You may have read about Emile Ratelband, a 69-year-old Dutchman who has decided he’d prefer to be 49. His case is based on the premise that since people are allowed to change sex and self-identify themselves as male or female when they may have been born the opposite, why cannot he do the same regarding his age, especially given that doctors have apparently attested that he has the body of a guy under 50? “When I’m 69, I am limited,” he said. “If I’m 49, then I can take up more work. When I’m on Tinder and it says I’m 69, I don’t get an answer.” One might have known it would come down to sex. A court is expected to hand down its written judgement on the Ratelband claim by Christmas.
But this got me thinking. My golf handicap is 15. (Yes, I know, with a favourable wind, every 10-footer going in, optional mulligans and out-of-bounds disregarded.) But that’s just meaningless official golf-club regulations nonsense. On occasion I might fancy being off scratch. On another day off 28. And why not? I shall self-identify myself accordingly.
In his marvellous old but timeless book How to Become a Scratch Golfer, Patrick Campbell wrote thus about the subject. “What is a scratch golfer? There are two kinds. There is the man who, by artifice of style, clothing, talk and equipment, looks like one, but finds it difficult to consistently break 80…[he is] a scratch golfer in the company of elderly players or, preferably, in the company of persons who have never seen the game played at all.” Given a bit of tweaking of the wardrobe, perhaps, I think I can manage that. As for the other kind, “[who] is a scratch golfer all the time”…well, best just to forget about it.
The reason for opting to be off 28 is a tad more logical. It means the chance to win a competition, or at least get close to being in the running to claim a voucher to get a discount off a three-ball sleeve of balls in the pro shop. If things go really well, there will be the dual thrill of having produced the lowest handicap score in the monthly medal and for a few days at least the notoriety of hearing whispers about “bit of a bandit, that one” while you smugly roam the clubhouse. Play this perfectly and you may even attract some sympathy when the committee cuts you two strokes. Funny things, golf clubs. If yours is a particularly enlightened one, you may want to consider self-identifying yourself into the ladies’ section, although that may cause problems at home and will certainly alter your Tinder profile in ways unimagined by Heer Ratelband.
Somewhat unrelatedly, it was reported last week that Zamira Hajiyeva, a 55-year-old Azerbaijani woman, was arrested having been made the subject of the UK’s first “unexplained wealth order”. In fact it seems to me that this term is something of a misnomer, given that her wealth could be readily explained – her husband had defrauded billions from the Bank of Azerbaijan, of which he had been chairman. His wife had done her best to help with its distribution by spending £16.3 million in Harrods, £11.5 million buying a nearby property in Knightsbridge and £10.5 million on acquiring Mill Ride Golf & Country Club in Ascot, Berkshire. Why settle for a set of Callaways when you can buy a ‘proper’ golf club of your very own? I don’t know whether she plays golf or not but I do have a fair idea what her handicap is: the two charges of embezzlement she’ll be facing if her home country is successful in its extradition application.
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