At Murray Downs this morning I felt the furthest I‚??ve ever felt from anywhere. ¬†It‚??s right in the guts of Aussie, just over the Murray from Victoria. ¬†Swan Hill ‚?? the nearest town, which also gives its name to the surrounding region known for its wine ‚?? was a 500 km hike from Adelaide across Not Much (I had taken some photos but unfortunately they were lost to a memory card more corrupt than Timorese Government officials). ¬†To be fair the last 100 km or so of that was quite picturesque, particularly in the evening sun. ¬†But it‚??s just as well we shared the driving (4 blocks of 125 km each), because the long straight roads and red sandy fields are enough to put even the most caffeined up driver to sleep. ¬†Even when there‚??s a chance of seeing ‚??roos. ¬†Or better still, wombats ‚?? who have huge plate-like hip bones that destroy car chassis‚?? by the thousand.
The resort was good enough to put us up for the night, in the last room they had available no less. ¬†Being Easter weekend they‚??re pretty busy, go figure. ¬†Mark (or ‚??Bowdie‚?Ě as he‚??s known to his mates) greeted us warmly on arrival, and gave us The Run Down On Murray Downs (which sounds like a derelict motel). ¬†The course was buitl in ‚??91, and is regarded by most as the top track on the Murray (although there are a few others we‚??d like to have checked out if the calendar year was longer than 365 days). ¬†We had dinner among the masses in the Country Club; young couples, old couples; families, vagabonds and everyone in between were out in form, obviously stoked at the prospect of a long weekend. ¬†(It‚??s probably fair to say that public holidays don‚??t hold the same excitement for us these days, nor do weekends ‚?? for obvious reasons!). ¬†The $12 meal vouchers Mark kindly furnished us with went a long way, giving us a burger & chups each, and as much as we could eat from the salad bar. ¬†Food coma resulted.
Unfortunately it was Goldy‚??s ‚??turn‚?Ě for the good bed, so I got the fold out. ¬†Though I tell you I‚??ve slept in worse places. ¬†A bed of barbed wire couldn‚??t have kept me from sleeping. ¬†Some stroke of madness prompted me however to set my alarm early, so I could go for a jog before breakfast. ¬†When the thing went off I dam nearly had a coronary. ¬†I left it charging, set on full volume, within 6 inches of my head...why on earth I did so I‚??ll never know. ¬†Once my pulse dropped below 250 I gathered myself and went trotting ‚??round the property. ¬†Some nutter was teeing off in the dark (I wondered whether he was a trespasser anxious to avoid paying, but didn‚??t ask because us Kiwis mind our own business). ¬†For 20 minutes or so before dawn (about 7) I wove a loop round the fairways, doing my best to avoid bunkers and yet more treacherous hazards like lakes. ¬†Which were everywhere. ¬†I had an epiphany when something rustled around in the reeds: do crocs live in New South Wales? ¬†Surely not. ¬†No. ¬†Or do they? ¬†Suffice to say I stuck to the middle of the fairways until I got back to the shelter of the clubhouse. ¬†What a Jessie.
The resort God Bless ‚??Em had a complimentary cooked breakfast delivered to our suite. ¬†Gold! ¬†Very nice it was too. ¬†First class country hospitality. ¬†Things only got better when we rocked up to the pro shop. ¬†The lovely Jessica ‚?? marketing coordinator for the resort, who‚??d kindly arranged our visit ‚?? met us and introduced us to the pro (Kristian) and...her mother. ¬†As is customary we had a photo or two taken (also lost to the corrupt memory card), so Jess could get away and enjoy her Good Friday in peace. ¬†Then, as is also customary, we played some golf.
A couple of golf enthusiasts from Melbourne who go by the names of Ian and Sharon joined us on the 1st tee. ¬†They‚??ve been coming up here for years, and LOVE the place. ¬†Their enthusiasm reminded me of that of the family in The Castle, about their beloved Bonnie Doon. ¬†Same sorta thing. ¬†Good honest working class folk away for their annual break. ¬†The sense of occasion carried through to each and every shot Ian & Sharon played; putts were lined up as if The Masters were on the line, and facial expressions following missed putts were donned as if The Masters had been lost. ¬†Serious stuff. ¬†In all honesty this style of golf didn‚??t make for bubbling conversation ‚?? really it was all about the golf. ¬†No matter. ¬†
The golf course was a country gem (please pardon the clich√©, but it‚??s an appropriate one). ¬†Although quite wide open in places, you can see the course is growing into itself; in another 19 years it‚??ll be glorious. ¬†Big river gums frame the views on most holes. ¬†A handful of pure lakes are dotted ‚??round too (not like the ugly ‚??dams‚?Ě you get at some courses, which serve only the practical end of holding water rather than a dual function of adding aesthetic value). ¬†Unfortunately they‚??ve had bit of trouble of late with their greens, with a couple of fungal infections caused by unusual humidity having done their dirty work. ¬†¬†So they were a bit slow. ¬†But stilled rolled true enough.
The Kiwi Assistant Pro came out for a yarn, as did Kristian the Head Pro, a bit later. ¬†Mark came out too, a bit later stiill. ¬†So it‚??s fair to say we were made to feel very welcome ‚?? something Mick and I really appreciated. ¬†Shame we couldn‚??t turn it on for them with dazzling golf ‚?? a mediocre 78 on my part and an 80 on Mike‚??s hardly set the world on fire. ¬†That said my efforts were good enough to edge me mate out on the day, in the skins match (12-11). ¬†A birdie bonus pot of 5 skins went a‚??begging when a couple of holes were halved in birdie but no solitary birdie followed. ¬†What a shame. ¬†
We left Murray Downs having had an awesome experience. ¬†Without exception the staff were welcoming, in a genuine rather than forced sense. ¬†Under normal circumstances it‚??s not the sort of place either of us would pick out on the internet for a holiday, but having got our hands dirty I‚??d definitely go back. ¬†When all the flies have been culled.
Off to Wagga Wagga this avo, to stay with Michael‚??s old man‚??s best mate‚??s second cousin. ¬†Seriously.
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