERY shot.
James: That’s why I don’t like it. Talking to yourself a lot is not a good thing.
Alex: “Oh Alex that’s not the club!”
Mark: I prefer putting together a highlights reel: “Better than most”, “Be the right club”, “TODAY!” and so on.
James: 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: “How am I not on tour?”
Mark: 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.
Alex: I get home and tell my infant child about my best shots – yes, plural – just because I’d had no one out there with me. And she’s still too young to tell me she doesn’t care.
Mark: Think that’s why I talk so much, gets it out the system. Find it quite cleansing.
Alex: 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: 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: 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: 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: When playing on my own I have nothing other than swing thoughts and that is bad for me.
James: 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: Things I always do when playing on my own: Tip my cap to an imaginary crowd after every putt drops.
Mark: 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.
James: When I hit a good shot, I look around and get frustrated that no one had seen it.
Mark: 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: I love that. I’ve definitely done that. Surely we all do that? In fact I do it when I’m playing with people.
James: 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: I just hold back, hit too many balls into greens. If I see a greenkeeper I go to pieces.
Alex: 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: It’s horrible. I’ll deliberately slow down and hit a load of chips around the green to let them get away.
Mark: 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: “That’s weird I’ve been crushing my driver all day. Anyway thanks play well!”
James: I’ll always be too polite and grateful. My thank you will be overly commensurate with the gesture.
Mark: What I’d really like to do is sign a glove which would tie in with my fantasy world.
Alex: Pose for a couple of selfies.
Mark: Roll them a ball.
Alex: Into the pro shop for the post-round interview? “Left a couple out there.”
Mark: “It’s a process. Mars and a Powerade please…”
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