Johannesburg – The old “coffin dodgers” I play golf with every week down at Randpark hit some unbelievable shots. Not, you understand, like Louis Oosthuizen’s albatross at last year’s Masters, or in that same championship, Bubba Watson’s banana shot from the forest to beat Louis in a play-off for the title. No – and I include myself – we hit other kinds of unbelievable shots, like the ones that stick in tree-branches, or disappear down rabbit holes in uncharted territory. If there’s a bunker or a stretch of water to go over, we inevitably go in rather than over.
But that’s golf, which can be such a bizarre game and reading The Golf Nut’s Book of Amazing Feats & Records this week put a smile on my face. How’s about this Scottish fellow, a Dr George Russell, who hit a drive 300 yards ... backwards. He had a weird backswing that kind of went forwards for a while before going backwards. Well, he accidentally struck the ball on one of his back waggles. The ball jumped the fence behind the tee and careered down a steep hill, coming to rest 300 yards away.
Our own Gary Player, en route to winning the 1968 World Series of Golf, struck a shot off-line at the par-3 12th hole at Firestone CC in Akron, Ohio that saw his golf ball flying into the gallery and coming to rest in a woman’s bosom. She didn’t know what to do, because if she bent forwards the ball was going to drop to the ground and roll down a slope into the trees. So an official was called and Player was told he could place the ball at the women’s feet. From there he was able to chip close to the flag and save par.
Nick Faldo, in the 1992 US Open at Pebble Beach, hit his nine-iron approach at the par-five 14th straight into a big oak tree, and no-one saw it come down. Faldo then did the rather un-British thing by climbing 25 feet up into the tree to try and find the little pill. He didn’t, but before he gave up the search a wag in the amused gallery yelled: “Hey Tarzan, where the hell is Jane?”
Way back in 1934, a certain Captain Gerald Moxom, a good golfer, was addicted to the game. So much so that when the date was set for him to be married to his lovely lass, he only later discovered it fell on the same day of the club championship at West Hill in Surrey. Undaunted, after exchanging vows Moxom bolted for the club and, still dressed in his tuxedo, shot 61 en route to winning the competition. And, as the Golf Nut book wrily observed: “His bride set a record for becoming a golf widow faster than any other wife in England, if not the world.”
What is the worst score for a hole in a Major made by a player after missing a birdie putt? That dubious honour belongs to Japan’s Tommy Nakajima at the perilous par-4 17th Road Hole in the 1978 British Open at St Andrews. On the green for two and facing a 30-foot putt for a birdie three, Tommy gave it too much juice and watched in dismay as the ball rode the break of the green and trickled into the feared Road Hole Bunker with its steep wall. He took four agonising shots in that deep pit before finally getting the ball out and two-putting for a nine. That was a golfing horror ever since known as “The Sands of Nakajima”. Actually, it was no big deal. Us old guys at the club do that sort of thing every week.