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Play nine, drink wine

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It’s Women in Sport Week don’t you know, and with the Muddy finger ever on the pulse, I got myself off my (ever growing) backside and went to learn how to play golf (The Ryder Cup has just finished too, ooooh we really are on trend ; ) ALSO, Charley Hull, fabulous golf pro, is from Kettering, so really, it all links up rather nicely.

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If you Google ‘golf popular for women’, you get list after list of the ‘hottest women in golf’; not the actual benefits of golf and why it’s becoming more popular for us ladies (a rather sad indictment in this day and age really). I wrote a blog about the health benefits of golf a couple of weeks ago, and there really are loads (did you know that playing 18-holes will burn at least 900 calories, take more than 10,000 steps – woo hoo for the pedometer count – over 4-5 miles and achieve the 150 minutes of exercise a week recommended by the NHS)! So I thought, I’m gonna give this golfing shizzle a go, what could possibly go wrong…

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Which is how me, and two of my enthusiastic Muddy mates found ourselves at Rushden Golf Club last week (the rain had been tipping down moments before but hey, the sun shines on the righteous). We were met by our golf instructor for the day, the gentle giant that is Adrian Clifford (and guess what; we found out he’d given lessons to a then novice, 7-year-old Charley Hull. Yup, golf is great for kids too). Clearly we were in very capable hands; Adrian has been teaching golf since 1976 and passed his PGA qualification in 1980 at just 19 years of age! Since that time he has taught at both club and county level in the UK and overseas in sunny Portugal, but he’d never been presented with a Muddy girl crew, hollering for coffee and biccies  : /

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Adrian chatted us through some basics and that was it, we were off, set up with a club (not stick Anna-Lou) and a bucket load of enthusiasm (ok, the tribe don’t look so enthusiastic here, but they were concentrating yeah).

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Adrian told us not to worry about anything, golf is an adaptable game that suits all – whatever your age, gender, fitness level or ability, and to be honest, he was very complementary about our first swings (even if mine did unearth quite a bit of grass)!

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We learned how to whack the ball on the range first, and all of us put a fair bit of welly into it, knocking it much further than we thought we would (when we actually hit it). It’s amazingly fresh and unhibited being in the countryside with no pinging e mails or kids asking for snacks, and all three of us loved the freedom (and still had time to natter in between swings). The feel when you hit a ball in a good place, with a good swing, really does feel amazing, and I see, could get slightly addictive! After an hour of thwacking and picking up balls, we walked to the putting green (an hour is long enough on the range, as your hands start to hurt from gripping the club). We stopped on the way to watch the regulars give it a go, and I kid you not, some of these guys who are easily over 60, can whack that ball into the horizon!

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The green putting is a different skill altogether, a bit like snooker on the ground. Adrian did little games to build up our skills, and confidence, which made it really enjoyable and a change from just sitting around a table chatting. It was fab watching the ladies concentrating and whooping when they hit it in the hole, and yes, there was a certain level of competitiveness going on (all healthy though)!

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It’s not all swing and balls though, like apres ski (steamy gluwein on a cold mountain), there is such a thing as apres golf, and most golf courses have a clubhouse that serve food and drink so you can make a full day of it (Rushden golf club do a 2 for £10 on cooked meals, and very reasonably priced drinks too).

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Having never tried it before, I do think Golf is a pretty good path towards health and happiness. It’s perfect for keeping you active while spending time with friends and it’s good to make connections that aren’t just in the pub. With plenty of time for conversation and fun, you can even make new friends as well as grow closer bonds with people you already know. Adrian told us that it creates networks that will give you life-long friendships (if you haven’t got enough already).

‘But how do I go about visiting a golf club?’ I hear you cry! ‘It’s all members and retired businessmen!’ Not anymore it’s not. At Rushden there are lots of groups of women who play, young and old, freelance and shift workers who can get out in the week, or busy professionals who can get out at the weekend. And to help women make the transition from couch potato to golfer, the Get into Golf campaign run by England Golf is making it easier than ever before to get started. They’re providing a FREE taster event at a golf club near you plus low-cost beginner courses across the country. They start from four weeks for £20 and equipment is provided so all you need to do is book and turn up on the day in comfortable clothing. Plus all sessions are taken by (a very handsome, swarthy) PGA professional (ok, I made some of that up)…

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To get started just visit getintogolf.org find and book some golfing fun near you, or if you’d like more info contact [email protected] or call 0800 118 2766 (I’ve heard they’re dead nice there).

Rushden Golf Club memberships start from as little as £49 a year! They coach players from complete beginner level right through to established players. For more coaching information for coaching with gentle, giant Adrian Clifford, go to www.bigredgolf.com

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The Urban Guide to the Countryside - Northamptonshire