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The Jewish Chronicle - JC Magazine - - Life At Leisure -

COU­PLE of years ago a friend of mine called up on a quiet Sun­day af­ter­noon to ask if I fan­cied play­ing a round of golf.

I ex­plained to her that I had seen peo­ple play­ing golf on TV and it looked marginally less ex­cit­ing than clean­ing the oven. She in­sisted it was fun and that I should try it. As it hap­pened, I had just fin­ished clean­ing the oven and there were no more chores to do, so I de­cided to give it a try.

My friend sug­gested that I have a few shots on the driv­ing range be­fore head­ing out on to the course. So there I stood with my driver, a golf ball and only a dim idea about what to do. I swung. I missed. I looked to see if any­one was watch­ing. They weren’t. I tried again and I made con­tact. The ball trav­elled about nine inches be­fore com­ing to a rest — Rory McIl­roy it wasn’t.

So I had a glance around. My neigh­bour on the range was a Ja­panese man. His tech­nique seemed to be to bring back the club with a straight left arm and swivel his hips while keep­ing his eye firmly on the ball and fol­low­ing through grace­fully. I gave it a try. I hit the ball. It sailed off hun­dreds of yards into the dis­tance, as straight as an ar­row and at huge ve­loc­ity.

In terms of life events, this was right up there with the birth of my chil­dren and Chelsea’s 1997 FA Cup vic­tory.

I had an­other go. There were a few more mis­cues and then I did it again. It was an epiphany. Proof that, even for a jaded jour­nal­ist in his mid­dle years, life could still be beau­ti­ful and thrilling.

We went out on to the course. It was here I re­alised that golf was not just about hit­ting the ball a long way. The trick was to get it in the hole in as few shots as pos­si­ble. This proved tricky, if not im­pos­si­ble, but just when I was be­gin­ning to de­spair I hit a long putt which dropped right in the mid­dle of the hole, mak­ing a very sat­is­fy­ing sound. I was hooked.In the weeks that fol­lowed, I learned about graphite clubs and styles of put­ter. I prac­tised my swing at the bus stop and be­came fa­mil­iar with the terms birdie, bo­gey and al­ba­tross. I even eyed the leisurewear in Marks & Spen- cer and be­gan to look for­ward to my first game on a full-size course. It is un­likely that I will ever lift the claret jug at the Open Cham­pi­onships at St An­drews, but if my game con­tin­ues to progress I might be look­ing to join a club. And any­one else in this po­si­tion may wish to note that a new club is open­ing, a short drive (or maybe a long iron) from St Al­bans, Hert­ford­shire. The Cen­tu­rion Club opens on July 1, a mem­bers-only club with a course that has al­ready been praised in the golf­ing press. Owner Gra­ham Wild­ish says there has also been huge in­ter­est from prospec­tive mem­bers, who have been im­pressed by “the greens, the qual­ity of the fair­ways and the to­pog­ra­phy”. St Al­bans is a 19-minute train jour­ney from St Pan­cras or a short car trip from Radlett or Bore­ham­wood.

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