Chisholm Park Golf Club holds special memories for us. ¬†Throughout our cherished university years we‚??d tear down State Highway 1 to Dunedin for the odd weekend, to catch up with friends studying at Otago. ¬†Invariably they were heavy episodes. ¬†Dunedin‚??s a sociable place, a town that revolves around the University and its Scottish roots. ¬†Part of the template ‚??Dunners Experience‚?Ě was a knock around Chisholm on Sunday afternoon to blow away the cobwebs, before the drive home. ¬†The prevailing wind is a stiff Sou‚?? West‚?? breeze that sweeps across the links like an All Black back rower brushes aside an opposing winger. ¬†Linksy business. ¬†The vistas over Tomohawk Bay are as spectacular and soul nourishing as anything you‚??ll see in NZ too.
With two days budgeted for Dunedin golf, Chisholm then was a no brainer. ¬†Fortunately the club were amenable to our visit, and indeed went out of their way to make us feel welcome. ¬†We arrived after a surreal-but-typical-Dunners experience the night prior (will get to that) filled with great excitement. ¬†Having been lucky now to play many of the great links of the world it‚??d be a treat to revisit one of our favourites so close to home. ¬†And it was. ¬†Andrew the Secretary Manager, in very un-Kiwi fashion, was keen to hear how we got ourselves a game at Cypress Point. ¬†‚??Can‚??t tell you all our secrets,‚?Ě I replied at the first, second and third askings. ¬†Y‚??er man spent a few years working over in the US & Canada (including a stint down at Pebble), so he was aware of what a privilege it was for us to pay a visit to one of the world‚??s top clubs. ¬†To most folk down here Cypress if anything is just another of those American courses ‚?? and in a way, that‚??s quite nice for us. ¬†Hardly a day went by in the US when we weren‚??t quizzed on how that particular invitation came about.
The night before? ¬†I think the story deserves to be told. ¬†Jucy Lucy pulled into The Gates of Dunedin circa 5pm, Saturday evening, with not a hint of purpose. ¬†No accommodation had been arranged, nor did we have anyone in mind to catch up with. ¬†So. ¬†After false starts at several university libraries ‚?? in the hunt for gratis wireless internet ‚?? we abandoned any hope of productivity. ¬†A place to rest our craniums became the focus of our attention. ¬†But where, I hear you ask. ¬†Well, Michael directed us towards his favourite bar in the world in the hope of inspiration. ¬†Mou Very (French, translation: soft and squidgy) is, so They proclaim, ‚??probably the smallest bar in the universe.‚?Ě ¬†A wee gem, so it is.
At Mou Very we pondered our (lack of) options over a pint of our favourite tonic, Emerson‚??s Pilsener (brewery nearby). ¬†Bart‚??s Formiddable Chat wafted into the ears of the unsuspecting barmaid ‚?? as it has a tendency to do ‚?? and soon conversation turned to our sleeping arrangements. ¬†As fate would have it there was a chap upstairs with a gallery adjacent to his flat, in which he often let couchsurfers and other flavours of vagrants rest their heads. ¬†Before long y‚??er man appeared. ¬†Larry‚??s an ex-university academic from Washington who now directs his talents towards magic and the arts. ¬†A character, it must be said. ¬†Without hesitation he invited puregolf2010 to be his guests, both for the night and at a magic show he was soon to put on for a friend‚??s daughter that had graduated that day. ¬†Not only that either. ¬†Later into the evening ‚?? which was punctuated by chance encounters with an eclectic bunch of humans downstairs at Mou Very ‚?? we were invited to wander through Larry‚??s gallery under candlelight while he prized soft melodies from his piano next door. ¬†There were singalongs too. ¬†An evening to remember. ¬†Though when I woke up on the gallery floor in my sleeping bag I was entirely mystified, not for the first time ‚?? where the hell am I?
After a wonderful breakfast in town with friends ‚?? our favourite dairy farmers, the Le Herons ‚?? who also happened to be in town, we found ourselves at Chisholm. ¬†Heavy wind disturbed the calm. ¬†I felt more alive than I had an hour or two prior, though. ¬†A delightful pair approached and were to accompany us around the links. ¬†Alistair‚??s the club captain, and is heavily involved with Otago Golf. ¬†Lovely chap and a fairly good golfer at that. ¬†Joan's originally a farm girl but now spends her days at the School Of Dentistry; more to the point she reminded me a lot of the inspiring Bell Robertson whom we encountered back on Day 233 at Machrihanish. ¬†Fitter than most people 20 years her junior, an immaculate golfer and that same placid-but-no-nonsense disposition you find in daughters of farmers. ¬†Ideal company on a blustery Sunday.
There are several high notes on the walk ‚??round. ¬†Take the short par 4 3rd green, for example ‚?? a narrow hourglass that slopes up to the mid point and down from then onwards. ¬†For a downhill drivable hole without bunkers, the green is an ideal one ‚?? although word is it attracts protestations from the older members who can‚??t spin the ball! ¬†Then there‚??s the jaw droppingly gorgeous 9th: a par 4 that plays along the clifftop, and across the beach below if you tee off from the blacks. ¬†New Zealand‚??s answer to the 8th at Pebble. ¬†Sadly the outcrop behind the green is a favourite spot for ‚??jumpers‚?Ě, but common sense has prevailed and a proposal to erect a big fence scrapped ‚?? if They want to jump they‚??ll find a way to jump. ¬†The 9th, anyway, is an experience not to be missed. ¬†In a stern Sou‚?? Wester‚?? gargantuan waves roll hurriedly into Tomohawk Bay, sometimes carrying the odd surfer with them. ¬†Brave souls...
By the time we reached shelter, after a frustrating day of missed putts, the clubhouse was an appealing proposition. ¬†Joan's husband George, Andrew and Brian the club numbers man joined us around the table for a chinwag and a few packets of crisps. ¬†So too did Bart and his mate James, who‚??d played around behind us. ¬†From the group came a couple of donations and fine hospitality ‚?? we left yearning to return another day. ¬†Chisholm‚??s a real delight and, as is the case with many provincial clubs, it‚??s the people that help make it what it is. ¬†Thanks to the aforementioned humans for a tremendous few hours of struggle, fresh air and banter.
After another sleep in Jucy, surrounded by golf equipment, suitcases and the sweet aroma of golf shoes, I woke not to another Big Blue at Invercargill.¬†¬† Truly amazing ‚?? we even needed to put on sunscreen for our early morning game at Oreti Sands.¬† The lads, who sleep in the bed(s) (plural on this occasion) were slow to wake ‚?? I‚??m not sure what‚??s been going on of late but there have been constant references to top ‚??n tailing on the blog and so clearly Bart has made an impression these last few weeks‚?¶
Anyway after a spot of brekkie and a farewell to our fantastic hosts, ¬†Russell and Francis, it was a quick drive down the road to Oreti Sands to play the most Southern Links course in the world.¬† We grabbed a card and dragged Burnsy the 80m back on the first hole to The Black Tees.¬† We‚??ve got used to hauling our playing partners back to the tips and generally everything works out absolutely fine, helped largely by the massive advances in technology meaning the ball is going so far these days.¬† But here at Oreti Sands from the tips with a sea of maram grass before you, the breeze blowing and the course at some 6400m you need to have your ball striking boots on.¬†¬† We, collectively, did not and after a few holes were down a few golf balls.
Losing golf balls is one story of Oreti Sands that we‚??d heard plenty of time on our travels.¬† But in truth the fairways are very generous and the course has been designed to cope with the wild wild winds that fly across this links land.¬† ¬†There‚??s nothing wrong with some maram grass, kiwis just need to get used to not being able to smash it onto the neighbouring fairway (myself included!!).
Oreti is a seriously good piece of golfing terrain.¬† I‚??m going to put it out there that this place could, even should, be as good as Barnbougle / Lost Farm.¬† The turf is pure, the wind whips across the links land and the dunes extend right along the coast on what must be thousands of acres of World Class Golfing Terrain.¬† Furthermore, it‚??s only 2.5 hours drive from Queenstown, the #1 golf destination in NZ, therefore making it a real option for golf lovers the world over to come for a week of golf‚?¶ I‚??d say that between the progressive local council and the NZ tourism board looking to develop golf tourism into NZ that if Tom Doak came along to build a world class course nearby Oreti Sands, it would be very well received. ¬†Perhaps a project for 2011....
The current course is a bit of a mixed bag. First, it‚??s a pure links course, one of 6 in NZ (which incidentally has the most links courses of any country in the world after the UK and Ireland).¬† The turf generally plays first, the greens are large and wouldn‚??t be out of place on a Coore/Crenshaw layout and there are some really classy uses of undulations such as on the 1st, 7th¬† and 11th holes.¬†
But the course is a bit like a patchwork quilt in that it has recently been redesigned (at significant cost) by leading kiwi designers, Turner and Macpherson who have stamped their mark. ¬†What these blokes have done is create a few ‚??super links‚?? holes on what otherwise is a very simple, flat links course.¬† The 2nd, 3rd and 4th holes are entirely new and play through a small part of the sensational dune land I have mentioned above.¬† I loved the test of these holes, they‚??re classy holes unlike most other links stuff I‚??ve seen in NZ (with the obvious exception of Paraparaumu Beach), but there are doubts about how anyone above a 8 handicap would fare with them, particularly in a spot of wind, and particularly the 2nd hole which is just not quite right (I'd get into design philosophy on it but this isn't golf club atlas). ¬†
the 2nd from the tee. ¬†The hole plays in a C around the dune on the right. ¬†
above the 2nd green. Below the 4th green. ¬†
After the first four holes the course heads further inland where the land is flatter and the holes more accommodating for golfers of all levels. ¬†16 and 17 have also been remodeled and are now a short par four, par three combo played around and over the wetlands. ¬†The net result of all this is that the club at Oreti Sands has supposedly lost a significant chunk of members who now find the course too difficult.¬†¬†
JP was busy enjoying the scottish-esque thistles in the rough. ¬†
One issue we had was with the tee blocks (see below). Clearly no one plays off the tips and the green keeper hadn't trimmed the grass around the tee boxes. Not only was it claustrophobic but hitting a stinging 2 iron was not an option - you had to launch it to get above the grass in front of you! ¬†To be fair to the green keeper I think he looks after the course himself and with the help of volunteers and overall it was in fantastic condition.
The members we met loved the course, as we did.¬† They embraced the challenge of playing in the wind, and whilst the scoring wasn‚??t flash¬† (they said that they fared pretty well when out playing the other courses in the region)¬† Oreti touches those senses within that only a links course in the wind can do.¬†
I could go on about the course as it is, but I‚??m more excited about what could be done nearby. ¬†Oreti itself is easily the second best links track in NZ as it is, but oh what could be‚?¶
Photographs and a few captions of the course are below‚?¶
A couple of the local lads
Above, the 7th green - a great par four
par three 10th played blind over these dunes
Looking back up the double fairway (12&13) to the 12th green
13 - another great par four
"Old Tom Morris" played around the wetlands.
Postscript:¬† golf was the winner of the day.¬† 2 rounds with Burnsy, board member of The First Tee, and I made a grand total of 0 birdies much to his disapproval.¬† Pressure got to me.¬† Fortunately once Burnsy bailed on the south (again, the Jafa), the birdies have started up again.¬† For those still keen to pledge ‚?? get amongst it ‚?? as at Christmas Day we‚??re at 94 + 2 Eagles during the month of December.¬†¬†
--- ¬†Hokitika GC
Today is another big day in the year of puregolf2010! As Michael talked of in the video we had a lot of driving to do. We made it from Hanmer Springs to Hokitika a bit late because not only did we have issues finding the keys first thing in the morning, but it was one of those mornings where getting out of bed is a real struggle. We got to the Hokitika GC towards the later end of when had told them to expect us and there waiting was Bret the club caption with two of the top juniors on the brink of throwing in the towel and heading home after waiting for an hour, our sincere apologies!! ¬†A somewhat out and back formatted golf course with a links lay out through rolling sand dunes. ¬†It was pure and, as goldy mentioned - very traditional in parts. ¬†Today we were joined by the not so prominent northerly wind with strong showers at times so the course was an interesting test. The course being on the west coast of New Zealand is frequented by a lot of rain causing the ground to become softer than you would usually have on a links course and the greens were also very receptive, allowing you to throw the ball straight at the pin as opposed to playing a lot of bump and runs.
The course has a few short par fours which create a good challenge if you decide to take them on and go for the green. ¬†Mixed results followed as the nearby OB posts came into action to the left of a couple of greens. ¬†The young guns led the way playing some very solid and enjoyable golf to watch. . ¬†Jamie was the standout on the day with his two under par round (47 stableford points of his 9 handicap) which was a fantastic result. The irony of this round for Jamie was that even with this great score he was unable to win a skin due to yours truly holing a birdie put on 18 to take the half, needless to say this did not impress Jamie! Earlier on Goldy had won plenty of skins with a few early birdies, and all up the lads made 7 birdies to add to the Homecoming Birdie Challenge Tally. ¬†It's not too late to sign up to make a pledge for all those who have been following the boys progress!
We dropped one of the lads home after the round and made our way towards Wanaka, driving through some of the most spectacular scenery that I have ever seen and it wasn‚??t even that good a day! The video shows the sites we got to experience‚?¶
As is the case in many realms of Life, some golf courses are built up to be The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread but fail to hit the mark. ¬†Like a new eatery. ¬†Not so with Lost Farm, the most recent addition to the Rolling Stone that is Tasmanian golf. ¬†The same visionary potato farmer that was behind Barnbougle Dunes ‚?? Richard Sattler ‚?? is responsible for bringing to fruition one of the most exhilarating golf courses ever built. ¬†He brought Bill Coore down (of Coore & Crenshaw repute) to do the design ‚?? although despite not having had much of a hand in it all, the best putter to ever live has put his name to it too (for a cool million bucks no doubt). ¬†Anyway, all that stuff is academic. ¬†Now you have possibly the two best modern links in the world sitting side by side on a stretch of Tasmanian coastline that will blow even the most seasoned golf traveller away. ¬†It‚??s unpretentious stuff too, the ethos endearing itself to golf folk from all walks of life (you can wear jeans and more or less whatever you like, as long as you have a collar). ¬†A few days on I‚??m still struggling to contain myself.
Lost Farm has been a whisper on a good few golfers‚?? lips in 2010. ¬†And the Barnbougle Buzz is still alive and well, despite it having been on the scene for 4 or 5 years now. ¬†Travelling through ‚??Straya for 80 days earlier in the year not a day went by when we weren‚??t asked if Tassie was on our route. ¬†‚??No, but we‚??re hoping to get there later in the year.‚?Ě ¬†I must‚??ve uttered those words 500 times. ¬†Thanks to Simon Cummins of Golf Tourism Australia (and mate Michael ‚??Bowser‚?Ě Hauser) we were extended an invitation to come on down. ¬†He didn‚??t have to ask twice. ¬†
The flight into Launceston was like being on a trampoline ‚?? as soon as you‚??re up you‚??re down. ¬†I suppose it‚??s all relative on the back of a long haul from Dubai to Perth. ¬†What was troubling however was the seating arrangement: Simon had a stunning brunette perched next to him while I was lumped with, guess who, Goldstein. ¬†Whom I wouldn‚??t describe as a stunning brunette (although I could think of a few other adjectives...). ¬†Surely there‚??s a psychological condition known as ‚??Plane Seat Envy‚?Ě? ¬†In any case I had it. ¬†Bad.
By the time we reached Barny I found it in myself to forgive Simon. ¬†It would be two long days on the links if I didn‚??t. ¬†And, hell, we were about to play Barnbougle Dunes! ¬†A Tom Doak design and straight into the Australian Top 5 ‚?? strong credentials. ¬†So, did it live up to expectations? ¬†You better believe it. ¬†Goldy‚??s put together a video of the adventure so I won‚??t bore you with too much descriptive drivel. ¬†I will say though that on more or less every hole you find yourself with options; angles open up before you for careful consideration. ¬†It‚??s a layout that you need to golf your ball around as much with your head as with your hands. ¬†I consider that a compliment to Mr. Doak. ¬†No doubt when he flew down to see the canvas on offer Tom felt a responsibility to do it justice. ¬†And he has, praise the Lord. ¬†(The stretch from 2-9 is particularly special).
Happily Simon arranged for us to stay at Lost Farm, a mere 3 minutes down the road. ¬†It was only fitting that we have dinner then in the new clubhouse that sits like a presiding judge atop the dunes, overlooking the course. ¬†I had a fish called Trevalla which sounds as much like a Bond villain as it does a creature of the ocean. ¬†We weren‚??t expecting haute cuisine but that‚??s exactly what we got; obviously Mr. Sattler doesn‚??t do things by halves (and, like many farmers, he‚??s got far more between the ears than he‚??d lead you to believe). ¬†If you come all the way down here to play golf you may as well have a good meal ‚?? and the nearest restaurant must be several k‚??s away too, so the convenience factor is compelling (especially if you‚??ve been ill-disciplined enough to have a Boags or two immediately after walking off the 20th green). ¬†Oh, did I mention Lost Farm has 20 holes?
The best 20 hole golf course I‚??ve ever played, hands down. ¬†And here‚??s me been espousing the virtues of 12 hole golf courses all year... ¬†I suppose Mr. Coore just saw 20 holes that just had to be built. ¬†With two short par 3s known as 13a and 18a the superintendent has options in laying out the course for competition play. ¬†13a by the way is one of the most pleasant surprises I‚??ve ever come across. ¬†You think you‚??re heading on to what is the 14th tee, then realise there‚??s a short hole stretching across your path, built on rip snortingly fine dune territory. ¬†Coore must‚??ve had the kind of epiphany that MacKenzie had when he saw that famous rocky outcrop at Cypress (I‚??m speaking of the 16th, of course) - I‚??ve just GOT to build a hole on that. ¬†And he did.
What I love about both BB and LF is how playable they are by golfers of (nearly) all standards, yet how much thought needs to go in to each shot if you‚??re to really tear them up. ¬†Every choice you make ‚?? whether you know you‚??ve made it or not! ‚?? has a consequence, be it a resulting blind approach or a deep bunker to navigate (sometimes both). ¬†Clever, clever stuff. ¬†What‚??s also so encouraging is that both Doak and Coore have dared to build holes that no one else would these days (playing the holes like 3rd at Royal Adelaide, the 9th at Cypress or the 8th at Troon this year we‚??ve found ourselves lamenting this phenomenon). ¬†Holes don‚??t need to be long to be challenging!
Well done Tom, Bill and Richard. ¬†It was a pleasure to come down and admire your fine handiwork. ¬†A pleasure that was made possible by Simon Cummins of Golf Tourism Australia and Michael ‚??Bowser‚?Ě Hauser ‚?? two gentlemen to which we are heavily indebted. ¬†Yoos fullas are liginds, as we say in Nu Zillin. ¬†Golf at its purest ‚?? low maintenance links, understated clubhouses and good company. ¬†Get me back ‚??ere quick...
Back in Aussie the chat often turns to ‚??golf course design‚??.¬† Names like Thompson, Perrett, Norman and Clayton are bandied around in golf clubhouses with an alarming frequency.¬† Why the subject of golf architecture in Australia is so prominent I do not know? Maybe it‚??s because JP and I have now traveled the world and are now back in the antipodes so people hit us up about it? Maybe it‚??s because design is a big part of what Golf-Is-All-About down here.¬† Maybe they don‚??t have any better stories about late night antics and other tall tales?¬†¬† Result of all of this is that our day at Kennedy Bay has oft‚?? invited the question of ‚??what we thought of the course? ¬†So, rather than repeating myself over and over, here is my response.¬† For those people in the real world who don‚??t give two hoots about how a golf course is designed, feel free to skip through to tomorrows blog written by JP which will have a flowery account of Lake Karrinyup undoubtedly filled with similies, metaphors and all of those other nice things your English teacher drummed into you at school.¬†¬† For the record, I pipped JP by one percentage point in final year English although there is a good story behind that too‚?¶ Note to students studying for your final exams ‚?? don‚??t copy the NZQA model answer word for word in the exam. ¬†You‚??ll get a 0.
Ok before Kennedy Bay I have to mention my current abode which is a bed on Mr Sattler‚??s old potato farm in Tasmania, nestled amongst the sand dunes looking out across Bass Straight.¬†¬† We‚??ve just played Barnbougle Dunes.¬† Barnbougle was, without a speckle of doubt, World Class Golf.¬† It is a course which epitomises the word puregolf (and, Slambino, I know you‚??re wondering, Yes we Loved the 4th hole and the walk to the 5th was indeed one of The Walks of The Year).
Kennedy Bay‚?¶ ¬†If I was a golf course architect and was handed the piece of land that is Kennedy Bay I would count my lucky stars and offer to design the course without a thought of asking for payment.¬† Being handed this gig is the kind of invitation you dream about and will make one‚??s career.¬† It‚??s like being dealt pocket aces at the world series of poker.¬† Or like a socialite being invited to Wils and Kates wedding.¬† Or Mike Clayton being asked to help out as Doak‚??s offsider at Barnbougle¬†¬† Needless to say Kennedy Bay is some golfing terrain.¬† All the elements stack up ‚?? it is adjacent to the ocean, has a flat sandy base that was made for links golf, enjoys the consistency of ‚??the doctor‚?? blowing across the land from the West and has a series of medium sized dunes rolling across the terrain of the course.¬† Perfect.
Naturally, Kennedy Bay was designed as a links track with a layout cut from the native ‚??Aussie Scrub‚??, with pot bunkers dug out at driving distance and with holes designed with the wind very much in mind. ¬†¬†Michael Coote and Ian Baker Finch had the privilege of working on the design, the shaping and the development and then there was Kennedy Bay ‚?? one of Australia‚??s top tracks and one of the finest links in the land.¬†
The pot bunkers at KBay are the real deal and the soil is firm so the ball was rolling and bounding all over the show.¬† Walking down the first I felt strangely comfortable after spending so much time this year on the links of the UK.¬†¬† Links golf has a pull that is difficult to describe and I find myself regularly looking at photographs of the out ‚??n back layouts around the coast of Scotland.¬† ¬†
My favourite hole at Kennedy Bay came early in the round at the short par three 3rd.¬† ¬†A great wee hole played over a large hump in the ground, to a semi blind but relatively flat green that slopes away - a simple, tad old fashioned but incredibly classy start to the round.¬†
From there, the course continued to impress in particular with it‚??s fairway bunkers and routing as holes flow in various directions around the coastline, and between the dunes. ¬†¬†It was clearly a top class course in Aussie and the best course we‚??d played for at least a couple of weeks.
The greens were a real feature of the course as they were particularly challenging.¬†¬† Large and undulating they fitted the ‚??links mould‚??.¬† Although most of them were also significantly elevated some 10 feet or so above the fairways.¬† The opposite of the Coore/Crenshaw design where the green complexes are so understated you sometimes struggle to tell where fairway finishes and the green begins.¬†¬† The result of the elevated greens at Kennedy Bay is that it would be excruciatingly difficult a 14 handicapper ‚?? or a 3 handicapper come to think of it ‚?? particularly in the wind.¬† ¬†
Getting the ball onto the green is a feat in itself.¬† Let alone stopping it on an upturned green when the wind is blowing you off your feet.¬† And if you miss?¬† You‚??ve got to possess a seriously good short game.¬† Like, even better than JP‚??s. ¬†¬†So, unlike the traditional links courses around the world the greens and surrounding swales were too intense for me.¬†¬† ¬†
As the afternoon went on it was apparent that the locals were being continually beaten up by the greens as the pace of play went from slow to Very Slow.¬† 2 hours ++ to play the back nine was a product of the hot day, the difficultly of the course, and the insistence to putt out every little putt.¬† No gimmes down here!¬†
The infrastructure at Kennedy Bay is simple and unpretentious.¬† It‚??s just a golf course and a shack of a clubhouse. ¬†¬†It‚??s a public course so there are the odd cart girls flying around offering you drinks but they are a far cry from the girls at TPC Sawgrass.¬† I‚??d put up photos (of The World Famous Sawgrass Cart Girls) but lets keep excitement levels to a minimum.¬† This is a kids show after-all.¬† But the thing about Kennedy Bay is that it‚??s about the golf.¬† And the golf is seriously good.¬† Just make it a bit simpler next time.¬†¬†
I knew very little about The Cut prior to our foray down Australia‚??s west coast to Port Bouvard. ¬†To me it sounded like one of those innocuously named drinking establishments, where the proprietor after having come out of a local Polytechnic with a marketing degree conjured something utterly brilliant to them and them alone. ¬†However as always I kept an open mind. ¬†Which as we all know is dangerous, because people inevitably insist on putting things in it. ¬†¬†
Georgia put together a packed lunch that the Queen herself would‚??ve been pleased to unravel on a balmy summer afternoon at Balmoral. ¬†To keep the bounty from decay we used one of those little chilly bins on wheels that looks like a suitcase Frodo Baggins might take on his holidays to The Ritz Middle Earth. ¬†At first I‚??d gathered the intention was to wheel this fing ‚??round the course ‚?? which might well ‚??ave attracted sideways glances, perhaps even ridicule, from the militant kangaroos marshalling proceedings. ¬†Thankfully however Ned pulled The Golden Chariot into a wee side road near The Cut that instead took us down to the point where Australian meets Indian. ¬†What a gorgeous spot for a picnic it was too. ¬†In true vagrant fashion we opened up the boot of the Chariot and sat on the tray, munching down ham and cheese rolls with the enthusiasm of a thousand Oliver Twists as a pod of dolphins meandered by. ¬†Georgia had packed mango cake into the care package too, so we were well fed and slightly comatose by the time we rolled out of the car. ¬†An ideal preparation. ¬†
Grant is the human responsible for all things golf at The Cut (ugly matters such as F&B and accommodation he leaves to less fortunate souls). ¬†Grant is also ‚?? as the ‚??Strayans might say ‚?? a bloody good bloke. ¬†This is a phrase that‚??s thankfully disappeared from my vernacular in recent months, having crept in on the back of 80 days of desert exploration earlier this year. ¬†Semantics aside, y‚??er man would charm the clothes even the most ardent of lesbians. ¬†After a brief chat chat and argument about whether or not we should take carts, we started chasing the little rabbit. ¬†
No less than 7 balls were struck from between the black plates before it was safe to venture onwards. ¬†Ned‚??s first blow was particularly amusing to the rest of us, although less so to Himself. ¬†To the right of the fairway is a stretch of snake ridden brush; to the right of that is an apartment block and swimming pool below. ¬†Had someone been swimming at the time they might well have been knocked out cold by Ned‚??s Titleist 2. ¬†If the green lay at North on the compass, Ned‚??s tee shot took a course of East North East (nigh on due East by The End). ¬†At times like these one wonders whether they know the victim will enough to burst into deep lung laughter. ¬†I decided quickly that I did, and so commenced a Gallus Giggle.
The opening hole itself is in truth one of the better ones we‚??ve come across in recent months, save for the green (which has all the charm of a bad joke). ¬†Still it‚??s a cracker, similar in a way to the first at New south Wales ‚?? except it climbs to the left, not the right. ¬†By the time your legs carry off the back of the green to the next tee an impression starts to form in your mind that The Cut isn‚??t going to be a gentle walk. ¬†
Any traces of lethargy though soon give way to humility. ¬†The Injun Ocean opens up before your eyes in all its deep blue splendour. ¬†Immediately as an insignificant human being In The Scheme Of Things one feels small and of less consequence than a falling leaf. ¬†I must confess the next thing that entered my head was a Great White Shark ‚?? and a wonder as to how many were circling in those waters in the hope of a tasty meal. ¬†Opportunists that they are.
As we paced down the path from the 2nd tee Ned was sharing a tale as he does from time to time. ¬†When he retired, Ned threw his mobile phone ceremonially into a river. ¬†How liberating that must feel. ¬†If we all pause for a moment‚??s introspection I dare say each and every one of us has been tempted by the same prospect. ¬†Ned did it and good on him. ¬†I like a man that‚??s moved by his eccentricities and convictions.
Adjacent to the 2nd fairway is an ominously empty apartment block, no doubt now selling at circa 40% discounted rates. ¬†Sign o‚?? the times. ¬†On such a confrontingly beautiful stretch of coastline how sad it is that someone‚??s gone to the trouble of erecting a big white plastic box only for no one to make it their home. ¬†
From the 5th to the 9th The Cut takes you through the houses that have actually found owners. ¬†Miraculously though these holes weren‚??t contrived or mere money spinners ‚?? as so often can be the case with such developments ‚?? but rather well designed creatures in their own right. ¬†The par 5 5th was particularly good we thought. ¬†
10 may be one of the hardest par 4s in Australia: a sod of a hole that snakes through a corridor of snake territory. ¬†More terrifying than the hole itself was the dragoon of Little Rascals using the tee for a recreational game of bull rush. ¬†We asked politely whether they'd relinquish their playground for a a few moments while we teed off; mercifully they obliged but that didn't stop them ridiculing our Kiwi accents as we hit away. ¬†"I'm beached bro!". ¬†"That didn't even get past the blues..." ¬†Tykes.
From 11 onwards ‚?? right to the finish ‚?? it‚??s fairly breathtaking stuff. ¬†Fun too, especially if you have the Director of Golf to tell you where to hit it. ¬†Grant played the kind of golf I like to watch and wish more people would play ‚?? walk up, have a quick waggle and strike without delay. ¬†Not even a faint suggestion of hesitation. ¬†Lo and behold his methods worked wonders too, his score probably being close to par (on a course where peril along with death and taxes becomes the only certainty in life).
Coming down the stretch a happy glow gripped my face. ¬†The sort of happy glow that‚??s only found when cold beer, hot sun and a good links track come together as naturally as Adam and Eve. ¬†Despite the carefree look in the eyes of two score kangaroos lining the 18th fairway, I knew in that moment that life for us must be better than it is for them. ¬†Because We have links golf.
JP ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†¬†
When we woke up in my cousin Simon‚??s flat on Sunday morning, two thirds of puregolf2010 were Not Well. ¬†A dodgy Ruby Murray ‚?? ironically from ‚??Lucky Tandoori‚?Ě ‚?? was causing mayhem in the gastronomic quarters of Messrs Goldstein and De Vries; and I was struggling to contain my amusement. ¬†After an absolutely smashing couple of days seeing family I hadn‚??t seen in years, it was with heavy hearts and dodgy guts that we left for Aldeburgh ‚?? a quaint wee town an hour down the coast in Suffolk. ¬†There we would be meeting Willie Lebus, one of the more colourful characters of the year.
The story was a one that has become increasingly familiar of late. ¬†That is, our friend Paul organised the game with Willie at the 11th hour, the day prior. ¬†He was up for the weekend from London with his wife, and fortunately for us was only too happy to entertain. ¬†In more ways than one. ¬†Paul had mentioned over the phone that Willie was one of life‚??s truly great characters, but even that couldn‚??t have prepared us for the side splitting eccentricity he exudes. ¬†On an overcast Sunday in Norfolk ‚?? when 2 out of our 3 were struggling to keep their trousers clean ‚?? a healthy dose of Monsieur Lebus was just what the doctor ordered. ¬†
Aldeburgh itself seems to be an apt weekend getaway for City Folk, just a couple of hours away by car. ¬†¬†Once you‚??re there though, you may as well be in Wick, such is the relaxed vibe. ¬†Not on the coast but near it. ¬†The town is a bonnie wee one from what we could make out and, as fate would have it, it has a fantastic golf club to call its own.
On arrival I ventured immediately into the clubhouse, which is a Panmure-esque job. ¬†Very traditional and homely. ¬†Having poked my nose into every nook and cranny there was still no sign of Willie, so I began my retreat to the car park. ¬†As I was about to push open the front door a shorter man than me wearing a big navy blue fleece and cap burst through. ¬†I knew right away it could only be Mr. Lebus. ¬†‚??Those are a well travelled looking set of clubs out there; ...must be one of the New Zealanders...‚?Ě ¬†Indeed, Kia Ora Willie, Te Na Kou Tou Te Na Kou Tou Te Na Kou Tou Katoa. ¬†The man had Energy.
Back outside we were introduced to his wife, who was fantastically named Venetia (I can only assume) by her parents. ¬†Venetia‚??s family hail from Nu Zillin, so once more we found ourselves in the company of someone who probably knows more about ‚??our country‚?Ě than we do. ¬†(This has happened several times of late). ¬†Venetia was supposed to be joining us for golf, but in Bart she found an excuse not to. ¬†Just the lads then.
As has become customary for us down in England, we played a foursomes match. ¬†Notwithstanding the near miss that we had at Royal West Norfolk, Goldy and I were paired together once more (this time it was the ball toss that conspired against us). ¬†My faith in his short game at this point had reached even lower levels than Friday, because Ruby Murray threatened to be very much a factor. ¬†Nothing like a cold sweat moistening your brow when you‚??re playing a flop shot from the greenside heather...
Willie‚??s involved with the biggest independent wine merchant in the UK, so given our interest in the stuff we had plenty to chat about from the get go. ¬†Bart‚??s even planning to start an export business smuggling NZ wine into South East Asia when he gets back. ¬†I think I‚??ll just continue supporting the industry in the best way I know how and to the best of my ability. ¬†Michael‚??s nodding in agreement too. ¬†I imagine Willie‚??s a good man to have on tour, but sadly he‚??s passing on the upcoming Lucifers trip to God‚??s Own (‚??Some people have to work...‚?Ě). ¬†
The course itself was, I suppose, an inland links. ¬†Good sandy soil just a mile or two from the Suffolk coast. ¬†There used to be a fair bit of gorse around but like many clubs they‚??ve ripped a fair bit of it out in recent times. ¬†Improves pace of play, of course. ¬†No par 5s either. ¬†What struck me most were the views back down the hill to the clubhouse from holes like the 7th. ¬†On a clearer day I suspect we could‚??ve seen the North Sea too, in all its aqua blue splendour. ¬†For what it‚??s worth I also thought the short par 3 4th hole was a gem too ‚?? with a 50 yard long narrow green pitched back towards you making it difficult to gauge where the pin actually is.
Goldy played quite delightful golf for the most part ‚?? showing signs that he‚??s coming back into some form. ¬†Willie was beside himself as Goldy caressed high 4 irons from 220 yards to 15 feet, or nipped a wee pitch stone dead. ¬†Michael‚??s Masterclass was Quite Masterful. ¬†Remarkable I can still take such pleasure in watching him play well after this long...(although not as much as Willie). ¬†We were victorious in the match; in the Bye match; and in the Bye Bye match. ¬†Comprehensive.
In the hut the omnipresent Oxford & Cambridge Golf Society were lunching mid-match. ¬†I suspect they play more golf than us. ¬†One chap had a fantastic pair of red chords which I‚??ve vowed to track down once I‚??m gainfully employed and have the time once more. ¬†I‚??ll be unstoppable in those breeks. ¬†
Willie proved to be a wonderfully eccentric and ‚?? more to the point ‚?? fun host. ¬†The sort of chap you could quite happily set anyone up with and know they‚??d have a whale of a time. ¬†On course I took a liking to sledging him (he developed the same hankering), but were I to continue along the same lines I fear the tone of satire might be lost to the internet Gods. ¬†So J‚??ll pay my respects respectfully and thank Willie and Aldeburgh for putting on a Super Sunday of good natured banter. ¬†And golf.
Day 303 was at the Hunstanton Golf Club on the Northern Norfolk Coast.
After navigating the rustic Norfolk roads for over an hour we made it to our destination and quickly whipped onto the first tee on a fine and sunny day.¬†
Hunstanton is a traditional links course played predominantly out and back along the coastline with one particular sequence of sand dunes running down the spine of the course.¬†¬†
The course is strong if unspectacular but is well renowned for being extremely well conditioned ‚?? particularly compared to its idiosyncratic neighbour at Brancaster.¬† Like other courses we‚??ve played of late it is a 2 ball course so the pace of play is very good.¬† Hunstanton does have touches of class which initially came through on the 6th and 7th holes.¬† 6 is a great short par four played uphill to an elevated green.¬† It is drivable if you give it a good whack but missing this green on either side puts anyone‚??s short game to the test.¬† If you lay up you bring numerous fairway bunkers into play ‚?? one which JP found and hit it out some 70 yards out right onto the centre of the green. The 7th is a short par three played to a fantastic green complex settled between the dunes and protected by a huge bunker short.¬† Downwind this was very daunting to carry the bunker and get enough action to hold it on the green.
If you‚??re interested in a blow by blow, there is a really good movie on the Hunstanton website which is worth a look.¬† Bart‚??s camera was out of battery today, and our camera has had yet another seizure and is out of action (Sony if you are reading this we are very put out and unhappy, Again).
On the back nine there is one varietal of golf hole that is always good fun to play ‚?? the 14th ¬†a blind par three.¬† Reminiscent of those famous (or infamous depending on how you look at it) par threes such as #15 at Cruden Bay,¬† #5 at Prestwick, #6 at Lahinch etc...¬† You eagerly wait on the tee for the green light to flick up and then it‚??s bombs away with a long iron aiming at the stake in the distance.
One shank later I was pitching to the green, 60 yards from the North-West.¬† Only between me and the flag was also one J Patton (who had also missed right).¬†¬† For those who have seen us the last month we are not in the greatest of shape and so today JP was getting any chance possible to get some exercises in.¬† So there I stood with a tight lie, hitting downwind to a green surrounded by swales and hitting over a truly strange sight of a golf clad young man on his back doing some sit ups!
It was one of those days out on the links where golf seems easy, that is until you make the turn back into the prevailing wind.¬† At Hunstanton the last few holes are well equipped at putting you fairly in your place and today they were not in a forgiving mood. ¬†I was having a day reminiscent of the start of the year where my putter tortured every corner of my soul.¬† Hitting 14 greens and shooting 80+ can be a mentally trying experience and so for the last couple holes I gave my putter a much needed rest (after its heavy workload) and opted to putt with the front blade of my sand wedge.
After golf it was back to base came in Norwich where we are staying with JP‚??s eldest cousin, Si who is a truly good human.¬† On this fine day Si and Bart were like kindred spirits staying in and sharing their love of drum ‚??n base music.¬† Needless to say we‚??ve got plenty new material for our upcoming video blogs.
Norfolk on the golfing front has been an interesting experience and if I‚??m being honest I am very much looking forward to day Monday day 312 and the flight to Dubai.¬† But first I will share this thought:¬† yesterday JP and I were talking about our time of late in England and how, despite tipping the 300 day milestone, we have simply stopped telling our story of 2 guys on a quest to play a new golf course every day for a year. ¬†The reason? Because of the reaction we‚??ve been getting much of the time (from random people, as opposed to those who host us and who we share a round with) is often less than positive.¬† We thought about this today because we had a really enthusiastic guy from the club playing before us who was really interested and supportive of our quest and this was a really cool breath of fresh air from a random punter.¬†
The world of golf is, in a word, idiosyncratic. ¬†Trotting the globe, moving from club to club, you come across some interesting sights; some interesting people; and of course some interesting golf courses. ¬†Royal West Norfolk (or ‚??Brancaster‚?Ě, among the well heeled) just about takes the cake. ¬†The sort of place that when I visit, I‚??m thinking ‚??how the hell am I going to describe this place to our readers?‚?Ě ¬†With great difficulty, is the answer.
Golly gosh. ¬†There could be no better place to capture dandy English gentlemen golfing the links in tweed with their black Labradors than Rye. ¬†Here you will find immaculate gents celebrating the game‚??s best traditions of friendship and, most likely, playing matches. ¬†The Captain has the opportunity to play in 84 of ‚??em during his annum... ¬†And here‚??s the thing: the lot of them are very fine chaps indeed. ¬†The other thing: members at Rye have one hell of a course to call their own (two in fact, although we only played the big one). ¬†Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, you might say.
Oh and they have quite a catering corps. ¬†Lunch in the Rye dining room is a striking affair. ¬†Take 50 public school boys; age them 40 to 60 years; dress them up in tweed jackets, checked shirts and club ties; and plonk them in a buffet room with silver cutlery and the odd bottle of wine. ¬†Et voila. ¬†When you buy your lunch ticket you specify how many courses you‚??ll be having (this determines what colour ticket you get). ¬†Then you treat yourself ‚?? taking your plate up to the pigeon hole in the corner of the room after each course, naturally. ¬†A bit like a very agreeable boarding school. ¬†Very, very agreeable.
Again two Lucifers were our hosts ‚?? Peter Costain and David Pettman. ¬†No doubt successful guys in their own right, but they were as unassuming as they were good craic. ¬†Syd Murrel whom we‚??d been staying with (think back to Day 39 at Pukekohe in Nu Zillin...) in Hastings came out to caddy too, given he‚??s an artisan member of the club and he felt like stretching the legs. ¬†Bless him. ¬†Peter‚??s dog Brae made it half a dozen. ¬†(His other dog who usually accompanies Peter was sitting this one out, after having bitten his master in the melee of a scrap with another pooch the day prior). ¬† ¬†
Foursomes again was the name of the game. ¬†Rye being one of the remaining 2 ball clubs in England. ¬†Good on the members for staying strong ‚?? a fast game is a good game. ¬†And foursomes really is far more fun than four ball golf. ¬†I‚??m a convert. ¬†Just don‚??t give me Ed Bayley as a partner.
In the bar over a preparatory coffee we were introduced to James the Secretary, who was wearing the same tie as me. ¬†Well, not exactly the same ‚?? his had the logo of The Mourne Club, Newcastle; mine was Portadown GC (the club of my grandparents). ¬†In any case it struck up a conversation out of which came the fact that James was the Secretary at Royal County Down for 7 years. ¬†Given my good grandfather ‚?? Dr David Thomas Patton ‚?? was a member there for many years, I asked whether he‚??d come across Tommy‚??s troublemaking ways. ¬†Of course he had. ¬†And for the next couple of minutes we reflected on what a small world it is we live in.
David and I would take on Peter and Michael in a flat match. ¬†With a 35 knot wind the scene was set for a good old fashioned skirmish. ¬†Which David managed to win without much help from my end. ¬†The result is always of little consequence anyway, at least in our world. ¬†What mattered was the fact that we had a terrific time out there in the elements. ¬†Holes like the postage stamp 2nd and knife edge 4th were more than just a little tricky. ¬†In fact the 4th may be one of the hardest par 4s we‚??ve played all year. ¬†The tee shot is akin to landing a punted rugby ball on a gymnastics beam from 60 yards ‚?? and keeping it there. ¬†Curse you Harry Colt! ¬†(Harry was the Secretary at Rye early in his career, before his time at Sunningdale).
A highlight of the whole experience was the greens, which at Rye are renowned for their excellence. ¬†Particularly in winter, as it happens. ¬†A couple of ‚??em had just been punched, but even they were a pleasure. ¬†In wind like we endured, you need to have good greens to have any hope. ¬†(N.B. The locals will probably insist that a 35 knot wind is little more than average; that they often play in 50 or more...but Trust Me ‚?? it was Windy).
At the turn we were warned in good humour but without a hint of falsity that we‚??d just played the easy nine. ¬†Hmmmmmm. ¬†They weren‚??t joking either ‚?? it really is a stern test, Rye. ¬†Sadly the tide wasn‚??t right in, so we didn‚??t see sails passing us along the 12th ‚?? but no doubt on a fine summer‚??s day it would be quite a picture. ¬†Interestingly enough the golf club has also been reclaiming land from the sea, like Royal Dublin. ¬†What opened in 1977 as a 9 hole course ‚?? The Jubilee ‚?? is now a fully fledged 18 hole layout that the club has pumped a fair bit of money into in recent years. ¬†Syd reckoned it‚??s almost as good as Colt‚??s big course. ¬†¬†¬†¬†
In the changing sheds we came across a couple of familiar faces: Geoff and Martyn, our good hosts at Sunningdale. ¬†Geoff was wearing the same jacket, but it‚??s a good one so he‚??s excused. ¬†He‚??d also discovered the secret to putting (look at the hole as you swing back and through, not down at the ball), which had instilled a bright spark in his eye. ¬†Martyn as ever was looking jolly and full of chat. ¬†Great pair of red trousers he was sporting too. ¬†I need to kit myself out with some of these English country gent staples...
Then we had Lunch. ¬†Which I mentioned above. ¬†Despite having put on 10 kilos or so in just a few months, I did not protest when Peter produced my 3 course lunch ticket. ¬†‚??I‚??m sure I can manage to fit it all in, thank you‚?Ě. ¬†In a packed dining room we sat, pondering the little and big questions in life alike. ¬†Not sure if we came up with any satisfactory answers. ¬†More to the point we discussed strategy for The Lucifers‚?? upcoming NZ Tour ‚?? a far more productive discussion, I hope. ¬†Now Peter and David are armed with information about the ‚??must see‚?Ě and ‚??must do‚?Ě sights / activities / wineries. ¬†If they have anything less than a life changing time I‚??ll feel personally responsible.
What a brilliant bloody day. ¬†Thanks Peter, David and James for your hospitality ‚?? I leave Rye fatter, humbler and with a few less golf balls. ¬†An enhanced love for foursomes golf too. ¬†A privilege. ¬†
Would have liked to have taken more photos but after a few holes the camera blew away. ¬†Here's a shot of Syd and the lads that we took before ducking off to Prince's the next morning...Great human being - thanks Syd and Sandy for your warm hospitality and wonderful cooking...just like being at home.
The Kent Mission has been a much anticipated one. ¬†After the heathland interlude that has been the past few weeks, it was with great enthusiasm that we returned to the links. ¬†After four months of bumping and running, fescue has become our natural habitat; and a happy habitat it‚??s been at that. ¬†With the triumvirate of Royal Cinque Ports, Prince‚??s and Royal St Georges lying within a stone‚??s throw of one another this little slice of England had always been on our radar. ¬†Having Rye only an hour away over in East Sussex only served to multiply the magnetic pull. ¬†Four days to savour. ¬†
There was nearly a monumental balls up on my part but one Mark Chaplin ‚?? our fairy godfather ‚?? came to the rescue. ¬†You see we‚??d had a couple of invitations throughout the year to RCP, one of which I thought we‚??d locked in when in fact we hadn‚??t. ¬†Oops. ¬†So just a few days out I spot the mishap and scratch my head with fervent self loathing. ¬†Twit. ¬†As it happens though, Mark has come upon our website; seen we‚??re scheduled to play Deal on Monday (RCP‚??s colloquial name, taken from the town it borders); and enquired who our host was. ¬†I explain the situation and Mark rectifies it:
Jamie, I have put you down to play at 1030 as guests of the club... ¬†If you arrange to arrive around 0945 I will ensure you are met and taken care of...not sure if I can get down on the day, will try my best. ¬†You will meet Richard Craven the new captain who drives in this Sunday...and senior past Captain Findlay Gordon an R&A member and regular visitor to NZ. ¬†Your luncheon account will be on me. ¬†Mark
Absolute gentleman. ¬†Fortunately Mark did make it down so we were able to thank him in person. ¬†He‚??d taken the train down from Tumbridge ‚?? an hour or so away ‚?? to meet us, and to walk around for a few holes...before heading up into London for a meeting with Scotland yard (he‚??s a policeman). ¬†Now if that‚??s not hospitality I don‚??t know what is. ¬†Not only that either. ¬†Over coffee in the bar Mark asks us where we‚??re staying while down in Kent, and upon hearing that we‚??ve got a gap on Wednesday night he jacks up a stay in the dormy house for us too. ¬†The sort of guy who‚??d give the shirt off his back to anyone ‚?? ATTENTION New Zealand: when Mark Chaplin comes across please make sure that he is extended every thinkable courtesy and as many unthinkable ones as possible too.
Incidentally ‚?? the Captain‚??s driving in? ¬†I assumed Richard had spent the summer elsewhere, and was literally driving back to Deal to take up his post. ¬†And so naturally I asked Richard ‚??where have you driven in from?‚?Ě. ¬†Of course, ‚??driving in‚?Ě in this context means hitting a tee shot down the 1st hole to ceremonially mark the commencement of one‚??s tenure. ¬†In this case with a white hot golf ball fresh from the oven (they go further). ¬†Now I know. ¬†Muppet.
It was a crisp blue morning, the light darting in sideways from the low winter sun. ¬†The only visible clouds were homeonimbus (i.e. our breath). ¬†Findlay and Richard looked like they‚??d just robbed the Pringle factory, wrapped up in a dozen wooly sweaters. ¬†Findlay‚??s top layer looked as if it had been handed down through the generations and had the saggy appearance of being freshly pulled from the sea. ¬†Richard‚??s top layer (a V neck) was on backwards in what looked like a cunning ploy to keep his throat warm. ¬†
The Skipper and I were paired together to take on Young Goldstein and the Weegie (Findlay hails from Glasgow). ¬†Deal like the other traditional clubs down ‚??ere is a 2 ball club on most occasions, certainly on Mondays. ¬†I think green fee paying visitors can play a fourball on certain days. ¬†Our last game of foursomes was up at Muirfield some months ago, so we were looking forward to having another bite at the cherry. ¬†It adds colour to the game. ¬†Right away The Good Captain revealed himself to be an excellent putter, wielding a blade like instrument that‚??s no doubt lived across three centuries to devastating effect. ¬†Y‚??er man Faxon wouldn‚??t dare take this chap on for a bob on the putting green.
The course sits below the sea wall and is the southernmost of the links triumvirate of the Kentish coast ‚?? Royal St. Georges being next door and Prince‚??s immediately beyond. ¬†Indeed out at the turn you‚??re closer to the St Georges clubhouse than you are to the RCP one. ¬†The golf cognoscenti among you will know that Deal held The Open Championship back in 1920, so it‚??s one of The Fourteen. ¬†¬†¬†
Richard and Findlay were quite a pair; tremendous company. Findlay very Scottish (he even worked for DC Thompson in Dundee for a spell, before he had to move on because there was no longer a woman in the office whose company he hadn‚??t enjoyed! ¬†Which he won‚??t thank me for mentioning). ¬†Richard was very English (down the 18th I loved his utterance, ‚??now come on Richard, let‚??s hit something rather juicy‚?Ě). ¬†Quote of the day must have been his instruction to me on one of the (down wind short) par 3s: ‚??Jamie, I want to see you hit a firm wedge here with plenty of munch on it.‚?Ě ¬†Munch!
In the smart room upstairs we were looked after like kings by the lovely Laura. ¬†A hearty lunch avec dessert (Eton Mess, no less) was inhaled around a large round table in the bay window. ¬†Richard and Findlay had a couple of half baked bottles of vino left over from Richard‚??s driving in. ¬†Or that was their story anyway ‚?? I think they‚??ve always got a bottle handy for a wee tipple. ¬†Being sociable characters and all. ¬†
Perhaps the highlight of the day was Story Time. ¬†Findlay produced the club scrap book, an ancient looking beast jam packed with good humour and the odd newspaper clipping of a successful member (notably Karen Stupples, who hails from RCP and who won the Weetbix Women‚??s Open a few years back at Sunningdale). ¬†One of the better letters was one Findlay wrote as the then Captain to The First Admiral of The Sea, concerning a member whom Findlay hoped would be called away to sea rather than being able to attend a club function. ¬†But the best one for mine anyway was An Absolute Stomper. ¬†
An eccentric and revered past Captain of the club is one Major David Morris, and he had a dog named Badger who accompanied him around the course frequently. ¬†Now, as y‚??all know the English golfscape has struck as being hugely dog friendly. ¬†Not so with Deal. ¬†Permission to take your hound out on course comes and goes here, apparently. ¬†Badger must have been defecating in the wrong spots, because the good Major received a letter from the Secretary asking that he desist from keeping Badger‚??s company on course, on account of the mess he was making. ¬†Naturally Badger himself penned a response, that went something like this (I emphasise the ‚??something‚?Ě because I don‚??t have the letter in front of me...):
I take exception to your assertion that my behaviour has been unbecoming of a Deal member... ¬†Over the past twelve years I estimate that I have walked some six thousand miles around the links, and that I‚??ve supported the half way house to the tune of seven hundred sausages... ¬†
No one writes letters like this these days, it seems. ¬†And what a shame too. ¬†I salute you Badger (Major David) Morris for your wit, and commitment to the club. ¬†And I thank Richard, Findlay, Ken, Mark and Laura for making our RCP experience a delightful one. ¬†Will be back. ¬†With bells on.
Before we ventured across the North Sea into Holland, I‚??d heard of one Dutch golf club ‚?? Noordwijkse. ¬†Goldy‚??s mate Pete (who joined us for a spell in Ayshire some months ago) had sung its praises, Noordwijkse being the only place he really plays any golf in The Netherlands (as it happens, with a fellow Kiwi cricketer by the name of Darren). ¬†It sounded class. ¬†And difficult. ¬†So when Pete dropped Goldy a line saying he‚??d teed up a game for Saturday afternoon, there was an air of excitement to say the least. ¬†
The first couple of days on Dutch soil ‚?? aptly captured by Mike & Bart ‚?? had been phenomenally good. ¬†Interesting, fun and most certainly appetite whettening for a longer spell in this fascinating country. ¬†I‚??ll almost definitely live here at some stage. ¬†Everything about The Netherlands (Amsterdam, at least) appeals to me: the openness of the culture, its efficiency, the mind boggling engineering, the bias towards cycling, the social life, croquettes, the hockey culture, the fact that drivers obey the road rules, the cheese, the traditions and ‚?? if I may say ‚?? the beauty of the women! ¬†Heineken tastes better here too.
Pete‚??s hospitality has been legendary. ¬†He and lovely girlfriend Beth have graciously allowed the three of us to crash on floors and sofas ‚?? notwithstanding that there‚??s another mate from school, Rendall, who‚??s been squatting for six weeks! ¬†Pete and Beth then have been getting a taste of what it‚??s like to be foster parents (even though they‚??re only a year our senior). ¬†Anyway. ¬†A famous time has been had by all ‚?? dinner in, nights out, ventures to the local snack bar and to watch the local hotshot hockey players train ‚?? and huge thanks must go to Pete in particular for his support of puregolf2010. ¬†Mate, it‚??s hugely appreciated.
The Four Musketeers packed into the Opel (hired for us for the week by Pete) and zipped out to Noordwijkse, which is by the coast. ¬†On Quality links territory. ¬†Snoop Dog was our guide for the journey (Pete procured a Tom Tom ‚?? absolutely key ‚?? and set it to the Snoop setting). ¬†‚??Take the Highway Cuuuubbbb...; Make a left and you‚??ll be Bona Fide...; Yea!, just like dat...‚?Ě ¬†A new driving experience. ¬†‚??Twas also my first experience of driving on ‚??the wrong side of the road‚?Ě in a manual car (Dodgy, our US wagon, was an automatic). ¬†We got there in one piece. ¬†Along the way our eyes were glued to the typical Dutch landscapes peppered with windmills, canals, greenhouses and the like. ¬†
Jack made his presence known as we slipped hesitantly out of the car. ¬†Jack Frost, that is. ¬†It was bitterly cold. ¬†The walk through the car park up the hill to the clubhouse felt like Captain Scott‚??s trudge to the South Pole. ¬†Like y‚??er man, we weren‚??t properly equipped either. ¬†Having followed summer all year, this was a point in time when we knew life had changed. ¬†Still alive by the locker room: check.
Inside we met Darren, our host. ¬†‚??Dibble‚?Ě and Pete play a fair bit of golf together and on course are like a gammy married couple. ¬†Chirping at each other like sparrow chicks in an overcrowded nest. ¬†What else would you expect from two Kiwi strays on a spartan Dutch links? ¬†Peter and I were paired together in the ball toss, something that Pete would grow to resent as I 3 putted my way around the course. ¬†Justifiably. ¬†To be fair, we were all pretty guff ‚?? perhaps with the exception of Mike, at times. ¬†Not many birdies fell.
But boy did we shiver. ¬†Noordwijkse chewed puregolf2010 up and spat us out, so we cried too. ¬†Well, almost. ¬†What a wonderfully inhume start to a round. ¬†Hole 1 played straight into the teeth. ¬†2 is a scallywag of a par 5; in fact that doesn‚??t cover it, 2 is more devious than an Ethiopian pirate. ¬†The only water hazard on the course is a red herring, in the sense that it‚??s less treacherous by a country mile than the other mischief that lurks in the deep. ¬†Who knew Dutch scrub could be so mean? ¬†In the conditions, driver + 4 iron + 2 iron didn‚??t get me there. ¬†Up and down got me a 5 though, and the honour of being the only player to finish out the hole...you get the picture. ¬†The 3rd and the index 1 4th continued in the same vein, not to mention the index 3 5th (which I didn‚??t finish out). ¬†Noordwijkse was taking no prisoners.
As we fended off the elements and tried to navigate the course without losing every ball in our bag, a fascinating discovery was made. ¬†Dutchies are cheap. ¬†Each time one of us ventured into the rough ‚?? which was often ‚?? we came across a Pinnacle Gold. ¬†They were everywhere. ¬†The excitement you feel when you see the light bouncing off a li‚??l white thing in a thorn bush is tempered when you know it‚??s going to be a Pinnacle. ¬†The lowest of the low. ¬†Dibble came up with a cunning trick. ¬†Off every tee he‚??d hit a Pinnacle Gold, then another Pinnacle Gold. ¬†Obviously the first ball he‚??d always come across was a PG, so that was his ‚??first ball.‚?Ě ¬†Now, I‚??m not inferring that he was a CHEAT. ¬†Just that he came up with a stunning plan that guarded against the possibility he‚??d ever be playing three off the tee. ¬†That‚??s all.
Considering we were below sea level ‚?? being in The Netherlands ‚?? I felt relatively safe. ¬†Not once did I worry that the North Sea was going to rush over us and bring puregolf2010 to a sticky end. ¬†It was the thorn bushes that were giving me more cause for concern. ¬†And the ice in the wind. ¬†And my own worst enemy: myself.
In the safety of the clubhouse we perched ourselves in the seating area where Bart had set himself up for the afternoon. ¬†Cosy spot. ¬†A packed basket of fried small goods appeared in front of us (bitter ballen?), along with a round of Heinekens. ¬†There can be no better way to celebrate the end of a thrashing by Noordwijkse than this. ¬†In a word, content. ¬†Content. ¬†Replete. ¬†
Snoop then led the way once more, this time to the home of Thijs de Greeff, our hockey friend who joined us at Kennemer. ¬†Actually it was his mother and father-in-law‚??s house, in a delightful little town called Naarden Vestring. ¬†Thijs gave Goldy the street name but not the number, and Goldy didn‚??t ask for it. ¬†So we were walking around Markstraat asking for Thijs ‚?? a ridiculous episode let me tell you. ¬†Fortunately a generous restauranteur allowed us into his establishment, and the use of his phone (ours weren‚??t working by this stage, of course). ¬†Thijs appeared with Frans (father-in-law), and led us to their beautiful, beautiful Dutch home. ¬†Marjolijn cooked a stunning meal of meatloaf. ¬†It was a therapeutic evening of warm Dutch hospitality, family styles. ¬†After three 3 days of razzle dazzle with Boz, a quiet night with a glass of wine and home cooked food was bliss. ¬†
I could write a whole blog on Frans & Marjolijn‚??s hospitality, but will spare you the labour of reading it. ¬†Suffice to say there‚??s a porcelain bottle of Genever ‚?? which we signed and dated ‚?? waiting at their house for us, to be sipped upon our next return. ¬†This and other touching gestures (like gifts of logo‚??d golf balls and amusing speeches) made for an unforgettable evening indeed. ¬†Thijs in ever self-deprecating form was smashing craic too.¬†
A day that will be etched in the memory bank until some bastard like Alzheimers robs it.
- this is a note that Jamie wrote or the Kennemar club newsletter.
I‚??m Jamie Patton, one of two Kiwi lunatics playing a round of golf every day in 2010, around the world, to raise money for a kids program back home called The First Tee. ¬†(Yes, every day...). ¬†On Day 286 of our odyssey ‚?? which kicked off on 1 January in New Zealand ‚?? we had the pleasure of playing at Kennemer , our first stop in The Netherlands.
This year we‚??ve had the privilege of experiencing golf in many contrasting settings. ¬†Each country we‚??ve travelled through (New Zealand, Australia, USA, Scotland, Ireland, England, Wales, France, Belgium and The Netherlands) has opened our eyes to the fascinating world of golf: how its traditions can be at the same time so different yet so similar. ¬†Kennemer was one of the most interesting stops of the year, without question.
A friend of ours introduced us to the club, and we‚??re very grateful that he did. ¬†Thijs de Greeff came across to play hockey for our club in Wellington, New Zealand last year ‚?? and given he was such a great guy we‚??ve kept in touch since. ¬†(Thijs got six caps for the Dutch national team, and is also known as ‚??Wonderkid‚?Ě). ¬†The arrangements were made through the incredibly hospitable Pieter Aalders, whom is the father of a friend of Thijs‚??. ¬†Pieter met us at the club before our tee off and welcomed us warmly to Kennemer . ¬†
Both Michael and I were immediately struck by the originality of the clubhouse ‚?? we‚??ve seen nearly 300 this year but none like yours! ¬†Both the thatched roof and the historic ambience of the club lounge impressed us greatly. ¬†As did the delicious coffee and sandwiches we were treated to by Pieter! ¬†After a nice chat around the table the time eventually came to make our way to the first tee. ¬†It would be just myself, Michael and Thijs playing ‚?? unfortunately Pieter had other commitments.
We have been fortunate to play several Harry Colt courses this year (most recently, Sunningdale (New), last week), so knew we were in for a treat when Pieter explained Kennemar is one of his Dutch masterpieces (the best one, of course!). ¬†Apologies were offered about the condition of the course ‚?? evidently the greens had just been punched and dressed ‚?? but we weren‚??t bothered one bit, and enjoy the course very much anyway. ¬†Playing all this golf we are able to see past a course‚??s condition to the quality of its design, which in Kennemer‚??s case is very high.
Other than Thijs, we were fortunate to spot another Dutch celebrity, in the form of a famous racing driver (whose name I can neither pronounce nor spell). ¬†We also heard the racing track in the distance, but rarely heard the sound of a birdie putt dropping ‚?? Kennemer 1: Kiwis 0. ¬†And the wind was hardly blowing too. ¬†While walking onto the 18th green Ronald the caddiemaster approached us with a book in his hand. ¬†It was a collection of the top courses in Holland ‚?? one of which of course is Kennemar; a gift from Pieter. ¬†We were so embarassed at this kind gesture, as Mr. Aalder had already been so hospitable before play. ¬†Suffice to say it rounded off what had been a wonderful experience, among the most memorable of an action packed year. ¬†
From Michael and me ‚?? a sincere thank you to Pieter Aalder and you, the members of Kennemer , for making our first stop in The Netherlands such an enriching one. ¬†If anyone is coming down to New Zealand in the near future, please feel free to contact us if you‚??d like a game of Kiwi golf! ¬†(Our contact details are on our website, www.puregolf2010, through which you are also able to make a donation to our charity ‚?? The First Tee ‚?? if you so wish).
Heel veel dank, groeten