Please turn off the set now if you are one of those people who believe that golf is only for boring old farts and who has no appreciation of the extent to which it enhances many lives by bringing so much pleasure to so many people right up into old age. I have been an enthusiastic high handicapper all my adult life and I am living proof that, far from being sedate and boring, golf can be quite a dangerous game!
My first attempt at golfing suicide took place on the ninth tee on the old Kenmare Course about 42 years ago. This tee was built up to a height of about 8 feet to help in driving over an old quarry rock face about 25 yards away and on out through an avenue of trees onto a blind fairway. Using my driver, I made perfect contact and the ball shot away like a bullet from a gun, but unfortunately it rose no higher than a monkey’s arse.went straight into the rock face and came back at me like a rocket. I just had time to take a step backward to avoid it, and I fell off the tee, to the great amusement of my playing partners—the bastards.
At least on that occasion only my dignity was hurt, but I was not quite so lucky when a similar incident occurred many years later at my current club, Woodbrook, just outside Dublin. Maybe on reflection I was in fact luckier even if I did finish up in St. Vincent’s Hospital Accident and Emergency. The first hole is a par five and a drain about 4 feet wide runs across the first fairway. It is a water hazard and wooden stakes on both sides define its boundaries. It quite often catches the second shot of poor golfers like me, as it did on this occasion. I dropped out behind the drain for a penalty and took out my 3-wood in an effort to make the green with my next shot. Again, perfect contact but no elevation, and the first I knew I was stretched on my back, having taken the full force of the shot on the point of my jaw. The ball had rebounded off the wooden stake at the far side of the drain! At least this time my playing partners expressed concern, but I was soon on my feet again and able to make my own way to hospital to get a few stitches in my jaw. Apart from that I was unhurt and I suppose I was very lucky that it was my jaw it hit. An inch or two higher or lower and I would have been in bad trouble and a cannon in the crotch area could have done serious damage to my prospects!
Assaults on my person by golf balls were not all self-inflicted, as, like most regular golfers, I have been hit a few times by shots at the end of their tether. Generally, they inflicted no more damage than a sore shin, but on one occasion it was somewhat more than that. I was standing chatting in a group on a bank behind the 18th green on Killarney’s Killeen Course, waiting for the stragglers in a society outing to finish, when I heard a shout of “Fore.” I turned to see where the ball was coming from and, as I did, I headed it neatly back onto the middle of the green. The golfer involved had taken far too much club, but the ball had bounced once on the green, taking some of the sting out of it. It was still strong enough to knock me, but no serious damage was done. Thank God for a thick skull and—what the heck—it did help the guy involved to get a par!
My most extraordinary golf shot—and I wasn’t the one at risk this time—took place many years ago at Dooks Golf Links, near Glenbeigh in County Kerry. The door from the locker room is in the rear of the clubhouse and the first tee is quite close by. This time I caught the ball with the heel of the driver and it sped off left toward the clubhouse like a scalded cat. It flew over the shoulder of a golfer emerging from the locker room, ricocheted around the room to the consternation of two others who were in there, and finished up in an open locker. When I tell this story, I am usually asked what club I took for my next shot, but the serious side is, of course, that I could have killed the guy emerging from the clubhouse.
I think there are two lessons to be learned from all the above. First, keep far away from me on a golf course, and, second, if you do play golf, make sure you are well insured.