Lady Golfer column: Madeleine Winnett on a golf themed party

Turning birthday celebrations into a golfing occasion

I HAVE just celebrated a significant birthday. Having scraped through what hopefully equates to the front nine, I still have plenty to look forward to, since I invariably enjoy the back nine more. I don’t wish to tempt fate here by saying that my life expectancy must surely have gone up since I stopped falling off riding school ponies every weekend – although I do still have a penchant for sports cars, and the chance of finding me at the bottom of a crevasse with a pair of skis attached to my feet hasn’t really diminished – but I’m probably not quite as gung ho as I used to be.

However, some character traits don’t seem to diminish with age. As I was planning my 50th party, all my days as a Blue Peter devotee came flooding back. I made everything that Valerie Singleton had to offer – although I never did seem to be able to master the tinsel-covered coat hangers that masqueraded as the advent crown! I think, though, I have finally made amends.

I never know where my ideas come from but suddenly I get an inkling, and I’m off. This time, it was the imponderable question of place names. 

I could have simply written them on fancy card strips, but that would have been too easy. I needed a challenge that would tie me up for weeks so the concept of golfing place names was born.

I had a vision of golf flags, but they needed anchoring, so I came up with the idea of sawing golf balls in half. 

Genius – except have you any idea how hard it is to saw a golf ball in half? I had never felt the urge to try this before, and now I know why! They are impossible little blighters, and they fight back! Gripping a round object in a straight-sided vice is problematic enough, but as the outer cover of a ball is soft, you have to squeeze it so hard, you can’t get the saw blade through it without applying your entire body weight – and then the ball pops out.

As one never to give up easily, I opted for mechanical assistance and took my balls to a friend who has a band saw. For those of you not well versed in carpentry, it’s a vertical saw blade which makes an unholy racket spinning at the speed of light, and has a particular fondness for severing fingers. 
Have you any idea how hard it is to saw a golf ball in half? As I find my fingers quite useful for playing golf, I applied joined-up thinking, and decided to hold the balls in a clamp when passing them through the blade. And this, indeed, proved to be highly successful first up.

Triumphantly, I showed my perfectly bisected ball to the owner of the saw, whose incredulity declared that what I had done was impossible. Nervelessly, I stepped up to the plate again, only for the ball to jam halfway through, and on my third attempt when the ball got stuck, the saw fused. Oops! At this point, my friend had seen enough, decided that his livelihood was in danger, and took over. 

Half a ball then flew forwards, while the other half went backwards and upwards, hit the roof, bounced around and disappeared. After we stopped ducking I went in pursuit of the missile. If you think trying to find a ball in the undergrowth is hard, I can assure you that it is nothing compared with searching for half a ball in a shed.

My five-minute search time came and went, and under the extreme duress of balls pinging everywhere in the interim, I reclaimed my prize. Four halves down, 46 to go!

I then had to sand the frayed edges of the balls and drill them. Forget Bob the Builder, this was Mad the Maker in full flight! 
The cottage industry then moved to the kitchen table for the delicate operation of measuring, cutting and white painting of skewers, before taping them up ready for the black paint. I was getting excited about my professionalism before I moved to the more delicate stage of cutting, glue-ing and attaching the flags. 

Super Glue didn’t exist in the halcyon era of Shep and now I know why. It’s dangerous. I managed to stick my little finger to the kitchen table more than once, and said a few words that Valerie would never have uttered as I ripped the skin off.
Pleased as I was with the results, I was worried that the fruits of my labour wouldn’t be fully appreciated if the white of the balls blended into the table cloths – so I decided to mount them on green carpet holes. 

That again was a good idea until I found out how hard carpet was to cut and that it set my tennis elbow off! However, even that didn’t stop me coming up with more thoughts of how to torture myself with golf-themed party ideas. I started blue tacking after-dinner mints onto tee pegs, but that then meant cutting more carpet circles and polystyrene pizza bases to insert them into. By then, though, I was really on a roll. I didn’t want to humiliate people by putting them on the highest-numbered table away from the top table; I wanted to insult them properly, by naming the furthest flung tables ‘Out of Bounds’ and ‘Three off the tee’ etc. 

As a final touch, I then procured some large advertising ball pictures (more cutting!) on which to write my table names. After all, what does it really matter if my season comes to a premature end again thanks to all my cutting injuries – I’ll be too busy setting up

There is one unfortunate side effect, however, in that I do suddenly seem to have an uncontrollable yearning for sticky-backed plastic!

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