Mid-August: A Duffer’s Preparation at Mitaki Golf Centre

I have learnt to love the Mulligan rule in golf. It has enabled me to claim that my golf is getting better. By batting from the yellow tee with a liberal application of “the Mulligan”, I have been able to whittle my score down to a personal best of 138 over 18 holes.

It should also be noted that some diligent pre-match practice was indulged in by Jaime and myself at Mitaki Golf Centre.

Mitaki Golf Centre looks down upon the salubrious hillside settlement of Mitaki on the western fringe of Hiroshima. We hauled our clubs up the hill to blast away at a liberal supply of balls on three afternoons prior to our recent game. We always opt for the “uchihoudai” option, which allows you to belt an unlimited supply of balls up the driving range.
uchi – (v, t) (1) to hit (something inanimate); to strike; to beat (on something); (2) to type; to tap (e.g., a key); (3) to inject; (4) to indulge in gambling

houdai – (n, n-suf) as much as you would like to By virtue of the sheer volume of balls that we go through, the practice sessions, are productive of much sweat and industry, and even, it should be said, though perhaps not by myself, of progress in the art of belting little balls with long thin sticks over vast expanses of closely cropped grass.

As a result, I am now quite at home with the higher irons, from no. 9 down to no. 5. Heretofore, it had been a peculiar, indeed singular, circumstance of my brief and eventful golfing career that no matter what iron I chose, the ball, if I hit it, and by whatsoever trajectory the laws of ballistics would cause it to adopt, never appeared to travel farther than a ball that has received a hefty wallop from the trusty no. 9 iron, which was the first of the irons to bend its neck to my yoke.

However, by virtue of diligent application, and by gradually gaining the confidence to give my no. 5 iron a bit of welly on the downward swing it now appears that it can outpace the no. 9 for distance when everything else goes relatively well – videlicet, once in every four or five wallops or so.

There were two moments of pure farce during our three practice sessions. The first was supplied by Jaime.

Jaime was practising with his fairway driver when suddenly I heard a yelp of anguish. I turned around to see him poised at the end of what must have been a mighty swing, but holding aloft nought but thin air.

“It slipped out of my hands,” he said. “It’s gone over the roof. I might have killed somebody on the other side…”

I had to point out that its-going-over-the-roof was an utter impossibility since the roof jutted out about three feet beyond where we were standing and was about five feet above our heads. The puzzling thing was that the club was nowhere to be seen and nobody seemed to have noticed what had happened. Happily there were no cries of pain and outrage from the lower deck. So Jaime went off and searched for his errant club and it turned out that the club had flown off to his left, and landed to the side of the driving range out of harm’s way.

The second moment of pure farce involved my driver and a rubber tee that is attached to a weight by a piece of old string… The purpose of this device is to offer a higher tee than the golf-ball-dispensing-machine can provide.

The golf-ball-dispensing-machine is itself a creaking electronic contraption into which you pour a bucketful of balls and have them delivered to your tee one at a time – in theory at least. If you take too long teeing up your shot, a second ball comes rolling out and knocks the first ball off the tee. Or, no balls emerge at all. It always seems to be my machine that suffers a blockage. I am forever rummaging around with my balls trying to get them to flow down the nozzle. At one point the whole machine packed up and I had to resort to the failsafe computer-salvaging technique of unplugging it from the mains and immediately plugging it back in when nobody was looking.

Anyway, back to rubber tees…

You stick your ball on top of a four or five inch high rubber tube and whack it with your driver. The rubber tee is attached to the weight to stop it flying away. That, at least is the theory. It so happened that when I took an almight thwack at my ball with my driver I felt that certain frisson of impact at the bottom of the swing that is indicative of the club head having hit, or sailed through, its target point. However, when I opened my eyes, I saw my ball quite contentedly sat at my feet. The rubber tee was nowhere to be seen. To be sure, the weight was still there, but the tee had disappeared into thin air as surely as Jaime’s fairway driver had; the only difference being that I did not deign to go and search for it.

It had seemed to me until the third of our preparatory practice sessions, that everybody else who goes to Mitaki Golf Centre is competent at his game. I am happy to report, however, that our third session was something of a duffers’ congress and I was by no means bottom of the class. Two lads occupied a couple of slots at the far end next to the mirror (where you can study your swing – a vanity in which I have not dared to indulge). Many of their balls ended up in the foliage to their right, several did not move at all, and one came whistling past my ears as I was teeing up what would have been a fine shot with the driver had I not been put off.

A couple of older blokes took the two places next to me but seemed keener on chatting and laughing than on practising – and it became evident why that was so when they did finally apply club to ball.

The good thing about a driving range is that you can get into a rhythm and blast ball after ball without too much trouble. Jaime sent numerous balls so far that they appeared as no more than specks of dust upon the horizon so we both had some justifiable cause to feel confident about our game at Forest Hills on Tuesday 21st August…

I shall expatiate upon the exigencies of that day’s play, and upon the virtues of the Mulligan, in my next post.

David Hurley