I used to play golf on a golf course that was made of sand.
The nine hole course was laid out between trees and rocks. There was no green grass on the fairways or the `greens’ just sand and low shrubs. The course was near a little town in Zimbabwe called Umvuma.
The tee was placed on a raked area of sand. The rake was made of slight branches tied together. Naturally the rake accompanied the golfers and their bags.
We would drive off and see the ball spinning away into the bush. There would be a puff of dust so we knew where the ball had landed. There is a peculiar rule in gold where the ball is not allowed to be touched by the player or the player’s club – without incurring a penalty. We played `local rules’ on this rather remote course and were allowed to lift the ball, clean it and replace it on a firm piece of ground.
The `green’ was an area of sand. The rocks had long been swept away. There were hoof marks from animals. I remember one green where a python had obviously slumbered just a short time before our golf balls had dropped onto the green. Like all good golf courses two holes were near a stream – but the water had long since dried up as the drought encompassed more and more of the land. We were sure that elephants had passed through the course one day – there was plenty of evidence of torn braches and piles of smelly dung.
To move the ball from where it landed on the green to the hole all golfers and their caddies used a sack. A rope was attached to two corners and the sack was pulled towards and beyond the hole. The put had to be firm as the ball was rolling over fine sand.
There was one hole that would have graced any championship course. It was a short hole of about 75 yards. The `green’, however, nestled in the middle of a ring of rocks. Some of the rocks towered thirty feet into the air. The diameter of the sandy green was no more than about eighteen feet. If a shot hit a rock it would bounce and fly in a totally uncontrolled manner. The ball could bounce out of the ring, it could bounce over and even back towards the player. When the golfer drove off he was well below the ring and could not see where his ball was going to land. We all used to cower behind the striker of the ball.
The relevance of this reminiscence is that there are times when we all wish we could draw a line in the sand.
We have a few children with us who have heard that they have not passed one of the local Eleven Plus examinations. They are now working towards the next examination which is in January.
How I wish they could just have a sack drawn over the past so that they were not saddled with the feeling of failure. The sack would have the power to smooth the path towards the next examination. The sack would erase all previous failures.