Mark Townsend: Becoming a better golf club member
Becoming a better golf club member
I have now been an active club golfer for 35 years, give or take around a decade where I lost myself to cooking lager, spread betting and KFC Variety Meals.
In that time I have won precisely no board competitions, attended one AGM (only to see if I had qualified for the Scratch Cup – I had and, a week later, got humped in the first round), represented no teams other than junior ones in the late 80s, bought next to nothing (some chocolate) in the pro shop and never attended a ‘divot night’.
I pay my subs, keep my head down, never putt to another man’s hole on the practice green, make a handful of friends, stick rigidly to that collective and, when time allows, drink one-and-a-half pints of shandy and a Grab Bag of cheese and onion.
And in all this time of wretched, selfserving behaviour I have only played one round with someone of the opposite sex. In three and a half decades I have only once not surrounded myself with a body of hairy, masculine individuals. I only played with this girl, in 1986, as we were drawn together in a junior competition.
She was just starting out so, despite having two shots on every hole and teeing off from what seemed like the start of most fairways, she still struggled in the highoctane atmosphere of the Junior Cup.
Five years later, she was on a golfing scholarship in Florida and I was on the dole. In my defence she was the only junior girl in the club but you might think that, in the interim period of 27 years, my path might have once again crossed with a female.
I’m sure there are ways of helping this to happen but I’ve never got close to doing so. I say all this because I’ve just had a baby daughter who might be only a few weeks old and doesn’t yet weigh 8lbs but already carries huge hopes of at least following my one-time playing partner on a freebie to the States.
Or maybe serve her golfing apprenticeship on the LET Access Series. Who knows which path she’ll take before exploding on to the LPGA Tour. And so I’ll need to change.
A lifetime of male-dominated environments, predominantly navy blue clothing and the same old tired conversations will have to make way for skorts, various shades of fuchsia and more lofted fairway woods.
I might make noises of ‘but team sports are so important’ or ‘hey, she might not even like sport’ but within time, probably their third birthdays, all three of my children will be put through their paces at some sort of golfing boot camp.
In the morning some cardio, core work and beep tests before banging balls for three hours in the afternoon, working their way through the bag of multi-coloured plastic clubs.
And, to finish, some stats bookkeeping and ‘fun’ rules quizzes for bedtime. Tiger Woods had already appeared on primetime TV by this stage of his little life so we’ll already be playing catch-up.
Seb Coe would train on Christmas Day to gain a supposed edge on Steve Ovett so, while other three-year-olds might be jumping around at the thought of Santa dropping by, the future Great Triumvirate will be putting in some holing-out reps on their bedroom carpet.
Knock in 50 two-footers and Christmas Day starts right here, right now. Miss one and start again from square one. They’ll thank me for it one day, or leave home at 16 and we’ll never speak again, one of the two.
By the age of nine we can pencil in a TV appearance, maybe This Morning with Pip Schofield, and replicate Rory McIlroy’s chipping of balls into a washing machine.
And then sometime around 2028 the four of us would depart a 1st tee somewhere and embark on our first round of golf together.
My nostrils are already flaring up at even the prospect of this happening, three carefree swings dispatching balls to who cares where. And the hope that the same thrill grabs them too, like it did me on a family holiday in Wales in the late 70s, where keeping a hole to single figures was a small success.
Then, before too long, a slight twitch will be detected in all three of their short games as their dad’s moronic genes are passed on and the next round is begun with a ceremonial handing out of three Odyssey Chippers and we can all get on with the rest of our lives.