When the rubber hits the road
A day out near Solihull
Courtesy of Russell Heritage Golf
Retirement is outmoded
When I left my company, I wasn’t fond of answering questions like, what do you do now, or are you enjoying your retirement?
Retirement was always something that older others did. It makes me think of black and white films where we see the main character have his or her last day at work. There’s a small, discrete, afternoon tea party in the staff canteen, where an awkward boss waxes lyrical about the contribution they’ve made to the company, not forgetting the 40 odd years service, most, if not all their adult life. It ends with the presentation of a carriage clock and everyone eats cake before going back to work for another hour or two. The last action of the person leaving is to clear their desk and say goodbye to the works cat. As they close the office door for the last time and walk off down the street, there is a sense that neither the company or the character leaving will remember each other for long.
These days, many have no choice but to continue working into traditional retirement years, others continue to work to retain a sense of purpose.
Struggling with golf and writing
I didn’t like my answers to those questions much either. Having to come clean and explain that I spent buckets of my time on golf and writing, seems like a classic cliché. I especially felt a charlatan when I mentioned writing. It must be some sort of silly dalliance, like taking up water colour painting to relieve the boredom of all my spare time. There’s nothing wrong with either pursuit by the way. The fact that I’d been a professional writer for well over 10 years, producing nearly every bit of copy my company owned, didn’t seem to count for much in my head.
Writers write books or have regular columns in newspapers and magazines, which was a sad reflection of my age and out-dated view. It’s never been easier to write and get published than it is now. Whether you can make a living, is another matter entirely.
When I confess that I write, it’s natural for the questioner to ask, what about? I usually sneak my biography in at the end, referencing a daily journal and weekly newsletter first. Sometimes, there’s a polite but awkward mumble about, I must read your blog, and I let them off with a , don’t worry, I’m not recruiting. Those that are serious ask again or get in touch. I’m very grateful that they do.
Journals and newsletters are easier to comprehend somehow. Biographies have grander connotations, often seen as the domain of the famous and infamous, which publishers gobble up because they’re guaranteed some commercial success. Other biographies fall into categories such as worthiness, amazing story, self-help or great writing, if they are ever to be seen on a bookshop’s shelf.
There is often interest when I explain my desire to tell my story as a legacy project, recording history to provide a gift for children and grandchildren.
Golf can be another awkward subject, unless the person asking the questions is walking down the fairway with you. Then there is no need to explain that it’s most definitely a working person’s game and elitist enclaves like Wentworth are rare. It’s bloody difficult to be any good at it too.
One of the best decisions I made was returning to golf and joining Ealing Golf Club.
Why am I in Solihull?
The reason I headed north was to see a golf coach, called Russell Heritage. He’s got a thriving YouTube channel and has faired well during lockdown and beyond as the demand to play golf increased.
The boom was born out of being able to play safely and the obvious physical and mental benefits. The 3 million people who played in 2019 surged to a peak of 5.2 million in 2020, 4.8 million in 2021.
What attracted me to book a lesson with Russell, was one video where he described his own journey as a golfer. He talks about a time when he was standing on the tee, worried about the out of bounds down the right side of a fairway, even though he was already an accomplished, low handicap golfer. He couldn’t quite trust himself to confidently hit the shot he wanted to play. This is a consistency issue, which nearly every amateur golfer can relate to. He solved his problem and I was keen to see if he could help me.
He’s a pragmatist and a biomechanic who has broken down the golf swing into all the constituent parts. He’s made countless free videos which explain in simple terms the desired movements which make up a good swing. He does it over and over again, using different training aids and swing thoughts, to help more of us get it.
In the lions den
My first thought is I’m on the set of my favourite TV programme, it all looks very familiar. Then the star of the show comes up and says hello, just as I’m about to tuck into a couple of fried eggs on toast in their lovely caff. We have a chat and it’s not long before his professional eye is giving my swing the once over.
What really surprised me as the morning unfolded, was being told that many of the common faults which he talks about constantly on the channel belong to me. I’ve clearly been deluding myself. My backswing is too steep and short which doesn’t bode well. A knock-on effect is a tendency for the club to get in front of my hands, I’ve got no hip depth and my posture needs work. Well I did ask. It’s a sad reflection on too little coaching and helps to explain my consistency issue.
For every good round I have there are at least 10, often more, which are poor or barely average. Shots which a lower handicap golfer would be satisfied with are regularly clouded by bad shots where I can be heard muttering unbelievable, before I really tell myself what I think.
Russell is also a magician, he’s given me a key. It unlocks one part of the puzzle on the road to consistency. It felt really good. I really want to practice now, to make sure it’s still there, my own secret move that nobody else knows about.
It’s hard to put into words the feeling of satisfaction when you hit a great shot. Average amateur golfers live for these moments, bathing in the glory of playing partner’s comments, as you walk with a slight swagger in the direction of the next shot, head held high. Everything is suddenly right with the world. Consequently, we’re prepared to put up with large helpings of mediocrity in-between. I’m no different. I’ve also set myself a target to reach single figure handicap status, which means less than 10. Not easy, but I need a target, I need to strive and fail and strive again.
The day that fire goes out, I’m retiring from golf and getting my easel out of the attic.
Great read as usual. I tried golf many years ago. An ex colleague at Vodafone played off scratch. He never went professional due to the mental pressures and much preferred teaching. My problem was my size. I would never become a good golfer due to physical limitations. I wanted to perfect my technique but short legs and arms conspired against me. So I took up skiing and found the techniques and intricacies much easier to apply.
I’m glad to hear that your not vegetating in your retirement as so many of my 50ish 60ish friends have. I see retirement as the next chapter that needs to be written. Not the epilogue.