I like to play with Thommo because he’s hopeless, which is funny. (So am I, which is not).
Like most golfers, the people I play with on any given day form an important part of how much I enjoy that particular round of golf.
But the company one keeps on course is only one part of golf’s appeal. There are a multitude of unique elements that set golf apart from other sports and it is in these nuances that the true joy of the game is to be found.
For one, golf is hard, even for the very best. If it wasn’t, what would be the joy of the good shots?
If you’d never hit a fat chip or skulled a bunker shot, how much pleasure could you really take from the odd one that somehow finds the cup?
As Tiger Woods noted in his 2001 instructional book, if golf were easy we’d all shoot 61 first time out and go find another game.
Golf is also unique as a competitive endeavour. Matchplay aside, in golf you don’t play against anyone, you play against everyone.
That means your mate that you’re playing with isn’t your opponent, even though he is, which is why you can be pleased for him when he plays well while being equally highly amused when he doesn’t.
If you’re the competitive type then the only real competition is with yourself, a battle that, in the long term, you can never truly win. Or lose.
Frustrating as that may be it actually makes golf endlessly fascinating. It’s why you meet golfers in their 80’s who’ve been playing since their teens and still love and enjoy the game as much as the day they took it up.
It’s why people become obsessed with the game, even if they’re not very good at it.
It appeals to engineers and artists alike, from Karsten Solheim to Seve Ballesteros and every imaginable mix in between.
And it can never be mastered. For every professional who shoots 63 Thursday there lurks a 75 Friday. Or Saturday. Or Sunday.
That a golfer can scale the greatest heights only to endure the most undignified fall is a painful and sobering reality, one that should encourage humility in us all.
But golf always does something to bring you back, too. How many of us have had an experience similar to American pro Mike Heinen at last week's Senior Open championship in Wales where both his opening 83 and second round 96 finished with a birdie at the last? (They were his only two birdies oif the week, too!)
My mate Thommo isn’t very good at the game and neither am I. But we are as much golfers as Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods because the real joy of golf isn’t about how good you are, it’s about how much you embrace the game’s unique lessons and pleasures.
And for millions of people around the world that’s not something that can be measured on a six-inch scorecard.