Monday 4th May: Golf Practice Or How To Drive A Ball 100 Yards With Any Club…

Ah yes, golf.

Having avoided this subject for virtually a year, I found myself having to dust off Mr David Leadbetter’s book “The Golf Swing” and haul my neglected clubs out of the attic in preparation for a round of golf at Takanosu Golf Club somewhere in the Japanese countryside north west of Hiroshima.

It all came about because I happen to “teach” Mrs W, the owner of the club, English. Or, more accurately, we play mahjong along with Mrs T at Mrs T’s house while chatting in English – at least in a form of English that includes all the usual Japanese terminology for playing mahjong.

Mrs W is a keen golfer who has become hooked on mahjong. She and Mrs T sometimes join our games of 3-player mahjong on Friday evenings. Both Noda and Jaime are keen mahjong players who happen to be hooked on golf so it did not take long for everyone to agree that it would be a spiffing idea if we made up a party and played golf at Takanosu during Golden Week.

By coincidence, the best day for everybody was May 4th, aptly designated “Midori no hi” or “Green Day”.

Now, as I say, I had not so much as touched a golf club for virtually a year. Not since I scored something like 158 on the easy 9 hole course on the Ota river in the northern outskirts of Hiroshima.

So, on Monday 3rd May I hauled David Leadbetter’s book and four clubs up to the driving range at Mitaki to do a bit of practice… The four clubs were my driver, and the 6, 7 and 9 irons. Anything below 6 is a complete waste of time and effort as far as I’m concerned.

Just as I feared, I was stuck between a highly competent chap who was blasting his balls all the way up the driving range with his great swinging driver. He was behind me so he could see exactly what I was up to. In front of me was a young lady with a personal “trainer” many years her senior. He sat on a chair and observed in that expressionless way so beloved of the natives of these parts.

I delayed the moment of truth for as long as possible with the rituals of (1) getting clubs out of bag, (2) getting a drink from the drinks machine (3) getting a basket of 50 balls from the ball dispenser and (4) reading David Leadbetter with a great show of concentration…

Actually, reading DL’s book did me a lot of good. I picked up a detail I’d missed before – that I ought to shift my weight on my right leg from the ball to the heel on the upswing…

Armed – or footed – with this new nugget of technical know-how, I picked up the most promising of my range of clubs, the trusty no. 9, the easiest iron in the bag and got stuck in.

After a few toppings and slicings I got back into the rhythm and managed to loft a few balls somewhere between 50-90 yards more or less straight ahead.

The next 50 balls were dedicated to the no. 7 iron. The next 50 balls to the no. 6. Both irons, when they made decent contact with the ball sent it around 100 yards up the driving range. Whenever I got tired and started topping the ball, I reduced the swing to a half swing and built up from there. I also found it convenient to blast a series of balls at top speed.

The final 50 balls were dedicated to my driver. By now the bloke behind me and the girl and her chum had disappeared. There was no one around to notice the ball that my driver sent rolling off the tee to end up four feed behind me. As for all the sliced shots, or the ones that set off in a straight line until they reached the 30 yard mark and then scooted off to the right in a sort of delayed slice, I don’t suppose many people noticed.

Just as with the 6 and 7 irons, my driver, when it behaved itself, sent the ball approximately 100 yards up the driving range…

I now had a blister on my left index finger and a red weal on the palm of my hand. 200 balls satisfactorily blasted (or topped or sliced) off the tee. Time to go home and sleep off golf practice in preparation for Green Day at Takanosu…

David Hurley