Before today I'd never been to Pukekohe. My little sister's got a couple of chums there, and when she'd stayed she seemed to love the place, but other than her musings I had nothing to go on. In the end we didn't even see Pukekohe proper - the golf club is a few k's out of town, and Google Maps seemed more intent on getting us directly there, rather than through the town. Another day, perhaps.
The first concern when we reached the golf club centred around a cake. A lovely chocolate cake to be precise. The night prior - which we had spent, again, with the Le Herons in dairy farming country - it had been baked, by our mate Simon's kind mother, for my birthday. (Today I clocked a quarter century, marking the official beginning of what, in Gen Y terms, is known as a "quarter life crisis" - very creative). Helen had made me this beautiful cake, but it was stinking hot in the car, and if the defenseless cake had been left to fend for itself while we enjoyed 18 holes, it doesn't take Einstein to guess what would have happened. Dead cake.
So I approached the General Manager's office - cake in hand - to first greet him, and second ask if he would accommodate my cake for a few hours. He kindly obliged, and showed us to the pro shop. With the cake safe for now, I could relax, and turn my mind to the golf. As it turned out we were joined by an affable chap from East Sussex, by the name of Sydney. Sydney has been to NZ some 6 times or so, and his daughter emigrated here a couple of years ago; currently he spends 4 months a year in 'Kohe, the rest in the motherland - but next year he may take the big leap and emigrate himself. Why wouldn't he? (You would never have known it, but Sydney's actually a grandfather, at the ripe old age of 74 - I guess upping sticks can't be easy at that age, but Sydney struck me as a resilient sort of fellow).
Having spent a couple of summers finding his way around Pukekohe Golf Club, he had accumulated a fair bit of local knowledge, which he generously shared with us on the way around. Just as well too. There's a good few lakes, and a blind tee shot or three - not to mention out of bounds on what seemed like every hole. I exaggerate. If you want to find trouble at Pukekohe, you don't have to look too hard. Thankfully I only made it into one lake (a thinned flop shot from the other side of the green) and strayed out of bounds only once. Michael was slightly more adventurous, and saw a fair bit of the local countryside. As such he ended up with the Weetbix again today, two days in a row now. Slippery slope.
It must have been dry of late in these parts, because the fairways looked thirsty. Underground watering from what I understand is not cheap, but if global warming is going to yield summers like the one we'll soon farewell, it might be a necessary evil. Pukekohe, for me, was the sort of course that - were it not for a constant battle with the elements - could be up there with some of the big boys. Golfers can be superficial creatures, and often get preoccupied with the condition of a course (which can vary almost daily), rather than with the merits of its layout. This tendency can be unfair, as clubs that can pump millions of dollars into their course immediately have an advantage over less fortunate others. What I'm trying to say is that immaculate courses are not always the best.
With this in mind - and I mean no discredit to the greenkeepers at Pukekohe - Pukekohe is a solid golf course. It's not too short, and on many holes it pays to lay up with an iron. Strategic golf is my cup of tea, and Pukekohe delivered.
On our way out I remembered..."the cake!" While Michael wolfed down his punishment Weetbix, i had a slice or two of Helen's lovely cake. Delicious.
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