After 40 years of business Mark Townsend thought he had the measure of the driving range and the characters who inhabit his happy place
Recently on a very rare balmy lunchtime the temptation of the one-piece ball was too much for me. The new season will soon be upon us and so I went into camp, driving range drills all in my head, albeit for only 45 minutes.
Three irons came with me, the odd numbers today of 7-9-A, and a new Ping 7-wood which I hope to be buried with. There were just the three punters in residence so I headed to the very far end where I could, Hogan-like, have my back to the masses and go about my business in peace.
I arranged my bits; a month-old bottle of water from the boot of the car to help me stay sharp, a Kit Kat, Spotify – George Michael: Waiting For That Day to kick us off – and got to work on my kill-zone work/nudging some A wedges in the general direction of a limp flag 50 yards away. It stands for Approach and not Attack, Auxiliary or Anticlimactic, which I didn’t know until two minutes ago.
I was only six balls in when I was stopped in my tracks by a lone character, who had taken the short cut from the car park and was now entering my bay. My appearance seemed to shock him as much as he had me and we exchanged awkward apologies. I’m still not sure why I said sorry and I went back into my mirror work.
When George had played himself out I switched things up a gear to some ’70s New York disco which was when I noticed that my new friend had left his belongings in the very next bay to me. There were at least 15 empty spaces between me and the next individual and he had chosen to settle in right next door.
The only thing I can liken it to is not only taking to relieve himself in the adjoining urinal but, given the endless opportunities to park his bag anywhere else, actually going about his business in the same one.
Before too long the words “How’s it going?” came from behind me.
This was my time, a crucial precursor in the build-up to the new season and a time to decompress after three straight days of three small children. This was my chance to put all those one-minute tips that I’ve been drinking in for the past few weeks on the internet into practice.
I pulled one.
My session was falling apart, my five swing thoughts had become jumbled and I had lost control of my breathing.
“You’ve got a nice swing…”
Now, not that I’m needy or insecure or an enormous cretin but he now had my attention. I might have even blushed.
In my head I wanted to know what he particularly liked about it – did he see it as explosive or more controlled? Which swing on tour, past or present, did it most resemble? Maybe a little bit of Robert Rock in there with a splash of Sam Snead thrown in for good measure? Does the power come from the excessive lag? Did he like my neutral ball flight? Would he like to know what the headcover was doing on the floor?
Instead I asked which club he played at?
The first was the local one to us which, in truth, disappointed me a bit, then he hit me with his ‘other club’ which was Huntingdale.
Within a second of him finishing this part of the answer I was leaning over his bay and firing all manner of questions about the Melbourne sandbelt courses, where the reciprocals were, which was the toughest of the lot and, just out of curiosity, where was the best place to live should I want to relocate and play golf all day on the outskirts of my favourite city?
We were now bouncing back and forth off one another, we’d moved too quickly onto family chat so I skilfully steered us back to Huntingdale and he told me about his clubhouse chat with Bryson DeChambeau who nearly won the Aussie Masters as an amateur there – great bloke, couldn’t be more genuine, apparently.
I mentioned how special it must have been to witness Peter Senior win well into his 50s which simultaneously both seemed to impress and alarm him in equal measure.
The driving range drills were out the window and we were now fizzing, in the very loosest sense, our 7-irons into the distance and the chat couldn’t come quick enough. I’d even turned off Spotify which was now spitting out some very random Teardrop Explodes.
Next the 7-wood was unsheathed, he matched me with some sort of lofted fairway wood of his own and the balls and conversation were sent on their way again. We’d even reached a level of understanding where we didn’t even have to face one another to continue the chat.
We ended our workout with me bringing my own matinee performance down with some more half wedges while my new best friend – I never did get his name – got stuck into his chief. He’d gone three baskets to my one and, while the temptation to grab another basket and continue this new friendship was screaming at me, so was my back and I headed back to the car.
Maybe he’s a creature of habit? Maybe he also enjoyed our chance meeting? Hopefully I’ll find out as I’ll be in the same spot, same time this week in the hope of rekindling this chance friendship. I might even double up on the baskets.
Source: National Club Golf