All over the world golfers are being encouraged to attend meetings about the new rules, to learn how they’ll affect our day to day rounds and change our routines. There was one such meeting at Whittington Heath on Tuesday evening and I was sorry to miss it but sweltering in the summer sunshine in the southern hemisphere took priority. There are meetings here too but none of the dates has suited us so far.
Not that we’re feeling deprived or anything because we have our very own rules guru here with us and she’s on top of the world at the moment, having passed the exam that she sat just before flying out to South Africa for some much needed rest and recuperation. Referees have to be fit to tramp around at tournaments and keep their wits about them, hence the hiking poles and the London 2012 inspirational tee shirt and the undertaking of early morning treks in the mountains around Franschhoek.
It’s not a hardship really because the scenery is stunning and the light takes your breath away and it’s easier than playing golf in temperatures of close to 40 degrees.
Mind you, the downside of being on holiday with a couple of professionals and an about-to-be rules expert is that you can be in the swimming pool, contemplating nothing in particular apart from a very blue sky and a backstroke technique dimly remembered from a long-ago lesson in the swimming coach’s kitchen when snatches of conversation float in on the breeze: loose impediments; bifurcation; relief from divots; inconsistencies; slow play; equipment; suspending Sergio……and so on. If I pay attention, I should be quite knowledgeable by the end of the trip.
Under expert supervision my dropping from knee height is already showing signs of improvement and I’ve had a good tip to help improve my near non-existent shoulder turn on my backswing: Just imagine you’re reaching behind you for a glass of red…..Worked a treat on our back nine at Erinvale yesterday, though even I can be vaguely limber when it’s so hot the locals are contenting themselves with nine holes.
Before Pam had sat her exams in St Andrews the other three golfers on the trip added Pearl Valley to our South African play list. It’s a Jack Nicklaus creation, in a stunning (I defy you to come here and not over use that word) setting not too far from where we’re staying. We left early for our 0840 tee time and had such a quick, trouble free journey that Gillian and Maureen had plenty of time to hit balls while I had a bit of a mooch and took in the view.
The course was as immaculate as the surroundings bar an inordinate number of badly repaired pitch marks. If I ran a course in South Africa – or anywhere for that matter – I’d give every visitor a pitch mark repairer and a lesson in how to use it. It must deeve the life out of the greenkeepers.
Of course, we’re not just here for the golf, there’s a lot of wine – and beer – to be sampled and I like to remind myself of one of my favourite Harry Vardon stories. The six-time Open champion answered the door to a woman from the Temperance Society who was trying to persuade the great man to sign the pledge. He drew himself up to his full height and said, “Madam, I have never knowingly been beaten by a teetotaller. I bid you good day.”
So far we haven’t found a winery that we don’t like but we loved the friendly informality of Eikehof, a small, family-run affair just outside Franschhoek that is onto its fourth generation – and we liked the wine too, especially the merlot.
Lunch with Rae Hast, at Vergelegen, just across the road from Erinvale in Somerset West, was another treat. Vergelegen isn’t just about wine, the estate dates back to the early 1700s and you can learn about the cultural history of the Cape, including the slave trade and admire the stunning (that word again) surroundings and beautiful gardens. It’s worth a day or two of anyone’s time.
Finally, a quick congratulations to Jan Stephenson, who will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in June. Not before time. The Australian, whose life sometimes rivalled any soap opera, was glamour personified and an outstanding golfer, who won three major championships in the space of three years, culminating with the US Women’s Open in 1983. She helped found the Women’s Senior Golf Tour in 2000, now the Legends Tour and at the age of 67 still loves competing. Look her up, she really is worth reading about!