This weekend was a pre-birthday surprise weekend. Totally arranged by my darling wife, subterfuge, deception and secrets all included to the extent that I really had no clue what I was going to be doing, where I was going and who I was going to be meeting. The deception was a little bit of wickedness, where I had been told that I would be micro lighting on the Saturday. Not being a huge fan of heights, this fear had to be taken on the chin due to the effort placed on the weekend’s activity. I couldn’t really appear as an ungrateful recipient of a gift, even though the thought of being suspended in the air with little more than a shower curtain above me and a hairdryer behind me filled me with a foreboding I couldn’t seem to shake.

So I boarded the plane, not knowing where I was going. I got off the plane with an inkling I had just landed in France, not sure where though. On exiting the terminal I saw that I was in Nantes. After the car had been hired I knew we had a little over an hour to go. I have a dear friend who lives in central France. As the journey continued and the names of the towns became more familiar my betting instincts kicked in and I started to think about seeing my old friend. We arrived at their chateau’esk home at about 7.25pm on Friday evening where I was told that the perilous flight was a rouse to confuse and instead I would be playing with my pal on Sunday. All of a sudden the bubbles in front of me tasted so good and the nerves disappeared regarding the flight, and were instantly replaced with the usual questions of a Tournament professional, ‘what putter will I be using?’, ‘what clubs will I be using?’ ‘I don’t have any balls?’

All of a sudden the relaxing Sunday morning game was turning into a game of what, where, when and why! The first gin and tonic relaxed the brain and then a surrender to the circumstances occurred. I was playing with my pal, around his course, with his clubs against him, for the weekend’s bragging rights.

So fast forward a couple of fabulous meals, some serious belly laughs, a lot of catching up and birthday wishes and we were at the club about to tee off on a beautiful spring morning in Bressuire, France.

With three quick bogeys I found myself two down after three. Then I started to find my swing and the club head, balls were on the fairway and greens, in the prescribed amounts. I was starting to play again, starting to compete again, against a player of significant pedigree. As the game developed the competition heated up. It was a fabulous feeling being in the heat of battle with a good friend, knowing that we both needed this back in our lives.

Something was being restored in a safe environment, no tutelage needed, only a compliment for a good shot and a mild ribbing for a poor one. We played the 18th as if our mortgages depended on it, yet we knew that not a penny needed to change hands because the bragging rights were all the currency required to create the nerves.

Stewart holed a solid six footer on the final green, saying that he hadn’t felt that level of pressure in a long time. Knowing full well to have been beaten by me, on his course with his clubs would have been difficult to live with. I would have made sure of it!

We sat down for a drink with our wives on the patio, smiled and relieved that honours were even.

What I can say is that if you are a golfer, make sure that the players you play with are worth playing with. It has taken twenty years to play against my man again, we are already looking forward to the next time. I hope you have friends to play with who bring out the best in you on the course. I hope you have the opportunity to play with them often.