So this year, rather than experiencing the excitement of Formula 1 racing, I decided to try my hand at a more “interactive” sport, that of golf. My only experience of golf up until this time was on rather smaller courses, actually mini courses, where the aim was to get a multi-coloured ball over the see-saw, through the windmill and down the left hand tube to the hole at the end. This version was an entirely different matter – a lot greener and a lot more taxing.
The day started off with the much anticipated arrival of David Leadbetter. My reaction was “who?”, but as the real golfers stared in awe and started prostrating themselves around him, I knew this had to be a photo opportunity. Apparently, Mr. Leadbetter owns a number of golf training school and has trained some of the big names in golf such as Nick Faldo and Ernie Els (who I have heard of).
But Mr. Leadbetter was not there for us amateurs. We were quickly whisked away to a novices area, screened behind some big trees where some “semi” professionals were there to give us the basics, such as the types of clubs used, how to hold them and some hints on how to swing them without causing serious bodily harm to your neighbours.
The training progressed slowly. First we were introduced to the iron, which was totally impractical for smoothing the creases in a shirt, but gave us the ability to chip a ball on to a green. Next we moved on to the putter, and tried getting a ball into a hole – I managed several times, although I will admit not always in the hole I was aiming for. Practicing on a small 9-hole putting green, I managed a respectable 20 shots and came second in our group of 10.
From there it was off to the most difficult part of the game, the long shots. We were not trusted with the woods (my, see how quickly I slip in to the lingo) at this stage, but tried to tee off with another iron. Our trainers were encouraging, and tried to ingratiate themselves with interesting anecdotes such as “when Tiger Wood tees off, the momentum of the ball is enough to plough through 2 telephone directories”. I found this tattle very frustrating as the clods of earth I was digging up with my club would probably get though a single sheet of Kleenex (3 ply).
Gradually things got better. After a while I was actually hitting the ball 2 out of 3 times, and occasionally it even shot off in the general direction I was aiming for – most gratifying.
In summary, what was my handicap? It has to be patience. At this point in time I am not sure I want to spend that much effort to get good at a sport that principally involves trekking around, dragging a trolley – I will stick to biking. However, I can see its merits of the game (especially driving the golf carts) and may give it ago in a few years time. Our instructor cheerfully told us anyone from the age of 3 to 103 can play golf. As the median age of golfers has to be around 50, I think I will give it another 10 years or wait until I fall off my bike again.