“Roll up, roll up! It’s the creepiest show on earth. Hate clowns? GOOD! Face your fears through nine holes of circus freaks and fairground creeps. Check out the Ferris Wheel, Hall of Mirrors and avoid some pretty shit-scary clowns. Time to run away from the circus…”
As course notes go this was a new one on me. After nearly four decades of being informed that I would ‘receive a warm welcome from a well-stocked pro shop’ this was a journey into the unknown, the world of Junkyard Golf in Leeds where ‘Crazy golf just got epic!’
It’s unlikely the 15 other guests to a friend’s 40th birthday celebrations were swotting up on the evening’s entertainment but I was sat on a train, had an hour to kill, was hungover after watching Wales play rugby in Paris, and, above all else, am a very sad individual.
There are three nines on offer, we would be tackling the clown-based Bozo layout while the others are called Pablo, ‘a polluted paradise of tropical madness’, and Gary, ‘it’s a scrapyard ting’. All of which made for a welcome break from North and South.
On arrival, and given I was now in a golf environment, I immediately went into scared mode with low-lying anxiety, not helped by the hangover, dominating most of my thoughts.
- We would be playing in groups of EIGHT. How on earth would that work?
- They would be sending us off at 10-minute intervals. Again, why?
- The centre-shafted putter didn’t fit my eye, was too long and the grip was too spongy.
- The ball was like a brick. My whole mantra to life, let alone golf, is ‘listen to the sound of a good putt’. How am I supposed to channel my inner Loren Roberts when putting with a one-piece ball?
- It was too noisy and the flashing lights were playing havoc with my visuals.
A friend joked that he was surprised I hadn’t brought my own putter. I laughed politely, my mind instantly flipped to my Odyssey O-Works #1 Wide which was sitting there useless in the garage and a sense of disappointment in myself flooded over me. I tipped half a can of Red Stripe into my head.
Anyway, it’s not my night. A great friend was turning 40 and there were other people to consider – not least my wife, who was probably equally as anxious but more that I was going to let myself down in some horrific fashion in the next hour and a half.
Without any announcement of who was to get us underway or the perfunctory ‘play well’, somebody clattered one up the backside of a lion, a ball trickled out the other side. We were off.
Being the golfer in the party I was asked to keep everyone’s score but politely refused, not making any sense with my reasoning for not helping out, and I missed out on various conversations as I tried to go to school on which part of the lion’s derriere it might be advantageous to play through.
I made an opening two thanks to quite a tidy three-footer, things settled down a bit in my head and, despite the protracted waiting between shots, things began to move along.
I suggested that maybe we split up into two fours to help with the pace of play but there didn’t seem to be much danger of anyone being put on the clock and I’m not sure anyone was listening anyway, choosing instead to enjoy normal conversations.
I kept myself in check when a girl whose name I kept forgetting got in a bit of trouble down the 3rd and, looking for some relief, just replaced her ball back on the tee under, from what I could gather, no penalty. Where’s Slugger White when you need him?
A few minutes later someone’s new boyfriend didn’t make it to anywhere near knee height when getting himself out of a spot of bother by an elephant’s foot but, again, I chose to look the other way and continued with my nasal breathing.
If you do ever play the Bozo nine then the 4th, Hall of Mirrors, is a potential card-wrecker with length, four lots of timber to try and ricochet off to advance your ball, and out of bounds just beyond the pin its obvious defences. Think the 5th at Portrush and you wouldn’t be far away.
After not making the most of the wooden buffers I left an eight-footer three feet short, not getting involved in the severe drop-off, before cleaning things up.
I walked to the next tee, which was approximately three steps, convincing myself that this was likely at least one stroke gained on the field.
The next four holes contained something for everyone, though likely only one person on the property will have taken all of this in; a trick shot off two flanks to secure a two at the 5th, an unfortunate stymie incident two holes later where, showing some sound course management, I took my medicine to take 4 out of the equation before getting the benefit of a ruling at 8 when my wife threatened to cause a bit of scene as my ball failed to emerge from a clown’s mouth.
Which brought us to the last, Clown & Out, which, as you can see for yourself, had a big number written all over it.
It was only at this stage that the rules were made clear that it was a pairs/couples event, which explained why I then leaned in and whispered to my wife: “Don’t get involved with anything past the pin, two’s a great score.”
The next 60 seconds were spent with a Pinehurst-like exhibition of failing to keep it on the right tier and she walked off with a quadruple eight.
Secretly I was delighted given I had calculated that she was my closest challenger for the individual crown, something that only existed in my head, but I still found it within myself to console her with a few well-chosen words.
Before slotting it in dead centre to slam the coffin down on everyone’s hopes and complete a nine of 20.
Only time prevented me from enquiring whether this was some sort of course record, only a lack of space stopped me from circling the room with a Hale Irwin-like celebration, and only a modicum of self-restraint got in the way of me crumpling into a heap a la Faldo at Muirfield.
The rest of the season can’t come quick enough.