When golf's 'cold turkey' on board ship

'28 days of purgatory where I can

When golf's 'cold turkey' on board ship
When golf's 'cold turkey' on board ship
Practising stance and alignment on the helideck

It’s a widely held perception that golf is a powerful drug. Once it gets hold, you quickly become addicted and, through time, all your thoughts turn to when and where you can get your next fix.

It’s an analogy somewhat lost on me, having only ever succumbed to the white powder of a Beecham’s cold remedy, I can’t relate to being hooked on substances. I am, however, totally hooked on and smitten by Golf and when it is taken away from me, through my work commitments, I can see where astute, yet dependaent people are coming from.

Let me explain. For my sins in a previous life, I am employed as a senior engineer on a drill ship currently moored off Brunei incarcerated on a floating lump of steel, which tramps around the South China Seas, Indian Ocean and any other hydrocarbon bearing waters of South East Asia.

The length of this sentence is 28 days at a time; in layman’s terms - one month aboard, one month on shore with my family in Scotland.

When golf's 'cold turkey' on board ship
Sunset over Brunei

That’s also a full 28 days of purgatory where I can’t play any golf, walk on grass, swing a club, and because safety regulations prevent it, enjoy a pint afterwards!

As these ships are fast becoming the last male bastions, we also have no one with whom to boast about our clubhead size or shaft thickness. Like a child who has his toys confiscated because he was naughty, mine are removed bi-monthly, voluntarily and with irritating regularity.

That’s a full month where the only golf available is, perhaps, a 30-second clip in the BBC World Service news of Tiger Woods putting at the 18th to win a tournament. Alternatively I set my alarm clock for 3am to catch an hour of the American Network broadcasting highlights of a PGA Tour event.

This is, of course, is dependant on that day’s Aussie Rules footie match between Woomawooma or Boomerang Wanderers versus Melbourne which always takes precedent among the kangaroo lovers we have onboard.

When golf's 'cold turkey' on board ship
Light relief - reading golf mags

A passage of the moon where my last round of golf is relived in the mind over and over again is all I get - remembering the pulled drive at the 4th, the fluffed chip at 12, how the 30-foot putt lipped out final green which would have given me a nett 70 from my ten handicap.

Time is also spent wondering and picturing how my mates are getting on in the weekend Medal Day. Who won the days competition? Who had one too many afterwards and started a row with a member of the committee? Was my own name ever mentioned during conversations?

Around mid-way through my four week hitch (and when I’ve read and re-read all the golf magazines I’ve picked up at the airport in recent months), thoughts tend to turn to the next time I’ll get home and what competitions I might play or days out I might enjoy with the lads.

I replay in my mind holes from previous courses we’ve visited; how I might play them differently next time. Maybe take a 6-iron instead of the 7-iron that came up short last time.

Non-golfers might think I’m getting close to becoming mentally unstable. Others know better…it’s only natural to a golfer.

The even more astute of you will also recognise that ‘if he works away for a month, he’ll have far more time on the course during the week than the average 9-5 office worker.’ Fair point – except on that first couple of days home I’m handed a full sheet of A4 paper with ‘jobs for the week’, many of which have mounted up since last I departed.

In addition the kids need taking to the dentist at PRECISELY the time when I’d hoped to tee off.

"Your turn, darling, I always have to do it when you’re away." There’s no answer to that.

When golf's 'cold turkey' on board ship
Practising with a pipe

Other observers of my plight may add their twopence’worth by telling me that in the movie ‘Armageddon’, Bruce Willis hit golf balls from an oil rig. So why can’t I?

I should inform you clever clods that a certain license was taken by the film directors in that particular scene.

First, an inexhaustible supply of golf balls would be needed and secondly, safety regulations require "full personal protective equipment to be worn when out side the accommodation." Try hitting some of those wee plastic airballs wearing hard hat, steel toecap boots, a boiler suit and safety glasses!

Others have suggested using a practice aid to swing in the cabin. Low ceilings are the prime factor, here and nowhere in the accommodation area is there enough room to swing the proverbial ship’s cat, let alone a 5-iron.

The job has its perks, relatively well paid, nice weather, work for only half a year and many other attractions including accumulating over 100,000 air miles annually which can, of course, be used for visiting courses in foreign lands. Indeed my wife and I recently visited Mauritius as her birthday present on reaching the grand old age of 40. She sunbathed, I played golf…paradise.

It would be wrong complain of doom and gloom in the world where golf is concerned and woe is the oil field worker who cannot play his beloved sport as much as he would like.

But it would be appreciated by some of us – and I know there are a handful of other Golfmagic followers in a similar position, if major oil companies could get together and install (preferably free of charge), one of those all-singing, all-dancing golf simulators on the vessels they contracted.

After all at the present price of world crude oil, it would, like driving a ball from the helideck, be a drop in the ocean.

Tom, from Ayrshire ( he prefers to keep his identity anonymous for security reasons), was among those who
responded to my request for travel writers, prepared to submit interesting and off-beat articles for other site visitors to enjoy. Other applicants welcome.

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