Life without golf during UK national lockdown
By Luke Weir
“Outdoor sports venues must close, for example: tennis courts, golf courses and swimming pools.”
This short statement is found on the government website under the ‘exercise’ subheading of the current national lockdown; a simple instruction at just 14 words, but one that can do, and has done, so much damage.
To many people, these venues breathe oxygen into their lives and provide them with some much-needed relief and escapism, particularly in these troubled times.
There is perhaps no one who can relate to this better that Graham Morgan and Matt Block, two keen golfers who have had part of their livelihoods cruelly snatched from them for what has felt like an endless number of weeks.
Graham and Matt caught up with each other via a Zoom meeting and it was easy to get a real feel for how much they’ve been affected by this latest setback.
It was a crisp February Saturday afternoon, a day that ordinarily would’ve seen the pair meet up at their local golf course, Studley Wood Golf Club in Oxfordshire.
Upon being asked what exactly it was that made Studley Wood their course of choice, Graham was in full flow and wasn’t to be stopped.
“It really is a beautiful place. I mean Oxford is a beautiful city, and the course is only about five miles from the city centre.
“It’s so picturesque. The fairways and greens are a brilliant shade of bright green and the bunkers are positioned perfectly.”
In fact, Studley Wood is situated in a “magnificent parkland setting with 44 acres of ancient woodland at its heart” as outlined on its website and these type of stunning venues can be found all over the country and are seen as second homes to many folk; as Studley Wood is to Graham and Matt.
“It’s also as much about the people there as the actual course” chipped in Matt, “They really make sure you’re catered for and our tee time always came immediately after the same group and we used to catch up after the 18th and I’ve really missed that.”
Discussions soon turned from courses to clubs; Graham left the room momentarily and returned with his golfing equipment of choice and the joyous expression when outlining his favourite moments with his putter, sand wedge and 7-iron alike was apparent.
If anything, this discussion made both feel even worse about not being able to make new memories while the courses are prohibited to the public; even through the computer screen, Joe’s feeling of emptiness without the ability to play his beloved sport was palpable.
“My mental health has been affected so much.
“It’s just a case of getting through each day at the moment and knowing that you move one day closer to them reopening.”
Graham is facing a similarly difficult time trying to keep himself occupied within the confines of his own home.
“I don’t have the same happiness without golf, I just can’t enjoy anything else the same way.”
The duo were then asked what advice they would give to someone looking to start out as an amateur golfer.
“It can feel quite intimidating when you first go down to a proper course. I remember going to the driving range when I started off and feeling almost emasculated by seeing my ball reach nowhere near the balls of the other people there.
“But you just need to stick to your game and set yourself as your own competition rather than comparing yourself to people far more experienced.”
Matt’s advice was much more straight to the point:
“Play your own game, find a style that suites you, and get the right clubs!”
These two, along with millions of others up and down the country will be counting down the days to the time when sporting venues open up their doors to the amateurs and semi-pros alike, and the importance of how pivotal this moment will be on the nations’ mental health cannot be underestimated.
“I certainly won’t be taking the ability to play golf for granted ever again!” was the last sentiments of Matt before the pair chuckled and agreed that the day their normal golfing routine returns will be a day they celebrate for years to come.
Shortly after this meeting, it was announced by the prime minister that golf courses are permitted to reopen on the 29th of March, and it would’ve been fantastic to have seen the faces of Graham, Matt and thousands more golf enthusiasts light up as the countdown to that day begins.