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  • Alistair Tait

Golf on “Christmas Day”

My first round of golf in eight weeks didn’t go as well as Ed Sandison’s did yesterday. The member of Styal Golf Club in Cheshire hit his first post-lockdown shot and his ball finished in the hole of the 176-yard par-3 opener for his first hole in one.

Talk about a dream return.

“I hadn't swung a club through lockdown,” he told BBC Sport.

I hadn’t swung a club during lockdown either. Yet my first tee shot sailed down the middle of the par-5 first hole of Woburn Golf Club’s Dukes course. Four shots later and I walked off with a par.

I then went four up on my opponent after six holes and thought: maybe there’s something to this eight weeks between rounds lark. There isn’t. I hit my tee shot into the rhododendron bushes to the left of the seventh fairway and went from “it’s not about performance today, it’s all participating” to muttering a few choice oaths under my breath and trying to figure why I’d pulled my tee shot like I was trying to throw the club over the out of bounds fence.

Still, I managed to salvage a well-earned half when my opponent and I didn’t shake hands on the 18th green.

Some things never change!

I made it 58 days, 19 hours and four minutes between rounds for yours truly, or 1,411 hours and four minutes since my last game on March 15th. It was even longer for my dog Izzy since she hadn't played since March 15th. No wonder she looked to be in puppy heaven as she wagged her tail all the way to the first tee. And she’s nearly 12! It only took her four and a half holes for her to return to her favourite steal the head cover game.

I had a simple response to the lady walking her dog near the first tee who asked me if I was excited.

“Excited?” I replied. “It feels like Christmas day!”

And it did to a certain extent for all those lucky enough to belong to or play at English golf clubs/courses.

It’s no surprise Woburn’s three courses were rammed yesterday, or that demand was so high throughout England that club websites were crashing within minutes of offering tee times.

If only Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales had been allowed to take to the fairways too, then yesterday would’ve been perfect.

The return was faultless. The social distancing aspect of our round went seamlessly, so seamlessly that I even momentarily sympathised with those who argued pre-lockdown that we should’ve been allowed to play during the last eight weeks. My fellow playing companion and I never came close to breaching the social distancing rule of staying two metres apart.

There were only two moments in my round when social distancing appeared in danger. I dropped my range finder on the eighth fairway and a gentleman in the two-ball behind thankfully picked it up. He walked over to return it between the 10th and 11th fairways. It looked as if he was going to hand it to me until I asked him to place it on the ground. He did. I picked it up with a small towel I’d brought along for just such possibilities, gave it a good wipe and returned it to my bag.

A few minutes later, my opponent had a 12-foot putt on the 11th green, and I instinctively reached for the flag to ask him if he wanted it removed. I managed to catch myself about two feet from the stick. Old habits die hard.

Other than those two instances, it was easy to stick to the guidelines, so easy I don’t see why we can’t move to foursomes play soon.

As for holing out, Woburn has installed golf ball lifters, think of mini elevators, in the holes so that no member had to touch the cup to retrieve a ball. They work so well it wouldn’t bother me if they were kept permanently for general play. It would reduce wear tear on the holes.

And the best part of my first round in over eight weeks? My partner and I played in about three hours and 15 minutes. We would have been faster if not for having to look for a few, actually quite a few, of my errant tee shots.

Three hours and 15 minutes. If only all rounds took that long.

Told you it felt like Christmas Day.

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22 Μαΐ 2020

I echo your comments completely Ali. I even birdied the first - talk about peaking early! Fabulous job by the club and my goodness, I appreciate, and hope I never take for granted how lucky we are.

Great to see Izzy back too.

One slight disagreement: I once had a slamdunk ace on the 16th Duchess's - those otherwise brilliant ball lifters will prevent my next one!!

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