Hooray, happy days, it’s not only Rory and co who’ve been back out on a proper golf course at last, waving goodbye to virtual fairways. We were also back out on Whittington Heath, very much a proper course – Harry Colt, don’t you know – if not quite as celebrated as Seminole. And it was bliss.
Playing in ones or twos, ten-minute intervals, tee times booked, arrive about ten minutes before your tee time, 9 holes only (it’s going up to 18 on Monday, if that’s the 25th), lovely weather, what could be more civilised or hassle free? Keeping the requisite two metres apart is easy-peasy on a golf course and there’s the joy of seeing friends in the flesh, properly, not through a screen (useful and welcome though Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, WhatsApp, whatever are). What a joy.
Now, too, here in England, we can go out as often as we like – not just the once for exercise – and even have a friend round, suitably distanced. My friends have brought their own sarnies and mugs and I’ve even been invited to an exclusive barbie – me and the host (I brought the sausages). It was lovely not to have to cook for myself for once. I suppose I hadn’t appreciated how often I ate out – at the golf club, at a friend’s house, at the pub, at one of Lichfield’s many restaurants. I enjoy cooking but doing it just for yourself, day in, day out, with no prospect of going out for lunch or friends coming round for dinner, let alone family coming to stay for a night or two saps your (my) resolve to eat well and healthily.
Mind you, saying that, I’ve had only one takeaway (or carryout) during lockdown – a calzone pizza from one of the local pizza/kebab shops. It was delicious and I savoured every mouthful, a real treat. But, in a vain attempt to keep the flab and self-inflicted decay at bay, I’ve been out to buy salad and veg in substantial quantities and most of the catering remains in house. If I had the technical nous, I’d insert that emoji with the halo here but think it might be a bit tarnished by my efforts to keep The Wine Society, Worth Brothers and Tanners ticking along. Still, in my defence, it’s important to support local businesses….
Surprisingly, there is a (slight) drawback to being back out golfing: I’ve had to get the diary out again and make a concerted effort to remember which day is which.
As you can see, there’s not much scheduled for Friday, which is by design – blogging can be an exhausting business, especially if you’re trying to do it while keeping an eye on re-runs of Poirot, Morse and other such sources of intellectual stimulation. That’s the trouble with self-imposed deadlines, especially in lockdown – you know you can ignore them with impunity and faff about to your heart’s content, watching rubbish, checking emails, tidying drawers.
I have to confess that I fell asleep watching the exhibition from Seminole last Sunday – playing my first 9 holes for several weeks on the Friday must have taken more out of me than I realised – but my timing was good: I missed the appearance of the POTUS. Seminole’s greens seemed to perplex the players, though Rickie Fowler managed to hole a few putts somewhere in the middle of the round. The players were rusty and there was a general lack of drama – not that I can imagine anyone missing the “MASHED POTATO” plonker who inhabits far too many golf galleries – but it was lovely to have a wee look at a course that is universally admired.
In Beyond The Fairways – almost a classic; sorry, I couldn’t resist, it’s a family joke – Dai wrote: “The course is quite simply astonishing. You can see most of it from the practice ground and I doubt that there is such a small tract of land with so many high-class holes packed on to it anywhere else in the world. It doesn’t look like much at first sight, with one coral ridge to keep the sea out and another, further inland, to keep the traffic out.
“The land in between is, in places, below sea level and must have looked very unpromising. What it needed was a genius and it got one in Donald J. Ross. He created a course that is endlessly fascinating and always subtly challenging.
“Many of the greens are elevated and all of them are quietly but sufficiently contoured, so much so that the first-time player simply cannot make sufficient allowance for the break…….
“My notes are splattered with phrases such as “be precise; needs solid shot; excellent hole”; but, when you play a new course, it is the feeling that counts, the sudden dawning that the course has all your attention, that you are engrossed by it. That feeling came very quickly at Seminole and Tom Doak got it spot on in The Confidential Guide: ‘Because of its popularity as a retirement capital there are more than 1000 courses in Florida today….I’ll take Seminole, you can have the other 999.'”
In the meantime, transatlantic trips being off limits for most of us, Whittington Heath is test enough for me.