Fore score and a few dozen balls ago I signed up for some free golf lessons at my local World Of Golf driving range. Why? Why add more to an already overflowing casserole dish of sporting goodness? I mean, let’s face it, I already struggle to fit a relatively simple training plan around shift work, girlfriend, and – well – life. So, in the name of Nick Faldo, why why why have I decided to add an expensive, time-consuming game which (although there is a lot of skill, tactics and forward thinking involved) boils down to hitting a small ball with a small stick to a designated point in as fewer hits as possible.
Well, I blame my father.
Actually, that’s a life. This has nothing to do with him. Maybe it’s the thrill of standing, cold and alone in the middle of a very flat area with a 5 foot long, extremely conductive rod, wearing some very suspect clothing (and I’m comfortable in fluorescent lycra) which I hope not to be seen dead in (because we all knows what happens when we die) for five hours keeping half an eye on the ball and half an eye on the sky hoping that a thunderstorm doesn’t blow in. What I suspect, because the thrill of playing such a passive sport with a threat of electrified death is a little too appealing to my inner masochist is that this is another case of Mr Competitive rearing his ugly head and an attempt to bond, somewhat, with thefastone – and when I say bond I mean, finally beat is ass at something.
You see, thefastone is younger so he has more energy – he has also been playing sport a lot longer – which means he can not run for a number of weeks, then run 12 miles in 1:40 and say “felt a bit slow” – really bugs me since I am not that fast – and I try really bloody hard. He has also entered the Brighton Marathon but isn’t really taking the training very seriously which will mean he will either run it in sub 3:30 with minimal training (totally unfair) or he will die (which will be totally devastating) so to meet him on his turf and give him a run for his money I need to find a sport that he is good at and, well, give him a run for his money. So that leaves me Football of Golf and I don’t like Football.
Golf it is then.
My first lesson was on Monday, where Duncan, the instructor, talked 5 of us through the basics and let us loose on the driving range. Turns out the limited exposure I have had to golf when I was younger has set me up for this game. I have matured from an enthusiastic youth with no coordination, little power but a head for the basic technique to a sporty 30-year-old with coordination (not sure when it arrived but it has – although sometimes it takes a weekend break in a foreign city), power, and the ability to marry the two ideas together under the corrugated, leaky roof of the World Of Golf driving range.
My lessons are 1 hour, every Monday for 6 weeks. The aim of the first lesson was to hit the ball off the tee. Half way through the first lesson, he had “upgraded” me to hitting the ball off the faux-grass while working on my back-swing and power – which I think means, the further back I swing the club and the smoother the motion the more energy and, therefore, the further the golf ball will go.
He suggested we all try to practice during the week so I went down there on Wednesday and maxed out my Range card (need to top that up before Monday) and smacked 130 balls into the dark rainy evening for the best part of 90 minutes. I was making successful contact with about 2/3 of the balls and about half of those were travelling about 120 yards with my 7-iron. I am pretty sure I need a new 7-iron though – the one I am using is a bit battered and I think it was causing some draw on a number of my shots so it looks like I will need to wander around American Golf for a cheap beginners 7-iron the next time I am at the range.
Now the important bit. How can golf benefit me as a runner? Well. I subscribe to the philosophy that the best type of sportsman is a well-rounded one – this is doubly important if one is a runner as the ability to translate some of the more technical running sessions into another sport will probably save ones knees. Golf will bring allow me to improve my co-ordination and flexibility while allowing me to measure my core and upper body strength and improve my posture.
I think I’m going to need a bigger blog!