Blog: Learning to play golf - challenge week

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After eight weeks of learning to play golf, it was time for LG's Harriet Shephard to face her fear and compete in the Up To Scratch challenge

When I first started the Up To Scratch challenge, eight weeks of golf lessons seemed a tremendously long time.

I was confident that by the time it came to our tournament at the end of the programme, my golf skills would be honed to perfection and that I’d be feeling relaxed and ready for the competition.

I foolishly presumed that I’d be driving the ball really far every time, and the horribly disappointing shots that rolled only about three feet would have become a thing of the past.

But, of course, this wasn’t the case at all.

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Yet that’s not to say that I hadn’t learnt a ton. In just a few weeks I had gone from not knowing how to hold a golf club to being able to slowly play a par-3 course.

I’d also started to understand more of the golf-based conversations in the office.

After our lesson on chipping, it dawned on me that when people announced that they were going to the ‘chip shop’ at lunch, they were actually saying they were going to do ‘chip shots’. So thank god I never took them up on that offer; I would have been horribly disappointed.

But even though I’d made great leaps towards becoming someone you might actually refer to as a golfer, I still felt massively unprepared for the knockout tournament.

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Experience had already taught me that when anyone else is watching, even if it’s just one person, I immediately crumble under the pressure.

I can go to the range and fire off loads of great shots in a row, but when you only have one chance off the tee it’s something else entirely. The pressure is just too much!

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“You’re thinking way too much into this, it’s just a bit of fun,” my boyfriend would sigh.

Which of course was completely correct, but still did nothing to quell my fear.

The good news was that out of 16 of us, 12 would be knocked out after three holes.

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So although the top prize of a membership at Leeds Golf Centre and some super-fancy Cobra golf clubs did sound great, it was more than safe to presume that I wouldn’t be in the top four. All I to do was complete three holes without completely humiliating myself.

So on the morning of the competition I arrived feeling genuinely a bit sick with nerves.

This wasn’t helped by the fact that I had the first tee time. The reassurances from the others that this was a good thing because it, ‘got it out the way quickly’, also did nothing to make me feel better.

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But after receiving our goodie bags, having a quick practice on the range and putting green, it was time for us to tee off.

Every instinct was telling me to just run to my car and drive quickly away, but it was already far too late for that…

My playing partner, Natasha, started with a brilliant shot. So that only made things worse.

Then it was my turn, and after several minutes of practice swings, adjusting my position, trying to remember to breathe, and general faffing about, I finally went for it…

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Somehow it went straight, high in the air, and just to the edge of the green behind the hole. Unbelievable.

The coaches were equally shocked. You know you’re normally really bad when everyone is genuinely astounded when you do well. I was getting hugs and high-fives all round.

With the first tee out of the way I started to relax slightly, and my heart rate slowed to a healthier speed. We both got a score of four on the first hole, which was far better than anything I’d done practicing.

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The second tee however started out as I thought it would; I completely missed the ball the first time, and on second try managed to send it sailing straight into the bunker. At this point I assumed it was all over.

I envisaged spending the next 20 shots trying to get out of the damn thing, slowly getting more frustrated with every attempt. But somehow I got it out first time!

On our final hole, my sole aim was simply to avoid sending it straight into the trees like I normally do. But again I shocked myself, and certainly my long-suffering coaches, by getting it on the green in one.

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At the end of the round we both had a final score of 13. This was so much better than I was expecting, and if I’m honest it felt incredible!

It just goes to show that with two lessons a week, plenty of practice and a healthy dose of fear, you can successfully learn to kind of play golf in only eight weeks.

The Up To Scratch coaches, Ellie, Helen, Duncan and Joe, were brilliant and so patient. They were always there with smiles and encouragement, even when you felt close to despair and thoroughly sick of the sport. Craig Bull was our well deserved winner and he played brilliantly.

So despite my best efforts to resist I have to admit that I’ve got the golfing bug. For better or worse, there’s no going back now!

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