This week, the stabilisers came off...
Beginner’s Diary: Week 3
It might have been the morning that led a man to ruination. That sent him off on a wild goose chase, in pursuit of the certainty he briefly glimpsed. That literally drove him to distraction.
I had the big stick out. Early morning at the Fota Academy range, there was only the greenkeepers for company. Ronan was off giving a putting lesson having trimmed my shopping list of improvements to two chief areas.
Keep the hands in front of the ball. And move the feet.
After a spell of undistinguished prodding and rooting, I caught one fairly flush. And then another. And somehow another two.
It was the moment you turn around on your toddler’s bike and cop your father is no longer holding the saddle.
Delirious with giddiness, it isn’t long before you take your hands off the handlebars. Act the dope and fall on your face. Wind up a piledriver that packs up and leaves without the ball.
But, having dialled things down again, they were still in there. Plausible shots.
Don’t get me wrong, not shots that will be called to give evidence in the prosecution of modern equipment for crimes against short golf courses.
But consistently unremarkable drives. Drives with no comedy value. Drives with nothing funny at all about them.
Ronan has a rule about hitting balls.
Don’t hit too many and don’t just hit them. Step away after each shot and set up again. Don’t fall into a groove of mindless repetition, embedding your mistakes.
I’d forgotten all that. High on the improbability of potential competence, I was lashing away. Teeing up three or four. And bafflingly, they were going reasonably straight. And up in the air. A heady combination.
Until I remembered he’d left me with Trackman set up. I suppose you could call it the end of innocence.
Checking Ronan’s iPad after each shot for the bald numbers: club speed and ball speed and smash factor and spin rate and attack angle.
But since none of that meant much, you see only one number: total yards. And lost forever was the simple pleasure of making contact with a ball.
Instead, the chase began. And the lashing intensified.
I’d say Ronan saw the flaking in the distance. Joined me with a hint of regret in his eyes. A questioning of his life’s work maybe. A guilt he had ever let go of the saddle. A fear that he had sucked another one in. Condemned him to a half-life of gadgets and tweaks and speed drills and dead lifts, all in the chase of a few yards. Just so you can tell people all about that one you hit today. (244.8 yards, since you asked, smash factor 1.52).
So, as if to offer an escape route off this slippery slope, he brought me over to the short game area. For a few chips from the fringes. A reminder of the many and varied ways this game can unravel the best-laid plans.
Sure enough, the hands took over again, involving themselves where they had no business. As usual, Ronan was able to offer forgiveness. The chip and run. His absolution, as it is for a lot of my sins, is the seven-iron.
But mentally I was still back on the range, straining at the leash. Busting to boom.
Luckily, there was a supply of coolant for my jets. A glimpse of the video. Far from the violent argument with the ball I was imagining, my half-swing remains a gentle, semi-persuasive affair.
On seeing it, my generous colleagues grew highly amused by hilarious golfing bantz about the red tees.
Ronan also assures me there is no mileage or yardage in trying to burst the ball.
And anyway, you never recapture the joy of those first moments after the stabilisers come off.