My week in golf: Shiny, happy, StevieSeptember 18, 2016 The Scoop
Getting away to different pastures has helped our club golfer’s game soar to new heights
Are you all still with me? Good on you.
I’ve veered from moody, to angry, to desperate from week to week in this column as I’ve bared my soul about the unruly state of my golf.
But no more, dear readers, for I have much joy to report – and a lowest ever round to bask in.
All I needed was someone to tell me to stop being silly.
After a protracted sulk about my irons, the good people at Ping Europe’s fitting centre, at Gainsborough, put me through my paces.
And they found…absolutely nothing to report.
I am standard in every way – from hip to floor to lie and loft – and there’s nothing wrong with my irons.
Now given how vehemently I had argued the case for a change, you might have thought I’d be disappointed to discover that, actually, I was the cause of all my misfortune.
But it was like the fog suddenly lifted.
I raced off to The Belfry, took a 5-iron off the 10th and ripped it down the fairway on the way to taming The Brabazon’s iconic hole.
Three holes later – greens all hit in regulation – and suddenly a flame that had burned out was raging like someone had poured petrol all over the embers.
I’ve since been inspired all week.
Sometimes surroundings can play a key.
I’ve been hoping to play at Alwoodley for a long time and, thanks to a spot in Invitation Day (thank you Tom Irwin), I got to experience that MacKenzie magic in all its glory.
There were ups – a nice par at the 1st and a bomb from off the green on 13 – and downs but my mood was resolutely upbeat.
Then I went to the Isle of Man.
I’ve gone on many golf tours down the years but I’ve never thought about stopping off half way over the Irish Sea.
Boy, though, do you need to have a look at Manx. It’s not just about the TT, there’s some quality courses there as well.
Peel was the scene of my greatest golfing glory to date – a 78.
I’ve broken 80 once before, but it was in a winter comp and off temporary greens so I’ve never really counted that 76 as a proper score.
This, though, was all above board. I’ve got the scorecard to prove it.
I played with Castletown’s Johnny Evans – more of that course in a second – who spent three months of the year plying his trade on the Sunshine Tour in South Africa.
It can go two ways when you are partnered with someone who is clearly superior to you in every facet.
You can shake on the 1st tee like you’ve had a heavy night on the sauce or you can be inspired – your game taken to new heights by the realisation you’re not going to be spending a morning trudging through rough looking for lost balls.
At Peel, one of 9 courses on the Isle of Man, I grasped the bull by the horns and embraced the latter.
Ten pars! Count them! They gave me an outward 40 and an inward 38. Yes, it was a par 69 but that was irrelevant.
I had broken a barrier that had withstood three decades and thousands of shots. 80 had been breached.
Those lovely surroundings – the little par 3 10th was glorious – were only enhanced at the sensational Castletown Links.
With superb views of the Langness Peninsula, the Old Tom Morris course is a natural links that basks in the fact you spend most of it walking around in wonder.
The 5th, Road, is a testing drive that only becomes harder on the second shot as you strive to avoid gorse on the left and out of bounds on the right.
I did neither.
Henry Longhurst, a famous golf writer and commentator for anyone who wasn’t born when the world was black and white, rated the 17th as one of the best holes in golf.
It’s hard to argue.
I’d spent the best part of two hours waiting for the chance to smash a drive at Gully – with its rocky outcrop of cliffs and the Irish Sea crashing in from the right.
I’ve been lucky to play a lot of lovely links courses this year – Panmure, Goswick and Seaton Carew to namedrop a trio – and Castletown is the match of all of them.
For the first time in months, I’m feeling good about golf. I can’t wait to get out there to tee it up and, hopefully, watch my handicap start to fall.
What a week.