Think of matchplay and you conjure up images of Jose Maria Olazabal crouching on Seve Ballesteros’s shoulders, Sam Torrance with his arms aloft, and Graeme McDowell mobbed at Celtic Manor.

Yes, the Ryder Cup is this format’s ultimate treat – a taut, tension-packed trio of days combining sensational golf with unforgettable drama.

Consider the winter knockouts going on at clubs all over the country, though, and a rather different reality reveals itself.

One of temporary greens, frigid temperatures, and a frustrating four hours that make me want to throw my clubs into the nearest lake.

I used to love a good bit of person-to-person combat. But I’ve been gradually worn down through the years by the tomfoolery that seems to ensue as soon as the notice goes up on the locker room board.

These days I’d rather endure a Paw Patrol marathon with my three-year-old daughter than hand over an entry fee.

These are the main reasons why…

The phone call

Or calls, to be precise. It’s never just one. I’d have a better chance of sorting out Brexit than trying to get someone to commit to a knockout date.

Getting ‘Roy’ out to the first tee certainly seems as impossible a problem as the Irish backstop.

But maybe, like our PM, I should draw all sorts of inflexible red lines and try and force my opponent eventually to come to heel.

Because it’s amazing how this villain always seems to be available right at the last minute.

There hasn’t been a single second free in his calendar for the last month but come deadline day he can’t get down to the club quickly enough.

At Sandburn Hall where I play, we have this stipulation that if both players aren’t on the tee at 4pm at the cut-off then both are disqualified from the competition.

That time arrives and Roy’s pacing like he’s about to carry out a supermarket sweep on a high street shop that’s gone up the spout.

Look, I’ve given you plenty of dates so just pick one. Or you can stick the game right up…

The handicap allowance

nett score

I can’t believe I’m moaning about this. I’ve been a passionate advocate of opening up the game to as many people as possible.

‘Let the 54-handicappers play!’ I’ve yelled. ‘Golf is a game for everyone!’

Then I get tag-teamed by a couple of 20-ish players, off 90% allowance, in a pairs’ match. We’re shaking hands on the 13th and I want to bring the whole system crashing down.

I hate myself.

I actually have no issue with the handicaps themselves. It’s more the number of shots players can carry forward in a betterball match.

Three-quarters always seemed about right and, although this might be my rose-tinted memory talking, the games were generally tight affairs.

Which is what they are supposed to be. I feel 90% just moves the needle a touch too much in favour of those with more shots to play with.

But this is almost certainly just the bitterness talking.

The gamesmanship

Making me hole a 12-inch ‘knee-knocker’ on the first isn’t an example of your tactical genius, nor is the convoluted, drawn-out coin toss we’ve just carried out on the tee to see who takes the honour.

You’re not getting in my head. I really don’t need to measure out who is away. If it’s that close, I’ll go. Or you go. I really don’t care.

I’m also immune to all variations of the following chat/banter:

I haven’t played this well for years

That’s a tricky looking putt

You don’t need to hit a provisional, it’ll be fine.

This isn’t Risk. You don’t need to be a general to get the better of me. You just need to put the ball in the hole in fewer shots.

Except I won’t be at the course. I’ll be at home watching some talking cartoon dogs rescuing a whale for the fifth time that morning.

Thanks. Thanks a lot.

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 23 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former captain and committee member, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the national Tournament Administrators and Referee's Seminar. He has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying and the PGA Fourball Championship. A member of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap.

Handicap: 10.9

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