© Copyright Julieanne Savage and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
In my role as an accredited 'Golf Course Whisperer' with over 20 years experience, one question that I am constantly being asked by my parents is: “When are you going to move out of our house, settle down with a nice girl and give us grandchildren?”
I suppose when you break that down it's actually three questions, but they always phrase it like it's one, and they always wear the same plaintive expression when they ask it. My mother likes to supplement this with an air of concern and desperation that she otherwise reserves for the interventions they periodically stage on my behalf.
I long ago came to terms with the fact that my higher spiritual calling will forever remain at odds with my parent's conventional notions of a secure middle-management position in a recognised industry, a stable relationship and a double-figure bank account. The vocation of Golf Course Whisperer is a solitary one, akin perhaps to that of a shaman who must exist on the fringes of the community he ministers.
My working week consists of a daily white-knuckle commute to-and-from the astral realm, bolstered by fistfuls of organically-grown, sun-dried psilocybin* which I supplement with other, synthesised compounds that have been bulked out with varying quantities of powdered detergent. I obtain the latter from a bloke called Dave who owns three Rottweilers and typically greets me from behind a reinforced door on those occasions when I visit his 12th floor flat on the flagrantly lawless 'Pleasant Oaks' housing estate.
Once a person has set foot on the mystical life-path of the Golf Course Whisperer no two days are the same, although I will admit that there are certain broad similarities: Generally my work will bring me into contact with a golf course of some description, however it may not be the same one as yesterday, or the day after.
You might encounter me one morning, striking naked yogic poses on the ninth hole at Royal Birkdale, at the mercy of a small crowd of troll-like elderly men, whose ear, nose, and eyebrow hair is in open rebellion, and who threaten and heckle me from a safe distance while they await the arrival of security.
Another day will find me freshly bailed-out of jail by an old school friend who, during the long drive home, will wearily inform me that this is absolutely the last time, while in the back seat, their wife or long-term girlfriend glowers at me in the rear-view mirror.
The time may come when you will see me from a distance – a hazy silhouette, a few shades darker than the dawn mist - licking a putting green in a spiral pattern from the edge to the centre.
The following day you may read in the local paper of my hospitalisation with suspected chemical fertiliser poisoning.
The itinerant life of the Golf Course Whisperer is physically and mentally demanding, accomodating few of the modern comforts that we mostly take for granted. When I told the careers advisor at my school of my intention to follow this path, he suggested instead a career as a pop star or an astronaut as more realistic alternatives.
Despite his counselling I chose to remain true to my calling: A man or woman who finds themselves gifted with the one-in-a-million ability to communicate with golf courses must graciously accept the heavy mantle of responsibility that has been laid upon his or her shoulders and should not be seen to buckle under its weight.
Golf courses are the thoroughbreds of manual landscaping - aberrations of a natural world that has been warped according to the fastidious desires of men and women with questionable fashion nous and a misplaced sense of self-entitlement that seems to exist in equal proportion to their material wealth. Is it any wonder that these shotgun alliances of manicured greens, rough-fringed fairways, arid sand traps and brackish water hazards are so prone to the mind-bent throes of lunacy?
The word 'madness' is a frowned-upon expression in this era of heightened political correctness and slavering Twitter hate mobs, however I find it an apt description of the turmoil that festers beneath turf of the average golf course, which, when left unchecked, will blossom into ever more extreme manifestations of mania and depression:
A Native American legend passed down orally from generation to generation speaks of a bunker on the 11th hole of Nopah Golf Course in the US that fell victim to insanity and began to expand, first covering an adjacent putting green, then a fairway, until finally it engulfed the entire course and the surrounding environs. Today this barren wasteland - the natural habitat of rattlesnakes and coyotes - is more commonly known as the Mojave desert.
In northern France a megalomaniac pond flooded a golf course transforming it into a wetland preserve for endangered wildfowl, ubiquitous colonies of newts and no less than three species of endangered frogs, each one more obnoxiously loud than the last.
In February 2013, a golf course occupying the English hamlet of Lower Knotly declared itself a work of art and claimed squatter's rights on the top floor of the Tate Modern on London's south bank. Following its court-mandated eviction it moved in with the model, Kate Moss and now has her name tattooed in a scrolling banner across one of its heart-shaped greens.
The examples I have mentioned above all represent extreme cases. By far the most common manifestation of madness in golf courses is a regression to infantilism:
Golf courses who retreat to the safety of childhood will shrink down to a fraction of their original size. Their crudely executed fairways are typically strewn with discarded toys - windmills are popular, as are waterwheels and faux Aztec temples. Outbuildings will be limited to a small shack where players can rent putters and balls, and maybe also purchase a Calippo that has been allowed to partially thaw and then refreeze over and around its crumpled tubular packaging.
One should never lose sight of the fact that these so-called 'Crazy Golf Courses' (as they have been branded in psychological journals) were once mature 18-holers. They had their own driving ranges. Their club houses played host to social functions, such as wedding receptions and 70s-themed quiz nights. They had trophy cabinets and some manner of large oak plaque where the names of former captains were recorded chronologically in gold lettering.
Although drug treatments do exist I advocate a program of rehabilitation based around the recovery of lost self-esteem. My aim is to re-instil within a crazy golf course the confidence to host an international tournament such as the Ryder Cup, or the Rider Cup where the players must execute golfing manoeuvres while on horseback.
Towards this end I try to appeal to my patient's concept of play: A novelty windmill whose sails perform no useful function, apart from perhaps preventing a ball from passing underneath, can be fitted with the mechanism that allows it to grind flour, which can be turned into bread by a local bakery. This new sense of purpose can help to foster within the golf course a sense of belonging to the local community
Etching hieroglyphics onto the sheer sides of a wooden obelisk can transform it from an inconvenient obstacle to a place of religious significance for those who worship the ancient Egyptian god Thoth, nurturing any unfulfilled spiritual yearnings that a golf course might have.
Fostering a sense of adult responsibility is vital to recovery: Recently I sabotaged the famous lighthouse at Branscombe Cove, leaving the smaller lighthouse on the 6th hole of the crazy golf course, in the nearby village of Buttonmoat, solely responsible for diverting container shipping away from the jagged rocks that line the narrow deepwater channel.
I have also campaigned vigorously against those practices that exacerbate mental illnesses in golf courses. To wit, an absurd law dating back to the late 1800s that requires all crazy golf putters to be forged from melted down murder weapons and cooled in vats of human blood.
Not all golf courses can be rehabilitated. The Yorkshire Dales National Park is made up of a patchwork of courses who have been allowed to return to a feral state. These are culled annually to remove any sick or weak specimens and ensure that their numbers do not increase to a point where they begin to encroach upon human settlements. Recent attacks on ramblers during the golf course mating season may lead to more draconian population control measures being introduced.
My parents will never accept or understand my chosen career, but I hope that anyone who has read this far will recognise the value of what I do.
* I firmly believe that I have discovered a loophole in the current UK drug legislation that negates the class A status of psychedelic mushrooms if they are consumed doused in milk, at which point they can be re-classified as a breakfast cereal and eaten within full view of the police, theoretically with zero negative consequences.
There are officers within my local constabulary who strongly disagree with me on this point and there is an impending court case that will clarify the situation, hopefully in my favour. These same police officers remain equally dismissive of my assertion that heroin is not illegal if it is used as a seasoning in cooking.