Beginner’s Diary: No such thing as a lovely wristy golfer

I’m taking up golf. There is no more palatable way of saying it.

Some readers may have followed my recent attempts to regain physical fitness via Alan Shearer’s circuit training regime Speedflex, with a view to a triumphant renaissance, an Indian summer, in the six-a-side soccer arena.

A moderately successful venture that soon hit a predictable snag. Briefly regaining the capacity to run around enabled me to run around enough to get injured, restricting my running around.

So it was time to reconsider the merits of the default option for middle age; golf.

Ronan Collins, the PGA professional at Fota Island Golf Academy, and a brave man, reckons he can make some class of golfer out of me in six lessons.

It remains to be seen.

There may be psychological hurdles to scale. For a start, they say golf reveals your true personality, which is a worry.

And there are some fundamental reservations about golf and the causes of golf that can be summed one in one chief concern: the need for slacks.

I know they have tidied up the clobber over the years, but I’ve always felt that if golf truly wanted to shed its stuffy image it would build a bridge with that most practical item of sporting apparel, the tracksuit.

But it seems golf has philosophical issues with the tracksuit that may never be entirely resolved.

So I put on some slacks and join Ronan one morning in one of the driving bays at the Academy — a cave of clubs and contraptions and books and video equipment opening onto the range.

We’ll come back to the tech stuff another day, once I have some idea what it’s for.

Today, Ronan sets up ‘Trackman’, gives me a pitching wedge and lets me at it for a few minutes, slashing away off the tee, spraying not so far and very wide.

A merciful and courteous man, he shows no outward signs of amusement. But quickly produces a diagnosis.

Pitch and putt.

It’s clear that, in this arena, being described as a wristy player isn’t the compliment it might be coming out of the mouth of Cyril Farrell.

He’s right about the pitch and putt, my chief exposure to any kind of pitching and putting. Ronan can probably tell I wasn’t great at the pitch and putt either, but spares me that.

Anyway, pitch and putt has ingrained some unproductive habits. I flick daintily at the ball, rather than punch through it. Rather than transfer weight through the shot in the style of any respectable golf swing, my feet are planted in concrete and everything is done with the hands, which tend to flop over and pull things left.

And as I can see in the video Ronan shows me, I’m crouched over the ball like Quasimodo looking for a dropped tenner. Though he explains all of this more delicately.

Head of Custom Fitting at Fota, he measures me up, then trusts me with a seven iron with a head that offers forgiveness. He’ll do a full measure with Trackman another day once he has some sense of what I can manage.

After checking the data — swing path, club face angle, swing speed, that kind of thing — he makes a few tweaks. Tries to get me standing taller so I can take the club back straighter. Tucks my right arm in towards my body. Gets me to cock the wrists at the top of the backswing. Prizes my feet out of the concrete so I turn through the shot, ending up facing where the ball was meant to go rather than where it used to be.

And I catch one or two well enough, though invariably forget one piece of the puzzle as soon as I locate another.

Amid the reconstructive surgery, one touching note. Seemingly, my grip is fine.

My first exposure to golf, aged seven or eight, was when Uncle Sean, Lord rest him, used land down from Dublin, pull a driver out of his boot and hammer a few balls into the next field in a way that left a lasting impression on a small boy, especially when he always told me he didn’t really catch that one.

His clubs were way too big, but he showed me how to hold them right anyway, just in case the need ever arose.

Maybe I owe it to Sean to give this a proper go.


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