Rain was forecast, but thankfully what hit us was more windy drizzle than the really wet stuff. Bridge Pa is a challenging enough course as it is though, so the prospects of good golf being played - based on recent form - were slim. To none.
Our generous hosts, the McLennans - Gayle and Munro - fed us like kings and put us up in 5 star accommodation. It's easy to forget about golf after relaxing in their amazing hospitality. But come midday the time came to brave the elements and meet the Grizzlies at Hastings Golf Club for our afternoon match.
The Grizzlies are a fantastic group (24 strong, or so) of chaps from the Hawke's Bay region (some live as far afield as Dannevirke, down the coast - they sometimes fly up in a micro-lite for the weekly fixture). Every Friday they get together at Bridge Pa to wind down the week in style. Among their numbers are farmers, lawyers, surgeons, thoroughbreds and grape growers. The variety makes for sharp craic week in week out, one of our playing partners - Andy Orton, a local sheep & beef farmer - told me. And the banter carries on into the clubhouse, where the world is put to rest over a few Heinekens and fish and chips.
Mike and I had the pleasure of playing with Andy (mentioned above) and Arthur Ormond, who is into thoroughbred horses. They were great company, and very hospitable. Even though Mike and I lost (the Grizzlies' rule being that the losers buy the drinks in the clubhouse), they wouldn't let us pay for a drink. Absolute gentlemen. They also opened their wallets for our charity too.
Bridge Pa itself was immaculate, and they had just hosted the NZ Maori tournament earlier in the day. 10/10 course condition. Though not that long, you have to hit the ball to the right side of the fairway on some holes, to avoid being blocked out by pine trees. The greens are surrounded by subtle countours too, so loose approach shots can end up further away than you might hope. That subtlety carries through to the greens themselves, and I had difficulty reading the breaks more often than not. Aiming a foot right on a putt that breaks left to right can make you look silly. Lucky I have a sense of humour.
It all makes for a very good golf course indeed - in fact probably, in my estimation, one of the top handful of NZ tracks outside of the destination resorts. If I lived in these parts this would be where I'd join, no doubt. And with Cape Kidnappers just down the road, this part of the country is a bit of a golfer's dream. Combine that with the climate and abundance of local wine, and you have a tough region to beat - no wonder the locals love it.
To cap off our visit we caught up with a mate - Mike Wakefield - last night, who is a solicitor in town (a year ahead of us). We played hockey with & against him a few years back, and it was great to hear how life is going at his end. Mike's off in April to work at Banff Springs GC, in the idyllic Rockies - followed by a ski season up that way to boot. Seems the bug is claiming Gen Y victims by the day...
We have had a wonderful couple of days here. Thanks go to Gayle & Munro, first and foremost, for their incredible hospitality. And to the Grizzlies for letting us into their club for an afternoon - great fun. Thank you too to Bridge Pa for hosting us - look forward to returning in 2011.
Match was halved, by the way, due to capitulation on both sides down the back 9. Mike was 3 up with about 6 to play, but I managed to double bogey the last to square the match. You do the maths.
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