Saturday, 11 April 2009

Spain - Golf 1, Villamartin (r)

Looking for real España wasn’t of course the real reason for travelling to Spain at this time because this was to be a golfing holiday. Before flying off to the Iberian Peninsula we selected three courses, two that we had played the year before at Villamartin and La Finca and a new one, at nearby Campoamor. Because of the girlfriends and the trouble with permissions the boys couldn’t join us for the first round but they were due to be there for the final two.

On Sunday, the second day of our holiday, we were due to play Villamartin, which we had played last year with Joe the club professional and John the Dutch international footballer and as we were playing alone again this year we wondered if we would get paired up again. When we woke the weather was overcast but dry and after breakfast we prepared for golf and set off for the course and the clubhouse check-in. The place looked good as soon as we wandered through the entrance gardens that were complete with ornamental gardens with fountains and the impressive statue of the athletic naturist lady golfer.

At the office I received the disappointing news that we were in fact due to play with two others and I wondered just how I should break this news to Richard whose first tee nerves might not be able to cope with this arrangement for a second year. This didn’t seem to displease him at all however because he had already met our partners for the day, who were a good pair of chaps from Yorkshire and we all got on immediately. Actually one thing that annoys me a bit is when strangers apologise for being poor golfers before they start and then proceed to crack the ball about three hundred yards down the fairway and both Allan and Stuart did exactly this. Luckily the rest of their game didn’t approach the standard of their tee shots so this didn’t spoil the day for us and we managed to keep up.

Richard started by scratching his way down the first, staying as close to the trees as he could and then finishing with an impressive approach shot that hit a sign attached to a tree and knocked it skew whiff and I wondered if this was going to be the pattern for the day but after that he played a steady game of golf until we reached the fifth when he put a fairway shot out of bounds and through the conservatory roof of an adjoining villa with a spectacular crash of splintering glass. No one came to complain or to demand insurance details so I have to assume that luckily they were not in occupation at this time. If you buy a property next to a golf course you probably have to get used to that sort of thing, what else can you expect?

That was about the end of the amusement really until we reached the ninth where Richard managed to plonk his ball in the water in pretty much exactly the same spot as last year although this was not nearly so difficult as last years achievement when, because we were playing a temporary green, the water was almost directly behind him. It is almost impossible to work out exactly how he did it.

What was interesting about Villamartin was the amount of birds on the course. On every hole there were Swifts that swooped about so close to the action that I was convinced that they wanted to join in. There were also a lot of Hoopoes, which are interesting brightly coloured birds that were grubbing about for insects in the turf and quite oblivious to the golfers. Most interesting of all however was a flock of vivid green Rink Necked Parakeets that were introduced some time ago to the Villamartin commercial centre and have thrived there and spread to the golf course. These birds are indigenous to Africa and South Asia but are becoming more common in Europe as the all year round temperatures become milder. There are even some colonies in the United Kingdom that have thrived due to warmer winters and a lack of predators and a number of colonies have been established in the South East of England. The largest colony of around seven thousand birds is at Esher in Surrey and is said to have established itself after escaping from Ealing film studios whilst filming shots for the movie ‘African Queen’ in 1951.

On the thirteenth we played a short par three, which, it turned out, was next to a villa with a big garden and owned by Terry Wogan. We didn’t see the great man himself of course; I expect he was away somewhere rehearsing for the Eurovision Song Contest later in the month.

We completed the course without incident and I mention this because this is something I am especially proud of. I have been known in the past to be short tempered on the golf course but today I behaved impeccably. We were playing at a brisk rate but behind us was a three ball that seemed determined to try and rush us and in doing so became more and more impatient. They would tee off behind us and then rush up as quickly as they could and wind themselves up while they waited:

“What are they doing naaaawh?”
“Look where he’s left his baaaag!”
“Get on wiv it!”

They were Essex people of course! Much to Richard’s surprise I ignored this blatant provocation and even on the sixteenth when they came across and asked us to hurry up I left all of the negotiations to our playing companion Allan, who pointed out, very diplomatically I thought, that we were right up with the clock and as we had paid £50 for the round we would take as much time as we wanted. I liked his style and to be honest any intervention from me was rendered completely unnecessary but it left Richard wondering if I have been taking ‘anger management’ classes. I haven’t of course; I just must be getting old!

We both had a good round, I finished with an 88, including five pars and Richard had a very creditable 117, including the conservatory shot! At the end of the game we said goodbye to our partners for the day and as the sun was coming out we went to the village of Villamartin for a drink but it remained disappointingly dull and we abandoned the plan and returned to the apartment instead for beer and ham sandwiches which was a much cheaper option of course.

After refreshments we hung about the pool and even though it wasn’t what you would call hot I decide that I had to go for a swim. Pete next door was astounded that anyone would go in the pool in ambient temperatures of less than 40º and declared me raving mad. ‘Northerners’ he said, ‘you’ll even break the ice to go in if you have to!’ We are not true Northerners of course but you have to remember that for anyone from Kent or Sussex anywhere north of Watford is practically within the Arctic Circle! Actually I have to confess that it was a bit cold and as hypothermia began to set in and the blood supply to my fingers slowed down to a trickle as they went white and wrinkly I had to get back to the room and get some warm clothes on quickly. I didn’t however own up to Pete that I was absolutely freezing cold.

The first days golf had been a great success and as we sat on the balcony later that night and shivered away we looked forward to picking the boys up the next day and the two further rounds of golf that we had planned for the rest of the week.

1 comment:

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