The wonderful thing about golf is that it's a game you can enjoy just as much regardless of where you play - as long as you're playing with good people and don't get hit by lightning. I've had magic days hacking it 'round a goat track on a summer evening, and equally woeful days playing with idiots 'round a perfectly manicured multi-major-champion-designed championship course. It's a social game. With this front of mind Mike and I were thrilled to hear last night that Huntingdale had organised a couple of playing partners to join us in the morning. This was particularly key because we were teeing off at 7.40am - another redeye slot - and if we were just by ourselves it might've taken us 'til about the 16th to fully wake up.
Guido and Matt were the unlucky chaps who drew the short straw when Stewart the General Manager was picking his victims. Guido's a member, and Matt's a school mate of circa 35 years (?) who was in town for business and free for a hit. When I read the start sheet in the pro shop and saw the name "Guido" next to ours, a little light bulb went off in my head. Surely it wasn't the hilarious Greco-Australian comedian Guido Hatzis that would be waiting out there on the tee? (The one who pretends to ring the Queen, to tell her that she can sleep on his nana's couch during her visit, as long as she does a shift or two in the fish and chip shop they own and she doesn't steal any pickled onions in the process). Of course it wasn't that Guido, and in the event the real Guido (pronounced "Gee-doa", I understand, rather than "Gwee-doa") was just as entertaining. He was also born in South Africa to Dutch parents who emigrated like many others to this big island many moons ago - not Greek. But I digress.
These fellas were my kind of golfers. No messing around - just walk up to it and hit the thing. And plenty of light hearted banter on the way around. Ideal company, really. They were interested to hear whether we'd "picked up" at a golf course on our adventure yet. HA! Two things: (1) we have girlfriends whom we're very lucky to have and plan on keeping; (2) golf courses aren't the ideal place to meet young, single, attractive women; the ladies we tend to meet at the clubs, lovely though they invariably are, wouldn't be in our...target market...were we single humans (which, as I said before, but should reiterate emphatically - largely to reassure our tolerant girlfriends - we are not). So a profound "certainly not" was offered as the party line.
Huntingdale as a golf course is pretty sharp. Traditionally the Australian Masters was held there every year, although for some reason unknown to me it moved recently (and was held last year at Kingston Heath, which was a resounding success on all fronts apparently). Some bloke told me they moved it because Tiger didn't like the course and wouldn't play there. It would be unwise of me to speculate, but it's plausible. Let the conspiracy theories run rampant. Anyway suffice to say it's a good track, and the calibre of champions whose photos (in their Gold winner's jackets) are up on the clubhouse lounge walls shows just that. We saw Bernhard Langer, Colin Montgomerie, Aaron Baddeley, Stuart Appleby, Craig Parry, Robert Allenby, Mark O'Meara and...a fella by the name of Greg Norman (you might not have heard of him).
Mike and I had played here in 2004 when we came across for the boxing day cricket test at the MCG. Since we had reciprocal rights through our membership at Russley in Christchurch we thought we may as well bring our sticks and have a hack for a day or two while we were here. Think Ed and I even played on new year's eve, while Goldy and our mate Blair went shopping. Dedicated. The point though is that having played the course before we knew what to expect. Favourite holes were - and still are - the 14th and 16th (above and below).
It's pretty tight, on the whole. Rather than being long, the imperative is to stay on the fairway - if you can do that you'll have a few short irons in and hopefully pick up a birdie or two. Sounds good in theory. Our golf was indifferent at best (I had 81, M an 83) - pretty rubbish, actually. Huntingdale robbed us of a few putts, the greens being a fair bit slower than Victoria's the day before...so a few putts were left in the jaws. How frustrating.
Poor Matt faded a bit on the back 9 as the mercury started rising, but Guido managed 38 points. I fancy his handicap will be coming down. We joined them in the clubhouse for a thirst quenching lemon squash afterwards, and put the world to rest for a good hour or so. They're switched on chaps - G's in pharmaceuticals; M in banking, with St. George - and were happy to share their thoughts on a good range of topics. Like bloody Lara Bingle and the media circus that has erupted over here in recent weeks. Jeez they're brutal these Aussie journos. No decorum; could do with going to finishing school or, better still, to The First Tee. I don't know the full Bingle Story, but surely she can't deserve what the tabloids are dishing out to her?
With time to kill before we were due to meet Roger & Lorraine - our hosts for tonight - we had another session at the Apple Store in Chadstone Mall. Free (fast) internet, and air conditioning. Crucial. However it was hard to concentrate, because we both food coma'd after devouring a family size chocolate cake that was on sale at Coles for AU$4 (NZ$16). We were hungry and had set ourselves a $6.50 combined budget (that's how much cash we had on us). The first displays we came across walking into Coles were bread rolls - which happened to be $2.50 for 4 of those tasty cheese & bacon numbers - and chocolate cakes - which had been reduced from $10 to $4 to clear. Done. Not healthy, but would fill a hole. So we found ourselves sitting on a bench seat in the middle of the mall, trying to wolf down this cake. All I could think of was an experiment we'd done in 7th form economics when learning about the law of diminishing returns. Our mate James Turner had volunteered - not knowing what he was in for - and had to eat the best part of a 500 gram Cadburys chocolate bar, washed down with a good few cups of lemonade. James had to rate for the class the satisfaction he derived from each square of chocolate and sip of lemonade; of course the ratings out of 10 dropped as his consumption increased, illustrating the law of diminishing returns. He was miserable by the time he'd finished. And that's how we felt sitting in the bloody mall, next to our chocolate cake. About 10 minutes, it took us (that's after eating 2 rolls each, by the way). Pigs.
This evening we've had a lovely meal with Roger & Lorraine - friends of my folks from way back, whom we caught up with a couple of weeks ago down on the Peninsula for lunch. Our first curry in months. Used to eat the stuff just about every week. Anyway a home cooked meal was a lovely way to end a great day, a long day.
Will sleep well tonight. Off to the Growling Frog Golf Club in the morning - surely the best name of a golf club anyone has ever heard?
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