Golf can be full of gadgets, gizmos and gee-whiz thingamajigs. If there’s not a simulator here, then there’s a GPS rangefinder there or a Trackman launch monitor somewhere.
The ancient, and in some cases infernal, process of trying to get a little, dimpled ba’ into a small hole is now aided by the kind of elaborate wizardry, widgets and whit-do-you-call-thems that would make the CERN Large Hadron Collider look about as high-tech as a parsnip.
Amid all this innovation, Craig Lee, the former European Tour campaigner from Stirling, is trying to assemble his own cutting edge contraption which will help him take his golfing knowledge to a variety of nooks and crannies in Scotland. Once these bloomin’ restrictions are eased that is.
Rather like an old episode of the A-Team, when the boys would cobble together a fortified, fully-armed 4×4 Jeep from odds and ends kicking about an abandoned garage, Lee’s plan for an all-singing, all-dancing travelling golf shop and practice cage on wheels is very slowly coming together. “It’s a bit harder to do than I thought,” he admitted of this Heath Robinson-style contrivance.
“Originally, the plan was for it to be a camper van with the shop inside where I could do my custom fitting and all that. But I would’ve needed a 7.5-tonne wagon and I didn’t fancy driving one of those round the narrow lanes leading up to some golf courses.
“I’m now scribbling plans for the van with the retractable cage connected to the side which can extend out into a hitting bay. I’m basically wanting to take my indoor studio on the road. And I’m trying to come up with a clever engineering way of doing it.”
Lee (left) has never been afraid of a challenge. Back in 2007, and aided by a local scrap merchant who paid his entry fee, he came through all three stages of the European Tour’s qualifying school to earn
a place at the top table.
When he lost his card and dropped back to competition on the domestic Tartan Tour, the 43-year-old showed terrific resolve to haul himself back up through the ranks, regain his European Tour spot and flirt with victory only to be denied in a play-off by Thomas Bjorn at the 2013 European Masters.
Now retired from top-level competition, Lee is eager to put some 25 years of professional experience to good use even if the on-going pandemic has left everything, and everybody, in a fluster of uncertainty.
“Am I daft to be starting up a business when we are probably going to be plunged into a recession?” said the fully qualified PGA pro. “It’s a volatile world but then the golf industry has enjoyed something of a boom in the pandemic and it’s not as daunting as, say, opening a shop on the High Street.
“I’m offering a professional service to the small clubs in Scotland who don’t have these things. Some of them don’t even have a practice area.”
Spreading the golfing gospel to a new generation is another area of his post-touring life that Lee is keen to explore. “I learned on the course and I sometimes think kids miss that,” said Lee, who is planning to start his own Foundation in his local Stirling area.
“You can get them along to do junior classes for an hour but I’d like to get them more involved in the society of a golf club. When I was starting off, we had 50 kids playing in junior medals. I was 12 and playing alongside someone who was 17. That was great for your development, not just as a golfer but as a person.”
All of these plans, of course, cost money. A one-off outing back on the European Tour in last October’s Scottish Open helped a wee bit. “Folk often say that if you want something bad enough it will materialise,” he said. “When I was initially budgeting for the van, I’d put down about £28,000. At the Scottish Open, I won around £28,000. It was weird that it was the number I needed.
“With the add-ons, though, it’s going to cost a bit more. I wish I’d budgeted for £100,000 and I may have won that,” added Lee with a wry chuckle.