When I was a kid I used to get up at 6.30 am on a Saturday morning to play golf (before short tennis, of course). But then again I didn't drive 255 km to the golf course, as we did today. Nor did I continue driving 257 km in the same direction afterwards. In fact I didn't drive at all in those days because I had mum to ferry me 'round. Where are you now mum? (Actually, she and dad are on their way over here in a couple of days, for The Big Day - being the coveted Portnoo Trophy match, held on dad's birthday every year, 22 April, for...The Portnoo Trophy. But that's another story, which will be told in due course).
Day 107 was a driving day, with a bit of golf added for good measure. Ocean Shores was more or less exactly half way between Coffs Harbour - where we woke - and Mount Coolum - where we've now set up base camp for a week, with Goldy's brother. Handy. Ocean Shores' location that is; Mike's brother is called Henry, which sounds similar but is a different work if you look closely.
The club's more than a golf club; it's a Country Club. The pulse of the local town; the meeting place for a Guinness Cooler (or whatever they drink in these parts - probably something more...thirst quenching); the place you can spend a whole Saturday (on the golf course, on the bowling green, on the pokies, and in the bar). A local institution, really. It was built 40 years ago by an ambitious American developer (who sold 1000 sections in the first development!), but has since changed hands more times than Alsace. Ownership appears now to be settled, which is more than you can say for a lot of golf resorts. Like poor Kinloch, back in Taupo - which should be promptly snapped up and nurtured lovingly, because it's the best young golf course in New Zealand (if any rich folk are reading this, check out the website and go from there - they might tell you it's not up for sale, but it is - you read it here first).
Ocean Shores has the feel of a place that's treasured by its constituents. We walked into the bar after our round with Peter (the Director of Golf) and Claudette (his wife) - and just about every soul in the joint greeted them heartily, and us too. Some country resorts can have that pale grey stale atmosphere that can't be described as anything but depressing, but Ocean Shores is no such place. We even saw a young couple in for a Saturday evening meal - something you wouldn't see too often back in Aotearoa.
There's a unique feature of the course that I should mention. It has six par 4s, six par 3s and six par 5s. I've never played a course of this configuration, and may never do so again. It's certainly an unusual experience, and for a visitor I reckon it's hard to find your rythmn. Locals must be used to it by now. You also start and finish with a par 5, and the 9th is a par 5 too. Take from that what you will.
Took us a hole or two to adapt to the couch greens, which we'll be seeing a lot of over the next few weeks. After a few misreads and 3 putts however, things improved and we found our radar. Poor Claudette, who's just got new prescription sunglasses which she obviously hasn't yet got used to, shaved the right hand edge of all 18 holes. Actually, not all 18, but lots of 'em. I suggested she wear shoes with higher heels, but I don't think my suggestion was appreciated.
Pete was an interesting chap. Plays on the Senior Amateur Circuit round Aussie, off a 6 marker. Clearly takes his golf quite seriously, but why not when you're semi-retired and can hit it straighter than an airport runway and longer than the Nile and can sink putts from deep fine leg. He's a builder, so he's got forearms like Nick Faldo. Claudette's a book keeper, which I took initially to mean she takes bets. When I asked her whether she runs her own book or works for the TAB, she laughed and put me right - book keeper as in accountant. I know what i'd rather be, and it's not the number crunching type. Suits Claudette though, as she gets Tuesdays off to polish her swing.
We polish our swings Monday thru Sunday, not that it's doing any good. Neither of us has yet shot under par, which is starting to give us a complex. In December we forecasted 10 under par rounds for the year would be par for the course. 107 days in and we're both sitting on zip - percentages not looking good. 80 a piece today, a number that would've been one less had I not missed a 3 footer on the 18th. No use torturing yourself about missed short putts though, otherwise you'll end up as mad as Ian Baker Finch was a few years ago. And that's not a good place to be.
Coolum, on the other hand, is. It's relaxing up here. Despite the humidity, mosquitos and abundance of Australians. I don't mean that at all, of course. Here's to a great week.
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