Grandpa Webb's blog

Monday, 21 October 2013

Maybe I am gifted after all...

I am at a clinic. Not, I hasten to add, the sort of clinic that tries to cure you of cravings and addictions. This is a golf clinic. I suppose you could say it is designed not to cure but to foster an addiction – to golf.

Grandpa WebbSo far I have resisted golf. My father was a keen player. He used to get up before 6 am on Saturday and Sunday to ensure an early start on the first tee at the local golf club, which was always crowded at weekends. He played off a handicap of 11 and was good enough to get his name in gold letters as a winner on the oak panelling in the clubhouse. 

As a teenager I suppose it wasn’t difficult to for me to remain in bed and indifferent to a game which required you to get up in the small hours to get to the front of the queue.

Anyway, I wasn’t any good at it. Once, when grandma’s Uncle John foolishly loaned me a set of clubs and took me off to play at his local club in Somerset, I sliced a ball so badly that it shot towards a parallel fairway and Uncle John had to shout FORE! very loudly to alert a group of players that a ball was approaching from a totally unexpected direction.

But after the clinic, I’m not so sure I’m so rubbish at golf after all. Maybe I was gifted, and could have turned professional and bought my parents a bungalow near Guildford.

The clinic is one of the benefits of being a member of the gym at the posh hotel up the road, which also has its own golf course. On Wednesday evenings they run Member Clinics where, for £15, a group of you get an hour’s tuition from a golf expert and the chance to ping as many balls as you can hit from the driving range. Usually about eight or ten of us turn up.

Maybe I am gifted after all... I don’t have any golf clubs, but they will lend you one. So this week I am at the driving range where James, a super-fit young man, is teaching us The Long Game.

We all gather round as James shows us how it’s done. With effortless ease he hits a ball so far that I lose sight of it after the first 200 yards. He then shows us how he does it. We’re all right-handed players, so, align your left heel with the ball, put 60 percent of your weight on your right leg, pull down with your left arm … and smack! Another ball flies off into the distance. 

“Any questions?” says James.

I’ve noticed that the club I have borrowed from the golf shop is not like the club James is using. He has a driver with an end on it about the size of a small saucepan. The iron I have borrowed has an end that is not much bigger than a dessert spoon.  

“Could I borrow one of those clubs with a big end on it?”

“Sure,” says James. “Here, you can have this one,” and he hands me the club with which he has been hitting drives of 200 yards-plus under the admiring gaze of all the members of the clinic. No pressure then.

We all adjourn to our segregated bits of grass to practice, each with a selection of wooden tees and golf balls. I’m a slow starter, and while I am eyeing up the ball sitting on the tee, one of my companions hits a ball that skitters along the ground for about 50 yards. A cheering sight. I’m feeling better already.

I’m not very good at complex instructions. I can remember the bit about getting your left heel in line with the ball and keeping your left arm straight, and keeping your head still, but after that, all the stuff about the weight being on the right leg, the left shoulder being a bit above (or was it below?) the right one and pulling down on the grip with your left (or was it right?) arm, is lost on me.

When I do get to take a swing at the ball, I actually hit it. And it goes through the air, not along the ground. It’s not very straight and it didn’t go very far, but the big plus for me is that I made contact. After about five similar shots I get a bit cocky and lift my head a bit and the ball careers along the ground. Never mind, one duff shot in five is way above average for me.

James appears behind me. I remind him I don’t really play golf at all. “OK, let’s see you hit one,” he says.

I put the ball on the tee, take a practice swing (without a ball, my golf style looks quite good), jiggle about as I line up the club-head on the ball, swing at it and click, off goes the ball, straight as an arrow, for about 200 yards. Without doubt, it’s the best golf shot I have ever hit in my life. And I have a witness.

“Not a lot wrong with that,” says James, perhaps sensing that he has just seen a natural talent in action. I hit a few more balls, none of which go along the ground, James offers some advice, which I promptly forget, and he moves on.

I wonder if I could have been good at golf?  Top professionals earn millions, although I don’t think any of them took up the game when they were pensioners. I’ve always been a bit of a late developer, but maybe this time it’s a bit too late.

Anyway, I remember now, my parents didn’t like bungalows.

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