The circumstances are immediately familiar: After we have struggled out of bed early Saturday morning and dragged ourselves to the golf course, we are again greeted - just as at the beginning of the course - by light fog and unpleasant coolness.
Today, we are supposed to show what we have learned in order to be able to receive the desired certificate after the practical as well as the theoretical examination.
But the road was still long and - at least figuratively - rocky, and the result was now, as we struggled through the warm-up exercises in the cold, still far from certain.
Several weeks had passed since we had met Nick and been shown the proper way to use the equipment. During these weeks, countless ball baskets had been emptied and the perfect swing had been worked on. Or at least a swing that would make the ball fly reasonably straight and reasonably far.
Along the way, rules were learned and - that was part of it even back then - countless curses were uttered when again and again and again a shot didn't work out. Of course, this was only done quietly in order to comply with etiquette. So no clubs were thrown after the balls, even though the urge to do so often seemed excessive.
We soon learned: golf is not only a competition between the flight partner and oneself, not only the constant struggle with club and ball, but also the conflict with one's own personality: "Behave yourself, don't give up, concentrate", all this sounds reasonable and normal from the outside. Everyone knows how to behave.
But: on the court, this can change quickly. The urge to shout out frustration can become just as overpowering as the thought of using little cheats to make the scorecard look better than the game really was. But volume doesn't help, and cheating on the scorecard is ultimately just cheating yourself. Tempting, but pointless.
During the time of the course, learning and practicing, many balls did not fly straight and far according to the plan. Often they hopped, topped by the club, only leisurely from there, just as often the rough or the thicket had to be searched, in order not to have to note a ball loss with penalty stroke on the scorecard.
And as on the first days, there were not infrequent feelings of despair, coupled with the thought that it would be better to avoid this sport in the future and perhaps concentrate on the more uncomplicated game of checkers or mill, since their pieces rarely put the partner in danger of physical harm.
In addition, the sale of golfing paraphernalia would at least bring in enough to spend a nice evening with friends and thus duly celebrate the farewell to clubs and balls. One would be a normal person again, would not have to listen to the many non-golfers in the environment any more sayings and prejudices and would have also again time to maintain the friendships to just the same ones, to whom one had to answer to an invitation too often: "Sorry, I can't, I must on the place and practice approach shots".
But then it came again, after dozens of failed attempts at ball flight: the one shot that succeeded as planned, happiness included, coupled with the thought that one would never turn one's back on golf after all, because it was too much fun. Until, you guessed it, the next dry spell and the long list of failed attempts brought the beginner close to despair.
It was to be a long time before the relation between failed and successful strokes would change for the better. And even today - I can reveal this - there are days now and then when nothing seems to work out at all and you long for the final drink in the clubhouse to talk to your flight partner about everything, but just not about the round of golf you've just completed, including the disastrous result.
But finally back to the day of the exam: We were to start on time, we were sent out onto the course in small flights, two players at a time, there was no lottery, no compulsory allocation. We played with the partner of our choice, I played with my sweetheart, to whom I had given my participation in the course - not entirely unselfishly.
It was a round that wore on the nerves. With every hole, the back of my head demanded concentration, and every miss made the desired result of maximum strokes, which one was allowed to record for the golf license, recede further into the distance.
We had been warned in advance not to cheat, because we would be under observation during this test. In the end, it looked like this: Nick stood on a mound in the middle of the small 9-hole course and looked around the round. I don't think he was seriously counting on any of our flights. That would have been simply impossible due to the distances involved.
I agonized from hole to hole. After 8 holes it was clear: If I wanted to pass this test, I would have to play hole 9 with a new best performance: 2 strokes over par, i.e. six strokes in total were allowed.
The tee shot was successful, not too far, but the ball flew reasonably straight. The rough remained untouched. After another three good shots (I could hardly believe it) the ball was on the green. A 2-putt had to be made, otherwise the test would be ruined and I would have to bear the consequences (no one had asked me yet what they would be).
Putt 1: the ball rolled, rolled well, even very well. It actually stopped in less than a club length, the shaft length of a club, away from the hole. So now it was on. There was no wiggle room. This last shot had to make the decision: pass - or fail. Was I allowed to take the theory test? Or was I just a spectator?
There remained a small "calf-biter", a putt about one meter long. It could be done, yes, but the longed-for certificate was not yet certain on that day. You will find out whether I sank the ball in the next text in the series.
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