Cotswold Mother: Giving this golfing lark a go
- Credit: Archant
Clare Mackintosh: I would continue with my lessons until I had an impressive handicap, when I would casually mention to my husband that ‘perhaps I’ll give this golfing lark a go after all’
Even my own mother, biased though she is, would hesitate to call me sporty. School passed in a blur of broken hockey sticks, screwed up PE kits and notes to get out of swimming. It wasn’t so much that I couldn’t do it - more that I didn’t want to.
I enjoyed, and was good at, ballet and other forms of dance, but saw nothing pleasurable in standing in the cold in a miniscule netball skirt, waiting for my poor frozen fingers to drop the ball. On reflection, I blame school entirely for my aversion to sport, and suspect that if they had offered a wider range of options, instead of corralling 600 girls into netball and hockey, I might have found my niche. As it is, my relationship with exercise will forever be coloured by memories of giant gym knickers and communal showers.
I had the misfortune to marry an exceptionally sporty husband, and the stark contrast between our sporting abilities has, in the past, almost lead to blows. “Keep your eye on the ball!” he helpfully suggested, during a particularly ill-conceived game of squash one day. “I’ll keep my Nikes on your balls in a minute,” I muttered, missing the shot and spinning inelegantly to the floor.
I secretly wanted to try my hand at golf. A taster session many years ago had given me the bug, and I harboured a quiet desire to have some lessons and give it a shot. Not only did the injury potential seem far less than hockey or squash, but there was something rather civilised about the tradition of having a drink after the 18th hole. Rather like apres-ski, without the ridiculous goggle-tan marks. I might have gone for it sooner, had my husband not made the fatal error of suggesting it. “You should have a go at golf,” he said, “then we could play together.”
“I don’t think it’s really me,” I said stubbornly. And that was that. My in-laws made several attempts over the years to bring me into the golfing set, but I brushed off their suggestions as laughable. “Golf is a good walk spoiled,” I retorted, quoting someone I always forget.
Then the children started golf lessons. It happened by chance: a friend of theirs had enjoyed a session at the local club; there was the possibility of a new class starting, if there were enough children interested. All three of mine liked the idea of it (“we’ll be just like daddy!”) and so we trooped up to the golf course on a sunny Saturday morning to hit some balls. They loved it, and I watched enviously from the side.
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“You can join in, if you like,” said the golf pro the following weekend. I like to think he could see untapped potential. “Or we could organise some private lessons.” That sounded more like it. “Let’s do it,” I said.
I hugged the date to myself as I skipped home. Secret golf lessons. I had everything planned out: I would continue with my lessons until I had an impressive handicap, when I would casually mention to my husband that “perhaps I’ll give this golfing lark a go after all.” We would stroll onto the course, where I might make a play of not knowing how to hold my club (“could you show me, darling?”) before teeing off with aplomb and sending the ball 300 hundred yards onto the green. Cue an amazed husband, and perhaps a smattering of light applause from the players behind us.
My first lesson was hard going, but I wasn’t disheartened. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Lessons two and three passed, and then four and five. Was this the most frustrating game ever? “How long before I’ll actually be able to play a game?” I asked my ever-patient teacher. He sighed, taking in the mound of divots collecting at my feet. “A few more weeks,” he said. “Maybe.”
On my sixth lesson I collected my first injury, when I misjudged my down swing and hit the ground with enough force to send a jolt of pain into my hand. “Are you okay?” my husband asked when I was forced to use my left hand to lift the kettle. “Yes!” I winced, “nothing to worry about.” I thought about giving up, but the same stubbornness that had seen me refuse to pick up a golf club for years, now stopped me from chucking in the towel. It dawned on me that if I were to wait until I had a respectable handicap before hustling my husband, that one or both of us could well be in a bath chair. I decided to come clean.
“That’s fantastic!” my husband said, with genuine admiration. “Well done, you.” He came with me for some practice swings, and I braced myself for a repeat of the squash game debacle. But the years had mellowed either him or me, and I managed not to bristle at his offers of help, achieving some semi-respectable shots. “Might be a while before I can join you for a game,” I said ruefully. “Oh, I don’t know,” he said, “I think you’re a natural.”
This article by Clare Mackintosh is from the January 2015 issue of Cotswold Life.