It also pricks my conscience that I don’t know how to use it and should really get round to finding out. And that thought makes me very uneasy. I doubt many members actually do know how to use it. Sod’s Law clearly states that when I keel over, all the knowledgeable ones will be on a day’s jolly somewhere.
I won’t be happy, although I may be pleasantly distracted at the sight of fellow inept golfers doing their best to help but electrocuting themselves in the process.
Which brings me, in a roundabout way, to Pete.
Pete is a young-at-heart golfer in his late sixties, who was a professional at some stage and who still plays off a highly creditable eight quite comfortably. We play together regularly as part of a Tuesday crowd and on the occasional Saturday morning.
He isn’t slow as such, but he is what some people might call a very deliberate golfer. He takes his time over each shot; checking distance; working out what kind of shot to play; selecting the right club; setting himself up; taking a couple of practice swings and finally letting rip.
Fair warning: if you’re not used to playing with him and find yourself in his fourball, take along a crash helmet for when you feel like smashing your head against a tree.
The problem for the rest of us is that Pete’s routine works for him. That’s why he’s good. He gives each shot his full attention and has the ability to hit what he wants to hit the vast majority of the time. He’s a serious golfer - sociable and friendly both on the course and off it, but a serious golfer nonetheless.
On a windy, very cold first day of winter last November, our fourball had made its way to the eleventh hole. Despite the climate, each of us was scoring well and our betterball competition was finely poised. We were all focused on our own games, keen to score well and – more importantly – determined to avoid paying for the post-game tea in the clubhouse.
The climate wasn’t the best for golf and the low temperature had persuaded the leaves on the trees that the ground was preferable to clinging on to their branches for dear life. They fell in their thousands.
Reaching into my bag for my driver, I caught an unusual movement out of the corner of my eye. Stood on the tee, Pete had dropped his club and was staggering from side to side, clutching his chest and in apparent distress.
It’s funny how quickly your mind works at times like that. In the time it took me to shout “Are you okay Pete?” at his hunched back, I’d worked out where the nearest phone signal location was so we could call for help and the quickest way back to the clubhouse for the defibrillator. I had started to remember the “Staying Alive” instructions from the Vinnie Jones heart attack television advertisement whilst humming the Bee Gees song of the same name.
I was also starting to feel remorse that when the defibrillator arrived, we’d spend so long reading the instructions that Pete would be dead and buried before we’d worked out how to switch it on.
“I’ve got it!” Pete turned to face me, beaming with pride and waving a leaf in the air. His mortal coil was intact and wasn’t being shuffled anywhere. Memories of leaf catching as a youngster had been prompted by the hurricane that engulfed us and he couldn’t resist giving it a go, with immediate success.
Inside, I was part relieved that my defibrillator shortcomings remained secret and part incredulous that this driven golfer should be so distracted when there was a pot of tea at stake. Pete saw the look on my face and laughed. “Try it,” he said, “It’s great fun.”
And so there all four of us stood. In a line, eyes fixed skywards and doing our best to pick a leaf out of the maelstrom surrounding us, tracking its erratic flight to earth and lunging or stretching to intercept it before it reached the ground.
To others on the course, we must have looked like a dysfunctional Village People tribute band trying to keep it together for the big YMCA climax and failing spectacularly, or a group of semaphore signallers sending an encrypted message with invisible flags.
At that moment, even with all the kit and in that location, we didn't look like golfers. But Pete was right. It was a fun thing to do and made the round all the more memorable.
“Take time to catch the leaves,” as Walter Hagen might have said.