For many weeks the words Bel Air, May 20 and Will Singleton were simply words on my computer screen.
It was not until I was driving Dodgy into Bellagio Road and the gated confines of Bel Air did I actually stop and think about where Jamie and I were getting ourselves in for on day 140 of puregolf2010.
The Bel Air Country Club is in the middle of LA and driving in we saw guys on the side of the road selling ‚??star maps‚?Ě which I suspect showed tourists where to go to look at famous people‚??s houses. Only in LA. ¬†We passed on the maps and instead went straight to the golf course where many of the celeb‚??s enjoy some fresh air as they chase that little white ball.
We made our way through the locker rooms, where the attendant assured us that we should use Ben Crenshaw‚??s locker as it was highly unlikely that Ben was coming in today.¬†¬† We then had a bite of lunch and headed down to the practice range to warm up where we ended up hitting balls next to a chap who used to play a bit of tennis named Pete Sampras. Looked like he could hit a golf ball as well.¬† A 3 handicapper I have since been reliably informed by his coach Paul Parlane.
When we got back up to the starting area we saw Dr Phil tee off number 10 and then some famous LA Laker walked into the clubhouse. ¬†Hopefully with all that name dropping I have set the scene‚?¶
So next allow me to elaborate on the Fine Gentleman that is Will Singleton. Will contacted us through our website and invited us to Bel Air as his guest. Will welcomed us like we were family and made our entire day at Bel Air one we wont forget.¬† Will is born and bred in these parts and from what I could pick up his family have carved out quite a business or two here. Will is now a golf enthusiast and plays regularly in between keeping an eye on his ranches.¬† He has a friend at the club who many of our kiwi readers would have heard of ‚?? Doug Batty.¬† Doug does a bit of caddying here for Will and others at the club. A couple of years back Will actually sponsored Doug in his efforts as an up and coming professional golfer.¬† So last year when Doug went right through the qualifying and ended up with a place in the US Open at Bethpage, there were a few Bel Air members who were watching Doug's progress as intently as the golfing community of NZ!
Doug caddied for JP and I which was, to be frank, rather bizarre. Doug is a pro and next to him we‚??re a couple of hacks.¬† It was cool to see someone from back home and even cooler to say that us kiwi bro‚??s outnumbered the locals at Bel Air (in our group anyway!).
Making up the fourball was a brilliant human from Texas named Danny.¬† Danny has been out in LA for a while but is a new member of Bel Air.¬† His gig is in the real estate business ‚?? which in these parts ‚?? I‚??d say is a pretty good gig to get into.¬† Danny is probably one of the first Texans we‚??ve played with and we‚??re starting to pick up on the different accents, his most definitely had a southern twang to it. ¬†Remarkably neither Danny or Will had traveled to NZ so we convinced them to make the trip ‚?? I think Danny even promised he would come down but perhaps that was after a couple of vino‚??s and while his mind was still on the dice game we were immersed in.
The Bel Air Golf course is a goodie. ¬†The front nine is par 36 but is probably more primed for scoring.¬† The immediate feature of the course is the manicured water hazards that roll through the property.¬† And these hazards come into play, for example on the short par five first hole where it trickles across the fairway in prime layup zone, or the par three third where the lake short and right is a daunting prospect.¬†¬† The 5th is another nice wee par three, and where one guy here a couple of weeks back shanked his first ball out of bounds and then holed out with his next for a 3!
The 8th hole is another short par 5 but the green is immediately surrounded in water short and left and is guarded by a bunker right.¬† I was only hitting 7 iron in, but it was one of the most intimidating iron shots of the year.¬† ¬†These hazards looked beautiful but were not so pleasant on the scoring!¬† The story goes that ¬†many moons back Howard Hughes was late for a date with Catherin Hepburn so he landed his plane on this wide 8th fairway and made it in time.¬† But the members got wind of this and Howard didn‚??t play another round at Bel Air CC.
The back nine was tough going and there was no room for erratic shots.¬† Take the tee shot on both 12 and 14 ‚?? with a creek running down the left side of the fairway and a huge bunker and out of bounds on the right ‚?? you need to hold your nerve. Also the three par threes were tough going ‚?? probably the three flush shots I hit on the back nine and I needed all of a 3,4 and 5 iron to get to the pin.
And so this round finished, but not yet were we done with the Bel Air CC experience as we were introduced to locals and sat outside the clubhouse talking with these fine men.¬† One chap, who Will called ‚??Pro‚?? came across for a chat with the two kiwi guests.¬† This fellow named Eddie Merrins had recently (2002) retired after 41 years of the pro at Bel Air. He is a bit of a legend in the golfing world through his coaching of the golf team at UCLA and recently has been inducted into the US Golf Hall of Fame.¬† Some of the names he has coached aren‚??t too bad either: Crenshaw, Vijay Singh, Corey Pavin, Hale Irwin, Ray Floyd etc etc etc.
So there we sat looking out across the bright lights of LA, drinking vino and smoking cigars until late in the night with our phones off and neglecting our future arrangement but putting the world at rest with our new friends.¬† ¬†We were even taught how to play liars dice. A quality game.¬† A few hours talking with real people every day is a great way to get a good impression of this country.¬† Huge thanks to Will for making all this possible and contacting us through our website. A day we wont forget!
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