After a lengthy period with clubs closed, there was simply no way I was going to miss the first day back of golf, writes WADE PRETORIUS.
Like you, I love the game. After a semi-literal (if that’s even a thing) near-death experience trying to hit into a sheet during the initial weeks of lockdown, I hadn’t swung a club before venturing out on the course. A few chips here and there but I could, if I tried, actually have counted them.
Covering golf’s bid to return to the fairways, I was straight on to my Whatsapp golf group to make sure that my name was down to play on the first day back.
It certainly wasn’t the same as my last round before lockdown. I was well versed in the rules – from arriving with masks only 20 minutes before tee time to the medical protocols and everything in between.
This time around, I packed my hand sanitiser as I went through my checklist of things to take which usually includes scrambling for a few extra Z Stars. Somehow, I remembered to pack a snack, too.
My local club was prepared and going from entering the grounds to the first tee box was seamless.
My fourball had three players quite nervous about actually resuming in terms of wondering just how rusty things would be. One, though, piped up after a loosening practise swing with ‘It feels like I have never left.’
I didn’t share that optimism, honestly worrying about a freshie. No time was wasted and a little tug left into the rough was gladly taken in my stride. And away we went.
The group was a decent bunch of golfers: a +2, a 5, a 6 and a 10. But the first hole – yes, it’s a fairly tough par four – made the handicaps look far more generous than the standard. Except, of course, the +2, who, despite a missed fairway, managed a wonderful wedge into the green to save par. (Yes, he was the only player in the fourball who was hitting balls into the net … goes to show, hey?!)
For fear of not being invited back, I won’t share how the rest of the shots played out on the first hole. Anyway, we all quickly realised the sheer joy of being out in the fresh air, getting exercise and swinging away.
The course held up nicely despite a few days of heavy rain and many weeks of maintenance not up to the highest of standards, but in full compliance with the law.
After my double-bogey, I knew I would paying into the GolfRSA Relief Fund for losing my ‘private’ bet taken on Twitter for lowest nett on the day.
It’s funny how normal it all felt. The banter, the stories, the jokes and the laughs were like ‘old times’. Just with a few more miscued shots and wayward drives. No one really set out trying to shoot their personal best, which helped I imagine. The number of times someone noted how great it was to be out there could’ve turned the phrase into a cliche in four hours.
We are lucky to have found the game and the game having gripped us. We know that golf is by no means safe in South Africa with so many jobs still on the line. And courses facing a financial mountain to climb. Saturday was a start, and we hope that our game returns to its original state far sooner. The road to recovery is long for an industry that puts food on the table for so many. We all have a big role to play in the coming weeks and months.
I hope those who love the game will continue to encourage others to play and support the various sectors where possible. To smile more, to contribute more. It’s been an incredibly tough time for the game and for the wonderful personalities in it. It will take a massive effort from all stakeholders to ensure jobs are saved.
Realising I’m getting sidetracked by off-course matters, it is important that we do not forget the game needs us for much longer than the four hours we are out enjoying ourselves with family, friends or friends to be.
A good start is following the sentiments of Nico van Rensburg, the man behind the push to help promote autism awareness and fundraising, when it comes to appreciating the course you are playing.
‘Now for everyone playing golf tomorrow, your course is now pristine … so repair your divots and pitch marks and look after your course! Oh and thank the head greenkeeper and his team of you get a chance, they deserve your appreciation! Enjoy you game.’
Saturday’s score didn’t matter. The lip out on the seventh didn’t matter. The bigger picture is in full focus after a long time wishing we could be back out there.