Saturday, 7 August 2010

Launch of Disabled Golf Open at East Sussex National

Just back from a cracking day at East Sussex National for the launch of the 2010 Disabled British Open, which will be played here on the 20th and 21st of September.

This is the events second year, and the event was filled with competitors within a week. There’s also been considerable interest from competitors from abroad. Spain’s reigning disabled golfer with be making the trip over, as will competitors from Germany, Pakistan, South Africa and Ireland.

So it’s an international field, playing on a quality track, with TV coverage provided by Sky Sports. Not a bad start.

The event is also part of a programme run by Accentuate, which gets its funding from the South East Development Agency and the Legacy Trust, which is Lottery Funded and focused on creating a cultural legacy from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. I didn’t think golf was in the Olympics until 2106, but if they’ve managed to get in under the radar good luck to them.

The hope is to help create a cultural shift in the way disabled people are perceived by celebrating excellence. And there was plenty of that on show today, as I received a fair old thrashing from one of the competitors, Roger, who plays off a very tidy 14. Roger has a prosthetic leg, but that didn’t stop him thumping out some quality drives with plenty of length; and he was the only one in our four-ball who got anywhere near to grips with the very slick greens that are a hallmark of East Sussex National.

Derek Howe, ESN’s General Manager, proudly told me that they’d recently got the greens running 13 on the stimp metre for a PGA event. So what we experienced today was a quietened down version, and one that followed a biblical downpour the day before which saw Mid Sussex getting 88% of its’ average monthly rainfall in an hour. I can’t even begin to imagine how you actually putt there when they’re properly juiced up. It’s the golfing Spinal Tap equivalent of turning all the amps up to eleven.

ESN is about much more than its greens – which I’d also add aren’t just slick, but tricky in every other regard as well. Take the Par 3 fourth. At 181 yards off the whites; it takes a decent long iron to get to what looks like a fairly straight forward green. But that’s only the half of it. You don’t fully appreciate the slopes until you get there and if you’re short and don’t putt it hard enough you’re going to find the ball right back where it started. Don’t ask!

Then there’s the unassuming 121 yard par 3 eighth. I sent up what I thought was a perfect 9 iron, which stayed up there forever before landing smack in the middle of the green, and then disappeared out of view. I found it hiding in the fringe; it hadn’t held and there’s a severe slope in the green which you just don’t pick up from the tee.

There’s a tough finish as well. The fifteenth is Stroke Index 1, while the 16th only rewards if you can put the ball onto a tiny landing area over a lake. The 17th is Stroke Index 3, and with good reason; you can easily run into the lake which makes you hesitate to take out a driver, and you’re second shot is then a long iron onto a well bunkered raised green. The 18th offers another well-bunkered raised green, so there’s just no letting up. I had been hitting the ball pretty well, but found it really hard to actually put in a decent score.

So all I’ll say to the competitors on the 20th and 21st September is make sure you turn up for the practice round, try and get to grips with the pace of the greens, and have a really well thought out plan to get yourself around without too much damage. Good luck out there; you’ll probably need a bit of that as well.

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