The Ball in the Bag – A Living Club Tradition
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday a group of golfers meet at The Club to play “Ball in the Bag”. This may include regulars, seniors and juniors. It does not matter if you are a beginner or have been playing for some years.
Visitors (with handicaps) are especially welcome.
The format is quite simple. Each golfer puts a marked golf ball onto a shelf. Just before 12.00 in the summer (or 11.00 in the winter) the balls are counted and put into The Bag.
They are drawn out in appropriate numbers so as to make groups of three or four.
A Stableford scoring system allows each team to score (best two scores each hole), with three scoring on the par 5s.
The three-balls have full handicap, while four-balls have ¾. There is an age related maximum handicap allowance.
Following the round, players congregate in the bar; each puts in £1. The team with the best score wins. Sometimes there are sufficient players for second place to win their £1 back.
This is a popular meeting. In the summer, there will be in the region of 30 players each time, while in the winter around 20 can be found taking part regularly.
On joining the Club, I was soon introduced to the Ball in the Bag and took the opportunity to play whenever work commitments allowed. I quickly began to appreciate that this was an extraordinary Club institution, as it allowed several things to happen.
- Any visitor can be assured of a warm welcome and a game.
Recognising that Buxton is a popular holiday destination and has many visitors, this increases the profile of the Club and generates income.
- Any Club member can play regularly during the week.
If you are working, whether on shifts or just have a little time off, you are guaranteed a game.
- The format means that players are not in established groups, thereby allowing a player to have a round with different people each time.
Cliques and closed groups are not always conducive to social golf, so this format enables better social interaction to occur.
- The group has a very pragmatic approach towards the older and less active members, supporting them as needed so as to enable their golfing to continue as long as possible.
The importance of respecting all abilities of golfer is central to the tradition of the Ball in the Bag.
In the context of exploring the History of the Club, I wanted to establish how the Ball in the Bag started, who wrote the rules and why it has been such an enduring feature of Buxton and High Peak Golf Club.
It started following an idea proposed by the late Jim Plant. Further information regarding the origins of this B&HPGC institution would be welcome.
I have always felt that the Ball in the Bag is a fine activity. Now there is research from Age UK to explain why. This research is also supported by the International Longevity Centre, which agrees that the findings could help policy makers encourage older people to focus on activities which improve the quality of their life.
Age UK propose an “Index of Wellbeing in Later Life”. They use this idea to propose activities that are likely to promote health and happiness. It consists of 40 categories covering 5 domains of well-being. The domains are
- Personal circumstances
- Social life
- Local amenity access
What are the secrets to thriving in your 60s and beyond?
Those doing well are involved in some kind of cultural activity, engage in sport and have two or more friends who they meet on a regular basis. Key factors also include mental stimulation, being open to social interactions.
Factors which are less significant appear to involve having children, marital status, home ownership, pension income or personal wealth.
My proposition is that the format of the Ball in the Bag competition ticks all the boxes and promotes a formula for achieving contentment in one’s senior years.
However, whether this contentment relates to the quality of one’s golf is another matter entirely.
Age UK (2017) http://www.ageuk.org.uk/professional-resources-home/research/reports/health-wellbeing/wellbeing-research/ [Accessed 20/04/2017]