Getting It DONE…the Homestretch (Stage I)…3rd (Final) Chapter
OK…Third Chapter of this six-day trip. But before I continue, I need to correct and amplify one portion of the 2nd Chapter. The full name of the manager at Golf de Chilberta is Estelle Nocera Raguno-Sirot. One of the members I played with advised that Estelle is a championship player. I did not inquire as to the meaning of “championship player”, but a Google search does show her playing as an amateur in a French pro-am and her handicap is listed as 1.3. Other tournament results have her with handicaps of about 1.3 to 2.5, and she was a participant in the France Championship Team Mid – Amateur 2015 Division 2 "A" Ladies.
Touquet Golf Club-La Mer, April 14, 2016: Early on Thursday 4/14 it was off from CDG north to the English Channel coastline, about 40 miles south of Calais, to a town called Le Touquet.
Played with Relend Malfait of Zoute, Belgium. I met Erlend one year earlier on another early spring visit to Continental Europe. Erlend was the 24th person to finish one of Golf Magazine’s World Top 100 lists (your truly was #25). He is a member of Royal Zoute and a first class guy.
This course has real pedigreed. Designed by Harry Colt and opened in 1931, it suffered extensive damage during WW II and is currently in the midst of a major renovation program. We played temporary greens on holes 7, 8 and 9 but this was still a superb track. In particular wished I could have played #7, which looks to be en excellent Redan. It lies right next to the English Channel, is a true firm/fast links, and play is heavily influenced by winds. It has two courses, with La Mer (the Colt design) being the better one. Its owners are investing real $$ in this resort, restoring La Mer and constructing a all new clubhouse.
I played well…with a 40-37 = 77 finishing be hitting a 3-Utility to about 8” for a birdie.
As in the case of Chiberta, this MacWood selection (#31 on the spoof list) is a good one…a very good and fun course, and one that I believe will also offer a stiff test once the renovation is completed.
After the round, Erlend and I headed in the same direction (in separate cars) into Belgium. He was fortunate, with a drive of only 2 hours…while I faced one of about 4 hours (per Google Maps). The traveling started to catch up with me…had to take three 15 minute power naps along the way. Finally got to Spa, Belgium, about an hour from Brussels. Weather forecast for tomorrow not looking good and I have two rounds scheduled and a three our drive in between…
Royal Golf des Fagnes, Belgium, April 15, 2016: Woke early to discover a completely different weather forecast. The next few hours will determine which is proven to be accurate. Arrive at the club at 7:35 (I had an 8:00 tee time)…no one there but a member and he suggested that I go right off and pay after the round. The club looks to be very good…with a small but impressive clubhouse that looks more like a private home (I never did enter it…time was too squeezed).
The course is set in a fairly hilly area and is cut through what were deep forests. Designed by Tom Simpson in the late 1920’s, it is difficult to tell what the course looked like when it opened…one gets the feeling that the fairways may well have narrowed over the past 90 years as the trees have reclaimed some of their land. As it had rained the previous few days, the course was very wet, as the dense forests make it very difficult for a course to dry out. I enjoyed the course, but would not want to “play it every day”. Its best hole IMHO is #16. Plays about 6500 yards from the tips. MacWood had put it at #98 on his list.
I walked the front nine and then between nines paid my fees and arranged a buggy for the back nine, which turned out to be fortunate…the day was very tight. Luckily, this morning’s forecast proved mote accurate and I played the 18 with maybe 5-10 minutes of light rain. Ended up shooting an 85.
After finishing 18, said thank you and was off to Germany, south of Frankfurt.
St Leon-Rot (St Leon Course), Germany, April 15, 2016:
The drive to St Leon-Rot was easy and went smoothly. The course is owned by SAP (or its chairman and founder) and is located right next to SAP’s headquarters. It was the venue for the Solheim Cup Matches in 2015 (remember the famous 18 inch putt not conceded by Suzann Pettersen?). The course has never been on a World 100, and frankly that is appropriate. Looking like the Solheim Cup organizers have the European Ryder Cup disease with regard to sight selection. A very penal design (and not a great one) built on a flat uninteresting piece of land, it is filled with water and holes lacking multiple playing options. Designed by David Thomas, it opened in 2000 and stretches to about 7150 yards from the tips.
Shot an 86...course was very wet from all the rain (and we had a couple of downpours during the round, but nothing like Beltway). To be honest, this was somewhat of a “downer” way of finishing off this trip…but that come with the territory of exploring new courses.
After the round, it was north on a 70 mile drive to Frankfurt airport for a flight to Dublin.
Saturday morning, I was supposed to play The European Club and see my friend Pat Ruddy, but it was too cold in the morning (38F with 15-20mph winds) and I was too tired, so I displayed a brief period of wisdom and slept in before my late afternoon flight to JFK…with connections to Raleigh-Durham. Arrive home around midnight. Pat was still in Boston, returning Sunday morning with her eldest son Hunter and Hunter and Ann’s two sons, Kingston (6) and Duggan (5) who are making their annual visit to Pienhurst. Looking forward to this week!
Sooo, where am I? On World Top 100 Ever, now down to last 9 (out of 286), and on MacWood Spoof, now have 7 left. Stay tuned…more progress may well be forthcoming.
Time to go play with my grandsons…