Yesterday I drove to Petersham for a warm-up round of golf with my brother and a Canadian relation in advance of my brother’s annual tournament later today in the heart of the East Sussex countryside. Both outings are something of an annual tradition.
With having to manage my ongoing hip arthritis issue, yesterday’s practice round was something of a try-out for me personally. By deliberate design these past nine months, I have tended not to walk too far if I can possibly avoid doing so and I had already flagged to my fellow players that – if the omens were unfavourable – I might have to pull out of either or both rounds.
It’s not just the walking around the course. It’s the fact that, however strong and well-set your golfing stance, the action involved in completing a full swing of a golf club places considerable strain upon both legs and, of course, your back. In my case, bearing in mind that my right hip is the troublesome one, the process is relatively unproblematic on the back swing.
It’s the bringing down of the club, coiled ready both to put some ‘welly’ into the shot as the club hits the ball … and then the transferring of your weight from right to left in order to follow through and complete the classic golf swing as demonstrated by Rory McIlroy and his peers.
At any moment during this part of the procedure, if you have a hip problem, you are likely to feel nervous of the all-too-real possibility that the offending item is going to react, ‘break down’, rupture or strain in some quarter of its working parts, rendering you potentially ‘hors de combat’ for weeks in an instant.
After about three holes of our round, which contained no fewer than three torrential showers of rain combined with strong winds – I’d classify them as ‘squalls’ – and was eventually abandoned on hole fifteen when we experienced thunder and lightning … I remarked upon a strange phenomenon.
The three of us have played golf together in various combinations over the past 35 years. I told my colleagues that I had noted – for the first 30 of those – that we used to listen indulgently at golfers senior in years to ourselves … with their boring descriptions of their personal aches and pains, ailments, body-bits falling off and general reports of what life is like as they slide gradually through their declining years … and then watch as they played their shots, with their characteristically rushed, shortened, back swings and their jerky follow-throughs.
We used to do so harbouring an inner sense of confidence that – whatever life’s fortunes might throw at us – we would never descend that far.
And yet – I continued – we had just spent the best part of threequarters of an hour catching up with each other’s family news … and listening to each other’s lists of ailments, chronic conditions etc. … and then hooking, slicing and/or stabbing our shots about thirty metres maximum with hurried, jerky golf swings.
What did that tell the three of us about golf?
More important, what does that tell anyone about life?