Mr S is a fellow golfer and also my patient. He took to golf when he was past fifty and I have been observing his progress [or regress?] since then. Even when he began he was not very good, as it often happens when you take up a new sport at that age. Except for the walking that is involved in golf and swinging the club attempting to hit the golf ball squarely, he does no other exercise and as he has grown older his never very good golf swing has become shorter and stiffer. This is because he finds it difficult to turn his body fully and shift weight from one leg to the other. Though this is the lot of most of us ageing golfers and most of us have come to accept this as another aspect of ageing process and still continue to enjoy the game [more observant amongst my readers may have noticed that my handicap has gone up from 15 to 18].
This is not so with S. He cannot accept that his bad golf is because of his age and stiffness. He came to see me the other day and his opening remark was, ’Doc,’ I am giving up golf’. I kept quiet. On many a bad day I too have felt like doing so, but have gone back to play. The infernal game is like that. No other physical activity [with the possible exception of sex] is as addictive and frustrating as golf. ‘ I am not able to strike the ball, and when I do it, it is a slice [the ball taking of to the right in an ugly arc], I have become abusive and ill tempered, no caddy is prepared to carry my bag, my partners barely tolerate me and when I go home, I am so irritable that wife doesn’t even want to speak with me’ he stopped.
He sat quiet staring at me. I can understand the turmoil he was going through. Golf is one game where maximum consultations are done with sport Psychologists and in their absence my friend has found me to help him. I know that telling him that he has become old and it is natural that his game will deteriorate will only depress him more.
‘What you want me to do’ I asked him.
‘Give me something that will make me less irritable, I don’t want to lose my temper on the golf course’ he said. ‘But then, how will it improve your swing? Have you gone and seen the club’s pro?’ I asked him. ‘Yes I did. Took two lessons, He wanted to correct my twenty years swing, impossible at my age, it was a bloody waste of money’ he said.
Any way you have decided to give up golf, why then you need medication to quieten you’? I asked. I want to give it a last try, He said. I gave him a prescription for a minor anti anxiety drug to be taken half an hour before the start of the game. I also told him it might cause some drowsiness. He took the prescription and left.
Couple of weeks later I met with him on the golf course and asked him about his golf. He said, ’I am much better, I have stopped using my driver, 3 wood and long irons[ less forgiving of the 14 clubs a golfer is allowed to carry] and my slice is now much less though my handicap remains the same’. ‘How is your temper?’ I asked him. ‘I am paying my caddy twice the amount so that he can put up with me’ he replied. This meant he was bribing the caddy to accept his short temper [I will tell the caddy’s version in another story]. ‘So the medicine is working’ I asked. Yes, he said but not while playing golf, I take it at night with my evening drink, doc let me tell you I never had a better cocktail, I have never slept this well, you should recommend this to your other patients’ he said.