Strewth there’s a Kangaroo on the Golf Course!
When I lived in England I never had a burning desire to play golf for a number of reasons. The weather’s too cold and wet, the dress code is rigid and desperately untrendy, it’s expensive and elitist. The alternative to a private membership is a public course. These tend to be few and far between, built on ex rubbish dumps/tips and have a tendency to regurgitate rather unsavoury liquids when it rains.
The only time I’ve played 18 holes was on a work outing and I was useless. We started at four in the afternoon and left the course six and a half hours later as night was falling. My final score was something like 400 over par excluding air shots (in layman’s terms I missed the ball a lot). The rest of the players finished way before us and had adjourned to the local pub. It was apparent that they had been there for some time as when we walked through the door we were greeted by drunken cheers and a lot of slurred goodwill. Unfortunately, before we could order the landlord called time. The next day I woke up unable to move without a considerable amount of pain. I rang work to let them know I was sick. As I described the symptoms to my boss he unsympathetically laughed and told me that he thought I had Golfers Syndrome. Having suffered my appalling golf with amazing tolerance his cruel mocking of my incapacitated state was obviously a consequence of his missing out on the après game drinking session. Two days later my body had recovered enough to return to work. Never again I vowed.
Imagine my reluctance then when a friend I was visiting in Australia, who was accompanying me on a short holiday down the Great Ocean Road, mentioned that there was an amazing golf course in the area and asked if I fancied a game. Seeing that I was about to refuse, a description of the indigenous animals inhabiting the course followed and a nearby stunning beach was thrown in for good measure. Being a sucker for koala bears and loving the idea of kangaroos and golf balls bouncing across the ninth I agreed to give it a go and surprisingly I had a great time. Parrots, parakeets, galahs and cockatoos were screeching in trees. Ducks, swans and herons were swimming on the lakes and all sorts of other birds were strutting around the fairways. But the star attraction was the kangaroos who lounged under bushes, gave golf balls that rolled too close a look of distain and ignored the golfers trying to take a shot around them.
My golf was still crap but the experience was completely different. Reasonably priced, dress code – casual, numerous and well maintained public courses, amazing locations often with great views and heaps of wild life, buggies that make driving fun and players who are sociable and unpretentious. I loved it and pretty soon had my own set of clubs in dark pink with matching golf bag. Well they were on offer! They also embarrass my partner more than my golf does – a win on all fronts I think.
Dressing for golf in Australia is cheap and easy, trainers, knee length shorts, a baggy tee with short sleeves. Scarf, sunnies and a fashionable handbag swinging from the buggy handle complete the ensemble. Learning to play is a different matter. I’ve had all sorts of advice including:-
“Try hitting the ball” – really I would have never guessed.
“Swing the golf club with your shoulders” – wouldn’t using my hands be better?
“Try to relax” – difficult when trying to contort the body into the correct hitting position.
“Don’t wave the club around like that” – You’d better shut up then.
If anyone tells you that golf is relaxing, don’t believe it. It’s the most frustrating sport I’ve ever played. I’ve hit trees, bunkers, a bird or two, a lot of lakes but never a hole in one. I don’t understand the lingo, for example why do they shout “four” in warning – “duck” works for me. I’ve lost more balls than a herd of castrated bulls – can’t someone invent a golf ball with a homing device in it? I’ve had moments of brilliance followed by complete incompetence. But when the resounding chink of club on golf ball sounds out and that little white sphere soars into the distance, I am for brief moment Tiger Woods and I know that I’ll be back – if not for the golf then for the buggies.