Golf clubs have more to offer than just golf. They also offer life experiences. At Trentham we are very lucky to have a large group of ladies who are all around my age, and who take it in turns to do different things on their birthdays. Usually, this involves something entirely safe, like playing nine holes, followed by champagne and oatcakes, or attending lakeside concerts at Trentham Gardens with picnic tables. These events are entirely within my comfort zone.

However, this time, the birthday girl decided that she wanted to try Bingo! So, 15 Bingo virgins duly trotted off to Gala Bingo – including the club treasurer, which did worry me slightly in case she was looking for new opportunities to ‘invest’ next year’s subscriptions!

I have always been scrupulously honest with form filing – until it came to my membership form here. To prevent any

possible future correspondence, there might have been one or two teensy- weensy errors in each bit where they may have wanted to contact me.

On the off-chance that my computer is ever seized by the police, I thought it would be less embarassing to explain emails from companies wanting to sell me Viagra than having to expound why I was on the list for Gala Bingo!

However, willing to immerse myself in the full experience, I settled down with my waxed paper cup and my free dabber full of eager anticipation. Admittedly, I hadn’t seen so much crimplene since I inadvertently strayed into a Bon Marche shop, and as someone who likes to blend imperceptibly into the background, I did feel slightly conspicuous not having a blue hair rinse.

But, I listened attentively to the nice man who came across to tell us what to do. Clearly, 15 golfers pretending to be seasoned Bingoists didn’t fool anyone!

Numbers aren’t my thing, if I’m honest. Adding up the scorecard at the end of a round is bad enough, but having to keep tabs (never mind dabs) on six boxes at the same time while somebody is doing a speed reading contest isn’t easy – especially when they have a speech impediment. Calling numbers with clothes pegs on their noses seemed to be obligatory. This was highlighted when the number eight was called three times, only to learn he was saying the name Aide instead – and dabbers don’t come with erasers!

The nice man who told us how to play also returned with three free boxes of chocolates and two bottles of something fizzy that is the Gala equivalent of champagne.

I’m not entirely sure what it was, but one firmly unopened bottle was slipped into a bag upon leaving, and I shall wait with interest to see if it reappears at the next Put & Take competition!

However, it was a very nice gesture – especially as playing Bingo is more stressful than standing over a three-foot putt in the final of the county championships

However, it was a very nice gesture – especially as playing Bingo is more stressful than standing over a three-foot putt in the final of the county championships. I’m convinced I had gone cross-eyed by the end of the evening.

As golfers are naturally shy, introverted people, I was secretly hoping my numbers wouldn’t come up, so that I wouldn’t have to shout out. This clearly didn’t worry my neighbour who nearly leapt in the air at her excitement to shout “Bingo” with full gusto, only to discover that she had only completed two lines when we had now moved onto a full house!

At least if you claim you got a birdie, only to subsequently discover it was merely a par, there’s only one person to witness it.

Here, the mistake was followed by a full five minutes of uncontrollable giggling from fourteen other ladies in a room otherwise dominated by silence and a sound system extricated from a railway station.

Bizarrely, we were treated to the voices of Ant and Dec calling numbers at various intervals, and, to be honest, I then became worried about the thoughts of the Bush Tucker Trial. The contents of my sticky toffee pudding had been largely unidentifiable, and I was wholly grateful that I hadn’t gone for the two- puddings-for-£3.99 offer after all!

More pleasing was the leaflet I spotted offering: “Some friendly advice on staying in control.” This is something missing for golfers, and something I think which could be introduced to locker rooms with only a few word adjustments.

There are various sub sections, such as ‘Take it Easy’, suggesting I should read on if I’ve lost control and it has taken over my life; if it’s all I think about; if I’ve lost relationships, friends or money. How important is this information after the mixed foursomes?

The next section suggests “How to stay in control” with things like setting yourself a time limit, and if you say you’re going to stop playing at 10 o’clock, stick to it. How perfect would that be for a round of golf? As soon as you get to three hours, stop playing and leave the course!

My favourite section, though, has to be “What are the signs of a (golfing) problem?” Slightly the wrong way round, I feel, is

the question asking if arguments, frustrations or disappointments make me want to (play golf). No, golf causes all those in the first place.

However, my favourite question is, “Have you ever thought of suicide as a way of solving your problem?” Hasn’t everyone when they have just gone up 0.1?

Under the “Strategies for help section” it tells you to share your issues with someone you trust, which might be your partner, a family member, a friend or a counsellor. I can assure you that the first three have absolutely no interest whatsoever in you giving them a hole-by-hole post mortem on what went wrong in your round. I have done it to all of them many times over many years, so clearly now, counselling is the only option left. In fact, golf clubs should all employ counsellors as a matter of course.

CONGU clearly has a lot to answer for, and a simple replacement of GAMCARE by CONGUCARE offering confidential one-to-one advice on the back of the leaflet together with a Helpline number would be invaluable. Here I am advised to call the (CONGUCARE) Helpline because “they’ll understand what you’re going through.” On second thoughts, no they won’t because they ’re the cause of all the problems in the first place!

At the end of the night, when all the spoils were divided up, we were each £12 up. Kerching! Clearly, this has potential after all. Eyes down Gala Bingo. The girls are coming back!

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