It does not require detailed understanding of rocket science to realise that I am not in the first flush of youth. I was certainly reminded of it this afternoon when, after finishing a quick and dismal 18 holes on the Par 3 at Thornbury Golf Club, I decided I would hit a few balls in anger on the driving range. This was partly to let off a little steam, but mainly because on Thursday, along with three codgers of various stages of old age, I am playing the Bowood Course in Calne.
Now, Bowood is no ordinary course. In fact, it’s a bloody long course, something that came home to me when I visited the club’s website last night. They have produced a video guide for each hole and, frankly, it looks terrifying. The voice says things like, ‘On this hole, you need to aim just short of the bunker on the right of the narrow fairway and past the one on the left. This puts you in prime position for your second shot and approach to the green.’ What? On further investigation, the hole so described is over 500 yards long and that drive of mine would have to reach not far short of 300 yards and be reasonably straight. There is no possibility of the former and the odds of the latter happening are remote to say the least. If things go really well, I would like to be reaching this position in around four shots, allowing me three more for what I would describe as a relative triumph: a double bogey seven. That would feel like an Albatross by my standards.
The rest of the course looks equally as long and even the Par 3 holes suggest I may be leaving the short iron in the bag and reaching for a three wood or a hybrid at best.
After 18 holes today, and around 3.5 miles walked in 1 hour and 20 minutes, I decided to get 100 balls for the range. I was hitting next to a very strong, and much younger, man who was regularly hitting the ball over 200 yards with his three wood and way more than that with his driver. I was not getting anywhere near that. I was definitely tiring after I’d hit something like 75 balls when this young schoolboy came past. The local school had just finished group lessons and he was carrying two plastic buckets of golf balls – another 75 in each, I reckoned. He kindly gave me one bucket and the man just along from me the other 75. What a kind thing to do. And what a bastard mean thing to do, too, because I could hardly say no.
Actually, I did hit a few decent drives in between the dross, but I also managed to clear the very high fence on the right of the range, putting the lives of some players on the Par 3 course on the other side at major risk.
Golf is 50% mental and 50% mental and after around 125 balls it was becoming extremely hard work and now I knew what the impending arrival of old age meant! The man who had the other bucket of balls from the young lad was not only out-hitting me by at least 50 yards, he was hitting the ball far straighter than I was and there was no discernible decline to his ball striking.
I drove home, aching rather more than I should be – it wasn’t exactly arduous like a 10K, or an hour on the treadmill – but I know that Bowood will be even more knackering. But I am looking forward to it immensely and I will be right up until I line up on the first tee.