Deep breath. Head down. It‚??s blogging time.
It has been a month since I was lying in Jucy at the Picton Ferry terminal being buffeted side to side trying to sleep against the will of Mother Nature in a particularly testy mood.¬†
Looking back the homeward run of puregolf2010 seems like years ago as after a month of settling into ‚??a crazy little thing called the normal world‚?? golf seems like a distant lost friend.
Over the coming weeks puregolf2010 will come to life again as the final few posts are put up, JP and I reminisce about a couple of favourite moments and then we say our final goodbyes.¬† I‚??m not going to lie to you, it‚??ll be emotional.
So to Rarangi Golf Club.¬† A seaside course on the northeastern tip of the South Island of our fine country.¬† Seaside, but not a links as the trees line this joint primarily to provide some respite from the wind hurtling off the pacific ocean.¬† A month of being home and we‚??ve learnt that the concept of ‚??wind‚?? is not embraced downunder as it is in bonnie Scotland.
Rarangi is a course we‚??d both played before, probably on an adventure to Malborough inspired not by golf but wine.¬† Many times during 2010 upon arrival at our hosts place a bottle of Malborough Savignon Blanc would be brought out to make us feel at home.¬† It‚??s really world famous stuff.¬† Rarangi itself is more coastal than many of the vineyards, although nearby is the brilliantly named monkey bay.
The day we played Rarangi was also one of our last big days of travel as we‚??d made the trip up from home in Christchurch.¬† So it was always going to be a pretty laid back hit as country golf in New Zealand tends to be.¬† Greeted by Diane and Graham McCarthy we were made to feel at home and even ushered into a golf cart to ease our workload on this 361st straight day of golf.¬† Sorry purists. Di and Graham were former proprietors of a hotel so you might say they were well trained at the meet and greet.¬† Energy levels were restored with a choc bar, hydration levels were restored with a powerade. Legends. ¬†A mere couple of hours later, after navigating through the tree lined but sandy course amidst the wind swirling in every direction from underneath the nearby hills, we made it back to the clubhouse, 6 birdies the better.¬† A solid day at the office and thanks to Rarangi.¬† ¬†
What I remember next is doing something we had little time for during 2010 ‚?? watching television.¬† In particular watching the Aussies get demolished by England in the ashes. ¬†If my memory serves me correctly, Jan 27 was particularly a day to forget for the Aussies as England piled on the runs in front of a packed house of disappointed Victorian fans at the MCG.¬†¬† ¬†A couple of mates were there watching in fact, and one in particular, Mr W Corke, was to fly back to join us in a few days time at the finale at Cape Kidnappers.¬† ¬†Nearly there‚?¶
I‚??m not going to lie to you. ¬†I‚??d never heard of Hawke‚??s Bay Golf Club until Bart mentioned it. ¬†I mean, one might assume there would be such a club ‚?? but for whatever reason it had never come to my attention. ¬†Nor Michael‚??s, if I understand correctly. ¬†Bart however sweated and toiled for hour upon hour throughout his formative years at the practice ground, and as a result grew into the Tremendous golfer he is today. ¬†So it has a lot of fond memories for The Gaffer. ¬†And it was only natural that with two games to tee up in the area pre-Kidnappers, we‚??d pay a visit if they‚??d have us. ¬†
Mike and I rose at Dave‚??s place to a sun intent on streaming through defenseless windows. ¬†Toyed with the idea of kicking off proceedings by inhaling a morsel of Nadine‚??s infamous Christmas cake, but held strong. ¬†Dear friend Jimmy James Harper had invited us to bruncheon at his parents‚?? place over the hills, up in the Wairarapa. ¬†Always a lovely place to go. ¬†This time was no exception ‚?? parents Vicky and Grant, and sister Alice, were present and counted. ¬†For an hour or two we sat outside under shade while Jimmy did his best to burn our eggs. ¬†Hilarity was the name of the game though, when dear mother with a swing of her tongs spat bacon fat onto James‚?? pristine white t-shirt. ¬†A dummy was spat too, for good measure. ¬†Ah, frivolous familial quarrels ‚?? gotta love ‚??em. ¬†
Lamentably we had to Roll, before James murdered poor Vicky. ¬†Pleasantly replete and looking forward to a leisurely drive, we said our farewells and got moving. ¬†Next stop: Waipukurau ‚?? habitat of Bart‚??s mother Margie. ¬†Another mother, they‚??re everywhere. ¬†Poor Bart coughed and spluttered his way out of the back door to greet us; still heavily under the weather. ¬†Pneumonia or something of the like. ¬†‚??Gay Bart‚?Ě now renamed ‚??Sick Boy‚?Ě (important to always have nicknames, for team building you see...). ¬†¬†¬†¬†
The first thing I noticed on arrival was a striking poster, for an ‚??Ebony vs. Ivory‚?Ě match on Waitangi Day (for you non-Kiwi folk, that‚??s 6 February, the date The Treaty of Waitangi was signed by Maori and the Queen‚??s representative back in 1840. ¬†Long story...). ¬†As you can see, the Ebony boys are also known as ‚??Da Bro‚??s‚?Ě and the Ivory boys as ‚??The Pro‚??s‚?Ě. ¬†Not the sort of poster you‚??d see in many golf clubs, but arguably an indication that race relations in this part of the world are healthy. ¬†
Sick Boy led us to the 10th tee to get under way. ¬†Over 400 metres of par 4, into a stiff breeze ‚?? a gentle start you might say. ¬†Or you might not. ¬†I was pleased to walk off with 5. ¬†Sick Boy must‚??ve been distraught to block his opening tee shot Out Of Bounds ‚?? in the sense that you always hope to play well at your childhood haunt. ¬†No doubt SB‚??s pummelled countless drives straight down the middle from an early age; perhaps the (self-imposed) pressure got to him. ¬†
You could see in Sick Boy‚??s eyes and tone of voice a hope for approval. ¬†This was a place holding cherished memories for him. ¬†Naturally any praise we heaped on the course would appease this tension, and on the other hand any criticism would cut deep. ¬†So when Goldy chucked his toys at low hung branches just in front of the 13th tee, the milk turned sour. ¬†For once I adopted the stance of observant bystander and didn‚??t add my 10 cents to the fire. ¬†Sick Boy ‚?? who let us remember was, at this stage, really quite Sick still ‚?? looked troubled to say the least. ¬†Fortunately it didn‚??t come to blows. ¬†Fortunately for Michael that is: Sick Boy though sick was still significantly bigger and stronger!
On a lighter note, Mike‚??s parents and grandfather arrived on the scene as we came up 18. ¬†Jeff couldn‚??t resist the invitation to join us for the front nine; and couldn‚??t believe it when Sick Boy told him he was ‚??sweet‚?Ě to wear jeans! ¬†It looked very uncomfortable. ¬†And just plain wrong. ¬†But most would agree that uncomfortable golf is better than no golf at all ‚?? and anyway what else did Jeff have to occupy his time? ¬†Wine tasting? ¬†There would be plenty time for that over the next couple of days...
As we approached the 6th green a Maori chap, Charlie, pulled up on a bike. ¬†With a kind face, massive dreadlocks and a strong handshake he greeted Sick Boy, who was obviously tickled to see his old mate. ¬†All of a sudden Bart‚??s accent changed to one befitting of a TV weatherman, much as mine probably did when I was back in Scotland. ¬†In fact I began to question whether The Gaffer was indeed of Anglo Saxon descent, or whether he‚??d had a Michael Jackson-esque procedure carried out during his teenage years before we met him. ¬†I have no doubt that if a blind man was present he might‚??ve imagined two men of Charlie‚??s appearance ‚?? rather than Charlie and a pasty Dutchman! ¬†On an unrelated note, Charlie had carded 6 birdies that day ‚?? putting our meagre total to shame...
A barbeque dinner at the Goldsteins‚?? rented cottage amongst the vines followed. ¬†All of a sudden it was starting to dawn on me that The End was close... ¬†
JP ¬† ¬†
Leading a vagrant life you‚??re going to have tumultuous nights when sleep is something you chase, not something that chases you. ¬†But there are sleepless nights and then there are, Sleepless Nights. ¬†Last night as you may have guessed by now was the latter. ¬†With a 5.30am check in for our Interislander crossing we parked up Jucy Lucy in the ferry car park the night prior. ¬†The thinking being that we‚??d save a few minutes‚?? shut eye that way. ¬†Mother Nature however had other ideas. ¬†Queen Charlotte Sound funnelled 150km/h Nor West winds (carrying torrential rain) our way. ¬†Which was very kind of her.
Michael having claimed the main cabin as his own, I found myself up above in the ‚??Row Box‚?Ě ‚?? which, when erect for sleeping, acts like a giant sail. ¬†I felt like one of those poor scallywags sent up The Endeavour‚??s mast mid-storm to untie a knot. ¬†As the hurricane gusted, Jucy rocked to and forth like a bucking bronco. ¬†And under the car park floodlights, the translucent walls of my makeshift bedroom lit up like an oriental lampshade. ¬†Not ideal conditions for sleep, it must be said. ¬†But then most people lucky to have full faculties of reason and anticipation could have told us that. ¬†Anyway.
The crossing wasn‚??t cancelled and that‚??s all that mattered. ¬†I folded myself up foetal styles under a table by a window and tried like a seasoned insomniac to switch my brain off. ¬†No such luck. ¬†Instead we poured off The Interislander wired like that poor raccoon we spotted by the 5th green at Sawgrass. ¬†Our lunchtime tee spot at Royal Wellington wasn‚??t looking so enticing in the ever heavier winds and lashing rain. ¬†They don‚??t call it The Windy City for nothin‚??. ¬†In the hope of consoling ourselves ‚?? indeed, escapism ‚?? Michael and I set course for a favourite suburban caf√© of ours. ¬†A stiff doppio and full breakfast would cure our ills. ¬†Not only was Caf√© Polo not open for the day; it wasn‚??t open again until the 18th of %#$@^!# January! ¬†Foiled. ¬†Apparently Wellington goes to sleep over the summer break, as everyone scarpers for calmer, sunnier pastures. ¬†So we set up camp at the nearby airport and attended to administrative duties for an hour or two. ¬†I was tempted to jump on a plane and escape to The Galapagos Islands. ¬†On another day I might have done just that.
Things started to look up when our host for the day ‚?? friend, mentor, last year‚??s hockey coach, next year‚??s boss ‚?? Dave, asked us up to his place for a pre-golf bruncheon. ¬†David‚??s lovely wife Nadine cooked up a storm of scrambled eggs on toast, followed by The Heaviest Most Decadent Christmas Cake Ever Baked. ¬†This thing could‚??ve anchored The Titanic. ¬†When Nadine said the special ingredient was Stone‚??s Ginger Wine, she may have thrown the bottle into the mixture too... ¬†Meanwhile we got to know Dave‚??s in-laws and watched England demolish the Aussies in Melbourne. ¬†All of a sudden Life started to course once more through my veins. ¬†Despite the force 9 gales knocking over mountains and buildings with arrogance, I was starting to feel less pessimistic about It All. ¬†Dave‚??s pal Mark (our fourth) was in with a grin too ‚?? so the parachutes were on and puregolf2010-plus-two was about to jump.
Don‚??t you love microclimates? ¬†When I tiptoed out of Dave‚??s truck onto the tarmac faint sunshine kissed me on one cheek and a gentle zephyr on t‚??other. ¬†Evidently even Mother Nature bows to those that play their golf with Her Majesty‚??s blessing. ¬†Back down the road in the Capital skyscrapers were toppling; up the road in The Rimutakas, conditions had been deemed unfit for driving. ¬†But in the midst of it all ‚?? in our own wee Royal microclimate ‚?? golf was not only possible but pleasurable. ¬†For the most part anyway. ¬†
We had the place more or less to ourselves, which is always a bonus. ¬†Hardly another golfer in sight; and not a hint of life in the clubhouse or pro shop. ¬†They‚??d all run for cover. ¬†Yet. ¬†Despite the wind and rain that had clearly swept through the Hutt Valley at some point, the course was in fantastic nick. ¬†Well drained fairways and pure greens. ¬†I‚??d played at Heretaunga once before; it was Michael‚??s first visit.
Impressions of the course? ¬†A lovely bubble around which to golf one‚??s ball. ¬†Mature trees and a couple of streams make for a therapeutic atmosphere. ¬†There aren‚??t many holes that blow you away, but Turner & MacPherson will apparently soon see to that ‚?? a far reaching re-design being in the pipeline. ¬†As it currently stands, I‚??d say Heretaunga is a Baltusrol-esque parkland layout that is agreeable without being (world) classy. ¬†With the land, water features and trees that they have, it could be really quite something. ¬†So we‚??re looking forward to seeing where they get to after The New Kids On The NZ Architecture Block take their diggers to it. ¬†A wonderful canvas, no doubt. ¬†And as I said, a pleasant paddock for golf. ¬†
Mark was great company and Dave entertained us with his pan-course adventures. ¬†In the circumstances, really a quality day out. ¬†Rounded off with a fine meal at Dave‚??s with even finer claret, and an evening of suitably philosophical chatter. ¬†(Watch out for a new political movement hatching out of Wellington next year...). ¬†Thanks David and Nadine ‚?? tres bon!
Kia Ora from Napier and the final 'free-wifi-blogging-mission' of 2010. ¬†In 5 minutes JP and I will pack up our laptops and head to Napier GC for round number 364 straight.¬†
This time one year ago we were frantically packing our gear for one year of travel. ¬†My blue bag has held steady along with the same outfits of clothes worn repetitively. ¬†
Yes, we're a couple of days behind on the blog but yes we've kept golfing. And golfing. ¬†Tonight will be a quiet night with the respective families before tomorrow, the final round will be played at Cape Kidnappers. ¬†The place where this crazy idea of playing a round of golf every single damn day was conceived.¬†
So from Kauri Cliffs around New Zealand and right around the world we've made it to the end and The Cape. ¬†The blogging will continue for a week or two as we catch up on a couple of courses and of course say our farewells to a project that has been entirely all consuming way to spend 2010.¬†
Cape Kidnappers will be a relaxing but epic way to finish the year. I suspect we'll be knackered by the end of it such that, like last new years, we might not even stay up for the countdown. A small price to pay for what has been a truly special year.¬†
If anyone wants to get in touch with us - we'll be on cell phone for most of the next 36 hours: ¬†+64 21 653752 and +64 27 2399713.¬†
my 5 minutes is up. ¬†36 holes to go.
At 6.30am, no less. ¬†After a broken sleep on the sofa ‚?? wondering whether Santa, Rudolph & Co would make it down as far as Aotearoa ‚?? I found myself in a mother‚??s Happy Christmas embrace, wondering why on earth I was awake at such an anti-social hour. ¬†Was it because I‚??d written to The Man In Red asking for a Scalextric set, or for a Nintendo 64, and I‚??d been snatched from sleep by excitement? ¬†Not a bit of it. ¬†That was soooooooo 1994. ¬†Ah yes, the penny dropped: golf.
I grabbed a few plums, inhaled a black coffee and poured into the car with dad, who‚??d been brave enough to sign up for Day 359. ¬†Mick opted to stay in town, and so had a 45 minute hike through to Waimakariri Gorge GC to look forward to. ¬†Strangely enough it wasn‚??t that unsettling a sensation to be en route to the golf course on Christmas Morning. ¬†Just part of our routine, really. ¬†It‚??s a subject that‚??s come up in conversation eight hundred times this year ‚?? playing on the anniversary of Christ‚??s birthday. ¬†I never took it as that startling that, as with every other day, we‚??d be pulling our sticks out of the car. ¬†And so the novelty value wasn‚??t terribly apparent.
Two keen figures stood chatting in the car park when we arrived. ¬†Godfrey was a member who‚??d contacted us with the kind offer of a cart, that we may whip around super quick and be back in time for almond croissants. ¬†In endearing country course fashion, said cart was perched atop a trailer and tied down with glorified dental floss. ¬†Y‚??er man also looks after assorted promotional activities for the club, so took an obligatory snap or two in front of the clubhouse. ¬†T‚??other fella was one of my Scottish brethren, from up Tain way. ¬†A member of Royal Dornoch, Colin had been following our exploits throughout the year but our paths hadn‚??t had the chance to cross ‚?? until now. ¬†So he came out, on Christmas Morning, to walk around Waimak‚?? with us and put down a $100 donation for the first birdie carded. ¬†Quite amazing really.
Godfrey walked the first few, and Colin the full round. ¬†With not another soul in sight, we had the place to ourselves; indeed it felt like the whole of North Canterbury ‚?? in its wide open expansive glory ‚?? was still asleep. ¬†Mount Oxford watched over us dutifully and the sun provided ample lighting. ¬†A beautiful morning for golf. ¬†
Despite relatively consistent play, it wasn‚??t until the 11th that a birdie finally dropped! ¬†I was beginning to apprehend that we were keeping Colin from his beloved, but he assured us that ‚?? at the clip we were playing ‚?? he‚??d be back in plenty time anyway. ¬†Two and a half hours it took us, give or take. ¬†An ideal pace of play, I would say. ¬†
Views of the Waimak‚?? Gorge proved distracting for a few moments as we stood on the 8th and 17th tees ‚?? which play from opposite ends of a gully to greens whose borders flirt with each other shamelessly. ¬†Plainly they should be adjoined. ¬†Then there‚??s the walk up the brae to 12 green, which gets the blood gushing through one‚??s calf muscles (or what‚??s left of them anyway...). ¬†At the end of which comes just reward: the best view on the course, across the gorge to Mount Hutt. ¬†I wonder whether the green has been deliberately pitched at a severe angle, so as to encourage play back and forth from one end to t‚??other, permitting several opportunities to take in the vista. ¬†Even acute rage at a third thinned chip shot could be soothed by a picture so lovely. ¬†A fourth? ¬†I‚??m not so sure... ¬†(And yes, Goldy is wearing a Santa hat below).
Playing up the 18th my memory was taken back to The Portnoo Trophy of 2009, which concluded with a 20 foot breaking birdie putt to force a half. ¬†Dad was spitting tacks; mum on the other hand, being the neutral on looker, was thrilled to see honours shared. ¬†I suspect Waimak‚?? might hold great excitement over the coming years as a venue for The Trophy. ¬†After a heated battle, it‚??s only a 10 minute drive back home to Crossnacreevy ‚?? so if we‚??re not talking to each other there‚??s not too far to go!
Thanks to Godfrey for coming along and the kind offer of a cart; to Colin for his fine company and generous donation; and to my father for enduring my company for a full 16 hours on Christmas Day. ¬†A wonderful morning of golf under blue skies, among good souls.
In central Christchurch ‚?? where Mike grew up and I spent 7 years ‚?? you‚??ll find Hagley Park, a tremendous resource for locals and tourists alike. ¬†For me it was always an ideal place to run around, the loop from home taking me about 38 minutes from memory (39 on Sundays). ¬†On weekday evenings and weekends it‚??s buzzing with sporty types ‚?? rugby, cricket, touch, Frisbee, netball, tennis and, of course, golf. ¬†Jam packed full of active humans, so it is. ¬†Hagley‚??s 12 holes may not be Royal Melbourne-esque, but they serve a purpose, giving affordable access to golf for those on a budget (time or money). ¬†It‚??s also a great spot from which to People Watch, and handy to town afterwards for last minute Christmas shopping!
With the imperative of darting around to catch friends on Christmas Eve in mind, Hagley was the perfect fit. ¬†It‚??s also proximate to The Dux De Lux, just in case we felt like a refresher afterwards (see the planning that goes into our days...). ¬†Those visiting should do so. ¬†Christchurch‚??s most famous pub and for good reason ‚?? no better place to sit on a balmy afternoon than in that courtyard. ¬†For us however it was all Clean Living ‚?? golf and golf only. ¬†And plenty sunscreen.
A few friends joined us, as did one of the locals. ¬†Alan was one of life‚??s truly nice people, a widower who works night shifts with The Salvation Army. ¬†Under his New Zealand Warriors bucket hat was a kind, mouvery face. ¬†He kept Blair and me on the straight and narrow ‚?? or at least he tried... ‚?? and played out of his skin by his own admission. ¬†Had he opted instead of escorting us around to play in the comp Alan would‚??ve cleaned up without breaking a sweat. ¬†What a buzz you get from seeing someone playing beyond themselves, the delight painted in bright colours across their dial.
Pedestrians pass by and through the golf course at their peril. ¬†It‚??s a busy place, the park ‚?? but everyone seems to co-exist rather harmoniously. ¬†That said there must‚??ve been dozens of unsuspecting cyclists who‚??ve been knocked off their wheels by an errant tee shot or, dare I say it, shanked approach. ¬†Blair was doing his damdest to take out a few joggers, each slice more severe than the one before it.
The Brothers Rendall ‚?? Nick in particular ‚?? looked to be seeking shade where possible. ¬†Often Goldy was the lonesome figure on the fairway in the 3 ball behind. ¬†Every couple of holes we‚??d shout the current birdie tally over ‚?? a practice that became progressively more depressing as the putts dried up. ¬†Not a good day on the fundraising front, especially disappointing given the length of the course. ¬†But if the ball doesn‚??t want to go in it doesn‚??t want to go in. ¬†I find that you rarely tear up ‚??easy‚?Ě courses because the pressure to make birdies constantly grips you. ¬†Or that‚??s my excuse anyway.
A very pleasant day indeed. ¬†Alan when he left us was off to put the finishing touches to the Christmas lunch he‚??d prepared for his son, who originally came down to Christchurch on a golf scholarship. ¬†He spared no details in sharing with us the menu ‚?? touching to observe the man‚??s excitement at his first Christmas lunch with The Boy for years. ¬†Alan, if you‚??re reading this, I hope you had a fantastic day; it was a pleasure to play with you.
Thanks to Hagley GC for having us and to the lads for coming down. ¬†Good. ¬†Day.
I‚??m camped out in the ‚??Row Box‚?Ě ‚?? which is supposed to be bolted to the roof of Jucy Lucy, but I‚??m beginning to wonder ‚?? trying desperately to punch out a blog. ¬†But the wind has other ideas. ¬†The canvas walls of my makeshift cabin are flapping like the wings of a young magpie On The Run after scoring his most fruitful bounty yet. ¬†It‚??s like a bloomin‚?? Disney ride up here. ¬†Except there‚??s no smell of candy floss and Mickey Mouse is nowhere to be seen. ¬†Anyway, no complaints from me. ¬†I lie here with only 4 sleeps, 72 holes and doubtless one or two more lost balls between me and The End. ¬†An appropriate time to look back, this time to our day at Waitikiri Golf Club.
After being blown sideways by the Nor‚?? Westa‚?? at Ashburton ‚?? it‚??s been hellishly windy of late ‚?? we found ourselves in the comfort of Christchurch. ¬†Michael with his parents, and me with my grandparents. ¬†I had a lovely evening chewing the fat with Grandma and Grandpa, who are surely the wisest people on God‚??s Good Earth. ¬†Certainly they‚??re among the most interesting, and kind ‚?? I always leave looking forward to seeing them again (and to another installment of Grandma‚??s cooking). ¬†Last Wednesday it was with great apprehension that I drew open the front doors, wondering whether that ghastly Nor‚?? Westa‚?? was still rearing its ugly head. ¬†Course it was. ¬†Waitikiri would be tough going.
Ron the General Manager wouldn‚??t have told us otherwise either. ¬†After giving us a quick dressing down and instructions to smile for The Press photographer (‚??you‚??re at Waitikiri...you LOVE Waitikiri...‚?Ě) y‚??er man then set about getting stuck in as we teed off. ¬†‚??Watch out for the O.B. on the right there lads... ¬†You‚??ll do well to break 80...‚?Ě ¬†Good banter. ¬†Perhaps the first time we‚??ve been sledged by the GM off the bat this year? ¬†Mind you John Farren from Ballyliffin wasn‚??t half bad on this front. ¬†The pair would get on well. ¬†If only every golf official was so colorful.
For company we had a teacher and pupil, Campbell and Judah. ¬†Cam a young man of Central Otago origins with a thick coverage of 8 o‚??clock shadow. ¬†Judah a spritely man of 11 years, keen to sharpen up his handicap over the summer break. ¬†Both gentlemen of a gentlemanly disposition and a pleasure to walk around with. ¬†Judah in particular impressed me with his patience; not once did he lose the rag or grimace. ¬†If memory serves correctly I was nowhere near as genteel at his age ‚?? not even close! ¬†(Then again I‚??m a Scot and thus must be forgiven a measure of fire...).
The course was much as I remember it from past visits, largely on account of inter school matches. ¬†Conditioning it must be said however has improved in recent years. ¬†The club appears to have sold some real estate around the edges and ploughed the proceeds into a smart new clubhouse and greenkeeping resources. ¬†My feeling is that the whole package is all the better for it, really an impressive beast. ¬†Why they don‚??t amalgamate with next door Windsor I don‚??t understand ‚?? well, that‚??s not strictly true; I do now after the Inside Word from Ron ‚?? but that‚??s neither Here nor There.
For the most part it‚??s tree lined stuff. ¬†Indeed on the back of Nor‚?? West‚?? gales the fairways were tree lined on 3 sides: to the left, right and underneath. ¬†That is to say a carpet of branches lay underfoot after being torn from their rightful and respective homes. ¬†Had I ever had the competency to hit the dam thing down the fairway I might‚??ve had trouble locating my ball. ¬†As it happened I could have no complaints foraging around under the cover of shade like a swine hunting for truffles. ¬†Judah must‚??ve been wondering why after playing so much golf I could be so hopeless. ¬†And well he might.
In such trying times I looked to newfound junior friend for inspiration. ¬†And I found it. ¬†The young man caressed his pill beautifully around the track with enthusiasm and restraint. ¬†When a 25 foot putt rolled in for his first par of the day mid-way into the back nine we all threw high fives around like a bunch of Americans who‚??ve just hit the green on 7 at Royal County Down. ¬†A lovely moment. ¬†From what I could gather, wee Judah lives only with his father, who also plays at Waitikiri and supports his son in his endeavours. ¬†He‚??d be the paradigm student that The First Tee would love to have in the program were they to spring up in Christchurch. ¬†Which is something both Michael and I would love to see.
JP ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† ¬† ¬†¬†
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.
The Otago Golf Club ‚?? commonly referred to as ‚??Balmacewan‚?Ě ‚?? is the oldest in New Zealand, dating back to 1871. ¬†It‚??s also one of the most agreeable. ¬†And toughest on the calf muscles. ¬†‚??Balmac‚?Ě is well thought of in golf circles but, despite dozens of visits to Dunedin throughout our school and university days, neither Michael nor I had every played there. ¬†This venture then was a real treat. ¬†Incidentally, for non-Kiwis out there, Dunedin was settled predominantly by my countrymen, the Scots ‚?? hence Dun (from Dundee) Edin (from Edinburgh) ‚?? whereas Christchurch was a decidedly more English hangout.
In atypical Dunedin fashion the sun was out in spades and the wind nowhere to be found. ¬†I‚??d awoken on the bed of a one time friend and hockey teammate (Chris ‚??Crashton‚?Ě ¬†Ashton) who also happened to be a university and hockey friend of Bart‚??s. ¬†Having made arrangements to spend the night elsewhere Crashton‚??s bed was vacant; Bart and myself seized the opportunity to colonise it (lamentably one of the final few opportunities we‚??re going to have to Top And Tail ‚?? a ritual that will be sorely missed next year...or not). ¬†The last time I‚??d seen Crash was at the conclusion of the National Under 21s tournament at Mount Maunganui, way back in April 2006. ¬†After a largely unsuccessful week us Otago lads decided to celebrate on finals day, in this case by ridding the town of the burden of carrying its Jamesons whisky supply. ¬†At half time Crash, myself and a third (one Joel Brown, from memory) took it upon ourselves to provide Half Time Entertainment for the crowd ‚?? by streaking the length of the field! ¬†Crash and I managed to escape from the ground without being apprehended ‚?? Joel wasn‚??t so lucky ‚?? and ended up after Legging It in a suburban pub, where we spent the afternoon making new friends with a bunch of local tradesmen. ¬†Ah, the silly things we did when we were young... ¬†That was the last time I saw the man, until now.
Anyway. ¬†All of that is neither here nor there. ¬†Upon arrival at Balmac we were greeted with a big smile and bear-like handshake (Do bears shake hands? ¬†¬†Unlikely I would have thought) from current club captain, Eddie. ¬†The sort of man who instantly puts you at ease, and from whom you get the feeling that conversation around the golf course will be stimulating rather than the opposite. ¬†Another man ‚?? who would be unfortunate enough to end up as my partner ‚?? Alistair, appeared from the shadows to introduce himself. ¬†After a quick application of sunscreen and three practice putts we were Away. ¬†
The first tee shot sets the tone. ¬†From up high you drive down through a tree lined gully past well cut bunkers to a snaking fairway. ¬†It‚??s quite a picture, and right away reminded me of a course that would be in my thoughts throughout the adventure: Pasatiempo. ¬†That both Michael and I both made the association is High Compliment indeed to Balmacewan, given the high regard with which we hold both that Californian masterpiece and Dr. Alistair MacKenzie‚??s work in general. ¬†Balmac like Pasatiempo is cut through majestically contoured terrain with wonderful variation, clever bunkering and an abundance of risk / reward options. ¬†A true delight to golf your ball around.
Much like Royal Melbourne ‚?? another MacKenzie masterpiece ‚?? Balmacewan plays either side of a road. ¬†Holes 2 thru 5 have a slightly different feel to the others, but the course doesn‚??t suffer one bit for it. ¬†Quite the opposite. ¬†Two short par 4s played up and then down a rise provide genuine birdie opportunities; followed by a couple of longer par 4s from which most would be glad to escape with a pair of pars. ¬†
What was so nice about Balmac ‚?? or, at least, one of the things that was so nice about it ‚?? was that the trees don‚??t come into play as much as at your Run O‚?? The Mill Nu Zillin tracks. ¬†Sure, they frame most holes. ¬†But the golfer has space to breathe, and invariably has hit a very bad shot indeed if he or she finds themselves in the shade. ¬†Then there‚??s the fact that some holes have real Atmosphere, of the kind you experience at some of the world‚??s best clubs. ¬†The 11th, which plays from up high down through Ross Glenn, is an apt example and not surprisingly is the signature hole. ¬†Others like the 8th, 13th, 14th, 17th and 18th also fall in this category. ¬†In fact Michael and I were really scratching our heads wondering how MacKenzie hadn‚??t had a hand in designing the layout. ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†
Something special happened on the drivable par 4 17th. ¬†Alistair and I were dormy 2 down, and both Michael and Eddie were by the green in one. ¬†We‚??d probably need an eagle to keep the match alive. ¬†Y‚??er man (who‚??s probably the wrong side of 65) stepped up to the plate ‚?? the Blacks, of course ‚?? and delivered a merciless blow with his driver. ¬†The ball sailed high and handsome and eventually came to rest 8 feet from the pin. ¬†Sure enough Michael made his three, so Alistair needed his 8 footer (across recently cored greens) to send the match down the last. ¬†It dropped! ¬†Not only that either. ¬†On the uphill, into the wind 18th hole (a driver and a 3 wood for Alistair) Michael made his par, so My Man needed his 14 foot across the slope par putt (he had a shot) for The Half. ¬†Again he found the bottom of the cup, in one of the most stirring closing performances we‚??ve witnessed this year. ¬†Well done Alistair ‚?? you‚??re an inspiration!
With aching calf muscles and a keen thirst we made our way into the bar. ¬†On the wall hung a photograph of a familiar face ‚?? Snoop Hollyer, no less, a club champion during his university days. ¬†Looked like an IRD official with those horn rimmed glasses and unkempt hair... ¬†Wish I‚??d photographed the photograph so y‚??all could share in the amusement. ¬†In truth we could‚??ve spent all afternoon sitting there looking out over the course with these fine gentlemen, but the show had to roll on.
In this case, down to the Speights Brewery! ¬†A chap called Chris had come out to play with Bart and Andreas; Chris happens to run the Brewery tours (of which 35,000 a year are taken!). ¬†‚??Twood‚??ve been a shame to leave Dunedin without learning how The Pride Of The South comes into being, so we hucked it back down the hill and quickly found ourselves immersed in All Things Speights. ¬†Chris was kind enough to shout us a delectable pub lunch and to give us a personal tour through the brewery, which is a must for any visitor to the area who has even a remote interest in beer. ¬†
After a thoroughly memorable 36 hours in Dunners the time sadly came to move on up the road, for a BBQ with Mike‚??s family in Christchurch. ¬†What once felt like a long drive up the coast, was this time a dawdle ‚?? after the distances we‚??ve travelled this year!
JP ¬†¬† ¬† ¬†
On arrival into my favourite mountain hideaway Wanaka, we did our usual routine: ‚??Right, where are we going to crash boys?‚?Ě ¬†That was too big a question for us to answer at that particular moment in time though, after 9 hours of driving. ¬†So we pondered Life for a while over a pint of Guinness at The Lonestar. ¬†A Swedish barmaid caught our attention for a while. ¬†But then, remembering our mate Timmy Mathews works there, we asked the staff if The Big Man was on duty. ¬†As fate would have it he wasn‚??t ‚?? but in exemplary corporate foot soldier fashion y‚??er man was upstairs doing stock orders for wine. ¬†His ugly mug appeared 15 minutes later. ¬†
Within 5 minutes of his arrival all the cards fell into place. ¬†A feast of Lonestar calories appeared; and Tim offered up a couple of sofas at his place down the road. ¬†Result. ¬†Wouldn‚??t you agree that Most successful plans start with a Guinness? ¬†Arthur would. ¬†And so would I. ¬†Feeling suitably relaxed then, we meandered back to Timmy‚??s plush pad and Put The World To Rest. ¬†Another coincidence struck. ¬†Snoop Hollyer had organised for one of his mates from the Otago Team to join us in the morning for golf. ¬†That mate ‚?? Mitch ‚?? happened to live with Tim. ¬†So when we introduced ourselves to a gentleman lying on the sofa he replied ‚??I think I‚??m playing golf with you boys tomorrow...‚?Ě ¬†And he was.
Timmy and I both fall into the Need To Get Fit Again camp, so we set off on a trot first thing. ¬†It‚??s hard to describe how soothing it is to wake up in Wanaka to beaming sunshine and hardly a sound wave to trouble your ear drums. ¬†I suppose the coiner of ‚??bliss‚?Ě might‚??ve spent a bit of time down here. ¬†Pounding the paths of Lake Wanaka you feel like you‚??re in the world‚??s most magnificent theatre ‚?? the mountains around you rising up like the galleries of The Albert Hall. ¬†It‚??s spectacular, and makes one second guess one‚??s default preference for City living. ¬†Scores of leathery skinned locals were out running, cycling and engaging in any physical activity that‚??ll get them outside. ¬†A healthy place.
Addicted once more to the drug of Alpine Air, I forced Tim to double our planned run. ¬†For over an hour we trudged by the lake, through forests and back eventually to the township. ¬†The only fitting way to conclude the festivities was to have a dip in the lake. ¬†Which is about 16 degrees. ¬†If 70 minutes of cardio doesn‚??t wake you up, 2 seconds in Lake Wanaka will. ¬†I‚??d been craving that ‚??swim‚?Ě (read: paddle) for months, only to discover that a vital part of my anatomy had vanished as a result.
Inevitably there was some golf to be played. ¬†There always is. ¬†Snoop‚??s instructions were to meet him at Wanaka Golf Club circa 11.30 for a pie. ¬†Not just any pie either folks: the club‚??s pies are World Famous In Nu Zillin, and for good reason I‚??m pleased to report. ¬†Grant the GM / Superintendent kindly shouted us one before he ducked off to do some work ‚?? I opted for Beef, Beer and Bacon (the finer things in life). ¬†Now I‚??m no food critic so I won‚??t wax lyrical about the characteristics of this WunderPie. ¬†Instead I‚??ll just implore you to visit Wanaka and have one if you do Nothing else. ¬†Quite seriously.
Goodness gracious the course was looking a million dollars. ¬†On past visits here across the years gone by the fairways had been brown and the greens, shall we say, full of character. ¬†Grant must run a tight ship though, because what lay out in front of us was something out of the American school of golf course preparation. ¬†Immaculate. ¬†Against the sandy browns of the hills and the brilliant blue of the skies above, those emerald fairways and greens looked like The Promised Land. ¬†Unfortunately I spent most of my time in the rough so couldn‚??t appreciate them fully.
The front nine is the more spectacular of the two, making the most of the Billion Dollar Views across Lake Wanaka. ¬†It‚??s almost enough to distract one from the task at hand. ¬†A local chap came out to walk a hole or two with us, and explained the thinking behind one or two improvements they were making to the course. ¬†All sounded very sensible to me. ¬†
Snoop as always was in fine form. ¬†When Goldy or Mitch launched one he‚??d be moved to dig deep, in search of his effort ball. ¬†(The man‚??s not an inch taller than most hobbits). ¬†I took great pleasure in watching Snoop launching himself into the ball, knowing full well that kind of inertia isn‚??t becoming of a fine Fairways And Greens golfer such as Himself. ¬†Classic. ¬†To be fair, the man‚??s a good sport too. ¬†When on the short par 3 6th hole Mike took a gigantic divot out of the tee block with his sand wedge, Snoop agreed to lie down to see whether said divot was longer than him. ¬†Results below.
On the 10th tee we met a Swedish gentleman, Andreas, who has an interesting story to tell. ¬†He‚??s been travelling with us for the past few days, which you‚??ll hear all about in due course. ¬†Ditto with a couple of youngsters from Christchurch (Kieran pictured below) who took it upon themselves to head out on a South Island golfing tour, tents in hand golf sticks in the other.
Thanks to Grant, Snoop, Timmy and Mitch for a Hum Dinger of a Wanaka Experience. ¬†Love the place; hard to leave; but the show must go on. ¬†Hurry back? ¬†Absolutely. ¬†Especially if there‚??s one of those pies cooking...
JP¬†¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†¬†
We‚??ve had several days this year that will be remembered in full Kodak colour for decades to come. ¬†The sort of days you look back at, mystified, wondering why you‚??ve been so fortunate to do what you did and with whom. ¬†One of these episodes alone would‚??ve made the leap of faith that was puregolf2010 worthwhile. ¬†Acknowledging the fact that there have been not just one of these Miracles but several, Michael, Bart and I have a huge amount to be thankful for. ¬†The latest installment? ¬†I‚??m about to share it with you. ¬†Our most richly experiential day on home soil; a day when we all fell in love once more with our very own Aotearoa.
It all started at Eric & Sue‚??s place. ¬†Michael and I met Eric and his pals in the locker room at¬†Loch Lomond¬†(they were playing the same day as us, and had heard there were a couple of Kiwis in the hood ‚?? the ones playing 365 days‚?? straight golf...). ¬†That evening and again a few days later at¬†Turnberry, they took us out for dinner and we all told lies until the wee hours. ¬†Many, many lies. ¬†Eric owns¬†The Golf Warehouse¬†‚?? a keen supporter of The First Tee ‚?? and has had the privilege of frequenting a number of the same courses that we have in 2010. ¬†He‚??s also just a good bugger and does a huge amount for those less fortunate than himself. ¬†We got on famously from the get go. ¬†When it came up that we were heading through Queenstown in mid-December, Eric offered up a couple of beds at his ‚??bach‚?Ě, which ladies and gentlemen is not your average tin shed. ¬†Naturally ‚??twood have been rude of us (unpuregolf2010-like, even) to decline such a generous invitation... ¬†
We woke up replete and brimming with excitement. ¬†Eric and Sue had very kindly taken Oliver Twist, Bart and myself out to¬†Saffron¬†in Arrowtown the night before, where we inhaled fare slightly finer than that we‚??ve grown accustomed to. ¬†Central Otago‚??s finest, in fact. ¬†You know, venison arranged on a plate with wild local herbs with Damien Hirst-esque inspiration. ¬†And deep fried marmalade ice cream, a highlight of the trip. ¬†After an early night in spent inspecting the 10 acre property and reading coffee table books (the pick of the bunch being a cracker on French treehouses), we retired to our very own self contained quarters. ¬†Which were of a calibre you‚??d expect at¬†Huka Lodge. ¬†Or¬†The Ritz Paris.
Sue prepared a feast of berries: more or less all we could stomach in the circumstances. Shortly we‚??d be hurled off a wooden platform on the edge of a canyon. ¬†Yes, Snoop Hollyer‚??s bro Matt is involved with The¬†Shotover Canyon Swing¬†‚?? and he‚??d heard a rumour that the puregolf2010 boys like to swing. ¬†Indeed we do. ¬†A match made in heaven. ¬†So with heavy hearts we left our adopted home, bound for the Shotover River. ¬†Blue skies towered above us. ¬†A man who was quite clearly Matt appeared at the side of the road, looking quite Kiwi in sandals, stubbies and a bucket hat. ¬†Before long I found myself listening to a safety briefing delivered in the¬†42 Below School of Satire, quite clearly designed to scare the living hell out of us. ¬†It worked. ¬†Goldstein was shivering with fear and the minefield of pimples on his forehead were beginning to light up like a flock of Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeers at Christmas. ¬†I wasn‚??t sure what was more troubling: the prospect of death by canyon swing, or the prospect of one of Goldy‚??s zits bursting all over me (we were to freefall in tandem).
A Swedish film crew was also present. ¬†Mads, Mags, Mods and Migs were doing a piece on Queenstown and, unfortunately for their audience, decided it‚??d be a good idea to quiz us during the preparation stages. ¬†As it happened all 3 of us were in a darkly satirical mood, answering every question with the sort of droll deadpan mischief that won‚??t come across well on TV. ¬†But no matter. ¬†We weren‚??t a patch on Doug and John anyway (the two punters that chat you up before you‚??re hurtled off the platform); their banter was dark even by Scottish standards. ¬†Rascals. ¬†
As our heels inched towards The Edge and we were eased backwards Michael began to turn a whiter shade of pale. ¬†Jim Morrison‚??s proclamation of ‚??This is The End‚?Ě and the haunting strings of Robbie Krieger‚??s guitar echoed through the corridors of my conscious. ¬†Apocalypse. ¬†Michael‚??s 82 kilograms hurtled over my head and All Hell broke loose. ¬†For an eternity we tumbled like Alice down the rabbit hole. ¬†Then we swung and swung fast (160 kilometres per hour, or thereabouts). ¬†The sensation? ¬†A measure of euphoria akin to that which grips you when a 50 foot birdie putt pierces centre cup. ¬†Perhaps even sharper than that. ¬†As oil, gas and puss poured from Michael‚??s trembling forehead as I suspected it would, I had an epiphany. ¬†Better to be swinging from a cable above a canyon near Queenstown than to be doing absolutely anything else whatsoever. Tops.
And so to The Hills. ¬†New Zealand‚??s most mystical and salubrious golf club. ¬†For those of you not familiar: what began as Michael Hill‚??s private 9 hole backyard track has evolved into the premier NZ Open venue; a spectacular rock garden with 360 degree panoramas of God‚??s Own. ¬†In short, as pure as it gets in Nu Zillin. ¬†Until recently it was Members Only. ¬†These days you can front up with $550 in cold hard cash for the privilege, if you‚??re so inclined. ¬†What you‚??re guaranteed in any case is a unique experience and that‚??s exactly what we got.
Eric being a member joined us for the adventure. ¬†On arrival into the tr√©s chic polished concrete subterranean art filled bunker that they call The Clubhouse, we were greeted by Craig Palmer Director of Golf. ¬†I pored over the Otago Daily Times with an espresso while our chicken sandwich order was being taken. ¬†Then without much adieu ‚?? Eric doesn‚??t like to stuff around any more than I do ‚?? we Got To It. ¬†Carts, for a change.
When I snap hooked my first shot of the day I got That Sense ‚?? you know, that today might not go according to plan. ¬†‚??How did I get on on the 18th?‚?Ě ¬†A just and pertinent question, friends. ¬†(I‚??ve found this query is a useful tool to be used when people start telling you about their round, shot by shot). ¬†A(nother) bogey, as it happens ‚?? but that‚??s neither here nor there. ¬†What matters is that we had one hell of a time testing our skills against a true championship course. ¬†In the company of Wiser Than Methuselah Eric, too. ¬†Under brilliant blue skies there could be few better places to play a few holes. ¬†Not a soul on the course; our sandwiches delivered to us on the 11th by Craig; ¬†views that even the most gifted of Lonely Planet photographers couldn‚??t do justice; and immaculate grass that makes you want to take your shoes off. ¬†Neverland, really.
Our day wasn‚??t over. ¬†While out on course Eric took it upon himself to jack up a helicopter ride for us. ¬†(This happens every day folks...). ¬†Yes, a helicopter ride. ¬†No sooner had I finished chatting to someone on Radio New Zealand than I found myself listening to a brief safety briefing ‚?? delivered in this case by the incarnation of Hard Case, Louisa ‚??Choppy‚?Ě Patterson, owner / chief pilot of Over The Top. ¬†Eric and Sue and their three adopted sons poured into the chopper with Choppy & her young son. ¬†Over a million bucks it costs, apparently. ¬†Chicken feed. ¬†With The Remarkables to the port side and Queenstown to the starboard we lifted off ‚?? setting course for Cecil Peak. ¬†What followed was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and probably that of The Lads. ¬†Words don‚??t even get close.
Here‚??s a short video Goldy‚??s put together that‚??ll give you a taste. ¬†Basically, with not a cloud in sight, we boosted over Lake Wakatipu, scouting for a site on the slopes of Cecil Peak as we climbed. ¬†A site for what, you might ask. ¬†A golf green, of course. ¬†Eric and Choppy are putting together an Extreme Hole and puregolf2010 was brought in for a bit of consulting work. ¬†It‚??s an area that we‚??re looking to expand into, you see. ¬†Then we set down; wandered around the tussocks for a while; hit balls from several potential Tee Blocks; and generally revelled in the euphoria of being On Top Of The World. ¬†It‚??s tempting to chuck in a throwaway line like ‚??It was life changing‚?Ě - but that would cheapen what was really a heart stopping, time halting experience shared with special people. ¬†¬†¬†
Surely that‚??s the end of the day? ¬†Nope. ¬†Straight from the helipad to The Rees, venue for our First Tee fundraiser dinner. ¬†At the last minute we threw together a Power Point presentation (inevitably there had to be a hitch ‚?? in this case, in the form of a projector lead that wouldn‚??t plug into my Mac); welcomed our guests; had a wonderful 7 course dinner with matching Central Otago wines; said a few words about our experiences; enjoyed the company of friends New and Old; and generally rounded off one of the most memorable days of my life in style. ¬†Phil T and the others from The First Tee were down for the occasion. ¬†As one big happy whanau we celebrated the friendships that golf creates, and made sure that all the wine was drunk. ¬†
Doesn‚??t get much better than that, does it?
For years I‚??ve heard mutterings of the virtues of Amberley Beach Golf Club. ¬†It‚??s only 45 minutes north of Christchurch and one of the few courses in Cantabrian parts I‚??ve never managed to play. ¬†The oft-trodden State Highway 1 takes you right through the township, from which it‚??s just a few kilometres to the coast and the golf course. ¬†After refuelling at Patton Palace with porridge and coffee and a glass or three of water to wash away the cobwebs from a late dinner, I was chomping at the bit. ¬†Bring on Amberley Beach.
Proceedings got off to a shaky start though. ¬†The lady in the office hadn‚??t the foggiest who We were or what we were about. ¬†One of the wee voices in my head was telling me that we were supposed to be playing in the Saturday Comp; that we should be waiting around until everyone congregated and getting involved. ¬†However the more forceful of the characters in my cranium begged to differ (he is rather forceful...), instead opting to shoot straight for the 1st tee and get under way before anyone had the opportunity to hold us up. ¬†As a friend of mine says, we weren‚??t there to procreate with spiders. ¬†
Stroke Index 1 straight off the bat. ¬†Not the most difficult ‚??hardest hole‚?Ě we‚??ve come across this year (2 iron, 8 iron, 1.5 putts), perhaps a sign of things to come. ¬†Affirmative. ¬†To the par 5 2nd I hit 3 wood, 5 iron over the back ‚?? and by this time was starting to think we‚??d be in for a birdie festival. ¬†Ha! ¬†At that very point, one is (pardon my French) Screwed. ¬†Then all it takes is a moment of acute frustration (in this case, playing hurriedly through a group and missing out on a straightforward birdie) to derail the whole dam wagon. ¬†Golf...
It‚??s a shame that Amberley Beach, like Waimairi Beach and just about every other golf club in God‚??s Own, has such a strong affinity for trees (pinus radiata at that...). ¬†What would be wonderful views to turquoise waters are obscured by the ghastly fings, and nearly every hole is shaped like the next, by, you guessed it... ¬†I‚??m at risk of having a bee in my bonnet on this account, and so will move swiftly on.
To the back seat of Lucy, our Jucy Campa. ¬†While GB and Goldberg gnattered away up front I gazed out the windae at the hills passing us by and pondered the mysteries of life. ¬†Not one conclusion did I stumble upon. ¬†Perhaps all this golf and socialising is blunting my tools of deduction? ¬†In any case it was with great pleasure that we found ourselves once again in the company of Ernie ‚??Ernesto‚?Ě Poole ‚?? Michael‚??s grandfather. ¬†Unsurprisingly he was to be found on the golf course at Hanmer Springs, the site of many a happy memory for the extended Poole family (and for me on account of several weekend hiatuses throughout University Days).
It being Closing Day for the club season, every man and his dog was getting involved. ¬†At the prizegiving Mike as he is prone to doing got up and spoke a few words, and the good members chucked a couple of hundred bucks into a plastic container. ¬†Generous folks. ¬†Moreover we were included in the dinner festivities, and got stuck in to a solid BBQ feast. ¬†Kiwiana for sure. ¬†Bro.
Thanks to Amberley Beach and to Brian & Co at Hanmer Springs for your hospitality ‚?? epic day under Cantabrian Skies. ¬†
JP ¬† ¬† ¬†
It‚??s not in my nature to be outspoken. ¬†Well, fair enough, yes it is. ¬†Pipe down. ¬†On the whole though I tend to hold my tongue when it comes to analysing courses we visit. ¬†I‚??m not Tom Doak and don‚??t profess to be; doesn‚??t pay to offend the sensibilities of those that have so graciously hosted you. ¬†However. ¬†There comes a time when one becomes so moved that it‚??s futile to suppress one‚??s reformative energies. ¬†Like now. ¬†You see folks, we had the pleasure of playing at Waimairi Beach in hometown Christchurch, which I haven‚??t played since 6th form. ¬†And...it‚??s jam packed full of potential. ¬†With a good few pines felled and a pot bunker or two cut, you‚??d be looking at the Royal Lytham of Aotearoa (‚??Royal Waimairi‚?Ě has a nice ring to it, doesn‚??t it?).
My abiding memory of this delightful track was the greens ‚?? they‚??re slicker than Jack Nicholson was at the height of his powers. ¬†Thankfully, in the 9 years since my last visit, nothing has changed on this front: they‚??re still pure. ¬†Bart was getting hot flushes on the practice putting green. ¬†(Though he still wasn‚??t sinking a bloody thing...). ¬†We teed off and immediately found ourselves having to shape it around pine forests to the port and starboard sides. ¬†Now, the shore is only a few hundred yards away; the Easterly wind blows temperamentally across the course from, well, the East (i.e. the Pacific); and the soil is that lovely sandy stuff that you find beneath the fescue at the likes of St. Andrews, Troon, Birkdale, Ballybunion and Co. ¬†In short, smashing links land. ¬†
So. ¬†Why then are there great big pines standing like wooden warts on the landscape? ¬†First of all, it‚??s New Zealand ‚?? people don‚??t like cutting down trees by virtue of some innate, in this case unhealthy, affection for the dam things. ¬†I don‚??t agree with everything coming out of the Michael Clayton School of Golf, but he‚??s on the money on this subject. ¬†On ya Michael. ¬†Second, there are cries of ‚??safety‚?Ě. ¬†Because the slice of land isn‚??t a big one, people perhaps justifiably worry that it‚??d be a warzone if you chopped ‚??em down. ¬†I‚??m not sure about that though: hell, when we were up at Howick a week or so ago, there are trees aplenty but still balls flew past our ears every 26 seconds. ¬†
Well. ¬†If after employing a lumberjack to do your Dirty Work you can‚??t reshape the holes to be sufficiently removed from one another, make it a 12 hole course! ¬†After all, 12 is the optimal number of holes. ¬†That applies now, and more pertinently in the future. ¬†You never play well for more than 12 holes; there are always a few in the middle, down the stretch, or even at the outset, that ruin your card. ¬†Plus you‚??re around in 2 hours tops. ¬†In today‚??s world that‚??s key ‚?? particularly if you‚??re trying to capture the attention of young ‚??uns like me who are time poor, and who think golf in New Zealand takes far too long. ¬†It does. ¬†The Revolution is coming.
Anyway I‚??ve said my bit, and will ruffle no more feathers for the moment at least. ¬†If you‚??d like to continue the conversation, email me at email@example.com. ¬†
Despite getting stuck behind a slew of 3s and 4s (mainly mature gentlemen playing their Friday morning golf, er, carefully), we were thoroughly enjoying the experience. ¬†Between shots I was using my imaginary can of spray paint to mark out the trees that, in the Patton Redesign, would be culled (i.e. all of them). ¬†What a pleasure it was too to be playing on (or at least admiring...) the lush carpet green fairways that are the product of a very proficient watering system. ¬†By some miracle ‚?? and I hope I‚??m not being too cynical in this sense ‚?? the greens were also, on the whole, very nicely shaped. ¬†There‚??s generally not too much thought apparent in New Zealand greens, but this was a notable exception. ¬†I‚??m thinking in particular of the 5th and 7th greens for anyone in the know.
A curious looking character began wandering alongside us as we approached the 9th green. ¬†I gathered by his body language that he had come to greet us. ¬†Jack McDonald was his name, a retired tradesman from Belfast (though he emigrated some 44 years ago). ¬†Instead of playing with his usual Dollar Club pals ‚?? who play every Monday and Friday for, you guessed it, a dollar ‚?? Jack thought he might walk with us down the back nine. ¬†He‚??d been following our journey with interest, and saw puregolf2010 was rolling through his back yard. ¬†We were all glad of his fine company (and local knowledge). ¬†Given Jack spent his first 11 years or so living in Clydebank near Glasgow (his father worked on the docks, on The Queen Mary among other projects), he and I probably fell back into speaking with our native brogue. ¬†(It‚??s something I‚??ve become more aware of after travelling around Scotland with Michael for 2 months: ‚??Jamie‚??s talking Scottish again...‚?Ě).
Y‚??er man had a glint in his eye and told me of how he nearly lost his grog in the earthquake ‚?? his wife‚??s best vase had fallen off the top shelf but, mercifully, the whisky was poised flirtatiously on the edge of the shelf. ¬†Naturally in the melee Jack had a dram to steady himself and celebrate his near miss. ¬†Mrs. McDonald wasn‚??t quite so relieved.
Walking off the 18th after a satisfying adventure the Secretary Manager, John, came down to welcome us. ¬†Once we‚??d taken care of the necessaries (we have to hand in cards again, now that we‚??re back on home soil!), our trio was invited into the clubhouse to join The Dollar Club for refreshment. ¬†A train track of men ran down the centre of the lounge, almost as if they were playing a dozen chess matches. ¬†Not a rook or a knight in sight however ‚?? just a few handles of Speights Old Dark and the odd bowl of chips. ¬†And a bunch of gentlemen in the twilight of their careers enjoying each other‚??s company (or so it appeared...).
Mike Hurley, the leader of the pack (past Captain, President, club member for over 50 years etc etc), welcomed us with a haka. ¬†Well, he didn‚??t actually, but it would‚??ve been entertaining. ¬†Rather he said a few words while on his feet and walked us to the bar. ¬†There I chatted with him for the best part of an hour and learned a bit about the club that he‚??s given such service to over 6 decades. ¬†And about The Eagles Golfing Society, of which he is the present captain (and who do a lot of valuable fundraising work). ¬†Like Jack, a tremendous gentleman to while a few minutes away with.
I could‚??ve stayed at Waimairi Beach all day, but a family dinner was fast looming and I was in no mood to miss out on any of the festivities. ¬†Bart and I hucked it out in Jucy Lucy to Crossnacreevie (named after my grandfather‚??s old farm in Nor‚??n Ireland that‚??s sadly no longer in the family). ¬†Mum gave me the sort of big hug that only a mother can give, and just like that I was Home, telling tales of The Year That‚??s Been. ¬†Three generations of Pattons sat around the table with friends from near and far. ¬†How good is it to come home to your mum‚??s cooking????? ¬†Vintage evening ‚?? good to be home.
JP ¬†¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†