Golf balls are attracted to water as unerringly as the eye of a middle-aged man to a female bosom. ~Michael Green, The Art of Coarse Golf, 1967
I started off playing golf at the Golf Park in Ngong, as I suspect most card carrying members of the ‘later-start’ golf brigade did. If you’re unfamiliar with the course, it’s a nine hole golf course in the centre of the horse-racing track. As you’d expect, it’s a pretty flat course (being that people at the horse track kinda want to see the horses go all the way round, for some strange reason) but that doesn’t make it an easy course, especially not for the beginner.
I would assume its signature hole would be the short par 3 hole 8. My first attempt was…memorable. I’ll set the scene first: this was probably my first EVER full round of golf. I had just completed 7 holes where the grand total number of times I hit the ball straight equated to the squareroot of f*ckall.
Add to that, the longest shot I had hit all day was about 70 yards, and that only happened because a skittish horse whinnied near me as I was chipping to the green 20 yards away, which lead to a massive shank in the direction of said horse, who in a fit of what I would describe as pique responded by kicking the ball back onto the field of play, a full 50 yards away from the green. Ironic behavior in fairness, considering the animal lived in a place called a ‘stable’.
Regardless, thus was my current round summed up.
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We (by ‘we’ I refer to my caddy and me…the horse was by this stage, mercifully, nowhere to be seen) finished up at the 7th green and made our way to the tee box for the 8th hole.
Well I call it a tee box…it’s really just a small spit of land. Between you and the green is 80 yards of a water hole. So 80 yards doesn’t seem like much really. Now. Back then I saw the Indian Ocean before me.
The caddy pointed to the tee box and handed me the club. I assume I had a slightly bemused look on my face as I asked him what he was expecting me to do with the club.
He responded by suggesting that I may want to consider the possibility of using said club to transfer the ball from the tee box to the green.
I responded by saying that might be difficult, as there was an ocean in the way.
To which he shrugged his shoulders, handed me a spare ball, picked up the bag and slouched away, leaving me standing at my temporary residence with ocean view.
I took up my tee position. For some strange reason the caddy insisted that I should be able to make the shot with an 8 Iron, as opposed to the Driver I would have been more comfortable with. I placed the ball down onto the tee and lined up for my practice shot. Swung a couple of times (the first is standard, the second in this instance was for good luck).
Practice swings over, I lined up and swung mightily. At the very least I can say the trajectory seemed very 8-Ironesque. Balooning upwards in a fairly graceful arc like a stunted missile launched over the sea…farther…farther…and into the water. With the now customary resounding ‘Plop!’.
Nevermind. I still had the spare ball. Pre-shot routine re-done, sans the second practice swing for luck. This time I aimed a little to the left, as the ocean seemed to taper a little at the edge. Took the shot.
In fairness, the trajectory on this one seemed way way off. Flattish and with pace akin to a demon freshly released from hell. I assume I must have hit it with the edge of the club, as opposed to the face. Maybe I should do that all the time, as this time the ball sailed clear over the water!
Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to read the memo regarding stopping after the deed was done, and instead decided to explore the environs a little further, once again akin to a demon freshly released from the confines of hell. End result: Over the ocean but nowhere near the vicinity of the Green.
I was only about 30 yards away from the green, and would have had a clear line of attack, were it not for the slight impediment posed by a massive 5 storey evergreen with roots above ground resembling a viper’s nest.
As is the wont of a beginner golfer, I had the notion that despite all the visual evidence, I would somehow be able to thread the ball through the eye of the needle that was the gap between the branches of the tree.
Putting things in perspective, lets have a look at exactly how weird this thought process was: my concept of ‘aim’ was usually ‘somewhere anywhere on the fairway’. I usually considered it a gigantic success if the ball rocked up anywhere within 20 yards of where I was generally aiming. So bearing that in mind, I fail to understand how or why my pea sized brain was willing to believe that I’d be able to hit a ball clear through a gap that my have been around a foot in diameter.
It didn’t end well.
To cut a long story short, my final score on the Par 3 was 12. And the really surprising bit was I was elated at having finished at all!
I have played the hole a couple of times since, and am glad to report that I have managed to comfortably clear the ocean without having to resort to black magic or promising my first born son to the devil in exchange…nonetheless, as the saying goes, you never really forget your first time, right?