Fairway to heaven


Charles, who had just come on duty, asked us if we wanted an ABF and we told him that we already ordered that one. A little later we ordered the ABFF, or the AABF, I am not sure which one, seeing that I had lost track somewhere in the 3rd hour on the 19th hole. His black pants had “ICC” embroidered on the hip, in red, and I wondered for a moment why he was wearing International Cricket Council gear. Then I remembered that we were sitting on the stoep at the Irene Country Club. I shared that moment of confusion, as one does after a couple of Savanna Drys when one tends to think that every thought that goes through one’s head is worth sharing. It was received with good humour, as shared thoughts are during this time. The conversation included, in such spirit, a brief agreement that the people who did not understand why the 19th hole is so important are people who simply don’t like to play golf.

This is a great pity, and a great loss to such folk, because there is a wild creativity that characterises conversation once the togs have been brushed and the bags have been stowed in the car. Problems are solved and secrets are revealed; there is no limit to the intimate camaraderie inspired by the view of the lush greens beyond the bar, and the safe happiness of a foursome ordering a second round.

Uncomfortable topics like The Poor are tackled, confidently, while being served beer by a man wearing a fez (the only nod, really, to being in Africa), in a luxury establishment only a stone’s throw away from Snor City, former bastion of oppression and inequality and current stronghold of the newly, immensely wealthy. Where else would you hear an informed debate about capitalism, crayfish diving in Nicaragua and the failure of Fair Trade culminate in speculation about why some people need to pee more often than others? Impressive, I know.

I don’t want to suggest that I am a golfer. That would be an insult to golfers everywhere. I have, in the last ten-odd years, taken some few lessons, bought a set of irons, a bag, a glove and a golf shirt, and I have spent time on a driving range. When Mandy and I had our last lesson-of-ten with the delectable Francois at the Wanderers – THAT time – he took us to play nine holes on the course. We teed off at about five and had to abandon holes 7-9 because it became too dark to play. Just to give you an idea.

So last week I played, for the first time in my life, a full 18 holes on an actual course and it was the best fun I’ve had wearing a turquoise Nike golf shirt ever. In fact, it was most entertaining eight hours I have spent in a long time. Only five of these were spent on the course, although I imagine that the female septuagenarian four-ball behind us may have experienced this period as considerably longer. They kept on leaning on their clubs, half a hole behind us, staring like bristling, veteran vultures waiting for their turn at the kill. I guess when your time is getting shorter, you tend to walk a little faster. Kallie and Neville kept on making jokes about turning off the taps on their oxygen tanks, which could easily be mistaken for the four bags on wheels. (No, the ladies themselves were walking; apparently determined to turn the game into actual exercise, they shunned both golf carts and caddies, and even while wheeling along their gear they managed to catch up with us regularly.)

At one stage, on the second nine, a marshal zipped by in a golf cart and told us to play faster. I was mortally offended since we could see, mostly, the four ball about one hole ahead of us. Later the boys would tell us that male players in a hurry would eventually simply tee off over your head. Kallie told the marshal that unlike us, the old ladies only had the half breakfast at the half-way mark, so they just had to wait a little, but he simply zoomed on, unamused.

We soldiered on. I played at least four excellent shots – the kind that makes one determined to take one’s seven wood to the driving range more often. And in the end, I shot 119 on a 72 par course, which I was ecstatic with. Apparently my handicap would be 34, more than 10 years below my age. I blushed with pride. We ordered another round.


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