Some years ago I was on a golf course with my cousin on the south coast.
I like golf, except when it spoils a good walk. And this was one of those particular days. I was shanking every drive and toe-poking every chip on this beautiful course, which ruined the scenery and fresh sea air.
But somewhere on the 18th hole, I found myself with a fairly decent drive on a par 4.
For my second shot, I had two options. The hole was a fair distance away and just before the flat green circle with the flag sticking out of it was a large water pond.
The first option was to hit the ball easily, and lay it up just before the water. From there, a simple chip over the water and on to the green would mean I could putt into the hole for a safe 4 shots (par for the course).
The second option had somewhat loftier ambitions. That is: smack the ball over the water and land it as near to the hole as possible in one shot, and then putt in for a total of 3 shots (a birdie – or one under) for the hole.
My cousin and I stood side by side. None of this was said, but both of us were weighing up the options. Given that my outing on the course hadn’t quite gone according to plan, I was now down to my last ball. I told him this.
“I’ve got a spare one,” he said.
His words filled me with illogical courage. The thought of a spare ball suddenly made me feel as if I could not only hit the ball over the water, but land it in the hole itself!
I took out my iron and practiced a few swings. I told myself that it was shots like this that would keep me coming back on to a golf course. I filled my head with words like “head still” and “nice and easy”. I forgot every last dumb shot that I’d played over the last 17 holes – right then and there, this little white ball was going to land in that hole!
I swung. The club sound on the ball was sweet.
I stood in finished pose, alongside my cousin, both of us watching that little white ball high in the African blue. The breeze was soft. In the distance was the sound of birds. The little white ball hung in the air in its trajectory towards the green and the flag. Time stood still.
Sploosh! The ball fell 10 metres short. In the water.
I was torn between expletives and chronic depression. I stood, defeated by hundreds of metres of mown green grass, a pond of water and my own ego.
My cousin broke the silence. “Sorry cuz,” he said, as I shoved my club back in my bag. We started walking, and he tossed me his spare ball.
“Unlucky,” he empathised. “That’s the thing with those kinds of shots… you just never know,” he said, before looking at me with a twinkle in his eye and offering some immortal wisdom: “But you gotta go for it.”
And somehow, the walk seemed unspoiled again.