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Accidentally on purpose

From lapping up freebies to talking about feelings – "social media influencer" turned mental health campaigner Ryan Curtis shares the story of The Club and The Club Talks.
Accidentally on purpose

Sounder have asked me to write about myself… and golf.

I wouldn’t normally do it for a multitude of reasons.

There’s no shortage of people oversharing stuff about themselves online and often it’s quite an unattractive or dull trait.

But my confused narcissism has won out, and so here I am, typing away.

Sounder got in touch with me and offered to send me some of their gear in exchange for some exposure on my golf media brand The Club.

It’s fairly standard practise for brands, and one I thought was brilliant when I started out. Free stuff and all I have to do is stick a Tweet or Instagram post out

But over time you become less and less excited about it. I appreciate how entitled it might sound, but getting sent the latest golf shoes from a big brand just seems a bit meh.

I already have golf shoes and the spiel you’ve sent me about how these golf shoes somehow make me hit a golf further is both confusing, bollocks and - put simply – I just don’t care.

And that’s just it. For me I have to care.

I kind of envy people who can go to a job they’re not that arsed about, take the money and be content and happy. But I’m not one of them.

So what do I care about? And isn’t this supposed to be about golf, not some career soul searching (just a couple of paragraphs ago, I said how unattractive and dull it is to read someone droning on about themselves).

When I received the message from Sounder, the first thing I did was check them out. What kind of swag can I blag off this lot?

I must admit I did like the look of the gear, and am always easily impressed by any golf website that doesn’t look like it was designed in 1998. But what really got me interested, and what led me to write this piece, was a podcast where the founders Cathal and James discussed their story

And I just empathised with their stories and their frustrations about golf.

I hate the idea of going to the pub wearing traditional ‘golf clothes’, with a glove hanging out of my back pocket. I hate the bombardment of complication – the stats, the focus on technique, the obsession with distance and the equipment marketing that obscures the real essence of the game.

Golf is a simple game. A game where we go out with our pals on a sunny afternoon, and try to whack a little ball into a little hole. For the vast majority of us it’s not our living. It’s not going to change our day too much if we have 80 or 100 whacks and what we get out of the game will have nothing to do with the aforementioned nonsense that the golf industry churns out.

I left a job in The City which I hated about seven years ago, and went full time working on a stupid Twitter account we had.

It was probably a poor financial decision, but it allowed me to be paid to go to The Open. I worked with brands like Mercedes, I saw Tiger Woods on the charge, went behind-the-scenes at the Players and got pissed with the fans at The Ryder Cup.

Moments like this were brilliant, and more than justify my decision to stop flogging IT infrastructure to banks. But it’s the stuff that happened in between that caused me to become so cynical.

It’s the year-in year-out marketing drops from the big golf brands that you have to sidle up to in order to get paid. It’s the months of preparation, time and money spent on a project before some fella high up in a company changes his mind and it’s all dropped.

To them it’s nothing; but to you it’s your livelihood.

You could just stick out content and be a YouTuber but the thought of that fills me with dread. What’s the point of gaming an algorithm and creating stuff that’s… well… just what the algorithm wants. And then what? Do that forever?

The reason I love golf isn’t the random PGA Tour events on TV. It’s not lowering my handicap, or the latest driver that will change my game, or some bloke on YouTube.

It’s just the game.

Being out in the sun, in nature, walking and carrying a pencil bag with my pals. Taking the piss out of each other, playing for who buys the pints after. It’s the pure links course. It’s that one 6-iron you crunch dead at it.

And it was whilst doing exactly this about 18 months ago which it came to me. I was sat on a bench on a beautiful golf course where I thought to myself: you know what? The game of golf is good for my mental health.

I tweeted it.

And the response was incredible.

Hundreds of people got in touch saying golf was so important to them. Some even said how it saved their lives.

So I’d found the purpose I was looking for all those years.

We setup The Club Talks, partnering with the male suicide prevention charity CALM, with the aim of boosting mental health through golf.

The sport I’d become a little frustrated about gave us exercise, it required focus, we were out in nature and it was social, all great things for our mental health.

This was the simple game of golf.

None of the thousands of people who’ve interacted with us have talked about what score they had, what driver they were using or what their clubhead speed was.

It was just the game.

And through that game we are raising money with brilliant golf clubs and golfers across the UK and Ireland. We’re training Mental Health First Aiders at golf clubs, giving thousands of golfers easy access to someone they can talk to.

We’re raising money to donate to the amazing CALM, where just £8 can fund a lifesaving phone call on their helplines.

The biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK is themselves. And a lot of those men are golfers.

Most of all, we’re raising the consciousness of people both inside and outside of golf. We’re building a case that this game of ours is fantastic for our mental health, and that the safe space of a golf course provides a perfect environment for men to open up and talk about stuff.

So much like the lads at Sounder, I’ve got a purpose. There’s a point to all of this.

It all comes from this game.

Whack ball in hole. Nothing else.

Now send me all your hoodies ;)

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