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Golf for Starters

I have just spent a half-hour at the Villeneuve-Loubet Golf “driving range” – a weekly pleasure but a necessary one to keep the golfing muscles flexible.
There were perhaps 30 other like-minded souls of all ages and sexes trying to find that elusive sweet contact between club and ball. Sad to say there was not a single one who had a hope in hell of ever breaking a hundred on a proper golf course.
The methods were as varied as they were bizarre and common sense suggests that they must be entirely happy with their plight – or why would they continue to throw good money after bad trying to reach a goal which is so obviously beyond them? I often think that a word or a suggestion here or there might perform a kindness but I immediately realise the futility. These folks are already beyond help if they continue to just turn up and hit balls.
The politically correct answer is for them to sign up for some lessons with a trained professional but I see these well meaning men hard at work from week to week with no discernible resulting improvement in their pupils.
So either we take the view that golf is impossibly difficult, end of story: or we make a couple of lateral shifts in our thinking and provide people with a facility which could conceivably lead them to a better golfing future.
The first requirement is to have as much acreage of putting/chipping greens as there is for longer shots. Then people can start the game in a logical way i.e. by holing a few putts from six inches to get the idea of a precise and controlled strike on the back of the ball: no expensive professional guidance needed, especially if these primitive beginnings are made with a blade putter i.e. resembling, however slightly, the shape of an “iron” which will be their next club on the list.The length of putts can be slowly extended to the edge of this “starter” area and even beyond.
Sooner or later it may become obvious that long putts through thickening fairway grass are hard to repeat accurately and an aerial route to the smoother green is a common sense option.
So they substitute the straight faced “putter” for a club with a little more loft – though again, they may benefit from still thinking of the shot as a long putt. Moving further back there will come a time and a reason for more loft and carry so the “short” irons will come into play. Hopefully our guinea pigs will still remain intent on a crisp controlled strike on the back of the ball to achieve their objective. During this phase there is a case for these beginners starting to hit half shots with their feet touching – again it is a self-teaching method with no swing gurus needed.
Ideally they would then move on to a pitch and putt course of however many holes can be fitted into the space available – but six holes with varying challenges should be sufficient.
Eventually there will come a time when a full whack at the ball becomes necessary but the ground work will have been done. Each individual will have found his or her best way of getting the club square on the back of the ball – a dream that is miles distant for my “driving range” companions, flailing away in increasing desperation as the ball steadfastly refuses to obey their ill defined objectives.

My personal objective as each year passes is to score lower than my age (currently 76) which I achieved on the 22nd of January 2012, finishing par,birdie, par, par. for 75 at Cannes Mougins off the yellow tees. This included no less than 35 putts!! No wonder I am 10 handicap. Only very occasionally, as on this one occasion, can good striking make up for such ineptitude near the hole. When playing off scratch, I used to count the putts assiduously and they seldom went above 30. I don't YIP them all but as Henry Longhurst once said "once you've had'em, you've got em".

Just for the record I managed a 76 just after my 77th birthday in May. And then, wonder of wonders a PAR 71 came along in October, first time out at Monte Carlo GC, also known as Mont Agel. My usually weak chipping worked like a charm and every putt under 6 feet holed. Inexplicable (more like 91 next time out) unless it was down to a very tasty vin rose at lunch before going to the first tee. I must try it again some time.