My Journey Back to Golf Has Been Painful
Regular readers of my missives will know that I have recently returned to the game after a long injury lay-off. Well, you surely knew that you were going to get an update, and here it is…
I have joined Dunston Hall Golf Club on the outskirts of Norwich. I picked it for a number of reasons.
- They actually replied to my emails, unlike several other clubs in the area.
- There was no joining fee.
- They offered five-day membership - I have no interest in five-hour medal rounds on Saturdays.
- They have an active seniors section who don’t take themselves too seriously.
- The annual subscription did not break the bank, and they offered me the option of either paying in a lump sum or paying monthly.
- There is a programme of improvement work.
- They have an efficient booking system.
- And best of all, when I went to meet the people who run the club they actually made me feel welcome and that they wanted me to join their golf club.
My last official handicap was 7.2. I have not played regularly for four years and fully expected to have to start from scratch and submit three cards.
So you can imagine my surprise (to put it mildly) when England Golf informed the handicap secretary at Dunston that they were giving me a returning handicap of 9.8. To say that I believe this to be unfair is the understatement of all time. It is brutal.
The bad news for me is that Dunston Hall has preferred lies and some temporary tees in use and won’t be back to normal until April so that means that all the competitions I play in between now and then will not affect my handicap. The good news is that I can use that time to attempt to get my game back into some kind of shape.
Preparing For a Comeback
I have spent hours on the driving range, hitting 100 golf balls per session, trying to groove my swing once more. And I have to tell you that it has been going pretty well. I actually had one session where I struck 94 out of 100 shots pretty well.
When I decided that I was going to return to the game I got myself fitted with a set of custom-fitted clubs because I knew that the shoulder problems that had stopped me from playing in the first place had changed my swing. I can no longer make a full shoulder turn on my backswing and that means I cannot hit the ball as far as I used to.
I have had no problems hitting irons. If truth be told, my shorter swing has led to me hitting the ball more sweetly with my irons than I have done for years. And I have been pleasantly surprised to discover that my putting, which was always my greatest strength, remains as good as it ever was.
Where I am struggling is with a driver in my hands. My fitter sorted me out with a Titleist TSR driver. I actually had to take it back because I couldn’t get it up in the air to save my life. It now has a lighter shaft and it feels beautiful but the draw I used to be able to rely on has all but disappeared. So I decided to try my wife’s Mizuno driver and, on the range at least, I have been hitting it really well. High and usually with a right to left flight. I am not proud. I will use whatever works.
Returning to The Golf Course
So I recently decided that it was time to get back out on the course. And trust me when I tell you that it was a different experience from the driving range. I started off by playing nine holes. My opening tee shot with a five wood was struck beautifully, Unfortunately, it kicked left and finished up in a pond. Lost ball.
On the second hole I was playing right into the sun. It is a par five and it came right out the middle of the club. I didn’t see it take off, had no idea where it went and couldn’t find it. Lost ball.
The third is a downhill par four. I struck a perfect five wood and was then faced with a downhill shot of some 180 yards over water into a gale force wind. I reached for a wedge, aiming to lay up shot of the water. I struck it perfectly. And looked on in horror as it disappeared into the middle of the pond. Lost ball.
I managed to get through the next six holes without losing any more balls and I even managed a couple of pars. But it was not pretty.
But that was nothing when compared with my first 18-hole outing.
Stupidly, I chose to make my 18-hole debut in a seniors competition, playing with two golfers I had never met before, one of whom is the seniors captain.
I started with a par, followed it with a bogey that featured a near-miraculous up and down and then found the water at the third again. Then came a par and bogey. And then an 11! An ELEVEN! A bogey was followed by two pars. It all added up to an absolutely horrendous front nine of 50. In my defence, the wind was even stronger than it had been the day before.
The second nine featured three pars and some stuff that I have erased from my memory, although I did manage to break 100. By the time I came off the 18th green I could hardly move.
I had produced the worst round of golf of my entire adult life and every bone in my body ached. But do you know what? I just don’t care. I am back out on the golf course and I played with two lovely men who encouraged me all the way round.
And I have just one goal - between now and April I am determined to get somewhere close to 9.8. I have hit enough decent shots to know that it is still in there somewhere, and I cannot wait to prove it myself and whoever I happen to be playing with. I have lots of golf planned in the coming weeks and I know it is going to get better.
Oh yes, and I have decided to take my own advice and book a couple of refresher lessons!
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