Before we ventured across the North Sea into Holland, I‚??d heard of one Dutch golf club ‚?? Noordwijkse. ¬†Goldy‚??s mate Pete (who joined us for a spell in Ayshire some months ago) had sung its praises, Noordwijkse being the only place he really plays any golf in The Netherlands (as it happens, with a fellow Kiwi cricketer by the name of Darren). ¬†It sounded class. ¬†And difficult. ¬†So when Pete dropped Goldy a line saying he‚??d teed up a game for Saturday afternoon, there was an air of excitement to say the least. ¬†
The first couple of days on Dutch soil ‚?? aptly captured by Mike & Bart ‚?? had been phenomenally good. ¬†Interesting, fun and most certainly appetite whettening for a longer spell in this fascinating country. ¬†I‚??ll almost definitely live here at some stage. ¬†Everything about The Netherlands (Amsterdam, at least) appeals to me: the openness of the culture, its efficiency, the mind boggling engineering, the bias towards cycling, the social life, croquettes, the hockey culture, the fact that drivers obey the road rules, the cheese, the traditions and ‚?? if I may say ‚?? the beauty of the women! ¬†Heineken tastes better here too.
Pete‚??s hospitality has been legendary. ¬†He and lovely girlfriend Beth have graciously allowed the three of us to crash on floors and sofas ‚?? notwithstanding that there‚??s another mate from school, Rendall, who‚??s been squatting for six weeks! ¬†Pete and Beth then have been getting a taste of what it‚??s like to be foster parents (even though they‚??re only a year our senior). ¬†Anyway. ¬†A famous time has been had by all ‚?? dinner in, nights out, ventures to the local snack bar and to watch the local hotshot hockey players train ‚?? and huge thanks must go to Pete in particular for his support of puregolf2010. ¬†Mate, it‚??s hugely appreciated.
The Four Musketeers packed into the Opel (hired for us for the week by Pete) and zipped out to Noordwijkse, which is by the coast. ¬†On Quality links territory. ¬†Snoop Dog was our guide for the journey (Pete procured a Tom Tom ‚?? absolutely key ‚?? and set it to the Snoop setting). ¬†‚??Take the Highway Cuuuubbbb...; Make a left and you‚??ll be Bona Fide...; Yea!, just like dat...‚?Ě ¬†A new driving experience. ¬†‚??Twas also my first experience of driving on ‚??the wrong side of the road‚?Ě in a manual car (Dodgy, our US wagon, was an automatic). ¬†We got there in one piece. ¬†Along the way our eyes were glued to the typical Dutch landscapes peppered with windmills, canals, greenhouses and the like. ¬†
Jack made his presence known as we slipped hesitantly out of the car. ¬†Jack Frost, that is. ¬†It was bitterly cold. ¬†The walk through the car park up the hill to the clubhouse felt like Captain Scott‚??s trudge to the South Pole. ¬†Like y‚??er man, we weren‚??t properly equipped either. ¬†Having followed summer all year, this was a point in time when we knew life had changed. ¬†Still alive by the locker room: check.
Inside we met Darren, our host. ¬†‚??Dibble‚?Ě and Pete play a fair bit of golf together and on course are like a gammy married couple. ¬†Chirping at each other like sparrow chicks in an overcrowded nest. ¬†What else would you expect from two Kiwi strays on a spartan Dutch links? ¬†Peter and I were paired together in the ball toss, something that Pete would grow to resent as I 3 putted my way around the course. ¬†Justifiably. ¬†To be fair, we were all pretty guff ‚?? perhaps with the exception of Mike, at times. ¬†Not many birdies fell.
But boy did we shiver. ¬†Noordwijkse chewed puregolf2010 up and spat us out, so we cried too. ¬†Well, almost. ¬†What a wonderfully inhume start to a round. ¬†Hole 1 played straight into the teeth. ¬†2 is a scallywag of a par 5; in fact that doesn‚??t cover it, 2 is more devious than an Ethiopian pirate. ¬†The only water hazard on the course is a red herring, in the sense that it‚??s less treacherous by a country mile than the other mischief that lurks in the deep. ¬†Who knew Dutch scrub could be so mean? ¬†In the conditions, driver + 4 iron + 2 iron didn‚??t get me there. ¬†Up and down got me a 5 though, and the honour of being the only player to finish out the hole...you get the picture. ¬†The 3rd and the index 1 4th continued in the same vein, not to mention the index 3 5th (which I didn‚??t finish out). ¬†Noordwijkse was taking no prisoners.
As we fended off the elements and tried to navigate the course without losing every ball in our bag, a fascinating discovery was made. ¬†Dutchies are cheap. ¬†Each time one of us ventured into the rough ‚?? which was often ‚?? we came across a Pinnacle Gold. ¬†They were everywhere. ¬†The excitement you feel when you see the light bouncing off a li‚??l white thing in a thorn bush is tempered when you know it‚??s going to be a Pinnacle. ¬†The lowest of the low. ¬†Dibble came up with a cunning trick. ¬†Off every tee he‚??d hit a Pinnacle Gold, then another Pinnacle Gold. ¬†Obviously the first ball he‚??d always come across was a PG, so that was his ‚??first ball.‚?Ě ¬†Now, I‚??m not inferring that he was a CHEAT. ¬†Just that he came up with a stunning plan that guarded against the possibility he‚??d ever be playing three off the tee. ¬†That‚??s all.
Considering we were below sea level ‚?? being in The Netherlands ‚?? I felt relatively safe. ¬†Not once did I worry that the North Sea was going to rush over us and bring puregolf2010 to a sticky end. ¬†It was the thorn bushes that were giving me more cause for concern. ¬†And the ice in the wind. ¬†And my own worst enemy: myself.
In the safety of the clubhouse we perched ourselves in the seating area where Bart had set himself up for the afternoon. ¬†Cosy spot. ¬†A packed basket of fried small goods appeared in front of us (bitter ballen?), along with a round of Heinekens. ¬†There can be no better way to celebrate the end of a thrashing by Noordwijkse than this. ¬†In a word, content. ¬†Content. ¬†Replete. ¬†
Snoop then led the way once more, this time to the home of Thijs de Greeff, our hockey friend who joined us at Kennemer. ¬†Actually it was his mother and father-in-law‚??s house, in a delightful little town called Naarden Vestring. ¬†Thijs gave Goldy the street name but not the number, and Goldy didn‚??t ask for it. ¬†So we were walking around Markstraat asking for Thijs ‚?? a ridiculous episode let me tell you. ¬†Fortunately a generous restauranteur allowed us into his establishment, and the use of his phone (ours weren‚??t working by this stage, of course). ¬†Thijs appeared with Frans (father-in-law), and led us to their beautiful, beautiful Dutch home. ¬†Marjolijn cooked a stunning meal of meatloaf. ¬†It was a therapeutic evening of warm Dutch hospitality, family styles. ¬†After three 3 days of razzle dazzle with Boz, a quiet night with a glass of wine and home cooked food was bliss. ¬†
I could write a whole blog on Frans & Marjolijn‚??s hospitality, but will spare you the labour of reading it. ¬†Suffice to say there‚??s a porcelain bottle of Genever ‚?? which we signed and dated ‚?? waiting at their house for us, to be sipped upon our next return. ¬†This and other touching gestures (like gifts of logo‚??d golf balls and amusing speeches) made for an unforgettable evening indeed. ¬†Thijs in ever self-deprecating form was smashing craic too.¬†
A day that will be etched in the memory bank until some bastard like Alzheimers robs it.
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