It’s been a funny old week. It didn’t get off to the best start when my better half went out for his regular cycle ride with some of the neighbours. All went well until they arrived back into our road and he signalled he was turning right down our driveway. As he was making the turn he heard a car engine revving and managed to swerve to the left just as a car overtook him and with a glancing blow knocked him off his bike into the road. The driver did stop and tried to defend herself saying he was calling her on. Hmm, last time I looked at the highway code a right arm held straight out indicated a right turn but apparently not to her. Happily, there wasn’t much damage done – apart from a badly sprained thumb – because of the riding armour he wears to protect his hips and elbows, all casualties of previous accidents. Note to self, maybe it’s time I redoubled my efforts to get him to fall in love with golf, an infinitely safer pastime.
As we once again ease into a time of increasing restrictions most of my pals in Wales and Ireland find themselves unable to go to the golf course. It’s at moments like these that I really appreciate all that golf offers us on a plate each time we go out on the course. Leave aside the never-ending challenge of improving your ball-striking, your strategy and your scoring, the fresh air and exercise golf provides, normally in the company of good friends, and the mental health benefits that it bestows make it the sport that keeps on giving.
If you can’t get to the course for a few weeks, why not make a bit of a plan to keep those golfing muscles awake and active? Now, I don’t expect you to embark on a regime a la Rory or Bryson and bust a gut to increase the speed of your swing so you are unrecognisable when you emerge back on to the links, but how about a plan to reinforce good habits and feels that can be taken to the course when golf resumes? Try the following with a 7-iron:-
1 Five swings with your feet together. Keep your balance at the end.
2 Five swings, normal stance. Pause at the top, count to 3 and then swing to a full follow through.
3 Five swings, normal stance. No pause at the top but hold your finish for a count of 3.
Repeat this sequence with a different club. These little drills will help you stay centred in the swing (exercise 1) and find good balance (exercises 2 and 3). You can only deliver the power of which you are capable from a point of balance, so working on this is beneficial to your game. If you really want to test yourself try a swing with your eyes closed and see if you can remain stable.
Meanwhile, as ever, there are other golf-related matters to keep us interested and energised, most of them with an eye to future events. We are now only three and a bit weeks away from the Masters where Tiger will be defending. The usual questions will abound – can he win his 16th major? (No, not in my opinion, although Augusta is by far his best opportunity for another victory of any sort.) Can Rory win and, at the sixth time of asking, complete the Grand Slam? (Of course he can win, but WILL he? Not this time, I suspect but I’m optimistic about next April.) What on earth will Bryson look like and play like after this last month of more bulking up and adding speed to his swing? And will we recognise Augusta dressed in autumn colours?
Back in April the Masters was to be the first of four sorties of mine to the States this year, none of which, of course, have actually taken place. Patricia and I have planned that she will come over to me so we can plonk ourselves down together in front of the box with a decent bottle of red and watch the action unfold in our own little support bubble. We enjoy watching the golf together – we know (still) a great many of the players, nearly all the broadcasters and media and the machinations of how Masters tournaments are run. One advantage to not being on site and working there is that it’s extraordinarily liberating to be able to use normal golf terms. We can refer to the rough, not the first cut, talk about the pin positions and not the hole locations and bemoan the fact that this year there are no galleries as opposed to patrons. I’m interested to hear if they change the suspected mechanised tweeting-bird soundtrack to an autumn version. I’m sure they will, nothing is ever overlooked.
So as the clocks change and winter draws on do your best to keep something golf-related in your life on a daily basis. Reading always has the power to provide a bit of escapism from the dreary endless news that abounds everywhere, so consider also seeking out some of the great golfing biographies that will help while away a wet winter day. You won’t regret it.