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The Joy of Returning to the Driving Range

By: | Mon 29 Mar 2021 | Comments

IF IT is true that the sun only shines on the righteous then for sure plenty of people were out in search of that loving feeling as they headed out in force on England’s golf courses as the Covid-19 restrictions began to ease and, finally, we were allowed to take out first faltering steps on our beloved courses again.

Tee-times were like gold dust - and will continue to be so for some time to come.

For me, the first thing that I realised I had missed was the smell of new-cut grass. I hadn’t realised just what a sweet aroma it was. And when I got out of my car I stood there for a few moments to drink it all in.

I had decided not to head out on the course but to go to the driving range instead.

As I pulled up in the car park at 9.30am the first thing that struck me was that there was barely a space to be found. As you would expect, the course was heaving and there were plenty of people milling about in the car park - each and every one of them sporting smiles as wide as the first fairway.

It’s still not golf as we know it - we can’t change in the clubhouse and we can’t go inside for a drink and a bite to eat either. There is plenty of hand gel available. But the good news is that from Monday, April 12, we will at least be able to sit outside and have a beer after our rounds.

So, the driving range….

Driving Range

I managed to secure the final berth and started off by getting myself 200 golf balls. Now I have to tell you that I haven’t swung a golf club since December. I don’t have a garden, garage or cellar and there isn’t enough headroom in my apartment to swing a cat, far less a golf club.

So there was more than a little trepidation about what may be in store for me. And I didn’t feel much better when I heard golf balls hitting the side of booths and, more worrying, the roof of the range. There was a lot of rust here.

I pulled out my lob wedge, which is my favourite club, a weapon that I can normally make talk. It’s fair to say that, initially at least, we were not speaking the same language as the first six shots - only executed after endless practice swings - rolled along the floor. Rhythm? Timing? Lost. But, happily, not forever. Eventually the ball began to come out the middle of the club and soar into the cloudless blue sky. I repeat…the cloudless blue sky.

As I worked my way through the bag there were more poor shots.

I took a deep breath and decided to consciously slow everything down. Bingo! Shot after shot struck from the sweet spot.

I couldn’t wait to get the driver in my hands. And do you know what? I can still hit the ball with a gentle draw. Yes, there was still some evidence of the catastrophic duck hook but I was surprised how quickly everything clicked back into place. After hitting 200 golf balls I know that there are going to be some aches and pains.

But why quit when you are ahead?

It was time for the practice bunker and the practice green, both of which were in spectacular condition. The sand has been replaced and it was as smooth as silk. I was the first person who had been in there for three months. My touch wasn’t the best but at least I remembered how to get out of the sand.

I have spent many hours working on my putting stroke. Unfortunately, I have done so on a dead-straight surface. Even practice greens are not flat. I expected to stand over six-foot putts and drain one after another. The reality was somewhat different. Oh dear! But I stuck with it. Why wouldn’t I? It was a perfect spring day and I could feel the sun on my neck. The possibility of sunburn was not something I had considered.

As I stood on that green, I looked out on the busy course with a lump in my throat. The fairways, rough, tees and greens are pristine. And I could hear laughter. Plenty of laughter. I didn’t want to go home. So I didn’t. I hit another 50 golf balls.

And now I am ready to book a tee-time. Wish me luck…

Not so lucky are the members at Sprowston Manor Golf Club in Norwich. I arrived home to discover that five greens had been vandalised overnight and the club’s long-awaited reopening has had to be put on hold. What is wrong with people? Why on earth would anybody want to do that. It means that greenkeepers who have worked tirelessly to get the course ready for play now have to work out how on earth they are going to repair the damage. Sadly, it is unlikely the culprits will ever be caught.

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