Have I ever mentioned the fact that I once came within one solitary inch of owning a world record that could never have been beaten ?
A round of golf, in one.
No, not a hole in one.
A round in one.
Ned had a friend who was a pisshead, he was a member at a pisshead drinking club in Leeds, a club with no pretense at being a political or social club, it was simply for drinking beer in, cheaply, and once a year our Neds friend and his pisshead friends organised a golf day out at a random Yorkshire club, hired a bus, organised a presentation meal and everything.
The year that I went they had chosen Low Laithes Golf Club near Ossett, WestYorks, a club with more than a fair share of very long holes, not the sort of club to want to trudge over 27 holes on a hot day, it had some hills too, it was a bastard of a golf course, I learned to hate it that day.
The day had all started out so fine too, we arrived on the bus mid-morning, some of the members were already on the way t being pissed, and set off to play nine holes in a “lets see how good we all are before we set the handicaps” session – then we had lunch in the clubhouse restaurant, and they got more pissed.
By 1pm it was scorching hot outside and by some misfortune our foursome had been drawn to start the afternoon 18 hole session, for the uninitiated that means that you get to play your first shot off the first tee in front of the clubhouse and in front of 30 or so pissed up members of the pisshead club – its not for the nervous or self conscious or crap golf player.
The first tee at Low Laithes lay directly outside the clubhouse and twenty yards to the right was the 18th green, so you start and end the round at the clubhouse, its always like that at golf clubs, they don’t just throw these things together you know.
So I stepped onto the first tee, it was an elevated tee, in short the clubhouse was built at the top of a fekkin big hill and the first tee was perched on the edge of a 20 foot high mound with the fairway dropping away below you and stretching off 400 yards into the distance, straight line, no problem, just hit the ball, don’t slice it, hit it so that it flies straight, your elevated location will mean that it will look impressive, it will look as though you’ve hit it much higher and much further than you actually have, they will be impressed, honest, they’ll love you, you’re going to get applause for this shot, I promise you, go on, its your turn.
I decided to use a high tee rather than the normal preference for a short one, why, I do not know, the theory sort of went that if I swung the club too high but the ball was sitting high on the tee then I’d have a chance of hitting it, and if I swung the club normally then I’d still hit it, no-lose situation, it made sense.
I placed the ball on the high tee amid a-whooping and a-hollering, the crowd were well pissed, rowdy even, “oh fuck” was the only thought in mind.
To my right was a line of trees and behind the line of trees the 18th green but that was of no concern, I stood, No 1 wood in hand, a real “wood”, a proper wooden wood, one of the set that I had inherited by default off our dad, the club was older than some of the pissheads that even now were trying to focus on it and declaring loudly to their pisshead friends “is that a fekkin real wood he’s fekkin holding there ?”
I ignored the comments, I was better than this, I lined up the ball, lined up the club, lined up my feet, settled down into my stance, glanced up at the first hole which now seemed like 400 miles away, standing here alone on top of the hill, club in hand, staring at the ball, don’t take your eyes off the ball, start your backswing nice and slow, don’t twist your body, don’t over-reach at the top of your swing, start the club on its downswing, pick up momentum, don’t move you feet, keep your knees slightly bent, watch the ball, watch the ball, for fucks sake don’t miss the fuckin ball completely or these pissheads will never stop the piss-taking, just hit the fuckin ball for gods sake, make me hit the ball god…
I heard the ball hit the club head with that beautiful “thunk” that only a wooden headed club can make and even before my swing had finished its follow through I was thanking the golf god for letting me hit the ball, it could go anywhere now I didn’t care, at least I’d hit it.
The crowd starting their polite applause for they too had appreciated the genuine “thunk” of a genuine wood as compared to the tinny “clank” that their own clubs made and more than a few of them were wondering why they had ever bought metal “woods” as they strained to follow my ball in flight.
I too was straining to follow my ball in flight.
In fact I couldn’t see the fookin thing at all.
I glanced at Ned who was now stood the the side of me, “Wheres the fookin ball ?” I whispered out of the side of my mouth.
“Can’t see it” he confirmed.
I checked the floor at my feet just in case I had missed it, I hadn’t, I had definitely hit it, but to where ?
Suddenly a voice from the pissheads behind us shouted, nay screamed out “LOOK !!!” and as we turned we saw that he was pointing directly up into the sky, we followed his pointing finger and sure enough there, high in the sky, like a pinprick against the azure blue sky was my little golf ball, still ascending.
It had no forward momentum at all, it had not travelled one single yard forward since leaving the club head and now it climbed like a Saturn rocket high into the stratosphere, still going up, in a dead straight line.
No-one had seen anything like it, it was still climbing 30 seconds after I’d hit it, all we could do was stand there with craning necks and screwed up eyes, the occasional “I can still see it, can you ?” interspersing the silence that had fallen over thepissheads.
Then, almost inperceptively its momentum slowed, then stopped, and at that moment it began its descent to earth again – straight back down to the very spot it had left at high speed nearly one full minute ago.
“Its coming down” someone shouted and they started to back away from the tee, some covered their heads, a few took advantage of cover under the trees that separated the first tee from the eighteenth hole, and then we noticed that it had moved ever so slightly to my right, the spin on the ball taking it ever so slightly to my right, and then a bit more right and someone shouted at the pissheads hiding underneath the trees to come out as it was heading straight for them.
But it moved even further to the right as it reached peak velocity, some of the dimpled skin of the ball flaking off in true space shuttle stylee as its re-entry burned up the outer casing until finally we all came to realise that it was heading straight for the eighteenth hole, twenty yards to our right behind the trees.
We all dashed into the trees and out the other side to follow the balls progress, I shoved my way through the now hollerin-agin crowd just in time to see it whack into the 18th green so hard that it bounced twelve or fifteen feet back up in the air before settling onto the greensward – and then the spin took over and it took on a momentum of its own, heading for the 18th hole.
It was a perfect line, the crowd were going crazy now, a-whoopin and a-hollerin like a partisan American crowd at a Rider Cup game when a European has an important putt to make, jumping up and down they were, the chant going up “IN THE HOLE !!!”…
…and it almost made it.
I kid you not when I say that it stopped just one inch short of the hole.
I was devastated.
It would have been a round in one, a record breaker, the first time ever in history, front cover of next years Guinness Book of World Records I’d have been.
…and boy did they take the piss out of me for the rest of the day.