The first commandment of golf

by Jon Herd

This story is part of our 'Embarrassing Golf Stories' series, featuring tales from luxury hotel guests which were sent in for our travel writing competition.

Photo by NSA Player.

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My friend Fritz and I played in Beijing regularly and later in Xing An. Oh, the course! It was beautiful, with lush, verdant, limerick green fairways.

The course was hard enough for good golfers, yet forgiving enough for mugs. Good wide fairways with velvety soft grass and billiard table smooth greens. The sand traps weren’t vicious unless you ended up deep in one, and to do that you had to stray the ball left or right.

Caddies are mandatory on most golf courses in China, and they are usually young and female, and very good at reading greens.

I received a lesson on the first commandment of golf once, when I had a three metre putt for a birdie. My caddie was casually standing near the hole with the flag over her shoulder and she was tapping a spot on the green. I thought to myself, "Come off it, that’s not the line". I like to think of myself as an ordinary golfer, but a great putter. Well I hit the ball on the line I thought it would take and it went well to the right of the hole. I had the length right, but not the line. From then on, and on every course I played afterwards, I hit it where the caddy said.

The first commandment of golf, I now knew, is "never defy thy Caddie".

Well, Fritz and I were having our usual hopeless game. The caddies were laughing at our less than exemplary efforts, and made a little fun of us. We were both laughing with them up until the 17th. Fritz had the honour, teed up and hooked it left into the water. I, naturally, laughed. The caddies did too. He teed up again, and then sliced it like bacon off into a pond on the right. He started swearing, and the caddies just smiled. He told me to hit off, so I did, and for once smacked it down the middle. Not far, mind you, but I split the fairway.

Fritz teed up again, and yes, he duffed it left into the water again. His face was beetroot red, and he took his rather expensive driver and hurled it straight into the water. The caddies suddenly felt safer on my side of the fairway, and stayed with me.

Now, as we got off the tee, and started walking up the fairway, it turned out that the bit of water was lateral water the length of the hole. And just to rub salt into the wound or show that the God of golf has a sense of humour the club was floating down the lake keeping pace with us as we walked to my ball. (Fritz had given up). Every step we took, the club stepped with us.

The club was waiting for us in the hotel lobby the next morning; it seems the club manager had sent someone out to fetch it.

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