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 firstname.lastname@example.org. ¬†
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 ¬†¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†
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