From the Rough: Wombling Free

Clive's careful preparation for his crucial Golf Monthly team debut gets lost somewhere in south-west London.

Not wanting to leave anything to chance on my debut performance for the undefeated Golf Monthly team in our match against Wimbledon Common, I inputted the postcode of the Club into my satnav and set-off the evening before to stay with friends who live nearby in Sheen. This extraordinarily careful preparation, I figured, would ensure that I arrived on the first tee remarkably refreshed and relaxed.

The drive up to London went every bit as smoothly as my swing. My old pal Richard and his lovely wife Frances greeted me warmly and Richard and I downed a couple of malt whiskeys before retiring. Mellowed by the scotch, I slept soundly and woke refreshed at 7am. Because we were having breakfast at the Club, I declined all offers of toast and cereal and just had a cup of tea before setting off at 7.45 on a journey that satnav predicted, and Richard concurred, should only take 20 minutes at most.

Feeling smug that I wasn't having to battle round the M25 and up the A3 as I would have done if I had driven from home, I turned into the Upper Richmond Road. After 20 minutes and roughly 200 yards, satnav's predicted time of arrival had slipped from 8.05 to 8.23. Now showing distinct signs of irritation, I pulled off the main road, ignored the entreaties to turn around when safe to do so and headed towards Richmond Park.

At 8.40 I pulled up outside a distinctly suburban house to be erroneously told by Mrs Satnav, You have reached your destination. Asked Where's the golf club? a Norwegian jogger pointed along the road. At last a piece of good fortune, the electronic gate to the golf club had been opened by the car in front of me and so I slid into the car park a good quarter of an hour before the first tee-off time. No time for breakfast; just a cup of coffee perhaps.

I dumped my clubs by the pro shop and entered the clubhouse. Where's the Golf Monthly team? I enquired of a steward. They're not here. I suggest you wait in the lounge. Thinking to myself that the poor suckers were probably stuck on the Upper Richmond Road and obviously lacked the initiative and courage that I had displayed in by-passing the congestion, I poured myself a coffee and waited as the minutes ticked away.

Just before nine, I went for an agitated wander around the rather smart clubhouse and met another employee who seemed surprised when I told him that I was waiting for my team-mates. His next words tore into my heart like daggers. It's Ladies' day and there are no matches. All I could remember about the course where I was due to be playing was that I needed a red shirt. Is this not the red shirt course? I enquired. My eyes glazed over as he talked me through several mini-roundabouts and numerous left and right turns, not to mention half-a-dozen straight aheads. I'll draw you a map, he generously offered.

Armed with this, I flew to the car park, roared through the gates and, after several wrong turns and dozens of expletives, I found a golf club that had a motley assortment of red shirts loitering outside. I recognised a couple of GM hacks and felt enormous relief that I had just made it in time. My joy lasted about as long as it takes to park a car, jump out and open the boot. I'd left my clubs outside the pro shop at the previous Wimbledon club.

If I had difficulty following the map the right-way up, it was certainly no easier to read upside down, not to mention the tears of frustration welling up in my eyes. Usually a friendly fellow, I even struggled to wave at the bemused Norwegian jogger, whom I now passed for the fourth time in half-an-hour. Twenty minutes later, I was back at the right Wimbledon Club and sprinting to the first tee. After breathlessly introducing myself to our opponents, I felt about as ready to tee off as I was to give Roger Federer a quick five-setter. What happened next, you will be able to read in the next issue of Golf Monthly. Anyone want to buy an almost new satnav with just a few teethmarks on it?

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