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  • Alistair Tait

Littlestone Awaits Golf Stamina Test

I’ve booked a round of golf on Woburn Golf Club’s delightful Duchess course at 12:20 pm on Tuesday. Not sure it’s the best idea considering I’ll be starting my fifth round in the space of approximately 29 hours.

I could be a wee bit stiff and sore after four rounds in the 72 Club at lovely Littlestone Golf Club the day before.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog then you’ll know all about the 72 Club: four rounds of golf, 72 holes, in one day, walking and carrying in straight medal play around a true gem of an English links. No carts, no caddies, no golf buggies. Oh, and no practice swings, looking at putts from all angles and strictly no distance measuring devices. Look at the flag, gauge the distance, pull a club and hit.

72 Club members don’t need 40 seconds to play a shot, the time recommended in Rule 5.6b (I). If 72 Club members had been in charge of instituting that rule it probably would have been 20 seconds, and a hard and fast law instead of just a recommendation.

Get on with it is the name of the game, and 72 Club members do just that. Proof that golf can be played at a quick pace.

There are 18 of us this year, 9 two balls. First tee time is 6:15am. I’m off in the penultimate group with Purley Downs Golf Club member Andy Norrington at 6:57am, then at 9:50am, 13:42pm and 16:42pm. That three hours and 52 minutes between rounds two and three is crucial: the quicker we can play the more time we’ll have for lunch, perhaps a quick shower and change of clothes for the afternoon rounds.

It would be fantastic to finish all four rounds by 7pm, but that would mean playing the final round in two hours and 18 minutes. More likely 7:30pm will be our finishing time considering legs will be sore and back muscles tight.

That long shower before we sit down for dinner is going to feel so good.

My clubs are all clean, heads polished, grips given a good scrubbing. I’ve tried to reduce my golf bag’s weight as much as possible. With 14 clubs, nine balls, tees, etc my lightweight carry bag weighs 15 pounds. I can reduce that to 12 pounds if I just carry nine clubs: driver, 5-wood, 4, 6, 8, pitching wedge, 53 degree wedge, 58 degree wedge and putter. Those three pounds could be crucial.

In the event of chafing, I’ve got a jar of an essential 72 Club product in the back of my car: Vaseline. I’ve also packed power pars, pre-filled water bottles with mango and orange juice for essential hydration and a wee sugar boost. Since we arrive so early we can park as near as possible to the first tee to get to essentials between rounds. Trust me, even a fresh pair of good quality socks between rounds can make a huge difference playing 72 holes in one day.

This is my 14th appearance since my 1996 debut. It would be 16 but Covid-19 got in the way. Twenty six years after being mad enough to play in my first one obviously means I’m over a quarter of century older, and not as strong as that first year when the notion of this daft bunch of madmen playing four rounds in one day grabbed me and made me want to come back year after year.

I just looked up the notes for my 72 Club experience three years ago. Sean Murphy and I teed off at 6:58am and finished at exactly 8pm. We walked 21.5 kilometres, and completed the whole competition in 13 hours, 2 minutes and 53 seconds. We would have been quicker, but were forced to take an hour and 28-minute lunch break. I was even more prosaic in my report of my 2002 experience: Here’s what I wrote:

“After 26,206 yards, 14.89 miles, 341 strokes, six lost balls, four pairs of socks, two pairs of shoes, four bottles of water, two bananas, two packs of nuts and raisins and nearly 12 hours of golf, my back was tighter than a snare drum, my legs were starting to wobble as if a young Mike Tyson had landed an uppercut to my chin, and the combination of a blister on my left foot and chafing of tender parts of my body had me walking like I’d had a schoolboy accident.”

Hopefully this year will be quicker and less painful. I’ve got better technology this year to gauge my time, steps, calories, etc. Hopefully this new watch I got from Mr Apple has the power to last all 72 holes.

Yes, many people think I’m crazy, that we’re all mad, but I’m looking forward to the pre-tournament drinks and dinner in the Broadacre Hotel in New Romney tonight, to recounting old stories and the bravado that precedes what is the ultimate golf stamina test around the lovely Littlestone links.

#JustSaying:I thought it was a bloody stupid idea 25 years ago, and it’s still a bloody stupid idea. I won’t be back. And you can quote me on that.” John O’Neill, an original 72 Club member, after making his second and last appearance in 2002

Photograph by Jason Livy courtesy of Heady PR

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