COLUMN: May 4, 2017

A friend from work
I ADOPTED the correct stance, feet shoulders-width apart, the club gripped tightly, right hand above left hand, and breathed in. I could see the hole, so tantalisingly close.
The onlookers held their breath too. If I sank this ball in one, I’d be back in contention. The pressure was unimaginable.

I addressed the ball, and then swung the putter, fluently. It hit the ball, square and true, and the ball went on its way toward the hole.

But I’d hit it too hard.

It went up the ramp and instead of it going down the other ramp and into the hole, which was in a specially adapted toilet, it bounced off the wall and rolled back to hit my foot.

“Ah,” I thought. “This is exactly what I feared would happen.”

It was my own fault. I had been incapable of getting out of a work’s night out because I did not have a plausible excuse. This is what happens when you do not have a plausible excuse.

“What we’re going to do,” my cheerful colleague informed me, with menaces, “is go and play crazy golf at a place called Ghetto Golf.”

If I were to play a game called “Name two things beginning with the letter G that would never be associated with you” I would find it hard to do better than “ghetto” and “golf”. I think only “glamorous” and “gung-ho” would beat them.

Ghetto? I am a middle-aged middle-class man, so white I could use Tipp-Ex as foundation. I am not so much street as cul-de-sac. My favourite rap song is Rapture by Blondie.

And as for golf? One would expect of the author, given what has just been written about his middle-aged middle-class whiteness, that he would be all over golf like yellow corduroy on Nigel Farage’s legs. But one would be wrong. Dead wrong.

I am not saying that the fact that golf clubs are full of Farage types, who blame everything on brown people and gays and women, is the thing that puts me off golf, although it doesn’t help.

It is more the fact that, owing to virtual blindness in my right eye, my depth perception is shonky to the point of comedy. I can only catch a ball by accident. It takes me three attempts to pick up a cup of tea set down in an unfamiliar place. I am reluctant to tell you what else can go wrong.

So, not only am I incapable of judging the direction or speed of the ball when I hit it, it is anybody’s guess if I will hit the ball in the first place.

Essentially, if you were to design a sport that was so much not for me that it makes me appear good at all other sports in comparison, then you would come up with golf, a game in which the trickiest drive is no harder for me than the simplest putt, in the worst possible way imaginable. I can miss a putt from two inches away.

This means that crazy golf is just as difficult for me as actual non-crazy golf. Or golf, for short.

I took a second shot, while the RnB and rap music on the PA echoed around the re-purposed brewer’s hall. This time the ball missed the ramp, settling, after a couple of rebounds, at the side of the ramp. I took another two shots, somehow positioning it at the foot of the ramp. I could not possibly miss now.

I hit it. The ball flew up the ramp, hit the back wall again, and rolled back to the painted white cross where the ball had begun its humiliating ordeal at my hands. There was a ripple of sarcastic applause from the crowd in the bottleneck I had caused.

This was my sixth shot, my last chance for redemption. I lined up the shot, I hit it, it flew up the ramp and hit the back wall again.

But this time, miraculously it did not come all the way back. Instead it rolled the way it was supposed to, down the second ramp, and into the toilet-shaped hole. I did it!

It was the story of my life: a series of embarrassing errors, leading up to a final success, which still ends up in the toilet. To a background of sarcastic applause.

I don’t remember much of the rest of the holes. I was too busy having a nice time with friends from work. Not everything ends up in the toilet.

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