By Robert Bicknell

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May 13, 2007

That mirror LIES and the scale is defective...

Iím oldÖand fat.

Its amazing how you can delude yourself into believing youíre Tom Selleck or Brad Pitt in the face of overwhelming evidence, but when the truth actually sinks in, it comes as a very rude awakening.

Sort of like watching the flight of, what you thought was a well struck shot, only to see it go berserk and end up 30 yards off target.

I played with Gopala (aka "Cramps") and Michael Moh (aka "Fashion Plate"), two maniacal Hanoi-based teaching pros who Iíve known for years and consider friends. Proof that they are friends is the fact that I didnít kill them when they said, "Hey Bob, you really got fat since last time we saw you!"

With friends like this, who needs enemies?

Every time I play Chi Linh Star from the back tees, I suffer badly because of the difficulty of the course, the hilly terrain and the fact that I am in roughly the same physical shape as a half-deflated basketball. Yet, I can still delude myself by saying "Hey, Chi Linh is the hardest course in Vietnam, so I really cannot expect to play as well as the APGA guys did."

No, we didnít play Chi Linh. We played "you know where" again because I had too many meetings in the morning, so travel time was limited. Thatís my story and Iím sticking to it. I plan to play Chi Linh very soon Ė provided Lars is still talking to me.

And NO, it isnít true that any course which is more than 45 minutes from a KFC is stretching my travel limits. I might be old and fat, but not desperately so. Besides, there are literally thousands of Pho shops enroute to any golf course in Vietnam, so Iím safe.

Now, the reason for this column isnít my personal problems, which will be rectified starting today as I just slapped my Visa card down to buy a Health Club membership next door to my office, but more of why I can now identify and sympathise with people who play from the wrong tee boxes for their abilities.

Look, 20 years ago, or even five years ago, I would be chomping at the bit to play off the back tees. My friends and I used to make it even more difficult by playing the very backs of the back tees Ė we were practically falling off the tee box. We wanted the hardest challenge possible so we could really test ourselves.

However, nowadays, I enjoy playing the back tees as much as a root canal without novocaine. So, naturally, Gopala and Michael wanted to play "you know where" from the back tees, just to see how long my legs would hold out. They seem to take great delight in seeing me in pain.

Fortunately, around the 14th hole, Gopala started getting leg cramps again, so I could take partial comfort in knowing I wasnít alone in my suffering.

While I still have the length off the tee to play from the back, itís the 2nd shots which present the problem. Golf has always been a "2nd shot game. You can lose a tournament with bad driving, but I donít recall any tournament won with the driver.

Equipment manufacturers have made drivers hotter than ever which allows for massive distance off the tee, but irons have remained just about the same. If you hit a 7-iron 150 yards 10 years ago, then you probably still hit it 150 yards. The only big difference is todayís irons help you hit it straighter.

So, from the backs, Iím hitting a much different shot to the green than I would from the blues and since long irons are harder to hit than shorter ones, accuracy suffers unless your last name is Nicklaus or Woods.

The designers make different tee boxes to help equalise players of different skill levels, so, why make things more difficult than is necessary?

Play from the tees that suit your game and youíll have a much better time out there. Life is too short to waste time being miserable.

Having said that, excuse me, but I have to get my fat ass to the gymÖ

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