It was the week the White Coats said the fairways were mine. When they gave permission for the clubs to leave the back door. To find the bunker guarded greens and heather smudged grass.
“Get on with your life” they said.
I turned my back on the needles and drugs. The chunky cufflinks and expensive pens, coveted from the other side of the desk and returned to the dimpled ball. I had been away too long.
The night before the clubs were ready. The shoes polished and the balls marked. I took the putter out and checked the grip. Put a ball down and putted the length of the long dusty hall. It felt good. It felt right and the ball disappeared under the chair.
By the time the moon and stars had vacated the night sky, the day dawned. Wet. Cold. Windy.
“You won’t be playing in this” said The Golf Police.
“What’s the point” said the City Girl.
“Go and meet your Swindle” said the thespian. “Feel the rain on your face and dance through the puddles”.
We traded smiles.
“Might just go for coffee” I said.
When the house was quiet, I loaded up the car and left for the club.
The Swindle was at their usual table. Much where I had left them in the summer. By the fireside, overlooking the putting green and rhododendrons.
Big Rich, dressed in black, sat at the head, eating a bacon butty. A cross between Dumbledore and The God Father. A carb munching, south paw, gadget man.
I knew his golf GPS would be in the glove compartment of his car, his kindle by his bed and a slab of cake and bottle of water stowed with his golf balls, marked with two blue dots. I knew, without looking, that his new shoes would be caked in mud and grass. And next to him, The Sheriff, also dressed in black with shoes that could be worn on any parade ground, pass any inspection by a Royal Sergeant Major. The Sheriff would play eighteen holes, generally well, without grazing on carbs or needing a glucose kick. He would concentrate on every shot, his only Achilles Heel were tree hugging drives.
I knew Sid would have parked his car exactly parallel to the white lines, always in the same space. His clubs would be removed from his immaculate boot and placed next to his highly polished car. He would never be seen in long sleeves, until there was ice on the ground. His shoes shone like a bright moon. His golf balls had a short life expectancy after contact with his driver and he played with what ever he found in his golf bag, garage or the woods. He would always set up 45 degrees from where he wanted to go and slice with regular predictability. His knees had reached their sell by date and required the delicate touch from the saw and hammer of the Bone Doctors. But Sid never complained. Sid just turned up and played. Sid was Sid.
Ruggy would win a prize for the muddiest shoes and waterproofs. She never knew how many layers to wear and hair days on the fairways were invariably bad. She only ever played with a sparkling new Titliest ProV1, marked with a smiley face. Her golf bag always sat on the trolley at an odd angle. Dried mango and pineapple or a protein bar would be stuffed in one of the pockets for the back nine.
The Busman would always be on time. He knew about timetables and not running late. Favoured the colour blue and was generous with the balls he found in the rough. His game depended on the pain in his finger and how long it took for the drugs to work before the tee off time. He had good days and bad days and never anything in between. Some days he walked the fairways and others the woods which is where he found the balls he donated so willingly. He liked his coffee strong and in the summer drank beer from a straight glass.
Shamrock would turn up armed with magazines for the petrol heads and a joke about The Pope or anything which he had heard the night before. Spoken with his Irish brogue, the punch line would be delivered between taking his stance and his follow through.
“Glad to see you back” said Sid.
“We were going to auction your space in the car park” said The Busman.
“Sure you haven’t been practising since the summer” said Ruggy.
“You don’t look bad for someone we thought might die” said Big Rich.
The Sheriff went off to track the rain on the radar and everyone ordered another coffee. Someone threw a log on the fire and Shamrock cracked another joke.
“OK let’s see if we can dodge the showers” said The Sheriff.
Ruggy was worried about her hair and getting home in time.
The sky drew darker and the balls were thrown in the air.
“Maybe I will just play nine” said Ruggy.
“No chance” said the Sheriff. “Match. Game on. You are either in or out”.
Ruggy bit the bullet, pulled her cap down and umbrella up, before hitting her ball into the bunker.
It was a long round. Sodden and wet under foot. The trees were on the turn and liquid golds and fiery reds mingled with the chestnut brown and yellow of the oak trees. The cobnuts lay in their prickly armoured shells and the bedraggled squirrels buried the acorns for the coming winter. The deer hid deep in the woods, Big Rich munched on his soggy cake and Sid hunted for his ball in the rough.
“You ok?” said The Sheriff. It’s hard to lie to a Law Enforcement Officer.
“Fine” I said. “Fine”.
But really I knew that the White Coats would not be amused. The Golf Police would not approve and the thespian only meant jump in a few puddles. The clubhouse seemed a long way off , the hills steep,the fairways long.
We got in just before the rain hammered on the patio and club house roof. Clubs were thrown in the car. Sid dried his first with a towel he kept in the boot.
The Swindle sat by the fire and the smell of burning logs mingling with wet clothes and hot coffee. The pot was shared out and another tee time booked.
“See you next week” said The Sheriff.
“Maybe” I whispered and went to fight the traffic, buy some food and prepare supper.
By the time supper was cooked, the clubs and shoes were drying by the boiler.
“Don’t tell me you played today” said The Golf Police helping himself to seconds of the beef casserole with dumplings and mashed potato. Sometimes it’s best not to share facts.
“Only a few holes” I said.
“Only a nutter would go out in that today” he said.
“A nutter or a duck” said the City Girl.
“Or someone who likes jumping in puddles” said the thespian.
I thought about The Sheriff tracking the radar for rain and sinking his putt for birdie on the sixth. I thought about Sid and his bad knees. All the balls he lost and the way the rain dripped off his cap. I thought about Big Rich and his soggy slab of cake and muddy shoes. I thought about The Busman and his bad finger and the Taylor made he found me in the woods on the second. I thought about Ruggy and sharing her mango and pineapple on the thirteenth, as the rain cascaded down the twelfth green. I thought about winning the front nine and blowing out on the back when the hills were too steep and the club too heavy.
“Only a nutter” I said, “a duck, or someone who likes jumping in puddles.”
I put the kettle on and hung the wet socks on the radiator.