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 At the 19th

A new start for a new season
Making New Year's resolutions is one thing but will Clive Agran actually stick to them?

Although this is a critical time of year for anti-freeze salesmen, printers of posters that declare “Massive Sale – Everything Must Go,” and those few remaining specialist firms who clean and store Santa Claus’ costumes, it is not the biggest month in the golfing calendar, especially for those of us less directly involved in the Race to Dubai than we are in the Struggle to Stay Warm. With a sense of timing that any golfer would envy, my boiler blew up on Christmas Eve. Even as I type this column with mittened hands, a mule is struggling through the Alpine snow en route from Milan with a replacement valve. Assuming avalanches don’t hamper the beast’s progress, the hope is that the central heating will be back on in time for the Masters.

So little is happening right now on the fairways of Britain that you can almost hear the dust settling on those big-headed drivers and the yawns emanating from the assistant pros as they wait impatiently for that very occasional winter visitor – the Rarely Spotted Green Fee. Although counting tee-pegs as part of the annual stocktaking exercise does help while away a few hours, it’s no substitute for the thrill of human contact.

But for those of us determined competitors hell-bent on making it all the way to the top of the game, or at least lowering our handicaps to somewhere near respectability, this is a critical period. Now is the time when we stop looking back with regret and making excuses for what we failed to achieve last year but instead look forward to what we genuinely believe will be a bright new future in 2009. Sports psychologists in general and Neurolinguistic Programmers in particular appreciate the overwhelming importance of a positive mental attitude and the enormous value of setting goals.

Although mentally listing them is the first step, it helps the process considerably if you actually write them down, preferably on a clean sheet of paper and in ink. Next, you must tell them to anyone who is prepared to listen as this will both reinforce them in your own mind as well as create a climate of expectation around you that will further increase the level of expectation, which in turn is likely to lead to greater success. If this all sounds like gobbledegook to you, put “I must develop a better understanding of the fundamentals of sports psychology,” at the top of your list.

Partly to help you draw up your own but, much more importantly, to assist me by effectively broadcasting my goals to the vast readership of this publication, here is my list of Publicly Stated Targets, Ambitions and Resolutions for the Year 2009.

• Not to shout “Get in the hole!” as my opponent’s ball heads inexorably towards a huge bunker
• Never to exclaim “Well out” when that same opponent subsequently thins one out of that same bunker and into the woods on the other side of the green
• Never to use a 50 pence piece to mark my ball in the hope that it will annoy my opponent and put him off his putting stroke
• Not to regard the scoring of one stableford point on a hole as something of an achievement
• Not to keep looking at my watch when my opponent is searching for his ball
• To take my ball-marker and tee pegs out of my back pocket before sitting down in the bar after the round
• When the weather eventually warms up, not to sit on the terrace in front of the clubhouse giggling at the misfortune of others as they struggle up the 18th
• Never to blame the greens or an imagined pitch mark if I miss a putt of less than three feet
• Not to lie down on the tee as if asleep when waiting behind a particularly slow fourball
• To recognise that in this day and age, women have almost as much right to be on a golf course as men
• Whilst not fighting shy of controversy, not to be quite so gratuitously offensive to women readers
• Not to stroll on to the first tee, take a practice swing and then expect to split the fairway, but to follow the advice of the experts and warm up properly by taking at least two practice swings
• At my age (60), to accept that a ball knocked over an out-of-bounds’ fence – particularly if that fence is topped with barbed wire – is lost and to make no attempt to retrieve it no matter how new it was
• Not to three-putt under any circumstances
• To give a warm, welcoming smile to the members of visiting societies as they mass around the first tee of my club, even if they do appear to be rather uncouth and not entirely up to speed on the game’s etiquette or dress code
• To be exceedingly grateful to all those who make it through to the end of my articles

March 2009

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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