There was a time, some twelve or fourteen years hence when I went through the very male pretence that I could actually play the game of golf, why I do not know, well actually I do, it was for the one and only reason that when my father died I inherited his golf clubs, not his best golf clubs mind for our Ned inherited those being as he could actually play the game of golf, no, because I had shown absolutely zero interest in the game up to that date I inherited the old set of golf clubs at the back of the garage, the ones that included a set of Ping woods – and when I say “woods” I mean that they really were made of wood, and I still have them, at the back of MY garage now.
I had initially exclaimed “But what the hell do I need golf clubs for?” but as if a sign from the hereafter a new golf club opened up exactly opposite my house, exactly over the road it was, how fortuitous I thought, I must join immediately, and so I did, me and Ned.
The nice thing about this new golf club was that it was not an old fashioned members club where stuffy old bastards in tweed suits interview you before they stoop so low as to allow you to pay them a humongous joining fee and then bombard you with rules, regulations and “do not’s” – this new golf club had none of that, it was owned by a large corporate gym club making their first venture into golf courses, and they were almost as clueless about the game as I was.
We played some rounds, Ned and me, it was a nice course during the late summer of that year, they had left a lot of the mature trees on the course, done a lot of new planting and dug out three lakes, one of which you had to drive over from the tee – most of the golf balls I have ever owned can be found in that bastard lake.
But as winter crept closer and a typical English wet season descended upon us the datelessness of the gym/golf club corporation came to the fore as the bottom half of the course flooded completely leaving only ten holes playable unless you brought a wet suit and snorkel, and around this time some of the members started to think in terms of “the old tie” sort of golf club membership – they formed themselves into a committee.
I bloody hate golf club committees, they are populated by low ranking civil servants and general no-marks who want to experience the feeling of power that they believe a title like “Green Committee Member” brings to them, and they like the idea of having a dedicated car park space laid out for them with “Green Committee Members Only” painted on the floor so that people like me can ignore said notice and park in their space especially to annoy them.
It wasn’t long before we noticed the painted signs in the golf club car park indicated where several would-be-fuhrers had exclusive parking rights, we ignored them all, and notices started to appear on the golf club walls inviting all members to enter weekly competitions, we ignored all of these too.
Until one day our Ned decided that we should really have a golf handicap, and as every golfer knows the only way to get one of these is to regularly enter your own golf club competitions, unfortunately we were going to have to join the rest of the membership and play in their pathetic little Sunday morning games.
We turned up one Sunday morning at 7am, it was still dark and it was raining, and it was cold, I had never felt less like playing golf than I did that morning but the car park was already almost half full of idiots with no home life to speak of for whom playing golf in the dark, in the rain and when cold represented the highlight of their weekend, these, Ladies and Gentlemen, are golfers.
Ned went into the golf shop to book us on the course and returned looking less than pleased.
“12.15” he said and slumped back into the car.
“Whats 12.15 ?” I asked
“Our tee time” he replied, “we can’t start until 12.15”
I checked my watch, “Thats five and a quarter hours away” I observed quietly, “You’ve got me up at 7am on a Sunday so that I can sit in the golf club car park in the rain, in the cold and in complete darkness ?”
“Yes” he replied gloomily
“Tell me again why we are doing this” I asked of him
“To get a handicap” he muttered and he held out a handful of scorecards that he had borrowed (stolen) from the golf pro while his back was turned, “we need to complete three competition rounds and then put the scorecards in the letterbox for the club secretary”
“I didn’t know we had a club secretary” I replied
“We have now”said Ned, “I just met him in there” (pointing to the club shop), “He’s a right tosser”
We sat in silence for a short while.
I looked at the blank scorecards
Ned looked at the blank scorecards
“What do you have to do again ?” I asked
“You fill in three competition rounds, sign your card, get your playing partners to sign your card, then hand them in to the tosser in there and he works out what your handicap is”
“Oh” I replied, “anyone can sign them then ?”
“Yes” Ned confirmed, “I could sign yours and you could sign mine”
We sat for a short while longer, fingering the blank cards, then without speaking we each started to fill one in.
“I usually do a five on the first hole” I informed Ned, and he filled my card in accordingly
“Put me down for a four” he told me
“You never get a four on the first hole”
“Bloody don’t, you’ve never had a four”
“I bloody got one last week, I’m better than you you know…”
And so it continued until we had each filled out and signed the other ones scorecard , we weren’t so stupid as to hand that days card in before the competition had even started so we went back to my house for a cup of coffee and we sat and filled in two more sets of cards for the following two weeks – I returned to the golf club after lunch and posted that weeks cards in the secretary’s letter box, and then repeated the procedure for the following two sundays, then we sat back and waited for him to issue us with a handicap for the golf rounds that had never been played.
It took ages, week after week we checked the big chart of members handicaps in the entrance lobby and each week that we checked our names were nowhere to be seen,
“He’s on to us Ned” I told him, “He knows that we never played those rounds”
“No he doesn’t” Ned replied, “anyway, he’ll never say it to our faces, come on he’s in the bar”
And without another word Ned stormed into the bar and gave the secretary a bollacking for taking so long to work out our handicaps, sure enough he was a timid low grade civil servant who’s Sunday was ruined by our Ned feigning annoyance at the complete lack of bogus handicap availability and he promised to sort it out by the following Sunday.
When we looked the following Sunday there were our two handicaps, we were each rated as 21.
“So why are we 21 then” I asked Ned, for this meant that whenever I played someone with a maximum 28 handicap then in theory I was supposed to be at least 7 shots better than them whereas in fact I wouldn’t be, “tell me why you made me 21 then ?”
“You can’t be a 28” Ned said.
“Why ?” I asked.
“You just can’t, its embarrassing being 28” he replied
“Its embarrassing being 21 when you’re clearly crap at the game” I explained.
“You’ll have to practice a lot then” was his answer
And so I started my club competition career, perhaps the first golfer in golfing history who got his handicap by his brother simply thinking of a nice number, I got a certificate and everything, but in all the competitions I played I never managed to beat anyone, not even the 28 handicap players, my 21 handicap bore more relation to the number of balls I would lose in a round than my playing ability.