The king's swing would not send Bert Yancey scurrying to the practice tee. He took a wide stance with both toes pointed outward. Wearing gloves on both hands and with his shoulders hunched up, he swung aggressively with a long, flapping backswing and a leaning-forward follow-through. Still, he hit some good ones, favoring a medium to low hook.
"Too fast," he cried of his swing a few times.
"Hmmm," Claude said, agreeing.
Turning to me, Claude said, "You can never let a pupil think you're disappointed in him. You can never let him think he isn't improving. The secret to teaching golf to someone is to show a deep interest in his game, no matter how bad it might be, and continually offer encouragement. If I just tell him one or two little things today, he'll be happy. I'll pick my spots."
The king, now ready, had a small surprise for us. He led us all, maybe 20 people, toward a corner of the palace wall, through an entranceway, up a long, high rock stairwell to the very top of the corner wall. Perched up there, overlooking all of Fez and all of the palace grounds, was a little grassy knoll—alas, the first tee.
"We tee off," said His Majesty, "from many centuries ago." And he smiled.
The first hole was considered a par-4, a straightaway drive, mindful of the wall running down the left side of the fairway with a small pond in front of the green. Although the king played it in four with a driver and a wedge, an American touring pro would use about a three-iron. It would be a par-3.
As we walked along on the first few holes, Claude explained that His Majesty likes a joke or two. Indeed, I noticed in one of his golf bags there was a pop gun.
"He'll sometimes sneak up behind somebody who's getting ready to tee off and shoot the gun between his legs, blowing the ball off the tee just as the fellow swings," said Claude.
"Hey, that's really funny," I said.