Nine of Herts

4

 

Sebastian, this is for you when you are older. Over the last few weeks I have been grieving the loss that I and we all have. Often it is too much to deal with. Here I write about going to the Nine of Herts golf course near Rickmansworth. Our times there have so many memories.

We came uncertain, never been to a golf course. Dusty car park. Six iron was what you had. Back we went, often. Some group lessons for kids. Mark, the Pro, was great with you. Paul and Lewis behind the counter. You thought Lewis was strange. The balls plonked into the green, plastic buckets from the hole in the wall. Fun when the ball landed in a puddle. You would stop to watch balls landing on the sixth (now ninth) green. The practice green up the small hill on the way to the seventh. I am using the old hole numbers because that is how it was when we went alot. We bought a set of clubs from The Complete Golfer in Northwood. Putting nine holes in number order, then across the green. Chipping from the thick grass on the slope to the car park. Sunsets, rain, wind. Daddy, can we go to the range? Looking for tees in the car park, everywhere. Mark suggested we buy a few golf clothes.

I came with you in the toilet. You felt better if I did. Daddy, can I go around the course? I never forget how excited you were when you set off with Mark. First time a couple of holes and then the first six. Then you and I went. I was nervous even though the NoH is relaxed. You played and I walked. We learnt about this new world together. I remember how complimentary and friendly people were. We were there in snow, hail and we walked in shorts in the hot sun. Six, seven and eight – this was your age when we went the most.

When you didn’t listen or mucked around, I would hear ‘Hey Seb’ from Mark. One to one lessons with Mark. Me too. Sometimes straight, often not. Your dad was never great at sport. We would play together and I needed alot of balls. I had thoughts of playing golf with you for many years. I cannot begin to explain how much I miss being able to walk around with you. I imagine you miss it too. It is so upsetting for me.

I remember every hole and how you played them differently as you could hit the ball further.

First (Par 4) – tee up the hill from the clubhouse. Often waterlogged, four or five strokes until the green came into view down a small dip. Tricky chip downhill with rough behind. You would usually get the ball on the green. The pin was really tall and you liked trying to put it in the cup, especially when it was windy. Then the bell to let other players know we were off the green. By the time you had stopped ringing, most of the golf course knew. Run down the gravel path to the second.

Second (Par 3) – you played off the reds. Sometimes ten shots off the tee. As you got older you made the green. Nice view to the green, trees on the left and no fairway. We would find many balls. A bunker on the right of the green. Often a four or five here. Big green and this was one of my favourite holes. Up the gravel path, through the trees to the third tee. Sometimes you said the hill was too steep.

Third (Par 4) – we called it the river hole. There was no river, rather a swamp at the bottom of the hill. The swamp grew bigger after rain. Seventy or so yards from the tee stand two high and wide trees. To the left the swamp. The fairway runs up a steep hill to the green. When we first played you would hit your sixer to land the ball on the tee side of the water. Then you would use your sixer or fairway driver to clear the swamp and go over the rough onto the fairway. When it worked you were so happy. Sometimes many balls went missing in action. As you got stronger the driver would be taken out of the bag. You put everything into it, still only seven. Splash, ping against the tree or just made it up the slope. Ball search on the slope and I would pull the red trolley up the hill. Finally to the green in about six or seven. We loved this hole! A walk of twenty yards to the right to the fourth tee.

Fourth (Par 3) – at about seventy yards you would often hit a three or a four. Thick rough and a downslope behind the green. Sander or pitter off the tee? Then take one of them and the putter down the hill. We’d run down the hill. I know you hit a two a few times. Back past the fourth tee and the fifth tee was on the right.

Fifth (Par 4) – long, straight fairway with green surrounded by trees. Mark gave us a big bag of balls so we, rather I, never ran out. This hole was always fun. You would work out how to hit the ball onto the green, around the trees. Often the ball would land on the path and you loved trying to play from it. The rough beyond was like a thicket. Come to think of it, the denser the undergrowth the more you enjoyed it. Leaves and debris often on this green. The sixth tee is right there.

Sixth (Par 3) – without doubt your favourite, or as you’d say best, hole. About ninety yards, steep downhill, trees on the left and trees and bushes on the right. No fairway and a drainage ditch. You would hit ten, twenty shots off the tee. You would make a competition between the balls and we could easily spend half an hour on the sixth. Running, non stop chat about the club choice, who was winning in your game. We might lose five balls one day and find ten another. Beyond the green is the range and the clubhouse.

Clubhouse – it is not a hole, but was a place to pause on each round. Avocado, Walkers Ready Salted, satsumas. How’s it going Seb? Alright. Discussion about how many more holes, range, putting green. Go past the first tee and practice green to the seventh.

Seventh (Par 4) – I might be wrong, but I think this was your least favourite, or your worst, on the course. It was mine. Long and straight, then a raised green to the right. We’d often become stuck going over that two foot wooden wall. Mark told me that the seventh and eighth used to be one hole, a par five, so now it was a compromise. To the left the tee of the marvellous eighth.

Eighth (Par 3) – looking left you see the the second green. Straight ahead the green with a gravitational bunker on the left and rough on the right. You loved whacking the ball out of the rough and, other players permitting, you would spend a good while in the bunker. A four was common. We would usually take the back path to the ninth, much better for a pee.

Ninth (Par 4) – the big challenge was to avoid the trees on both sides twenty yards after the tee. When you looked for your own ball on the left you discovered a ball treasure trove. We could be there a while. As time passed you were able to hit it further up the hill. You moved up one size of US Kids Golf clubs. A few more whacks and you would reach the green. Then last hole putting competitions.

Practice green, tees in the car park.

You wore out two pairs of Hi-Tec golf shoes and countless gloves.

I loved it. Of course we had all the child and parent stuff.

Memories of walking around Ampleforth College course, the South Bucks(hire) and latterly the West Herts.

Thanks Mark. I am so grateful and will try and come.

Now I am too unstable to sit in a buggy, so will get to watch you from my wheelchair.

Thanks for the memory. Thanks to those who go round and play with you now.

Andrew Knowlman

I am a 50-year old father of two children, married to Jane. I live in Hertfordshire, UK. I was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis in April 2015.

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