Back to the plot. After my visit to the golf doctor I was a bit frustrated. There was some improvement when I was practicing, but my first try out over 18 holes at Middleton was pretty inconclusive as to whether any significant progress had been made. This was not helped by the fact that the course was, like the author, showing signs of wear and tear.
On the positive side, from the golf hacker’s point of view, the sand in the bunkers was heavily compacted so there was no chance of the ball being plugged* and every chance the ball would bounce into the bunker and out again – one of Old Bob’s party tricks. However, the light rough* had largely disappeared and the fairways abutted the jungles of Borneo… More troublesome still was the fact that some of the greens resembled sheets of corrugated cardboard… That was disappointing as I am not a bad putter but this aspect of the game had become a lottery with a capital F.
The round’s highlight was on the 17th tee where you’re faced with driving out of a tunnel of trees from an elevated tee over a valley to a fairway resembling the north face of the Eiger (or so it seems). The trick here is to aim left because the right of the fairway is bounded by trees and severe rough. So I did. The ball barely left the ground hit a metal waste bin about thirty yards away on the left edge of the fairway and rebounded to where I was standing. Well, to be precise, it ended up about two feet behind me. For reasons which escape me, Bob and Andy thought this was hilarious… How was I supposed to know the bin would move up in the air and across the fairway at that particular point to interfere with my perfectly struck shot?
So how did I assess my performance overall? Do you remember those old school reports? ‘Quite satisfactory’ What did that mean? Really okay or maybe okay? ‘Could try harder’ Well couldn’t we all (except, possibly Andy Murray)? Or ‘Satisfactory’. I worked out that was code for ‘I haven’t a clue who you are’.
I think I would have marked myself ‘Room for improvement’….
I then thought I must have a round at The Lion’s Lair out of the gaze of Andy and Bob as, on occasion, their laughter is off-putting. The morning I was about to set out I was struck by heel plague. I tried to get out of bed and could barely put my left foot on the ground. I tried to think what I had got up to in bed to cause this… Mrs Bamber (she prefers the old left out) said when I had been especially clumsy the previous day I had tripped over the back step and jarred my left foot. Really? Yes… So I was in no condition to trot round the golf course.
At The Lion’s Lair there is a pleasant practice area, which runs adjacent to the stream that separates it from the third fairway. I think I have indicated before that I have a severe fear of losing golf balls – no doubt it comes of being insufficiently breast-fed. I remember being told you can’t have too many friends – this actually is not true because beyond a certain number friends become acquaintances – but it is true of golf balls. You don’t have to talk to them at regular intervals and ask them how they are. Unless of course, you’re a few sandwiches short of a picnic…
So my warm up exercise is to walk along the stream searching for golf balls sliced by golf hacker types on the third tee. I staggered manfully along in pain and found a couple which made the day worthwhile. I then stood on the practice tee hitting balls with a 7 iron, then chipping them on to the green and finally putting them. There was some improvement. Most of the shots (not the putts) went up in the air and (more or less) in the right direction and, more to the point, I didn’t lose any of the balls so I had made an instant profit.
I did this for a few days with reasonable results and enjoyed a particular red-letter day when my heel had recovered sufficiently to walk further and discovered that a bank, which forms the boundary to the seventh hole had been cleared of its growth and left 5 balls to be collected. Nirvana!
But what would happen when my heel was better and I played (more) for real?
Glossary of technical terms
Plugged – when the ball land in the sand and gets partially buried, it is said to be ‘plugged’
Light rough – area of ground adjacent to the fairway where the grass is allowed to grow a bit longer making a shot more difficult than if the ball had landed on the fairway.