Pitching wedge in hand, I wandered away from a brief period of putting practice intent on chipping a few balls towards the hole at the far end of the putting green.
Chipping is another area of my golf game in need of constant fine-tuning.
In my book, even a few minutes spent getting the feel of your wedge can prove valuable and as I had at least ten minutes before teeing off in Monday’s May Day Medal, here was the perfect opportunity.
Furthermore, I took a moment to survey the magnificent scene before me. The sun shone from a clear, azure blue sky while the simple, brightly coloured flower beds surrounding the putting green looked beautiful.
Suddenly, this vision of golfing nirvana was shattered.
“Oi”, bellowed a voice from the terrace overlooking the putting green. “Where do you think you’re going?”
Turning around with a look which,I trust, emulated that adapted by Robert de Niro in Taxi Driver, I strode purposefully back towards the terrace in search of the culprit.
“Glad I caught you,” said an elderly chap before I could ascertain which of those folks sat enjoying the sunshine had irked me. His voice was no longer confrontational but sounded more like that of a teacher; jolly, almost.
“Are you playing in the competition?,” he enquired. I assumed the steam had stopped coming out of my ears, so I nodded. “Well,” he continued, “as it’s a stoke play competition, you’re not allowed to practise on the competition course before your round. “Had you started chipping balls back onto the green, you would have done so from the course and been disqualified.”
My new best friend pointed at the white line slightly beyond the putting green which marked the course proper.
“Stay inside that, and you’re fine,” he advised. A few minutes ago, I marched towards the terrace fuming with anger, intent on giving whomever had directed his roar at me a reciprocal torrent. Now I thanked the chap who, it transpired, was only trying to prevent me from being disqualified.
Later, having played like a donkey, I examined golf’s rules regarding practice. Sure enough, rule 7.1 (b) couldn’t be clearer and the penalty for breaching it is instant disqualification.
And the moral of the story is: by all means smell the flowers, but make sure to check the whereabouts of golf’s white lines too.
* Peter Sharkey is playing in the Farmfoods British Par 3 Championship at Nailcote Hall between 6-9 August. We’ll be following his progress as he prepares for the event.