The par four seventh hole of the Air Force Training Command Golf Course was a difficult one. Let alone a par, getting a bogie on that hole was a herculean effort. But in those days––I am talking about 2004 when owing to family commitments, I was leading the life of a forced bachelor––I had all the time in the world and I used to play regularly. My game had improved greatly. I was hitting good distance, fairly accurately. I was confident about my short game and could manage puts equally well. Getting a few pars and an occasional birdie had become an expectation.
“Small bets make you fight; they get the best out of you.” That suggestion from a fellow golfer had appealed to me and I had got into what I thought was competitive golf. The bet used to be modest: breakfast on the loser, or meagre amounts that would be barely enough to pay the caddie. Howsoever small those amounts were, there used to be a great charm in winning. If nothing, honour used to at stake. No wonder, the hundred-rupee note that I won for hitting an Eagle on the seventh hole, signed by the fellow golfers (those days scribbling on currency notes was not considered an offence) became a trophy of sorts for me.
The habit continued when I left Bangalore. I have been playing with very modest stakes for more than a dozen years now. When I look back, I find that in all these years, my game has deteriorated gradually. I have analysed the decline in my performance and have been satisfied with my conclusions: I have not been playing regularly; age is catching up, my strength and stamina has gone down…
“Could playing with stakes have taken toll of my game?” The idea never cropped up.
This afternoon I was with someone I consider my golf guru, Minky Barbora. It was not for a lesson in golf, but we were at the Noida Golf Course just for lunch. Discussion on my own performance was not even the last thing on my mind. There were two other gentlemen and as it always happens, the discussion moved on to performance on the course.
Minky had an opinion on betting, much different from mine. He said that when one bets, one is content with performing to a level, which ensures a win––just a win. One is satisfied with a par when the opponent has a bogie. He is fine with a bogie, if the competitor has a double bogie and so on… The determination to go for pars and birdies, regardless of the competitor’s performance, erodes. Under the circumstances, progress is a far cry.
The guru had a point, a valid one in that. I have so often seen people conceding holes when playing with stakes––to save time and to move on to the next tee.
In my case, quiet introspection has led to a decision: On the next visit to the course, I’ll play G-O-L-F. The modest betting amount that I have been setting aside—If I improve upon my previous performance, I’ll tip the caddie. If my game is bad, I’ll give it to him assuming that I have lost a bet.