I don’t know why on earth I thought I would enjoy playing golf. Maybe it was because I’d seen somebody hitting a golf ball on the back field of our school, and it seemed to go incredibly far before dropping to earth.
I quite liked seeing how far I could shoot an arrow from the bow I had made, or a stone from my catapult; or how hard I could make a hockey ball crash into the back of the net, while avoiding the clutches of the goalie. Whatever the reason, when Angus who had been the goalie on our hockey team, mentioned that he had taken up golf, I asked him if he could get me into the Kimberley Golf Club.
He said he would get his father, a respected dentist in the town (who had subjected me to many hours of torture with his exceedingly slow tooth-drilling machine) to propose me as a member. I felt it was the least he could do. Within a month my membership had been approved. Angus and I then went to the club to pay my annual subscription and buy a set of second-hand clubs and a bag of second-hand balls from the golf professional.
The two hockey players then marched onto the practice tee, selected woods from our bags and started banging away.
I found out years later that it was much more usual to borrow or hire clubs, have lessons from a professional, and then play a few rounds as a guest of the club before actually joining the club. And it was also more usual to start hitting balls with irons before venturing onto drivers, which were much more difficult to manage.
At any rate Angus was already a member and had played a few games. So I imitated the way he held his club; I put a ball on a tee, and smacked it almost out of sight. This wasn’t as difficult as everybody seemed to think it was!
Mind you, not every ball we hit went exactly where we intended it to go. The very testy GM of De Beers who was at the practice tee near ours actually made some pithy comments about us. I thought of giving him a load of cheek; but seeing that I was one of his employees, decided this might not be in the best interests of my future career or golf club membership. So I satisfied myself with merely giving him a filthy look.
Enough of our balls went more or less where we’d hoped they’d go for us to decide to have a proper game that Saturday afternoon.
At 1 pm on Saturday when it was our turn to drive off from the first tee there were quite a lot of people behind us. I think this might have made Angus a little nervous: when he hit the ball it shot off at right angles into the bushes to the left of us. When I hit the ball I managed to slice it at such an angle that it went into the bunker of the 10th hole.
“What do I do now?” said I to Angus. He replied, “Don’t worry, your caddy will show you what to do.”
So Angus and I, with our caddies, set off in opposite directions. When my caddy and I got to the bunker we marched straight in. As the caddy dropped my golf bag into the white sand I said, “What do I do now?”
“Dunno Boss; first time I’m a caddy.”
“Give me that iron that looks like a scoop.”
He handed me a sand wedge, and I waggled it back and forth to make a little indentation in the sand that lifted the ball slightly and made it easier to hit. Then I swung! The ball went straight up in the air and came back down again.
While this was going on the four city dignitaries who were putting on the adjacent 10th green stopped what they were doing. I could see a doctor and a pharmacist who both went to our church and knew our family well. They looked bemused at the farce playing itself out in the bunker below them.
Eventually I managed to scoop the ball out of the bunker onto the fairway. The caddy and I scuttled away.
Mr Harrison the pharmacist called me back. “Wineou, you do not address a ball in a bunker; you do not take your caddy and bag into the bunker, and you rake over your tracks when you’re finished.”
I blushed and got busy with the rake.
I never fully recovered from that incident. But I did recover somewhat. I managed to beat Angus by a couple of strokes. I think he got 164 and I got 162.
If I ever do try to take up the game again one thing is for sure: I will not suffer from over confidence, and I won’t be asking a hockey player for any assistance.