by Neil Tappin

Before setting off on holiday last week I was genuinely looking forward to taking a break from the game. Having competed in numerous, high pressure events over the previous two weeks, my golf had become ragged – my backswing was short and fast and I was beginning to strike the ball worryingly close to the hosel. With the J Arthurs looming depressingly on the horizon I had no qualms in doing a runner. So I headed off to the south of France not only confident that I wouldn?t miss playing golf but that I would also benefit from a much needed hiatus.

Four hours after taking off from Stansted and approximately three minutes after arriving at our beachside apartment my attention became drawn to a huge, flashing neon sign that lit up the road outside. Like an incessant subliminal message, the words ?mini golf? began to infect my mind. The next day as I lay, supposedly relaxing on the beach, I began to yearn for the chance to hit a little white ball through a windmill.

On day three of my ?relaxing beach holiday? I succumbed to the torment and dragged my girlfriend, Aileen, along to the Canet mini golf centre. Without much previous golfing experience under her belt, I figured that Aileen was an easy target and I was confident of a crushing victory. Indeed, things went nicely to plan at first as my deft touch allowed me to establish a 17 shot lead with three to play (this didn?t include any of the 35 penalty shots incurred by my un-caring opponent). However, in this novelty form of the game, things can change in a flash.

The 16th at the Canet mini golf centre is a hole of two halves. Firstly you need to find the middle of three holes ? it?s extremely well protected by some nearby ridges ? before going through a winding tunnel where the ball finally emerges allowing you to putt towards your final target. Having fluked a three at the hole before, Aileen had the honour and unfazed by the fourball of dungaree-wearing French teenagers that had taken 25 minutes to complete the 16th, she hit the middle hole with her first attempt and made an impressive two.

I however had let the wait unnerve me. My rhythm had ebbed away with my patience and I fell foul of this unbelievably tricky layout. Nineteen angry swipes later and I was in the hole. The scores were tied.

In the end I gritted out an unimpressive one-shot victory by holing a nerve-jangling four footer at the last. Aileen may have lost the contest but I was the one left questioning my ability. For the rest of the holiday I pondered how the match could possibly have been so close – I came to the following conclusion: serious golfers should never play mini golf. It?s ridiculous.