Up with the lark I was on this bliss-was-it-in-that-dawn-to-be-alive sort of morning and marching off in short order with a set of golf clubs strapped to my back, and the daughter firmly in hand, towards the nearby tram stop. However, on second thoughts, we diverted to the taxi rank and pootled along to said daughter’s nursery school; much better than struggling so beset and encumbered aboard the Hiroden tram and being jostled by the noxious throng of early morning commuters. Having dispatched the daughter, I had the taxi-wallah drive me on to Itsukaichi station where I would be in good time to hop onto the train that arrives from and returns to Hiroshima-eki, a train that, since it disgorges the whole of its cargo at Itsukaichi and then returns thither from whence it came, does not come pre-loaded with passengers from every station all the way up the line to Iwakuni, if you see what I mean. A chap with a set of golf clubs can board and set up his tent with comparative ease.
Not only that, but the train arrived at Hiroshima station just in time for me to meet Jaime and hop straight onto the shuttle-bus to Hiroshima airport, which is out in the hills to the east of the city. We went up to the golf club by taxi from the airport, just a five-minute drive through a country park.
After the stirling work we had both put in at Mitaki Golf Centre (see previous blog) we were feeling chipper and confident that we could hit our respective targets.
Jaime’s target: Go around in less than 100. David’s target: Go around in less than 130. Avoid double figures on any hole.
So sanguine were our hopes and so blasé our manner that we neglected to do any sort of practice at all before sallying forth at full speed in our golf buggy, with Jaime at the wheel and David holding on for dear life. One of the attractions of golf is definitely the golf-buggy-racing aspect of the day, complete with a full compliment emergency stops that have the tires smoking and screaming for mercy.
We were ten minutes or so ahead of schedule, which is just what a duffer needs in order to tee off without having a queue of competent players (i.e. everybody else) lounging around waiting and watching in sullen and contumlious silence…
There is nothing more certain to bring the goof out of your duffer than the feeling that his every move is being observed and unfavourably appraised by the lifetime membership of the clubhouse.
Jaime teed off and sent his ball soaring up the fairway and into the undergrowth. David then lined himself up, glanced over his shoulder to make sure that no golf buggies full of observers were approaching, took a hasty swing, and claimed his first Mulligan of the morning.
I shall spare the reader the anguish of having to wade through the whole catalogue of disasters that caused that unfortunate player to saunter off the green of the first hole with a score that was already into double figures and one of the targets of the day’s play already rendered unobtainable.
The bunker which my ball found its way into on the second hole had been cunningly cut in the shape of a four petalled flower. Very pretty it was. Here is a photo of my ball taking its rest in the bottom of the bunker, with the green just beyond. A hearty swipe at the base of the ball with the sand wedge lifted it beyond the bunker and onto the – whatsitcalled? – proto-green band of cropped grass that runs around the green-proper. Mind you, half a bucket of sand followed the ball out of the bunker, but the wedge had done its job and got me out of a hole.
The one patch of blue sky that remained on my horizon was my putting. Two putts apiece on the first two holes had helped to keep my batting average just below double figures, despite the disaster on the first hole…
Jaime was fairing little better, and indeed, had I not been so spendthrift on the fairway, I might have done better than he. It took us both eight whacks to get our balls to go down the second hole. Jaime’s really disastrous hole, however, was the fifth, a par 353-yarder off the front tee with a leftward dogleg halfway up the fairway. Curiously, up until the eighth hole, the fifth was my best. I registered a double-bogey (I forget if Mulligan presided over the scorecard or not on this hole). Jaime’s lengthy drive overshot the fairway just at the turn and disappeared into the trees. My drive sent my ball straight onto the middle of the fairway, one of my better efforts off the tee. It took me another shot with the five or six iron to catch up with Jaime, but when I arrived I was not greeted by a very happy site. After thrashing through the undergrowth and reclaiming his ball, Jaime attemted to lift it over an obstructing tree and send it up the second half of the fairway. This resulted in the ball’s hitting the tree and returning to the undergrowth a couple of times. By now, Jaime had spent more time thrashing in the undergrowth than he had spent on the fairways.
Meanwhile, if the scorecard is accurate, it appears that I managed to get my ball to land on the outskirts of the green on my third stroke, and three putts in for the precious double-bogey that put me in poll position for the sixth tee.
At the sixth, our performances returned to the mean, with Jaime scoring a bogey and me scoring a quadruple-bogey.
After that, on the return to the clubhouse for a welcome lunchbreak, our scores were:
I had been hitting my balls high off the tee today, but off the 12th the fault achieved ridiculous proportions as the ball sailed up into the middle air and landed on the ladies’ tee about twenty yards away. I called upon the services of the Mulligan, popped over to the ladies’ tee, picked up my ball and briskly returned to the yellow tee. My second (or, according to Mulligan, “first”) shot I then topped to send it into the rough towards the approach of the fairway.
It was only then that I realized with horror and mortification, that the whole pantomime had been observed by one of the rather fetching young female caddies who had driven out from HQ to tell us that the lightning that was flickering away on the horizon, and the onset of rain, meant we had to return to the clubhouse.
Jaime, who had hit a rather good long shot off the tee, left his ball where it was for all to observe and wonder at. I, on the other hand, once again picked up my ball and popped it into my pocket.
Play resumed about half an hour later, and I teed off with a bit more success this time, still counting the stroke as my first for the 12th and walked off the green with a double-bogey on my score card, one shot ahead of Jaime!
Back in poll position for the 13th, a par 3 with the green on the other side of a tree and pond-filled valley. In a previous outing I had scored a bogey on this sort of hole by virtue of the unconventional employment of my driver, reasoning that since I was playing MY game, and since my best straight shot with a driver would send the ball about 140 yards, I’d use a driver. It worked a treat and plopped my ball on the green, to Noda’s incredulity! But I feel my game has risen above the need to resort to such desperate devices, so I pulled out the no. 8 iron and landed the ball in the semi-rough a short pitch from the green. The pitch worked perfectly and set me up for par… a very doable putt, which did do indeed. My first (and only) par of the day, and poll position retained!
That was soon lost on two consecutive triple-bogeys, at which point we were called in once more as the weather conditions deteriorated.
This time it looked as if our day was over and so we both pronounced our indifferent game as “null and void” and settled down in the club dining room for cheese and biscuits washed down with some refreshing nappy ale.
An hour and a half later, our blissful state was disturbed by the realization that a patch of blue as small as a man’s hand had broken through the sea of clouds. So we, refreshed now from our relaxation and keen to complete the course after all, girded up our loins, hitched up our chariot once more and headed off into the murk and the gathering gloom to polish off our game before the rain stopped us once and for all.
We had teed off at ten to nine in the morning, and came off the eighteenth at four thirty in the afternoon and had achieved none of our aims. I had thought that despite it all, on 138 I had broken my record, but I have discovered a golf card from our game with Noda at Tokuyama Country Club which informs me that I scored a respectable (at least in my book) 136.