On the range

First published on the Golf Monthly website on Thursday 5th June 2009

Fergus is just back from St Andrews. He wasn’t supposed to be playing golf but somehow he found the time to hit some balls.

I had a strange driving range experience yesterday.

Jessie and I travelled down to St Andrews on Wednesday for a night in the Old Course Hotel. I’d promised her I wasn’t going to be playing golf – sacrilegious I know but, as she’s seven months pregnant with baby Bisset number two and given number one had been safely deposited with Nana and Gramps, it looked likely to be the last chance for us to get some time to ourselves for the next 18 or so years.

We had a great time strolling about town and I limited myself to just 10 minutes of obsessive staring at the 18th green. We enjoyed an amazing dinner in the Road Hole Grill gazing out on the most famous links in the world before a few pints in the Jigger Inn. Well, I had a few pints in the Jigger. Jessie was on the sparkling water.

By the Thursday morning my resolve to not play at all while staying in the home of golf was beginning to weaken. Luckily I had a plan. I had cleverly arranged for Jessie to have a pregnancy massage (whatever that is) in the Kohler Waters Spa at 10.00am. What a thoughtful husband I hear you say. Indeed.

With an hour and a half or so to spare, I contemplated how to pass the time freed up by my selfless act. Suddenly, I remembered I had put a few clubs into the boot before we departed, just in case. I collected them and headed for the Links Trust’s excellent driving range.

Which brings me to my strange driving range experience. I’m usually heartened by trips to the range. I generally go there because I’m dissatisfied by my game then, after an hour stood in a bay with someone shanking an entire bucket against the dividing wall on one side and another poor soul barely able to make contact with the ball on the other, I leave feeling like Ben Hogan.

Unfortunately, today sees the start of the St Andrews Links Trophy – an elite amateur event attracting players from all over the world. So, yesterday, the range was packed to the gunnels with supremely talented players. I had a young Frenchman on one side hitting his driver about 450 yards and another youngster on the other receiving a lesson from Jim Farmer, “You’re one of the best ball strikers I’ve ever seen.” – Quote from Jim Farmer to his pupil.

At first I was intimidated by hitting balls in a line of plus figure handicap players and I struggled to find any sort of rhythm. But, after a while, I relaxed and tried to envisage that I was one of the competitors in the Links Trophy and that people coming and going behind me would assume that I was. With the fantasy world successfully created in my brain, I began to hit some great shots and was working a nice little draw. Only an occasional thin or pull-hook crept in to dispel the myth.

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed playing at being good and I’ve already been on the SGU website this morning to see what other elite events I could gatecrash the practice for.


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