NHS intensive care worker and keen golfer Martin Bedborough has written a moving blog explaining why, at the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic, he's realised that he needs golf more than ever.
"I work in the NHS and for the last two and a half years I have worked in an intensive care unit. I am not involved medically but I am there five days a week in the eye of the current storm and shoulder to shoulder with all the nursing and medical professionals working tirelessly and without question in this second wave. My job title is Administration Manager and I am one of those junior managers people seem to think represent a lot of what is wrong in the NHS.
In essence it is probably a grandiose title for what I actually do, which in essence is to try and take as much of the day to day administration and time-consuming silly little tasks off the senior nursing team, the sisters and senior nurses so they have more time to provide dedicated patient care (especially in the current crisis) and in a world after Covid, mentor, train and support the newer or inexperienced members of the team.
But before I go any further please don't think this is some sort of "woe is me" post. It is simply an explanation of where I am, why I need golf back in my life and why I need it now.
NHS stretched to capacity
Our intensive care unit has seen unprecedented demand and we have grown from a twenty bed unit and escalated into adjacent wards and theatre space and running at forty bed capacity. This last week has been especially manic and quite simply the hardest of my working life in any capacity. I find myself mentally and physically shattered and at a very low ebb. This is where my golf would step in.
There is so much documented evidence on how golf is so good for mental well-being and to a large extent formed the backbone to the English Golf Union's lobbying of government to let courses remain open as they have done in Scotland but sadly to no avail.
I am a golfaholic and love nothing more than playing or practicing and tinkering with my game. That is a trait I share with Padraig Harrington (as he confessed on the "Chronicles of an Open Champion" TV programme - although there is arguably a tiny difference in ability). Without this my weekend is drawing out in front of me and I have nothing to fill the void.
Sitting here today in the current lockdown everything feels wrong. It seems that my passion for everything golf related, has vanished overnight. Playing socially as well as having time to myself to practice has always been really important to me.
Why golf has helped me
The combination of the game itself, and spending time with my friends at my home club, Royal Ascot, has really helped get me through Covid to this point. However a month into this current hiatus and things feel different.
I feel like the golfing environment definitely plays a big part too. It’s something that you don’t always recognise in the moment, but then you look back on it and you can see the impact of being out there in the open and the sunshine, and what a help that was.
Research in the UK reveals that every week one in six adults suffer from common mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. Covid has definitely exacerbated the problem and I know I am not alone in currently finding myself emotionally adrift without my beloved golf.
With the positive impact of green space on mental health becoming more evident, it can be argued that golf holds a unique position as a sport and hobby, owing to the game’s green swathes, mature trees, the wildlife on display and the enticing scenery. Alongside this are the opportunities for social interaction, keeping active and challenging yourself mentally.
I am not in the best place right now, but I am fully supported by my fantastic colleagues and the unquestioning love and support of my wife. That said I need my golf.
But the madness in work won't last forever and that is something I need to bear in mind. The course is undoubtedly benefitting from the rest in the wet, cold conditions we have and so when I do step foot onto that first tee again it will be in excellent nick and ready for me to peg that ball up, take aim and swing the club again.
Golf is undoubtedly a massive part of my life, my passion, my release and so perhaps there was an air of inevitability about the effect it would have on my well-being. Perhaps having worked throughout the pandemic and especially this second wave, which has proved far harder to deal with, I didn't take the time to appreciate that short window of opportunity we had in the late summer and early autumn to play when the weather was still set fair.
I will get through this. I feel a little bit broken right now but far from beaten. I know these are unique and unprecedented times. Golf will return and I will reap the health and well-being benefits once more. It makes me more determined to work hard on my game, to enjoy it even when it doesn't go so well, and appreciate the time spent with my golfing friends and not take their company for granted."
About the author
I started golf when my dad took me for lessons at Sandown Park Golf Centre. I then joined Wimbledon Common Golf Club firstly as a junior and then an adult member; I even spent two years working in the pro shop as an assistant pro. Alas I couldn't get the handicap down far enough and my parents couldn't afford to put me through the PGA course and the club wouldn't sponsor me .I then gave up golf for about fifteen years, moved to Bracknell, Berkshire and joined Royal Ascot Golf Club.
I still have ambitions about getting to single figures and enjoy playing as many courses as I can and meeting old and new friends along the way.