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?
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