‘I think that I shall never see: A poem lovely as a tree.’
As a golf hacker (first class) I’m not so sure. I have never had the run of a golf ball interrupted by a poem. In a recent round with Invisible Andy I managed to hit a tree on three of the first four holes. I’d swear the trees move themselves to ensure they get in the way.
At Middleton I always feel you have to be pretty wild to end in the trees as the fairways are generously wide. But where there’s a will there’s a way. There must be a ball mountain somewhere on the right hand side of the 4th hole where I have sliced drives. However, there are a couple of places where the trees are deliberate obstacles. At the very short 16th – all of 97 yards long – the proper tee shot is directly over the trees. At least in winter you have a fighting chance of whacking the ball through the branches but in summer the foliage makes that impossible.
I’d never found the trees a problem at the 158 yard 12th. That didn’t stop me hitting them and on one occasion nearly braining Old Bob with a ricochet … I laughed like a drain. But now I realise that I’d only played the hole off the winter tee. In summer the tee is lined up directly behind some trees, which must be about 50 feet high and only about 20 yards from the tee. Needless to say Old Bob cleared them. I didn’t and there was no exciting ricochet. On a subsequent visit I tried to cheat by playing to the left of the ladies* tee and having a clear sight of the green. Of course, my ball, drawn by some homing device, disappeared into the trees after I played a horrid low slice, never to be seen again.
Mind you, I prefer trees on a course to water – less dangerous. I read recently of a 73 year old Scottish golfer in Spain who drowned in a lake on the fifth hole on a Spanish golf course when looking for his ball. Apart from the odd drainage ditch, which even I have managed to avoid (so far), Middleton is water free. Not so The Lion’s Lair. Apart from rivers, which run down the right of the third and eight fairways there is a nasty little pond in the direct line between tee and green on the fifth. On a recent outing I was congratulating myself when my second shot hopped over the pond and I thought no more about it.
My drive at the sixth shot along the ground like a startled rabbit and disappeared into some rough within forty feet of the tee. Just like trees move on golf courses, in any rough there are hidden chasms (black holes?) into which balls disappear. So I played another ball from where I thought my first ball had disappeared and was quite pleased with the outcome even though I had sliced it a bit … I trudged off to find where my shot had ended up only for the truth slowly to dawn. As the sixth runs parallel but in the opposite direction to the fifth I had hit my ball into the pond I had escaped on the fifth. The other water hazard is on the 18th where you have to hit your tee shot straight over a ten-yard wide river … needless to say I have not played this hole yet … balls cost money.
Of course, the aim of the game is to keep the ball on the fairways and at this time of the year in the sunshine they look beautiful. Playing with Old Bob recently I managed on the 17th to have the ball in the centre of the fairway and not a million miles from the green. Admittedly, I can’t remember how many shots it had taken for me to reach this point although I am prepared to admit that par had long since been exceeded. I adjusted my glasses and there 5 feet in front of my ball was a dead hedgehog – at least I think it was dead – you can judge for yourself. I asked for a ruling. Bob said I could move the hedgehog or move the ball so that the hedgehog was no longer in the direct line between my ball and the hole but taking care that my ball was not any nearer to the hole. I did neither, eschewed the putt and chipped the ball (not the hedgehog) delicately on to the green.
At Middleton the rough is very tough and to be avoided. The other day somehow I managed to hook my drive into the rough on the third hole and was trying to play out of the jungle with an 8 iron. My account is that the rough was so thick I caught my club in it, which caused it to snap in two. When Old Bob finished laughing – to be frank, I thought he was going to have a heart attack – he said I’d hit a tree. As he’s a Yorkshireman born and bred and I only have lived here for 33 years he must be right …
I’m beginning to think that my father was right. Perhaps golf is just a good walk spoiled.
* Golf is a bit behind hand on equal opportunities and political correctness. They are called ladies’ tees so that’s what I call them …