Port Fairy was so named because one day a rogue fairy broke from the pack and, so the legend goes, established his own vineyard which soon became renowned for its astronomically good fortified wine ‚?? port. ¬†(Not because the town sits on the coast and was at once stage used by cargo ships to berth, as right thinking people might think). ¬†The Port Fairy in his spare time would walk the links land with his companion, a small dug named Hamish. ¬†Breathing in the sea air The Port Fairy would find inspiration for his seasonal releases, and more significantly, for a design hankering that would in years to come bare fruit far tastier than one might detect in a vintage Port Fairy Tawny Port (say, the 1906). ¬†The fruit I speak of is the Port Fairy Golf Club. ¬†And what a pleasure it is.
Now that was all a lot of rubbish. ¬†It being my prerogative to spin trivial yarns I decided a bit of creative writing would help me get through the 5 hour drive from Millicent to Adelaide. ¬†Apologies for my indulgence. ¬†
PF is one of the few ‚??true‚?? links tracks we‚??ve come across in our 87 days on the road this year. ¬†Whether it was designed by a fairy or a mortal man, it matters not. ¬†Michael Clayton‚??s the current architect, and he‚??ll do well not to do too much to this ‚??hidden gem‚?Ě (as it‚??s oft described). ¬†After a while a hidden gem surely ceases to be hidden, and in our experience PF must‚??ve passed that mark. ¬†Everyone we‚??ve talked to ‚?? and I mean everyone ‚?? has asked whether we‚??re playing Port Fairy, upon learning our plan was to drive from Melbourne to Adelaide. ¬†They all did so with a lilt of excitement in their voices too. ¬†So when we left Warrnambool yesterday morning at some anti-social hour the culmination of weeks of anticipation was coming steadily to a head. ¬†
PF didn‚??t disappoint. ¬†We arrived about 7.25 am, and would‚??ve been the first in the car park but for a Melbournian chap of Indian descent who was down for a weekender with his family. ¬†Red skies glowed to the East, signalling a Shepherd‚??s Warning that rain was on it‚??s way. ¬†Made for a good snap or two in the meantime.
Trevor (the Golf Ops Manager) and John (Club President) very kindly took time out of their Sunday morning to join us for a hack. ¬†Another Bledisloe encounter was teed up. ¬†Agricultural blows were struck from the 1st tee. ¬†And we were on our way. ¬†
Mick and me being the masochistic humans that we are were hoping for a bit of wind. ¬†Playing links golf without wind seems a bit like drinking wine out of a plastic cup ‚?? it‚??s just not the real McCoy. ¬†The wind eventually came, mercilessly, on the final stretch as our tired limbs were fading. ¬†For the first dozen holes or so though conditions were perfect (save for a bit of moisture) for half decent scoring. ¬†As we all know, however, golf‚??s never as simple as that. ¬†You can have the best sleep in history the night before; the heartiest breakfast upon waking; have cleaned your clubs to a brilliant shine; stock your bag with brand new balls and tees; meditate in the clubhouse before play; get a therapeutic massage from a Goddess on the 1st tee; and the rest. ¬†But golf is a mercurial, even cruel beast; preparation is only that and even fine weather is of limited assistance. ¬†At the end of the day you‚??ve got to close your eyes and swing the club 40 times or so a round (if you‚??re lucky) and hope for the best.
John hit a Phil Mickelson-like power fade off the tee (albeit right handed), betraying his calibre as a good golfer. ¬†He plays off 8, but was once off 1 ‚?? and held the course record here for a bit. ¬†Trevor‚??s fade was a bit stronger. ¬†Both were Quality Company, and shared with us on the way ‚??round how the course had changed over the years (the club ripped out a fair bit of ti tree 18 months or so ago, to open it up and showcase the dunes in their full magnificent glory). ¬†I particularly liked a tale Trev told me about the 16th hole, which is a cracker by the way. ¬†
Years ago a bit of scheming was done among Committee members on the subject of earthworks on the 16th. ¬†They umm‚??d and aaaahhhh‚??d about whether to seek the local Council‚??s permission to do the work in mind, and eventually convened an evening meeting to decide the matter. ¬†Still they couldn‚??t come to agreement, so the Chairman grabbed the bull by the horns. ¬†‚??Tomorrow afternoon,‚?Ě he declared, ‚??we‚??ll all convene on-site on the 16th to decide the matter once and for all.‚?Ě ¬†When they arrived the Chairman ‚?? whose company owned a digger or two ‚?? had completed the works, under lights the night before, and asked them all what they thought ‚?? should we ask the Council now? ¬†What a champion. ¬†He‚??s still a member of the club ‚?? a life member no less. ¬†He did a cracking job with the 16 hole as I said too.
The course is understated. ¬†No gigantic quarry-like bunkers (like you might find across Bass Straight at Barnbougle); no 12 feet deep pots; no elephants in the greens ‚?? just a beautifully laid out, natural links course. ¬†A couple of the holes (6 and 10) are cut like shelves into the dunes, and have only a solitary greenside bunker between them. ¬†But stray down to the right and you‚??ll find deep marram grass; stray far enough up to the left and you‚??ll find the same. ¬†With the wind blowing from any direction good luck not straying. ¬†You get the picture.
The stretch from 12 to 16 is among the most beautiful stretches I‚??ve ever come across. ¬†12 tee is more or less the southernmost point on the course, perched atop a dune overlooking a wild looking sea. ¬†From there you play a par 5 along the ridge; then a 278 metre par 4 that most Young Guns would go after; then one of the most spectacular holes anywhere, the stroke index 1 400 metre dogleg right par 4 (on which I managed to sneak a cheeky birdie); then a 200 metre par 3 that, when the tees were relocated recently, won best new hole in Australia; then the dogleg left uphill par 4 16th. ¬†Just beautiful. ¬†Then you‚??re confronted with a long par 4 and long par 5 that both play into the prevailing sou‚??west wind (as they did yesterday morning). ¬†What a back nine.
13 tee shot
14 - stroke 1
15 - recently voted the best new hole in Australia
Given the rain came down heavier and heavier as we approached the sheds, we were glad to find shelter and a cup of coffee in front of us. ¬†And a magnificent meat pie to boot. ¬†Our 4 became 5 when another John ‚?? a lucid gentleman about to retire and get his teeth into some serious golf travel ‚?? joined us. ¬†The world was put to rest, as it often is, for an hour or so before Mick and I hit the road, bound for Millicent. ¬†Next time I return I hope their plans to install a snaking burn along the 18th have become a reality ‚?? the idea, touted by designer Michael Clayton, is a good one. ¬†I say ‚??next time‚?Ě because it‚??s a place I‚??ll most certainly make the effort to revisit ‚?? hopefully next time in more windy conditions!
The Bledisloe, by the way, went to the Kiwis, 3&2. ¬†
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