In the golden days of my youth, Christmas was an exciting time, not least because of the games, toys and other welcome gifts that came my way. However, as my hair has thinned so has the appeal of this annual festival of unwanted presents.
Call me Scrooge if you like, but I’m thoroughly fed up with trying to look thrilled at what is so evidently disappointing. It’s like trying to smile after fluffing a succession of bunker shots; it’s possible but rarely convincing. At least with bunkers you eventually get out, but with Christmas there's no escape.
I’ve nothing against holly, carol singers or even distant relatives dropping by when all you want to do is fall asleep in front of the television. No, what really depresses more than taking three putts from five feet is the ghastly succession of golf accessories that gather around my feet as each be-ribboned box is opened to reveal yet another appalling gee-haw gummed together in some far-eastern sweat shop.
Quite what the oppressed oriental workers make of it all is hard to imagine. In fact, it’s hard to say anything sensible when confronted with another handy, pocket-sized, shot counter. Surely you must have at least one. Push a button each time you hit the ball and, hey presto, before you can say “what the hell do I need this for?” it gives you your running total. Handy or what? “Gosh, that’s brilliant,” you lie. “Now I’ll know exactly how many shots I’ll have taken at any stage in the round. Wow, that’s really useful.”
There is a spectacular array of garbage that non-golfers are convinced golfers will love. Gizmos that warm your golf balls to gadgets that guarantee to save you 10, yes 10, shots a round. Single figure handicappers should be particularly grateful for these!
Infra-red lights to hang on your putter to show you the line, magnets to put round your neck to reduce stress and a bewildering range of 'teaching aids' that promise to enable you to hit the ball further, straighter, closer. Of course, they are all absolute junk and will gather dust in your cupboard until the day an 18-handicapper lifts the Claret Jug and Augusta National only admits women.
Among the incredibly unwanted gifts this year was a handy leatherette pouch containing three anonymous golf balls. Although the manufacturer has understandably declined to disclose his identity, he has thoughtfully stamped “St Andrews Golf” on each of them. They’re the sort of balls that you wouldn’t even put in your practice bucket, but you feign something only just short of ecstasy as you exclaim: 'St Andrews, gosh. That’s the home of golf. These will really impress the boys at the club. Thank you so much.'
The ghastliest gift I received this year was a set of what can perhaps best be described as novelty tee-pegs - an assortment of tiny plastic women in a range of lewd poses. Gosh how I laughed when they fell into my lap. Good old Uncle George really knows a thing or two about sophisticated humour. “And you rest your balls on the top,” he explained to yet more guffaws.
They were not, however, the most unwelcome golf gift that I have ever received. That's a play-off between a matching set of teletubby head covers and a 7-iron. The former merely betrayed an appalling lack of taste whereas the thought process that lay behind the latter is very much harder to fathom.
My heart sank like a drained putt when I spotted the tell-tale long, thin, parcel beneath the tree. The only fun was trying to figure out which club it was before removing the wrapper. “Golly, it’s a 7-iron. That’ll come in really useful if my present one wears out,” I remarked with only the merest whiff of irony (excuse the pun!)
Then there are the clothes. Because non-golfers believe that everything worn on the course has to be hideous, they scour the stores for the most outrageously bizarre apparel. None is more horrid than that dreadful sweater - typically chunky, garish and ill-fitting. You slip it on be told: “You won’t get lost in that!”
I would swap the whole lot for just one decent, thick pair of socks.
Why do they do it? My belief is that once you take up the game, you’re no longer considered to have interests outside of golf; you're simply categorised as an obsessive who just loves the game and everything connected with it.
So, for example, even though you hate ginger chocolates, a box containing a disgusting assortment of them becomes an appropriate present if a pair of 19th century golfers is featured on the lid watched by a dog and a cheeky urchin carrying a bag of hickory-shafted sticks.
At least I won’t be short of booby prizes come my society’s spring meeting.
Tell us on the forum about the gifts you received this Christmas - the good, the bad and the downright useless to a golfer.