I AM sitting on the sofa watching the last round of the 2011 Open and it has just dawned on me how much golf has become a part of my life since we first took up the game in 1994.
Prior to taking up golf seriously Jacqui and I used to play on the pitch and putt courses on the south coast close to Brighton. In particular we played on the courses in Rottingdean and Roedean – both a good test of your short game and a good introduction to the game. At the time I was in my mid 30s and I was on the point of retiring from playing football for around the second or third time. We both decided that perhaps golf might be a sport we could play together as we got older.
We decided to have group lessons with a friend of ours, Katrina. She lived not far from us in north east London so we had lessons at a driving range in Chigwell. Later on we went back to the driving range and it had been changed to a TopGolf (www.topgolf.com) driving range. Playing there is a much more fun experience than most other driving ranges and I would recommend this chain of driving ranges for a fun night out.
I didn’t know it at the time but I found that we had chosen the best way of learning the basics of the game. You don’t need a golf professional standing beside you all the time you are learning the basics. Joining group lessons one or two times a week for a few months is the best way to start in my opinion as well as being a cheaper introduction to the game.
If 1995 we ventured out onto the Chingford golf course and eventually joined the Royal Epping Forest Golf Club. At the time we were working in the city and trying to spend as much spare time as possible on the golf course. We were so keen that we even bought orange golf balls so we could see the ball better when we were playing in the snow and ice. Those days are long gone now. Both Jacqui and I are fair weather golfers.
From when we took up golf until we moved to Spain in 2004 we only had two holidays that did not include golf in some way. Both were Susi Madron cycling for softies holidays in France (www.cycling-for-softies.co.uk). We had these holidays in the mid-90s but it appears that Susi is still in business.
When we were choosing somewhere to move to in Spain one of the criteria high on the list was we would have to be close to a golf course that we enjoyed playing. We now live in an apartment overlooking the Almerimar course. We still enjoy playing the Almerimar course every time we go out to play. It is not always in perfect condition but the Gary Player designed layout is a great test of golf.
For the last 4-5 years we have been organising regular friendly Friday team golf competitions at Almerimar. As mentioned in a previous article it was suggested at the turn of the year that we should set up a golf society. The Friday Golf Society (www.fridaygolfsociety.es) is now up and running with over 200 members. Jacqui and I are members of the committee of the society and we are now organising more golf competitions in Almerimar than ever before.
Our latest golf venture is the recent opening of a golf shop in Almerimar. Jacqui and our friend Sharon are taking the lead in this new business venture with Sharon’s husband Alan and I providing some help.
It is early days but hopefully the shop will be a success. One thing for certain is that the golf society and the shop have had a significant impact on the amount of time I can spend doing things like writing articles for websites such as the Olive Press.
All in all golf has transformed my life. I have made many friends through being a member of various golf clubs and societies since I took up the game in the mid-90s. I am able to play a sport I love at a reasonable standard even though I am now in my 50s. I look forward to playing for many years more all being well. There is also a documented health benefit associated with playing golf, particularly if you walk the course rather than use a buggy.
So if you are considering taking up the game I would urge you to take some group lessons and see whether golf is the game for you.
I finish this article with a few words about Darren Clarke and Tom Watson. There are not many top level sporting events in the world where a man in their 40s can finish the winner and a man in their 60s can finish in the top 25. That is one of the beauties of golf.