I had a great couple of days last week down in Somerset with my good friends the Farmers – my former long-suffering coach, Lawrence and his wife Sally. They relocated to cider country four years ago and although Lawrence is more or less retired now his passion for golf is undimmed and spending two whole days with him hitting shots, going out on the course and just generally talking golf is a joy for me.

My game gets scant attention these days but the first two swings Lawrence saw at Long Ashton Golf Club, where we met, were more than enough for him.  I now feel that a lens shutter has clicked back into place and there is some clarity appearing out of my fog of indecision.  I teach loads of people myself and have looked at several thousand golf swings but we can all benefit from another person’s eyes on us.  It’s just sometimes tricky finding the right person but when you do, be sure to hang on to them for as long as you can.

It was my first visit to lovely Long Ashton, a club forever connected in my mind to Kitrina Douglas who hailed from there as an amateur.  We were friends and competitors back in the day and Kitrina is one of those rare beings in life who strives to fulfill her potential in everything she does. She scaled the heights of amateur and professional golf in the 1980s and 1990s, winning several top tournaments and representing Europe in the first winning Solheim Cup team, at Dalmahoy.  With that achievement behind her she set her mind to more academic pursuits, completing her PhD in Psychology at the University of Bristol, specialising in exploring mental wellbeing and motivation among professional athletes. She has now written several books, is a sought-after lecturer and mentors athletes from all sorts of disciplines.  In reality, it seems to me she’s had about three pinnacle-busting careers.  In fact, just rereading that last paragraph makes me feel like a lie down.

Kitrina – first the sporting prowess, then the academic.

A warm welcome was waiting for Lawrence and me the following day at Burnham and Berrow (pic at top of blog) where I last hit a ball in anger in the amateur Home Internationals many decades ago.  What a great track it is too!  Influences of Herbert Fowler and Harry Colt abound with subtle green complexes and clever bunkering – both sure to prove a challenge to the four teams contesting the Senior Women’s Home Internationals there later in the year.  Throw into the mix that a calm day is rarer than hen’s teeth and it’s no wonder so many skilled players emanate from these parts.

Lawrence firing into the home green. He has his sights on this year’s Seniors’ British Open at St Andrews.

There were three young lads playing ahead of us – good-ish players by the look of them, but, my word, one of them was so slow we were almost losing the will to live.  Every single putt on every green was given the Aimpoint treatment (if you don’t know what that is –  don’t ask, it would take too long to explain, even if I did fully understand it).  And then, of course, after all the to-ing and fro-ing he’d miss the putt anyway.  I’m sure Kitrina could point him in the direction of several sporting studies that show the likelihood of success at a given motor skill decreases in direct proportion to the amount of time you exceed your optimum timing.  Like many others I think he’d be astonished at how short his optimum timings turned out to be.  Golf is a mix of feel and thinking – his modus operandi was all thinking and it was tough to play behind.  As the incomparable commentator Henry Longhurst used to say of slow players on the green, “You’ll either hole it or miss it.  Away and do one of them quickly.”

But even that annoyance was nowhere near enough to spoil a great day out on a superb links in great company.  It gave us time to smell the roses, which we did, and to appreciate these are very precious, special days.  It was all rounded off nicely back at the house with a glass of Rioja, watching the Players’ Championship on the box in the company of Jonny, the resident Dandie Dinmont.  What more could anyone ask for?

Jonny keeping his eye on a tiger.