Free Wheeling in the Forest

woody2The Golf lesson had been booked and all that remained was to leave early and avoid the gridlocked traffic. As with most things, the devil was in the detail. Maps and I have history.  Two weeks previously, the Golf Police had sprung an ambush in the car. The motorway junction had been missed. It was a joint miss, shared between driver and navigator.
“Find the map” he said.  “We need to be heading south east”.
The map was the usual mystery of multi coloured criss -crossing lines.  I tried to be helpful.
“Why don’t you use the Sat Nav?”
“Why can’t you just read the map?”
“Why don’t we stop and ask someone?”
“Just look at the map”.
I looked. It didn’t help.  South east was not looking hopeful. It was where the page creased in the middle and France edged ever closer before we reached our destination.
The mid week golf lesson presented different problems. It was not south east for a start.  I filled the tank up and headed off to find the motorway.
The big blue junction signs hid behind big tyred trucks leaving spray in their wake. I dodged the trucks and the spray and found the correct junction.  That was the easy bit.  I knew the driving range, with Golf Guru was on the edge of a forest. I was close. Close is like second.  Not a good place to be and several roundabouts later, I was lost. Three times I passed a man walking his dog.  I was ‘off map’. Lost.
Instead of a forest, I found a roadside café. Placed there by an Irish Saint for lost and weary travelers.  Inside it was warm and smelt of home cooked food.  This was not a place for skinny lattes and lettuce leaves. Real men in steel toe capped boots, served by blue aproned ladies with big smiles, tucked in to plates of bacon and sizzling sausages with mugs of steaming tea, slices of thick bread and real butter. These were  beefcakes who knew their east from west and which team had the most points in the premiership.
“Where you heading love?” they asked.  I told them about the golf lesson, the Guru and the forest.
“Posh game innit” said Phil the Fleece taking man sized bites from his black pudding. I told them the game had changed.  They were not convinced.
“What about those posh gits in their blazers at The Open?” said Phil’s friend, Fred.
“They need to get out more and lighten up”.  He had a point and we they changed the subject to football and the dubious penalties awarded at the weekend.
When the plates were scraped clean and the breakfast demolished,   Phil the Fleece drew me a map.  It was a map of many roundabouts but the forest was tantalizingly close. Loaded up with homemade bread and butter pudding, I set off yet again.
“Good luck” said Phil and the blue aproned ladies.
“Come back and see us again”.
It was a deal. I would bring the Golf Police and he could order meat and veg served with thick gravy and peas, double portions of treacle sponge and spotted dick with thick custard.    All that was required was to find The Cabin on the duel carriageway hard by the roundabout.
“We’re on the road to Horsham” they said.
Full of double axle and hope I set off for the forest.  I  miscounted the roundabouts.  Three times I passed by the lady in the high vis jacket collecting refuse from the side of the road.  The fourth time I stopped.
“You need to turn round” she said.
“You are very close”.  She drew another map on top of Phil the Fleece’s circles, squares and arrows.
I found the forest and had three minutes to spare before we commenced on the freewheeling concept.
“Good journey?” said the Guru.
We went over the waggle, the half swing and the hand dropping from the top.
“You just carry on with those balls” he said.  “’I’ll go and get some more”.
And that is when it happened. My epiphany moment as bright as the Star of Bethlehem.  As the Guru fiddled around with the ball machine, I did the waggle, took the club back, and dropped the hands from the top.  The ball came off the clubface so softly I wondered if it had been a dream.  I put another ball down and went through the same process but with shoulder turn and more speed.  It soared into the air.  Same feeling.
“Come back” I called to the Guru. “Watch this”.  He stood and watched.
The shoulders had missed being part of the action and the hit was not pretty.
“What am I watching?” said the Guru.
We carried on the lesson in the forest.  He munched the bread pudding and we ignored the rain.  There were more pure strikes.  More sweet spots with the six iron in the forest.   It had been a long journey of false dawns, roads not taken, double English breakfasts and ladies with big smiles.
I booked another lesson and the Golf Guru drew more circles, squares and arrows on top of the scribbles of Phil the Fleece and the Lady in the High Vis Jacket.
“Try a different junction off the motorway.  So easy.  You can’t go wrong”.
I clutched my Picasso map with its random lines, circles and squares and joined the motorway, trucks, rain and gridlocked tail lights.  I planned supper, put my brain on visual rewind and replayed the freewheeling strike with the six iron. I didn’t go ‘off map’ and made it home before the Golf Police.
“Good day?” he said throwing down his briefcase, laptop and blackberry.
I thought about the little café by the roundabout on the road not usually taken and the lost forest.  The double axle breakfast, with big fried eggs, bubble and squeak and the hot mugs of tea.   Phil the Fleece and his mate, Fred. The ladies with the big smiles and blue aprons and the homemade bread pudding. I played and replayed the freewheeling shot and the feel of the ball leaving the clubface and knowing some people would go through their golfing lives and never know the feel of the pure sweet strike.  Knowing for one special moment I had shared the same feeling as Ben Hogan, the Wee Man in the Ice Cap, as he stood on the practice ground all those long years ago and the Big Boys on Tour who play inside the ropes.  But without the bread pudding.
“Yes.  A very good day” I said.
“What’s for dinner?”
“It’s a surprise” I said.
He went to change and I fished out the slab of bread pudding, made to a secret recipe by a lady near a roundabout, somewhere near the forest.

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