Taking the rough smoothly. The Telegraph Magazine

March 1998
The Telegraph Magazine.



BREATHE. Calm. Focus. I am trying to concentrate, but the security guard’s walkie-talkie crackles into life with some scratchy dialogue I can’t quite make out. Never mind, just shut it out. Breathe. Calm. Focus.

Why does a golf club need a security guard on the first tee anyway? To prevent Surrey commuter-belt street urchins filching the complimentary tee-pegs? Now stop it; concentrate.

Breathe. Calm. Focus. OK, here we go. Breathe. Calm. Hit it!

My first tee shot squirts ignominiously forward about 80 yards without once getting airborne. I could die of embarrassment. I scuttle off towards my ball with all decent haste, leaving my friend and playing partner Nicholas to dispense the necessary politesse to those waiting by the tee. He has already drilled his first shot, needless to say, straight down the middle. But then he has a secret weapon: a little nugget of quartz crystal which has been personally touched (‘energised especially for you’) by Uri Geller.

Nicholas and I are engaged in a unique experiment: this is golf as psychological warfare-cum-magical thinking. For my part, I have just spent the preceding hour with a fully qualified hypnotherapist, learning to relax, to remove negative thoughts and to use creative visualisations. And yes, I went into a trance, but nobody was swinging a fob-watch.

Nicholas, on the other hand, has not had the benefit of hypnosis. Instead, he has availed himself of Uri Geller’s Mind-Power Kit. Providentially, he found it the previous day in a remainder shop, reduced from £19.99 to £4.95 – on current form, a bargain.

Together we are enjoying part of a weekend course of golfing performance-enhancement at Foxhills in Surrey. The general idea is that rather than working on your game by hitting hundreds of balls on the range, you have a mental workout with hypnosis. By the end of the weekend I should be able to enter a self-induced trance that will allow me to remove the psychological blocks to playing well that are caused, typically, by stress. It all sounds fine in theory, even to a gentle sceptic like me, but so far, in practice, it’s a case of Uri Geller 1, Hypnotherapy 0.

And so it goes on. I should admit that I don’t play enough golf to be much good, but I’m not usually a complete duffer. Once again, though, my tee shot at the second hugs the ground as if itself entranced. At the third, the ball seems drawn by some mysterious psychic force into the trees on the right. Before I know it, I’ve lost the first six holes on the trot.

Except that I hardly do know it. Normally, after a performance as epically awful as this, the only speech of which I would be capable would be a kind of strangled hiss through gritted teeth, and my whole body would be convulsed with seething rage. In this state, the prospect of any recovery of form would be absolutely nil.

But instead, I find myself drifting along from tee to green, often via some nice woodland, on a cloud of karmic well-being. Hey, I could get into this hypnotism thing: do you dig? On the seventh tee, however, something the hypnotherapist told me pops unbidden back into my head. ‘Oh, you know what, Nick? She also does breast enhancement by hypnotherapy.’

He pales. ‘You what?’

‘Seriously,’ I contend. ‘She said she helps women make their tits bigger just by going into a trance. No surgery required.’

Nicholas, stunned, hits his tee shot into the nearest bush. I make a dramatic recovery and win the next four holes. Disillusion with Uri Geller’s powers sets in fully when Nicholas’s second shot from off the fairway on the 11th freakishly hits a post in front of him and rebounds sideways.

At the 12th, though, he pulls out the surprise secret weapon: a large orange dot printed on a piece of white card. ‘Use this as a catalyst to concentrate your desires by thought power,’ instructs Uri. Certainly, I am completely mesmerised, and Nicholas recaptures the initiative. He seals the match with a good par on the 17th.

Off the 18th tee I hit my best shot of the round, a towering one-iron. I guess it must be something to do with being able to relax.



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