Being woken up by your body clock - rather than your alarm clock - is a rare treat. On the back of half a dozen early starts today we were due to tee off at 2, which is a far more civilized hour to commence play than a quarter past seven. Afternoon tee times afford us the opportunity to recharge the batteries. Ahhhhhhhhhh.
This morning we woke in the house of Stewat and Tanya, in Berwick (which must take its namesake from one of the Berwicks in Bonnie Scotland? Will research this). It was a nice place to awake. Stu & his wife had a yoga business, with which they're still actively involved. They're spiritual, relaxed humans. Their philosophy permeates unsurprisingly into their home, which has a calming quality. Sitting over my freshly made wholemeal pancakes I could've been in a $65,000 a day health spa in the Swiss Alps. It just felt cleansing (notwithstanding the fact that Stu is a wine distributor!).
Stu took us on a tiki tour of the surrounding area - The Dandenongs - which he'd grown up in. Reminded me of the Adelaide Hills. The region's pretty quaint; very Australian with a very English flavour - hard to describe. You'll find Agatha Christie style tea rooms and old steam trains among century old gums and towns with names like Sassafrass and Ferny Creek. We visited Puffing Billy (the local steam train, packed full of tourists from every corner of the globe) and a famous tea room that served traditional Devonshire Tea. In the Australian highlands. An interesting experience. We also had a look in, while in the area, at Olinda Golf Club - which must be the worst kept course I've seen in my 25 years. To be fair the club was kicked off the premises a couple of years ago when they stopped buying beer from the bar and resorted instead to bringing their own slab. Now the place is something of a ghost town - a bit sad really - so we didn't see it at it's best. Anyway we had a pleasant, relaxing morning, rolling round the hills and hearing stories about Stu's teenage misdemeanours.
Southern GC's carpark was packed to the rafters. We thought we'd be in for a long round - even if there was only one golfer per car. Thankfully James the affable lad in the pro shop ushered us to the 10th tee, to get under way. The back 9's part of the original course (that used to go over the road whose names escapes me); it's the more mature, stronger, more brutish of the two. Because the gums reach outer space you've gotta hit it straight off the tee - there's certainly no prospect of going over the things with anything but a sand wedge, and even then it's touch and go.
The front 9, on the other hand, is younger. And gnarlier. Don't let the wide open spaces lull you into a false sense of security - the combination of well engineered undulations, hard & fast conditions, and clever bunkering is more than enough to ruin a good scorecard. Not that I ever had one of those today. In fact we were all pretty ordinary. We fed off each other's mediocrity. Just as well we've got a sense of humour, Stu included.
Southern had gone somewhat under our radar, given the renown of some of other courses we've played this week. But when we stepped off 18 green today, in the evening sun, we all agreed it's a force to be reckoned with. Apparently a few Aussie greats have plied their trade here (Bob Shearer anyone?). Today a few agricultural workers plied their trade here, but we had a great time in the process. Next time I'll learn my lesson and hit a few more 2 irons - you've really got to be on the fairway, particularly on the back 9.
Warning to anyone visiting Southern: if a left hander with an apparent chip on his shoulder approaches you, turn and walk away. Quickly. The poor chap we came across can't have been the full complement, because we got a solid earfull on several occasions for holding play up when (1) we were waiting over every shot for the 4 ball in front; (2) we invited said Lonestar to join us or play through; and (3) we addressed him in our most polite Kiwi accent. Thought he was going to wrap his 9 iron around my head. Poor chap, as I said.
The other people we came across at Southern were without exception charming, and as I said the golf course was First Rate. The two 9s are chalk & cheese; chalk demanding certain shots (long, straight drives), cheese demanding others (carefully threaded long irons and dainty pitches). As I said all of the above proved to be beyond our capability on this Day 82, but life goes on. Tomorrow we're down the road at Commonwealth, where they've just held the Ladies Australian Open. Action.
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