Well, I’ve done it. I managed to get around a prestigious golf course in one piece. Only a few weeks after picking up a club following a 10-year absence, I played 18 holes without disgracing myself. The overall result was, as is often the case, a mixture of the good, the bad, and the ugly. But I thoroughly enjoyed the occasion.
So what did I learn? Firstly, that despite working out in my gym nearly every day fitness isn’t a transferable asset but seems to be activity-specific. After 5 hours golf I was exhausted in a way that I never feel after 40 minutes hard work on a rowing machine. Secondly, that golf is non-hierarchical. Not only is there a handicap system to even things out but also the game itself, played in a swirling wind, is a great leveler. Even the very best players get caught out by bad bounces and poor lies. There is no sense of schadenfreude on a golf course; everyone knows that you’re only as good as your last shot. Thirdly, I was reminded how marvelous it is to spend time in the open air with a bunch of nice people. Too many of us spend too much time cooped up in offices. Humans need the outdoors. It helps us to think and feel and not to be conditioned and governed by meetings and emails. And to pass the time in the company of interesting people is a great way to spend a day.
And to finish this golfing theme, here’s John Betjeman describing the exhilaration that golf a good shot can provide:
How straight it flew, how long it flew,
It clear’d the rutty track
And soaring, disappeared from view
Beyond the bunker’s back –
A glorious, sailing, bounding drive
That made me glad I was alive.
And down the fairway, far along
It glowed a lonely white;
I played an iron sure and strong
And clipp’d it out of sight,
And spite of grassy banks between
I knew I’d find it on the green.
And so I did. It lay content
Two paces from the pin;
A steady putt and then it went
Oh, most securely in.
The very turf rejoiced to see
That quite unprecedented three.
Ah! Seaweed smells from sandy caves
And thyme and mist in whiffs,
In-coming tide, Atlantic waves
Slapping the sunny cliffs,
Lark song and sea sounds in the air
And splendour, splendour everywhere.