Thursday, August 6 2020


Benefits of age and wisdom

Update: May, 06/2018 - 15:23
Viet Nam News

By Robert Bicknell

The game of golf is all about calculating the odds. It begins in the clubhouse when negotiating how many strokes to give your opponents. Believe it or not, most bets are won or lost before you even get outside to hit your first shot.

In a pretty even match, you can figure on winning six holes and your opponent winning six holes. It’s the remaining six that you will be fighting over. 

In the old days, when I could actually play the game (as opposed to now as I’m old and suck) I knew that, due to my length, I would take the par 5’s and some long par 4’s. So there are my six. My opponent would probably take the par 3’s and some very short par 4’s. That makes up his six. The rest had to be fought over carefully. There would be holes where my length would be an advantage and, of course, those which it would be a disadvantage.

This is where knowing yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, makes the difference between winning and losing. 

The other calculations involve shot and club selection. Pros are always considering the odds on every shot and putt. If the odds aren’t in their favour, they won’t go for it. They’ll play it safe.

The rule of thumb in professional golf is "don’t put up a big number". Just ask Jean van de Valde about the wisdom in that one.

That being said, last week at The SGGC Open, I was cruising along happily putting up pars on VGCC’s East Course and was quite content, until I had a brain fart and lost a drive way right. To make matters worse, my caddie found my ball inside the water hazard in a questionably playable position.

I should have considered the odds more before going for it, but my ego would not be denied and, as often is the case, it turned out to be a very costly mistake.

Suffice it to say I haven’t posted a 10 on a par 4 in like forever. I managed to scrape together a few more pars, but I was talking to myself the rest of the day and the good feeling was hard to recapture. Without confidence, you cannot commit to the shot and bogeys happen.

Next round was on VGCC’s West Course, a venue which is not my favourite thanks to the abundance of trees. However, once again I was cruising along happily making pars when I left myself a choice between a chip and a putt from just inside the rough. Then I did something I never do... I asked my caddie if she thought I should chip it or putt it…  She chose “chip”…

And, as expected, I went from a 10 foot birdie opportunity to a triple bogey...  It was my fault entirely because I should have gone with my gut instinct, or at least remembered Tom Watson’s disaster at the Open Championship when he, too, chipped instead of putted.

Despite the two disasters, I actually achieved my goals, which were (a) Enjoying the game; and (b) surviving 36-holes over two days of walking golf.

As I have mentioned many times, I have Osteoarthritis in both feet. No cartilage in either big toe, so its bone rubbing on bone. Yes, the pain is exquisite when I walk and goes off the charts when I shift weight during a golf swing. Nevertheless, I made it two rounds and smiled afterwards.

I suppose at 60 years old, I really have no need to prove anything to anyone, not even myself. Not anymore. I just want to play golf from time to time and enjoy being out there. The score doesn’t mean anything. I know I cannot compete with the Asian Tour guys who play in events occasionally, or even the young, up-coming, local guys.  

But then again, I am not supposed to.

My job nowadays is to be an “elder statesman” for golf in Viet Nam and walk around spewing occasional pithy pearls of dubious wisdom to anyone who asks, and especially to those who didn’t ask. That’s even more fun.

Being annoying is a benefit of age and I am still really good at pontificating, but bloviating is truly where I excel.

Like I said, you have to know your strengths...-- VNS



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