Downs“Golf is said to be a very challenging game. The player has to hit a very small ball, into a very small hole with equipment ill designed for the purpose.”
Jan Grundlingh

I swung the club and connected.
The golf ball sailed high into the air, reached it’s peak, and began to drop. I looked after it with satisfaction. I placed another ball on the tee, did the golfer’s little “bum” shuffle, drew back my club and launched another on it’s way.
Before my accident, I loved going to the driving range. When I was out of work, highly frustrated and often depressed, that arching golf ball would carry a portion of my burdens with it.
After my accident, I accompanied friends while they played golf. George Golf Course has got to be one of South Africa’s most glorious courses. Tall trees, small hillocks, a green undulating field encompassed by those incredibly statuesque mountains. They played their final hole and made their way towards the clubhouse. I waited until they had moved out of sight and I turned to my close friend.
“Do you think I could borrow your golf club? I want to see if I’m still able to hit a golf ball.”
I clutched the golf club in my hands. It felt strange, large and unwieldy. I looked at the golf ball all the way down there. It all felt totally different to what I remembered. There seemed to be no connection between the ball, club and myself. I remembered my golf swing being smooth and fluid. I swung at the golf ball. And missed. I took a deep breath and tried again. Once again, I failed to connect with the ball. There was nothing smooth and fluid about my movement now. This disjointed, clumsy feeling made me realise that Gaynor and her days with a golf club were over.
My days of golf are far from finished though. I have friends that are passionate about golf, and so, like it or not, it still features prominently in my life. Last Saturday, it was the South Cape Women’s Golf Championship. The top amateur players in the country were there. Jan and I meandered our way over the course, picked a hole and sat down to watch. It was a bit like sitting at a waterhole in a game reserve. One marvelled at the variety, the skill, the plumage, and the sheer mastery of the various individuals that crossed our path.
National Golf SquadAt lunch we bumped into Val Holland, the South African women’s golf coach. On being introduced, she burst out with: “Gaynor, I read your book, how utterly absorbing it was. It was one of the best autobiographies I’ve read.”
How could I not fail to like her instantly!
She has been the South African ladies coach since 2005. On Wednesday we discovered that she was giving a class for Downs Syndrome children. I was intrigued so we joined her at Kingswood Golf Estate where she now teaches.
Downs golfWe arrived and the class had already begun. No mind was paid to to these two staring strangers. The children were utterly involved in what they were doing. Val had them hitting tennis balls towards their own little targets. The concentration was precise and intense. One girl seemed to speak gently to herself while she set herself up for her shot. Hitting the ball, she would watch it weave it’s way across the grass. She would then mutter as she took aim with her next tennis ball. And the next. Finishing her four balls, she would look up and smile at Val. Then collecting the balls, the whole process would begin again.
targetVal, also had them throwing balls at this big, round board that she held. If the balls hit the board they would stick there. This was to improve their sense of direction. What hoots and cheers of delight followed the tennis balls clinging onto the board!
What was it about that class that so took my breathe away?
I think perhaps it was the joy shining out from their faces when they succeeded in conquering a very simple goal. The children derived untold pleasure from the incredibly simple fact that they were “learning to play golf!” Val gave them the opportunity to feel that they were achieving something.
I look at Val with such admiration. She has reached the pinnacle of success being the South African Women’s golf coach. This woman also chooses to teach those with Downs Syndrome. And she puts equal effort into both pursuits. I was delighted to discover that her greatest goal right now would be to get a player from the Ups with Downs school to become a golfer who can possibly participate in disabled championships.
I think of my pre-plunge golfing days.
I think of the unbelievable artistry we encountered at the South Cape Golf Championship.
I think of the innocent joy I was shown by the Down’s golfers.
Isn’t golf a wonderful thing?