Into the Rough: A Grateful Return to Golf, Even If It’s Not Exactly As We’d Left It

Golf is back at Goswick. Members had the opportunity to resume play starting 13 May. Here, Dan Miller shares his thoughts.

Looking Linksy – Here’s a shot of the 14th hole on 13 May, the first day golf courses in England could reopen after being shut down for eight weeks due to COVID-19. Due to a lack of rain, the course is already in midsummer form.

By Dan Miller

I’m having flashbacks. But in a good way.

Let me explain.

I am not from around these parts. I was born and raised in Ohio, a state roughly in the middle northern region of America. And I lived in a community just south of Lake Erie, one of the five Great Lakes situated along the border between the U.S. and Canada. That’s relevant because during the winter months, it can get seriously cold in Ohio. And frigid air masses that flowed south from Canada and passed over the lake tended to produce prodigious amounts of snow that would routinely bury what used to be my little world.

As such, golf during my formative years was very much a seasonal activity. With a bit of luck, you could start playing in March and continue deep into October. Maybe even early November if the stars aligned. But, at minimum, the game became physically impossible for three months every year.

How I looked forward to that first round of spring, when the snow finally melted to reveal new shoots of green grass! For me, it was Christmas all over again. And the annual telecast of the Masters Tournament from Augusta National the first week of April was a Technicolor confirmation that a fresh new golf season, full of promise, had officially begun.

It was those images and others like them — to the extent they still exist in my more-than-middle-aged brain — that I recalled as I made my way to Goswick for my first round of golf in nearly eight weeks.

Strangely, this hiatus felt much longer and more tedious than those I can recall from my youth. Perhaps it’s because this suspension came seemingly out of nowhere. Or maybe it’s because, for the past 37 years (including the last five here in the UK), I’ve lived in climates where golf can be played year-round. I had become accustomed to one golf season flowing seamlessly into another. And, truth be told, I had become spoiled.

No longer. The COVID-19 lockdown, which continues in many shapes and forms, has served as a harsh reminder that nothing in life is a given and that nothing lasts forever. It can all change, if not disappear, in a heartbeat.

Scenery to Spare – Views of the Northumberland coastline, including Holy Island and Bamburgh Castle in the far distance, await as you reach the 2nd tee.

So when I placed a shiny new dimpled Bridgestone ball on a pink plastic tee and prepared to embark on my first post-shutdown round at Goswick, it wasn’t a number on a scorecard or even an image of my ball bounding down the heart of the fairway that came to mind. Rather, it was gratitude to the pandemic for reminding me just how much this game means to me. And for driving home just how lucky I am to have it back — even if, in our absolute need to remain vigilant, not everything about golf is exactly the same as when we left it.

I truly hope that all who read this — whether you be a member or a visitor — will also soon be able to experience your own personal moment of reconnection to the game we love. When you do, don’t forget to give thanks for all it’s given you — and for all it still has to give.