Golf wise, the last week has been a busy one for me. I have played four rounds, not that unusual in itself but over the course of those 72 holes I think I’ve experienced pretty much every golf-related emotion and got to play with seven people I’d never met before.
It all began last Saturday (Aug 4) with a 36 hole men’s Open at Crowborough Beacon GC (the home track of GM’s equipment editor Jezz Ellwood). Teeing it up on the day were me, Jezz and GM instruction editor Neil Tappin. The banter had been in full swing the week before.
Make sure you bring enough balls because you boys won’t break 85 round Crowborough said Jezz.
We’ll humiliate you and your golf course Jezza, said Neil and I.
The bet was set at office bragging rights plus £5 on best AM score, another £5 on PM, a further £5 on the 36 hole total and £1 bits for birdies. Seeing as Crowborough has a lot of holes where local knowledge counts, Jezz graciously gave us a courtesy shot meaning Neil was off 6, me 8 and Jezz his usual 6.
I’ll spare you the full gory details of my round save to say by the time I stood on the tenth tee I had racked up 52 strokes. Lowlights included a 7 at the par 3 3rd and a 10 at the par 5 7th which included an air shot when I tried to hit a flop shot out of deep rough. In between these two disasters my electric trolley ground to a halt halfway up the north face of Katmandu (masquerading as the 5th fairway) with the temperature heading towards 30 degress. More than a few rude words were uttered.
I stabilised things a bit on the inward nine (translated as I had a couple of pars) but numbers turned to letters when I airmailed the 16th green, couldn’t find my ball and frankly couldn’t be bothered to walk 120 yards back down the fairway to reload.
Thankfully my abject performance hadn’t put my playing partner off a good round as he’d NR’d at the 14th (two lost balls) and ran out of ammo playing the 18th.
I’d like to say I had a word with myself over lunch, regrouped and showed some grit in the afternoon but I didn’t. Starting at the 10th I hit my drive practically between my legs into jungle and made a double bogey 7. Once again I failed to return a score when on my 16th (the 7th) I lost one ball off the tee and then another with what was my fourth shot. Pathetic doesn’t really do it justice.
I really hate NRing so to do it twice in one day was awful. The only consolation apart from a couple of post-round Magners was the fact that so few competitors had returned scores that neither round was qualifying for handicap increases. As for the GM bet, I obviously had to put my hand in my pocket but there wasn’t a lot of bragging done by the day’s winner Neil who took the cash by default as his 84, 85 beat Jezz’s 85, NR.
For the record Neil had the one solitary GM birdie in 108 holes of golf.
As I drove back home round the M25 I had to admit I was pretty hacked off with golf. I’d spent a precious weekend day away from my two-year-old daughter to play like a clown and been so spineless I’d effectively given up in both rounds.
At times like these I feel a bit of break from the game is what’s required but circumstances didn’t allow that as two days later it was time to get back in the saddle for a trip to Ellesborough GC on the edge of the Chilterns in Buckinghamshire. I’d been invited to the club by Chairman of Green, Peter Scott, who was keen to know more about how we compile the HSBC regional course rankings.
I was scheduled to arrive at 1pm for a ‘light lunch’ (of which more later) and as I turned into the club at 12.50 I was greeted by a nearly full car park a great indicator of the club being in rude health, especially on a Monday.
Peter had arranged for two other members, club captain John French and Chairman of the Board, Rob Wilkinson, to join us for a four-ball better-ball match.
Before that was the lunch. Ever the athlete, I opted for the homemade steak and kidney pie and chips from the specials board. It was slightly better than out of this world. If I close my eyes now I can almost taste the buttery pastry and succulent meat and feel the crunch of the chips. Such was the size of the ‘light lunch’ we had to disappoint Lesley the chef and decline pudding.
In best traditions we threw up the balls to decide playing partners. Peter drew the short straw and got me. The Ellesborough trio then declared handicaps to decide shots. Peter was off 9, John 6 and Rob 4. Pretty impressive and at this point all I could think off was how I wouldn’t have played to 18 in either round at Crowbrough.
Somewhat predictably I topped my drive just past the ladies’ tee. I could feel a long, embarrassing, hack coming on.
However, someone must have been feeling sorry for me because via a good recovery five iron, a wedge that took a favourable bounce and a preposterous 25-foot putt (thanks for the line, Peter!) I had made par and the oppo, in the form of John, who had played the hole in fine style needed to hole a tricky five footer for half. ‘This one for half captain’ was heard a few times over the next few holes as I proceeded to find my game, birdieing the par 5, 2nd and running a five iron approach inches past the flag at the 3rd. The rest of the round unfolded in to a great game that was played out on a course that was in pristine condition.
Like all great four ball games, ours went to the last putt on the last green and this time it was my turn to hear the words, this one for the half as I lined up a 20ft birdie putt. In the end it finished a tantalising 12 inches short.
Beaten but inspired, and once again golf my friend.
The final leg of ‘golf week’ was at the London Club in Kent for GM’s annual advertiser’s golf day. It’s an opportunity for the industry to have a relaxed get-together and an chance for us to say thank you to all those companies who support the magazine.
In my fourball were Richard Fryer from FootJoy, and Ian Barrett from Cobra and Ian Barratt from Nippon Shafts. Thankfully with two Ians I was pretty confident I could remember everyone’s name!
We didn’t set the course alight but in patches we all played some half decent golf. The best thing about the day was getting to know Richard and the two Ians. Not only did we get to talk a bit of business but we also chatted away about golf and life in general.
So, a week that started so badly ended well with me thoroughly back in love with the game and itching to play again. Lucky for me I type this on Sunday evening with a trip to Scotland tomorrow. I’m due to meet Jezz at 5.30am at Gatwick from where we’re off to see Peter Dawson at the R&A and also squeeze in a round at Tom Doak’s new creation next door to Muirfield, The Renaissance Club. I’ll report back later this week to let you know how it went and what my state of amour with the game is.