Sunday, 20 August 2017

Not for the faint-hearted

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Last week I had a game of golf. Please note I said “had a game” I didn’t say I “played a game.” That would be elevating the experience to a level I never reached. A satirist once wrote that they called the game “golf” because all the other four letter words were used up. I can empathise with the sentiment. You are probably asking why someone, with my countless years of experience dodging fruitless exercise, would suddenly take up golf. Well the Masterton Golf Club, in an effort to boost flagging membership, decided to lower the sub for new members from around $450 a year to just $100 for the first year and I can’t resist a bargain.

But they carefully omit to tell you that to play the game you need golf clubs. The pro at Lansdowne, who goes under the unlikely name of Bob McDonald, soon sorted me out a set of second hand clubs. He assured me that they were near new, one owner, low mileage etc. but I should have suspected something when I saw that the sizes on the club heads were in Roman numerals.

Now I was all set to go except you can’t really play golf without a trundler. My wife came up with a simple solution. She would buy a new one for herself and I could have her old one. It is a peculiarity of the female species that, even though you have a joint account, they have this inflexible belief that when money comes out of it for an item for their use, it doesn’t really count. Using this logic my trundler actually cost nothing. I have friend whose wife is a part time school teacher. She takes home about $13 a week after tax. Whenever she wants expensive alterations or new furniture for the house she says she will do it out of “her money.” At the last count he told me it will take about four hundred years of “her money” to pay off this years spend alone.

But I digress.

I decided to dispense with trying to look like beau brummel on the course, my slacks, polo shirt and sneakers will suffice, until I turn professional. I checked with the bank manager to see that the loan I had taken out for the cost thus far was in place and after a lengthy and protracted confirmation I was set to burn up the course.

New Members Day (nearly two hundred aspirants were encouraged by the low first year subscription) meant fours consisting of two seasoned members teamed up with two $100 novices. My fellow novice and I drew a wisecracking lawyer and the club captain. The dedicated club captain would constantly stop mid fairway and pontificate about the million dollar views, admittedly quite excellent, but his claim that this was worth the $100 subscription alone, was a trifle exaggerated. Anyway you don’t get to enjoy the scenery when you are regularly on your hands and knees in the undergrowth looking for your ball.

And that’s another cost I hadn’t factored in; buying golf balls. The pro obliged of course, but the brand he sold me had a cunning homing device that attracted them to either trees or water. A typical hole: A couple of air shots (my partners refused to accept these were practice swings) and the ball would take off feebly towards a tree (the wood homing device) then amazingly the internal electronic radar thingy would shift to a new setting and the ball, provided a connection with the club was actually made, would hive off towards the nearest lake.

The water hazards obviously had a suction arrangement at the bottom and this was connected to pipe that snakes its way back to the pro-shop. I am sure of this because when I got back to the clubhouse my balls were being offered for sale on the shop counter. I’ll swear they were still wet!

After nine holes, breathless and exhausted, I thought I couldn’t go on. My wife’s old trundler has ABS braking which is fully applied all the time and the Lansdowne golf course must have been designed by Sir Edmund (then just Edmund) Hillary. Combine the hills with the heavy Romanesque clubs and the lack of match fitness starts to show. The lawyer chooses now to tell me how after a similar disposition a couple of years ago his doctor had rushed him into hospital for a heart bypass. To punctuate the story he unbuttoned his shirt to reveal a scar stretching from his Adam’s apple to his navel. All this just to play golf!

But beginners do get their moneys worth. You hit more shots, swing more clubs, see more corners of the course, dive into more water hazards, rake more bunkers, and walk about twice as far as the more competent. You should really be paying twice the sub, not a quarter. But like the cigarette companies, they want to get you addicted, though after last week’s tribulations, they will be battling to get me.

The lawyer had the last word. I told him I’d move heaven and earth to break a hundred. He said I’d better try heaven; I’d already shifted most of the earth.

I’m surprised they could find a heart to bypass.

(First published December 30th 1998)

“Son, when you participate in sporting events, it's not whether you win or lose, it's how drunk you get.” – Homer Simpson


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