Bad Golf’s John Robins is counting the days until his next overseas golf vacation.
We’ve all missed overseas golf trips, but for comedian and broadcaster John Robins, an overseas golf adventure changed his life for the better.
In his exclusive “Today’s Golfer” column, the co-creator of the successful YouTube channel Bad Golf explains how a terrifying invitation actually helped him discover his love for golf.
During the two lockdowns, playing a round on a local course was so close and yet so enticingly distant for a long time. For those of us who felt that golf had low risk and sufficient benefit to qualify for some sort of exception, the idea of people walking their dogs or wandering around the holes with friends was so familiar to us were a tough pill. Now golf is good again and really back, my mind has started to wander to the next milestone. Play golf abroad.
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My reintroduction to golf about five years ago was only due to a trip abroad. My friend Alex Horne, a well-known comedian and Taskmaster assistant, called me out of the blue and asked if I would like to travel to Spain to play golf with twenty other men I had never met.
I’ll be honest, I had my reservations. First, golf trips abroad can be expensive, and that was before I knew the true stratospheric inflationary pressures on cold water bottles at golf resorts in mainland Europe! Anyone who has played golf abroad knows that freezing cold bottled water is about four times the price of gasoline when you are within two miles of a club shop.
Second, I don’t feel very comfortable with large groups of people I don’t know, especially twenty of them, all men, in a foreign country.
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Third, and perhaps most urgently, was the sight of my golf clubs. What I treated very similarly back then, how many people treat a guitar that is gathering dust in a corner.
“I see you have a guitar … do you want to play something?”
“Ah … oh … yes … well, I play. It’s just … it needs to be tuned … you know … temperature changes got it right. And it actually has to be retightened. And I have a minor injury to my finger, so I would prefer you never to mention it again if that’s okay? “
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I paused on the phone. I played golf. But it is very different to say that you play golf.
For a day I fought with various fear demons. What if they were all great at golf and I stopped them all like a big idiot? Would you just leave me on the course? I would have to buy some real golf shoes! What if my clubs are really bad? What if you need a handicap? And a real handicap, not only that you haven’t played since the coalition government.
Fortunately, the better angels of my nature were also at work. “John, you drive a 2004 Skoda Fabia and have not spent any money on anything beautiful since the sunglasses you got in 1999. And you left her in a phone booth. Alex is nice, his friends will be nice. Just do it!”
And I’ve done that, and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
It turned out that this group of twenty golfers were not only some of the nicest people I have ever met, but they were all on a similar level as me. Most range from 15-36 handicaps with a scratch golf mascot answering the barrage of technique questions with patience and grace.
We play a Ryder Cup format in two teams over three days to fight for the Murray Cup, a trophy that the same two teams have been fighting for for seven years. It is the highlight of all of our calendars and I am sure you will have similar events on yours.
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The structure has something, the first banter in the WhatsApp groups as handicaps are discussed, announced and then (with a wink … mostly) complained. The anticipation of the sun on the back and the small delivery truck that comes by with ham baguettes and San Miguel cans. The breakfast buffet and improvised sandwiches were smuggled out to make some money off of the damn water.
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And then the pints. Oh my god the pints. Last year our group had grown to the right Ryder Cup proportions, 24 men in two teams of 12. Can you imagine how many pints that would be in three days? When I arrived in my very first year, Jeremy, who takes care of the kitten, waited for the last member before saying “So, 20 Estrellas?” said. Well, I’m not a lager drinker, never have been. And my stomach sank at the thought of sipping and burping myself through the next 72 hours. It was now or never. I raise my hand And maybe it was my very first words to anyone. “Do you have Guinness? Or beer? Or cider? “
One by one went upstairs, polite men who had finally found a leader and since then Jeremy has had to oversee some of the most complex rounds he has ever ordered, a skill he wields to perfection and a burden for which he is responsible has never forgiven me.
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But above all it’s competition and camaraderie. We play match play for the cup and Stableford for prizes and everyone has their quirks. Tristan is a 36 handicapper that everyone fears to play. He hits seven irons after seven irons, crossed the cannon barrel 120 yards straight down the fairway. There’s Kev, who is known for his precise putt and his keen predilection for a camp top. Ulf, who saves his best shots for the rubble and cacti. Nick who plays WITHOUT GLOVES! And then our beloved captains, John and Eddie. Everyone correlates their teams with secret tactical discussions and, if the rumors are true, even more secret individual WhatsApp groups.
And then I am there. Never anyone to disturb the Stableford scoreboards, it turns out I’m a mean match player. My record would make Ian Poulter crouch. 10-1-1. Not bad for a newbie whose handicap went from 24 to a pretty solid 19 on the 2019 Amendoeira trip.
WATCH: Bad Golf in Amendoeira – Part 2
Of course, as for many of you reading this, last year’s golf trip was canceled. We booked a comfort night in England. That was also canceled. And I hope beyond hope that the trip will take place this year.
I’m sure many of you scoured the news for an indication of whether golf trips are likely. We have all rescheduled flights, canceled flights, experienced stress and disappointment, especially over vague refund rules (and the companies that disregard the rules anyway). I hope we will get some certainty soon. I owe my whole golf life to this first trip abroad.
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Alex and I were so desperate that we had to practice a little before the second trip that we started BadGolf, our YouTube channel, to make sure we play once a month. It now has nearly 50,000 subscribers and is again why I was asked to write this column. So many great things came from that decision to pretend I could play golf.
Now if you could all do me favors. Please keep your fingers crossed that this year’s journey can continue. And please don’t tell the group that I’m now 8/15 free! I really don’t want to be cut.
Learn more about John Robins at johnrobins.com
WITB: John Robins from Bad Golf
Click on club names to read John’s clubs reviews and ratings
Driver: Cobra King RadSpeed Top floor: 10.5 ° set to 11.5 °. Wave: Tensei blue 65 reg
Hybrid: Cobra King Speedzone Top floor: 2 hours. Wave: Recoil reg
Iron: Cobra King Speedzone Lofts: 5 GW. Waves: Recoil reg
Wedges: Cobra King ME Lofts: 52 °, 58 °. Waves: STD splined shaft
Putter: Odyssey O-Works 2.0 R-Line
Golf ball: Bridgestone E6
John Robins is an award-winning stand-up comedian and host on BBC Radio 5Live. Download the podcast here and watch his comedy special “The Darkness of Robins” on Netflix here. You can also follow John on Twitter and Instagram.
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