You can find plenty of funniest golf moments on YouTube — from Darren Clarke’s rock-bouncing ball at the K Club, and balls ricocheting off stands and almost going in the hole, to amateur golfers hitting themselves in the head with their own club — but you’ve undoubtedly seen a few funny things yourself over the years. I’ve played golf since I was five, so here are 10 of the most amusing moments I’ve had on a golf course.
I began my love of golf on a small nine-hole links at Barley Cove on the Mizen Peninsula. I used to head out in my orange wellies — I was only five years old — at the crack of dawn. The course was wild and fun and infested with cattle, who left their calling cards everywhere. I discovered my ball sitting on a cow pat one morning and, not knowing the rules of golf, nor the laws of physics, decided to play my ball as it lay. I headed back to the holiday chalet shortly after that, my orange wellies no longer orange and my love of golf diminished until I’d had a bath.
Links golf offers plenty of surprises with twisting fairways and deep bunkers. Even so, you don’t expect to lose a ball in the middle of the fairway. My buddy Finbarr and I were playing at Co Sligo, and Finbarr hit a perfect tee shot on the 10th. We watched the ball finish in the centre of the fairway. Could we find the ball when we got there? No. We went into the rough on both sides, checked the bunker, but there was no sign. The guys waiting on the tee must have thought we were mad as we stood in the fairway scratching our heads. We finally found it six inches down a rabbit hole bored into a ridge that split the fairway in two.
The Atlantic Coast Challenge produced another memorable, if painful, moment. Finbarr — yes, him again — drove off the first at Carne on a windy day. It’s a tricky hole and the club had provided a spotter on the dunes to the right of the fairway. As Finbarr’s drive caught the wind and veered right we all roared “fore”. Quick question: If you hear someone shout “fore” what do you usually do? Is it a), duck and put your hands over your head, or, b), turn around and face the direction of the shout? Our spotter chose option b) and received Finbarr’s ball flush in the middle of his chest. I can say now that it was funny, the man staggering backwards and slumping onto his backside in cartoon-esque fashion, but at the time it certainly wasn’t. The spotter could have been seriously hurt and we were… are… very grateful that he wasn’t. We do, however, still question what exactly he was spotting if he wasn’t watching our tee shots.
In another “fore” moment, a group of us was playing the Powerscourt East course. The par three 5th tee towers over both the green and the 6th tee away to the left. Fintan hit a big hook that raced towards the 6th tee and the call of “fore” rang out. Three of our friends all crouched, while Dermot, the fourth, assumed a starting pistol had been fired. He took off in an all-out sprint that would have made Usain Bolt proud. The ball lasered in on him and hit him in the back. The surprise flattened him, because by then the ball speed was only slightly faster than his leg speed. The grass stains on his shirt and trousers raised eyebrows in the clubhouse. His nickname remains ‘Run Rabbit Run’.
Powerscourt again. My friend Helen was short of the par five 17th and was left with a chip of about 80 yards over the large pond that fronts the green. Now, I know that at Augusta during the par three tournament the pros bounce balls over the water for fun, but us mere mortals can’t do that... at least not intentionally. Helen bladed her shot and the ball headed straight for the water.
She turned away in disgust and never saw the ball skip three times across the water, hit the far bank and bounce up towards the flag. The ball stopped six feet from the hole. The putt was missed.
In my school days, I played a lot of golf at Grange Golf Club, in Dublin. One of my constant companions was a guy called Johnny who had a crazy swing — let’s just say that Johnny and Jim Furyk may be related — and always finished with this twirling lasso-like flourish.
One wet day as he finished his tee shot the club flew from his grip. It flew over the wall. It flew over the road as cars drove back and forth. It flew into someone’s garden. For the next 15 minutes, we watched him scale the wall, avoid cars and climb a tree to retrieve his club. We then scarpered as the owner of the house came out and gave Johnny a good old-fashioned clip around the ear. It still wasn’t enough to convince him to change his swing.
Golf routines can be a terrible thing. I always step behind my ball to line it up before playing a shot. For 99.9% of the time that works fine. For the other 0.1% of the time it means falling backwards off the 1st tee at Carrickmines, and making a complete ass of myself in front of 30 people.
During a father-and-son foursomes match at Greystones Golf Club, the father on the opposing team walked off the 1st green to retrieve his golf bag. It was nowhere to be seen. The four of us began a search, fanning out in every direction. Still no sign. Several minutes later and I started to wonder if dad and I were about to enter the Guinness Book of Records for winning a match after only one hole. The bag was found eventually in a nest of trees beside the 6th green. With the battery not fully switched off, his electric trolley had wandered past the bunker, down a hill, through some trees, up and over the 3rd tee box and across the slope towards the 6th green. It was an unseen adventure of 150 yards. We lost the match on the 15th.
There’s nothing like a perfect drive to stir the ego. Swing hard and fast and watch the ball soar. If you can’t brag that you once hit a ball over 300 yards, then you’re not a real golfer. I hit one over 380 yards once, at the Penina Golf Club in Portugal. I’d love to tell you it was the perfect shot, but it was actually pretty brutal. It did, however, find the path of least resistance... the cart path... and we watched as it just kept bouncing on the tarmac all the way to the green.
Undoubtedly, the strangest of the lot was seeing a man combining two sports at Mahon Golf Club in Cork.
It was 7am and I was on the par three 6th watching as a man teed off on the 7th. He hit his tee shot and then ran after the ball, leaving his clubs behind.
How odd, I thought. He reached his ball and then turned and ran back for his clubs. This was not a matter of forgetfulness, because he did it on every shot.
“Beautiful day,” he called out to me, not breaking stride. It was easy to see why he played early... and alone.