Tee-booking trauma is worth it as long as golf retains its huge popularity

It makes me feel nervous. Very nervous, in fact. I mean, the last thing you want is to let your golfing mates down. Leave it too late or get it wrong and, sorry, but you are going to be in the bad books.

Two participation reports have shown that the numer of female golfers increased in 2020 while the average age of people playing the game also decreased. Picture: Ross Kinnaird/R&A/R&A via Getty Images.

It seems silly, of course, to be referring to sitting in front of a laptop and not even being out on a course swinging a club, but golfers all over Scotland will no doubt have been in the same boat at some point over the past 12 months.

It was a year ago last Saturday that courses in this country reopened following a period of Covid-19 closure, and tee booking systems have been in meltdown ever since due to clubs receiving a huge upsurge in membership numbers.

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It has meant people having to be primed at specific times in the day to be hovering over a computer or have a mobile phone in their hand to try and secure a treasured tee time.

Fortunately, a couple of the lads in my regular fourball have been happy to take on the task most of the time over the past 12 months and have rarely been unsuccessful, having managed to secure a slot close to the time we’d been looking for.

With both of them unable to do so and the other member of our group always still in the land of nod at 8.01am in the morning, the task fell to me on this occasion.

My first mistake was adding to already feeling slightly stressed about the prospect on waking up by logging-on to the booking page and watching a 10-minute countdown to the booking process opening.

The page will update automatically, I was told, and it did, indeed. What it doesn’t pre-warn you about, though, is that you probably shouldn’t have a weak heart when that booking page opens for you. Oh my god!

As the page appeared, lots of times had already been snapped up, the reason for that, apparently, being down to those booking through an app getting to the punch marginally quicker than those using the website.

Breaking out in a cold sweat, I knew I had just one opportunity to secure an available slot and, though a tad unsure due to it being a bit earlier than the other guys normally get for us, the deed was duly done.

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Honestly, even at just after 8am on a Friday morning, I felt like having a celebratory drink, ridiculous as that may sound when all I had done was book a tee time for four guys to play a game of golf, enjoyable as I know that will be whether the shots are good, bad or indifferent.

Most of my golf is played either in the morning or afternoon. I rarely venture out in the evening, but I did one night last week and the timing was perfect because it allowed me to see with my own eyes what is great about the game at the moment.

The previous day, it had been announced by the R&A that golf enjoyed an increase in participation by 2.3 million on-course adult golfers in Great Britain and Ireland last year, which is absolutely fantastic.

According to a couple of new participation reports, the number of female golfers had increased in that time while there had also been a reduction in the average age of people playing the game.

I’ve always felt that my local club has had a healthy female membership and now the junior section seems to be thriving once again, but there had always been something missing for me in the membership make-up.

Not any more, though, because, on this occasion, there must have been four of five groups of lads in their 20s out playing and I loved the fact that my first impression of them was they didn’t look like golfers.

By that, I mean they were casually dressed, maybe didn’t carry a golf bag in a way most people would and, in an all round sense, looked as though they were new to the game within the past year or, alternatively, had returned to the sport.

Make no mistake, the Covid-19 pandemic has handed golf an unexpected but very welcome boost and here’s hoping that clubs pull out the stops to get rid of the game’s stuffy image once and for all.

I’ll happily keep putting myself through that tee-booking trauma as long as it means golf is more popular in its birthplace, and not just at courses but driving ranges as well, than it has been for a long time.

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