Our dad took up golf when Ned and I were in our late teens, he and four of his mates all bought a bag of clubs each and set about carving up our local council courses before being accepted as members at a nearby, slightly more high-falluting private members club, at which point the four of them took over the social membership – they weren’t ever shy in making themselves known.
Ned and I observed this with the sort of curiosity that killed the cat and it wasn’t too long before our dad decided that he needed a caddy to chauffeur him to the golf club and carry his bag of golf sticks around the course for him, he offered to teach us to play the game in a thinly disguised deal that said “You drive me to the golf club, I get drunk and you drive me home again”.
Our reward for carting a big bag of golf clubs for four hours around the course was to be allowed to make two or three shots on the fairway furthest away from the clubhouse, I was always rubbish, Ned showed promise, more fool him, he got increasingly invited to do the driving and caddying and I got left at home.
With a lack of driving ranges in the vicinity practice shots were taken in the back garden with the aid of airflow balls, small plastic replica golf balls that were hollow and contained lots of holes so that you could whack them as hard as you liked but the air flowing through rather than around them would slow the ball down dramatically – hit an airflow ball twenty yards and you were doing well, none of which helped the nerves of the man in the house behind ours who had kittens every time he saw me and our Ned lining up a shot facing directly into his patio doors.
I persevered, gradually I found that I could hit the ball more times than I missed it and gradually the ball sort of went in a forward direction for twenty yards rather than off to one side, any day soon I’d be allowed to play on a real golf course with real balls, maybe – our Ned had of course already graduated to this level and in his role as younger brother he took great delight in being able to do something better than me, albeit something pretty pointless, hitting a golf ball isn’t going to get you far really is it, apart from those who make themselves millionaires from the game of course.
And then one pleasant summers evening in our back garden fate struck the final blow, literally a blow, which finally settled the quandary for me – golf was not ever going to be my forte.
Ned was showing me a particular stroke with the biggest of the clubs in the bag, the new Ping driver that our dad had spent a small fortune on, he had hit a couple of airflow balls up the top of the garden and was lining up another when he told me to watch his back swing very carefully, so I stepped a little closer in order to observe this mythical back swing of which I had no knowledge.
A little too close as it happens.
In order to hit the ball hard enough to assess whether it would go fairly straight if it had been a real ball you had to really go for the shot, and he did, the rapid upswing from the Ping driver caught me right underneath the jaw with a smack that could be heard in the next county.
I thought he’d piss himself laughing.
The next morning the whole of the right side of my face was several times larger than it should be and as many shades of black purple and blue as you can imagine, our dad thought I’d probably broken my jaw and he too thought it extremely funny, our mother insisted that I go to the hospital for an x-ray but I couldn’t be arsed and went to work instead at which all the electricians in the yard also thought it the most funny thing they’d seen that month as I mumbled the explanation to them in a manner that was then adopted by Marlon Brando in his portrayal of Don Corleone in The Godfather.
I stopped playing golf at that point.
It was too bloody dangerous for my liking.