The war of Jenkin’s shank

Spencer Lodge

Thursday 25th September 2008. Standing on the first tee in the bronzed light. 10AM. Silkstone golf course, resting on one elbow, reclined decadently before me, a smile on her full lips, an elusive promise between her grassy contours. Like a huge, expansive 18th Century playground. Flambeau lit and damp. A woman of pleasure. Capability Brown, arms folded, lips curled in a shrug, stands in the light rough, watching with reserved approval. That bunker on the 5th is something of an unnecessary eyesore.

I line up my shot. A blue print drawn in my mind. Red line arcing out into the sky, a thick, elongated arrow cresting downwards. Swing. Booshta! A clean connection on the club face, a sense of satisfaction filling my body as I hold the follow through and feel the ball extend out into the landscape, a broad, solid ribbon unfurling in its wake. Like a medieval siege attack on some stubborn walled city. The graphite shafted trebuchet launching the flaming Titelist Pro-V comet full tilt.

‘Nice shot,’ Aetheling says between gritted, plaque coated teeth, as he mounts the raised rectangle of clipped grass. Chewing nicotine gum in another attempt to quit smoking. Stakes his ball between the two yellow markers.

This, I think to myself, re-bagging my club, a swig of still cold Lucozade, is not exactly as it appears. The clubmanship and friendliness. I recall Niccolò’s words: The only sound, sure and enduring methods of defence are those based on your own actions and prowess.

The standard nervous twitch, the superstitious rituals. As Aethling starts his down-stroke I cough.

And so it begins.

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3 comments

  1. GSmudger · September 29, 2008

    I don’t doubt your insight for a second, but do you play golf for pleasure? It occurred to me that the thwack of polycarbon on tungsten-carbide, the sublime symphony of grass, water and sky and the elegant symmetry of Pringle plus-fours, might be your equivalent of the samurai’s search for the perfect cherry blossom. In other words, an abstract discipline, a template on which to realise your truest existential self, helping you to slaughter your master’s foes, sorry, give justice with courage, with a renewed understanding that life is a raindrop within a raindrop, meaning everything and meaning nothing. I’m sure I heard Peter Allis say something similar as Greg ‘The Shark’ Lemonde teed up to the penalty spot to win the Americas Cup.
    Or do you just like whacking a ball about?

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    • guinnessorig · September 30, 2008

      ‘Your technique is magnificent, when cut across the neck a sound like wailing winter winds is heard they say. I’d always hoped to cut someone like that some day, to hear that sound, but to have it happen to my own neck is ridiculous.’ So says one of the dying ‘Masters of death’ at the end of Shogun Assassin. His throat opened by Lone Wolf with a text book katana sword strike. An ideal rounded stroke reminiscent of Hokusai’s brush work. But the speech could quite easily have come from Jamie Winstanley when I rolled one in from 25 feet to clinch second round victory on the 18th green in the 1991 ‘New Road Chippie sponsored’ Staincross GC Match play. The ball leaving my Chinese Ping copy and being drawn irresistibly to the hole. The cherry blossom reference is apt, GSmudger. Golf typifies the transience of sport. One instant you think you’ve cracked it. Ball flying through the air, bang on target, skipping onto the green and coming to a stop next to the flag. The next shot you do exactly the same thing – weight on the right foot, hips turned, shoulders turned, head down, press down with the left foot and follow the motion to its own end – but this time you nearly take out some old boy on the adjacent fairway and get a round of fucks for your trouble. Turning, the tree is bare of blossom. And so the round breaks down to moments of perfection. You hack away, getting nowhere and then in one swing the perfect cherry blossom falls gently to the floor. The ball arcs to the right before drawing back on target. Pitches, skips forward, recovers itself like a gymnast and stops. You embrace the follow through and hold the moment. Dominance and triumph. Art and violence.

      And so I pause on the raised 18th green, look out over the fat expanse of what remains of the South Yorkshire Forest, pluck my ball from the cup. A perfect par. I say to myself, wiping blue organophosphate from the back of my hand: it is fine weather, isn’t it?

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  2. GSmudger · September 30, 2008

    Very sage, Master Guinnessorig. But in the transience of sport, do we not find eternity? I don’t mean the kind of eternity which, like an endless trough of salted porridge, is found in sports in which we have less interest than nasal fungus, or any form of employment.
    When I read your erudite meditations on the ineffable pursuit of recreational ballistics, I am reminded of Wittgenstein’s treatise on so called ‘hard’ solipsism. Surprisingly, this isn’t a pamphlet on the ocular perils of masturbation. Rather he regards the Sissyphian cage in which we all toil and posits that happiness cannot be found in seeking a higher, cosmic purpose which we are powerless to effect, but must rather be found in embracing and cherishing the transient absurdities of our tiny lives.
    By this logic, Sissyphus can only end his misery by flinging himself onto the rocks below, or by learning to love the poetic synergy of sinew and will as he pushes those rocks uphill, and the ecstatic inertia of the rocks rolling straight back down again. Happy the man whose working life doesn’t resemble this, but for some rigorous health & safety input and an endless chain of line managemer compiling league tables on the number of futile tasks done within a random time limit.
    Is sport intelligible in any other way? Nothing permanent can be achieved by moving an aribitrary sphere around an arbitrary space by arbitrary means, no meaning gleaned other than that already sought by the player. Such is my reaction to team games, particularly korfball, and such questions have vexed and curdled finer minds than mine. Kant’s 1760 treatise on the offside rule, ‘Warum Die Abseits-Regel, Aenn Aa Big Bag Von Hoden’, is a case in point.
    Yet perhaps sport is transcendent in another way. By creating a mystique, a culture, a body of rules, and turning them into organised sport pursed by millions, we take our own private absurdities and make our own barmy societies. I may use this when I’m keynote speaker at the All Washingborough & Co-op Shopboys Korfball Society AGM next week.
    So, when your foreswing volleys your sphere into the fucks and you face the toil of finding it, teeing it down, addressing it, stamping it and smacking it again and again ad infinitum, you will have embraced hard solipsism, and your endless quest for perfection will keep the existential darkness at bay.

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