I had a uniquely enjoyable experience at Wilmslow on the Friday of my vacation. Mark Rowlinson had asked if I’d be interested in joining a 9-hole, informal Mixed Greensomes event followed by dinner. It sounded like fun so I jumped at the chance. The club offers this format roughly monthly, late afternoon Fridays during the summer and September was going to be the final one for the year. At home we simply don’t have enough active lady members to make this sort of format practical and I suppose I expected to see maybe a dozen teams playing, if that.
In fact, 23 teams turned out which did not seem surprising to the members but I thought it was an outstanding level of participation. The odd number required one group to play as a sixsome (three teams) and somehow Mark and myself, our partners and one other couple were selected to go off first. So for me it was a thorough immersion in the format, having a chance to observe the dynamics of not two but three teams. Our group elected to play the back nine (roughly half the teams play each nine) and we started on the 12th hole so that the others would not be held up by the slower pace of our six.
The basic idea quickly became clear as to how things tend to work. The men are teeing off and trying to put a ball in play, hopefully farther than the ladies will be able to hit it from their modestly shorter set of tees. As often as not, the men fail to do so and it’s up to the ladies to hit their tee shot where it can be played. It seemed to me between the three teams over nine holes the vast majority of the time the men were playing the second shot, if you know what I mean!
My partner and I each made a couple of non-trivial length putts but we also each missed at least one par putt from inside five feet. All in all we played well, I thought, and were probably at least on the fringes of contention until we reached the 11th hole, our last of the day. Our two drives ended up literally a foot apart in the fairway which means we could choose based on who was best suited to hit the second shot. It was a fairly short Par 4 and either of us could comfortably reach the green but a tree blocked our line directly at the green.
My partner was just on the verge of telling me something when I empty-headedly stepped up and struck an iron shot trying to play over the tree. Instead, I pulled it right of the tree and directly into one of Wilmslow’s well placed bunkers about 30 yards short of the green. After my disastrous shot my partner finished her suggestion…which was to say “I usually hit my 7-wood over that tree no problem”. So basically I cost us any chance of a par on the hole and we ended up with double bogey and a “blob”.
How embarrassing. As it turns out a couple other back-nine teams had played very well and even a birdie would not have put us in first place. But my partner, who by the way is a much better player than myself, obviously was thinking strategy while I wasn’t thinking at all. I’m still wondering what compelled me to just stroll up, identify her ball and give it a whack without a moment’s thought.
Immediately after golf, we put away our clubs and retired to the clubhouse for a change of clothes and dinner. A few people seemed to think the Bangers and Mash was an unusual choice for a club event but I quite enjoyed it. I was also thoroughly surprised when the event’s organizer introduced the visitor from America to the group and presented me with a Wilmslow Golf Club history booklet before awarding the prizes. Luckily for me (and for the group) I did not have to make any sort of speech in response!
As one inexperienced with English golf club life perhaps I misread the situation but my distinct impression was that everyone I met at Wilmslow genuinely enjoyed having an American golfer spend the evening at the club. They are obviously quite proud of their club and their golf course but also just seemed a very open and fun-loving group of golfers. In comparison to some of my past golf holidays in which I made “hit and run” visits to various courses without really getting a sense of the club itself, this year’s more relaxed and sociable itinerary was a brilliant idea. I’m not sure if myself or Mark actually initiated this as a plan but without Mark’s help it would not have been possible. And I thank that Friday evening’s group of members for including me in on the fun.
Now if I can just get a Friday-afternoon Mixed event started back at Camden Country Club, perhaps even with Bangers and Mash afterwards…