"Did you use the green behind the clubhouse for practice?", asked the friendly starter at the first-tee induction ahead of our am-am round at Beau Desert.
"Yes," we answered in unison. "Oh, dear. Next time try the one next to the 18th - it gives more of the idea of the contours on the course."
That was the soundest snippet of advice I have heard during the 18 visits to courses I have played in England's top 100.
Beau Desert is beautiful and no hole is out of reach in regulation from the white tees. However, its well-guarded greens are perilous.
While some of the borrows may be obvious some definitely aren't and more than once our intrepid band of four watched helplessly as balls drifted in completely unexpected directions.
Beau Desert catches the eye from the first tee shot across a cavern of heather. This was especially intimidating for me because I was needing restraint to nurse a bad back into the competition.
Luckily, it loosened up as the round progressed and, in any case, my playing pals were scarcely missing me, particularly on the opening six holes where the golf was matched by the splendour of Cannock Chase in which the course was seamlessly designed.
Sadly, we succumbed to the 7th - a peach of a par three playing steeply right to left and with bunkers ready to snaffle wayward drives (two out of four, actually) and the most treacherous of swirling greens which prompted a collection of three-putts.
There are several holes which initially seem innocuous and then breath fire - including the 260-yard par-four ninth whose green has dramatic fall-aways at the sides and rear. Both Mrs W and I fed very decent shots into it only to find our balls lingering sadly astray,
There are no par fives until late in the day but I shall speak up for both (not just because I achieved par on both of them). The 15th has a crater-like bunker which stretches across its middle and the most unaccepting of greens which feeds from front to back.
But Beau Desert's picture hole is the 18th where sand, heather, a right-to-left-leaning fairway and a path need to be conquered before facing very tricky green lines. Two points here were certainly hard-won.
Indeed, there were no giveaways on this most handsome course but neither was it so hard to prevent us agreeing that we must come back.
But when we do, we will be practising on the green in front of the clubhouse!
Date: August 31, 2020