It was two years ago when I was 56 that I first picked up a golf club. My husband had been encouraging me to take up a hobby before I retire so that any lessons, training or other expenses would be incurred while I’m still working. When I asked him if he thought I would be able to play golf I don’t know who was the most surprised, him or me. The reason for the question was that I had been born with only one arm so had no idea if it was possible.
We turned to our friend the world wide web and searched for one arm golf. Not only were there people out there with my condition or worse playing golf there was actually a Society of One-Armed Golfers*! So, we headed down to the local golf range so I could try hitting a few balls. My husband had played golf since he was a schoolboy but as we had moved around a lot, he hadn’t joined a club or played regularly for some time.
The Society of One-Armed Golfers was founded in 1932. Each year the Society holds national competitions and a World Championship which is attended by up to 72 golfers of all standards from a dozen countries around the world. Find out more about the Society of One-Armed Golfers on their website and on Facebook.
At the range, I had a few swings at the ball and after a few goes I hit a ball about twenty feet and that was it I was hooked! It was the satisfaction of succeeding and wanting to do better that made me continue and I wanted to go to the range every day! Now I know that my head had been moving about like the Churchill dog and I was swaying like a drunk on a Saturday night but I loved it. I had a lesson every week for a few months with a very patient professional, Andrew Wild, who gave me drills to do as homework.
After a while, we looked around at the local golf clubs and came across Theale, a small, friendly family run club that felt right for us. The first time I actually played on the course was a huge milestone and the exhilaration afterwards was amazing. We have since become good friends with the owners and some of the members of the club and they were very encouraging to me. The next thing I realised was that golf is a fantastic excuse for a whole new wardrobe! Shoes, bags, hats, trousers you name it I’ve probably got it in a couple of colours, in fact, I rarely buy clothes for anything else now. The close and the bags I buy them in a couple of stores in town, and for shoes I found a site called ShoeFinale.
I was at work one morning when a colleague had been telling someone that she played golf on her day off, I had no idea she played and from that moment we swap golf tales every week.
Similarly, I was telling someone I had known for around 15 years about my exploits on the golf course and she admitted that she had dabbled in golf in the past but not had anyone else to play with, from that moment the Wednesday morning ladies group was formed! Nick Mitchell, the professional, affiliated with Theale runs a monthly clinic for lady beginners and at one of these lessons I got talking to another member and she now joins us on a Wednesday morning. From this, we meet socially with our partners and play with one couple on weekends.
Last year I went to the local One Armers match, I didn’t play but they made me feel so welcome and were so encouraging that I vowed there and then to play the following year but I had to get myself a handicap in order to do so. It took a while for me to get the confidence to do a card and on more than one occasion it was almost dusk by the time we finished the round. We waited impatiently for our scores to be calculated and when I got my handicap of 35 I was over the moon!
The following spring found me standing on the first tee at my first One Armers competition and I have to say my knees were literally knocking! I hadn’t slept much the night before and the competition was against the Oxford and Cambridge Golf Society. It was over 36 holes with lunch in between. It was exhausting but what a day! I met and played with some fantastic people and will never forget it. The Oxbridge guys were all either retired or due to be and had no doubt been very high achievers during their careers but when they gathered together they regressed to their student days and I could have listened about their antics all afternoon. I can’t wait to play again next year but hoping there might be at least one more lady other than me.
I can honestly say golf has changed my life, expanded my circle of friends and increased my fitness and wellbeing.
Jaynie Sandall was born in London and currently lives in Reading, Berkshire where she is a hospital admin manager at The Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust.