What the golf commentator is really saying

The Scoop

In this week's Notebook Mark Townsend tries to decipher what is really being said behind the mic and which player has actually got the chipping yips

Over the years I have watched an awful lot of golf. Too much golf, really, be it at work, at home, on holiday, first thing in the morning, last thing at night and, one Sunday afternoon in 1999, to help speed up the end of a moribund relationship.

“But it’s the Walker Cup, and we’ve got a genuine chance, and it’s at Nairn and Graham Rankin is leading us out in the singles.”

“I think it’s time to call it a day…”

“Me too.”

While we can all pick holes in certain people’s commentary, overall it’s really good and it’s getting better all the time.

My own personal favourites are Butch Harmon, Ewen Murray and Ken Brown with the Peter Alliss of the 80s and 90s out there on his own. And some sort of hybrid of David Livingstone/Steve Rider and Harry Carpenter at the wheel…

We generally form our own opinions on the back of what they have to say and, while there will be some repetition, it’s worth remembering that there is an awful lot of time to fill and they’re probably not expecting us to sit there watching 22 hours of blanket coverage of the ’95 Greater Greensboro.

And, after a short while, we get an idea of the real meaning behind the commentator’s words. Our analytical heroes might be highly professional and very discrete but, listening between the lines, you get an idea of who’s got the chipping yips…

Commentary box

What they say: “This was a weakness in his game that has now become a strength.”

What they mean: I’ve just started coaching him on the short game.


What they say: “He has got his own ideas on the game.”

What they mean: I keep approaching him on the putting green but he won’t have any of it.


What they say: “He’s yet to get the benefit from the path he’s chosen.”

What they mean: He sacked me as his coach last year and I’m delighted to say his results have got worse.


What they say: “I know he’s been working hard on the mental side of the game.”

What they mean: No lead is big enough. In a word, fragile.


What they say: “It’s just a matter of getting the right contact.”

What they mean: Thin or fat, this is wet.


What they say: “This is a very unusual hole.”

What they mean: Who on earth designed this?


What they say: “Paul’s had a slow start to the season, let’s hope this is a tasters of better things to come.”

What they mean: For the record he didn’t earn a bean from his first 10 starts.


What they say: “He looks to be using one of these little rescues.”

What they mean: Despite being around for two decades I still haven’t got my head round this club.


What they say: “The sponsors really do put on a first-rate event.”

What they mean: Thanks for the upgrade.


What they say: “I believe you enjoyed a nice bite to eat in some pleasant surroundings last night, Butch?”

What they mean: Where was the invite?


What they say: “This is a very popular event with the players.”

What they mean: There are plenty of bars.

Golf bar

What they say: “It really is a quite beautiful city.”

What they mean: There are plenty of bars.


What they say: “You might be unfamiliar with the name Jazz Janewattananond.”

What they mean: “My computer won’t load.”


What they say: “Holing out is proving to be a challenge this week.”

What they mean: This course isn’t fit to host a midweek medal.


What they say: “Most of his good work has come on the front nine this week.”

What they mean: He’s had it.


What they say: “If you’ve only just come in then here’s a quick recap of the morning’s action.”

What they mean: Why do I even bother?


What they say: “Most players have hit an iron off this hole but he’s chosen to go with the driver.”

What they mean: This is NOT a driver. Put the chief away.


What they say: “Interestingly Tony has gone to a claw grip this week.”

What they mean: I lost my putting in 1988.


What they say: “You get the feeling this tournament’s about to catch fire.”

What they mean: I’m a bit bored.


What they say: “He wears his heart on his sleeve.”

What they mean: “He’s just broken his wedge over his caddie’s head.”

Golf anger

What they say: “I’ll leave you in the capable hands of…”

What they mean: Large gin and tonic, easy on the tonic.


What they say: “It’s a play-off.”

What they mean: “I was really hoping to get away by 7pm at the latest.”


What they say: “He finishes one shot ahead of his playing partner.”

What they mean: “You’re probably not even aware who he’s playing with but that’s got my treble up with Ladbrokes.”


What they say: “It’s really not his day.”

What they mean: I need to have another bet.


What they say: “Many expected Tom to go well this week. He’s now back to +4 and into a tie for 41st.”

What they mean: I’ve had a few quid on Tom.


What they say: “You’d have to say the afternoon starters might get the worst of the conditions.”

What they mean: They’ve lost the golf course.

Shinnecock Hills

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