Monday, August 15, 2011

STRADDIE TALES - LOST ON A GOLF COURSE

THE GOLF BALL AND I

Golf courses and golf have figured largely in my marriage to the Reluctant Traveller. Along with race tracks and card games that little white ball has even contributed at times to our finances and daily survival.

 You'll note from the photo above it would be impossible to lose him on a links golf course like St. Andrews.

I’m not a gambler nor a golfer and the children’s game of ‘Snap’ is about as close to a card game as I’m ever likely to get so I guess you could say our marriage was a case of opposite attraction.

At this stage I should add my husband has no sense of direction... what so ever.  He has been known to get lost on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, has circled one of England’s gigantic traffic roundabouts innumerable times trying to work out which way is north.

The fact that we both survived a long and meandering  do it yourself  trip around the world is entirely due to my map reading genius and the fact that when we strolled through various towns or shopping centres it was imperative I keep him firmly in sight and not vice versa.

Athens though was a different story. I spent one harrowing night in a small tourist hotel in the Plaka waiting for my Reluctant Traveller to surface from a ‘just popping out to get a bottle of water’ excursion.   He had no map, no language skills, no idea even what the hotel was called, and no sense of direction. It didn’t help when he wandered back five hours later minus the water but full of chatter about this great bar he found where the music was terrific and people  were dancing and smashing plates.

 
I strongly suspect I could have lost him in the wilds of Tasmania...

By the time the grandchildren arrived, golf was no longer the part time, occasional breadwinner it had been when first we married. He now found he was more  often playing second fiddle to the younger generation.
 
Pop, Josh and Ben, and Uncle Chris


 
Very much second fiddle.
Fast forward a quarter of a century or so, we’ve crash landed  in the twilight zone.  We’re both greying, admittedly I’m slowing that process down with selective streaks, his eyesight is playing up, so are his shoulders.  I’m smug in the knowledge I’m ten years younger and a trifle fitter.

 Golf no longer his preferred choice of activity, unless he has behind him a seeing eye golf ball dog.  Me.  And I tend to day dream especially when his iron, or wood, or whatever makes contact, and therefore constantly to blame for a high score of lost balls.

A perfectionist in the game he finally and reluctantly shoved his golf bag in a cupboard.  But living as we do on our beloved Straddie our choice of venue to stretch the legs in pretence of exercise, is a daily walk on the golf course.

Dunwich Golf Club, an aerial shot from earlier days of drought
 
Straddie’s golf club is not like the fashionable tailored golf courses of American television, nor is it one of those wild and windy links courses of the British Isles.  

The golf course on Stradbroke is green and after a year of rain, lush, dotted with trees, traversed by hills, favoured by kangaroos and bird life.  The crack of a well hit ball is accompanied by the laughter of the kookaburra, the rare shout of ‘fore’.  It is also a structured oasis in the middle of dense Australian bush.

The Stradbroke Island Golf Club is one of Queensland’s best kept secrets.  In an age where keen golfers need to book weeks ahead for a playing time, where slow players mean a bank up of foursomes and mounting tempers,  the Straddie course is a delight of casual play and serenity.

Not good for the Club’s finances of course, this secret business;  to survive they need all the players they can get, so anyone reading this, take the hint, hop on a water taxi at Cleveland and enjoy the game the way it should be played.   But I digress, this story is all about walking and getting lost.  By one of us.


DUNWICH GOLF CLUB TODAY- A LONE SPECTATOR

We started these late afternoons  strolling the course a year or so ago.  Would come across the odd hidden ball in the rough and joke we were picking up one of my Reluctant Travellers miss aimed shots.  In time finding these stray golf balls became something akin to finding seashells on the seashore,  it became addictive.


At walks end I would  brag about finding more balls then he did.  The strolls in the park became a challenge of discovery and victory.   A bit like a game of finders keepers losers weepers.  I found it incredible so many lost golf balls were hiding in areas really close to the playing field.

As we accumulated ever more lost and deserted balls I felt a twinge of guilt.  I had no idea others before me, on golf courses all over the world, were doing the very same thing.  In fact a name had been coined for these scavengers of the rough and to my surprise I realised my Reluctant Traveller and I had joined the list of international 'ball hawks'.

Lost in a blue shirt – some hours before he went MIA (missing in action)


We had found a new way to enjoy the game and we were loving it.  Until one day last week when in a slip of negligence I took my eyes off my Reluctant Traveller.  It could only have been an odd few seconds, well maybe a few lengthy minutes, before I suddenly found I was alone.  Utterly and completely.

I did a slow 360 degree turn, bush on one side,  fairway on the other three.  I called out, I cooee’d,  (the Aussie way to  shatter the silence when someone is lost) but no reply, and worse no sight of my grey haired husband in a blue shirt.

I wasn’t worried, I mean who gets lost on a golf course, but I did suspect he had done a runner and headed back to the car, parked some  four lengthy uphill par 5 holes away.  So by now I was cross in a way only another golfing wife could be.

Just like his cheek ‘, I muttered as I headed back , hoping a golfer with a buggy might  stop and offer a lift.   By the time I puffed my way up the second hill I was using a  few stronger words ...and realising there were no other players on the course, the Reluctant Traveller and I, wherever he was, were on our ‘Pat Malone’.

I finally arrived at the car to find no husband, no keys, mobile phone securely locked on the other side of the windscreen, and darkness perhaps half an hour away. 
 
It crossed my mind by now, that maybe something untoward had happened.  Heart attack, snake bite, fisticuffs with an angry Kangaroo, all these things crossed my mind.  Lost did not enter the equation, not at that stage anyway.

My next thought was, ‘Maybe I should get hold of a couple of friends, put them on standby, maybe with torches, maybe, maybe not...I’m probably panicking for nothing..he’ll kill me if I call out a search team.’

The Club House is perched on top of a steep, very steep hill overlooking the course.  So I trudged up the last big hill, to find the Club House was closed, deserted, not a soul around.  And as you can see from the aerial shot made some years ago, the golf course is set amidst thick, sandy bush and scrub with a long walk back to town.


Thick impenetrable bush and a sandy trail leading nowhere

 
By now my imagination is running riot, widowhood is beginning to enter my head, anger has given way to fully fledged panic with a flood of tears not far behind.

Then suddenly, amid the silence of bush and birdcall I hear a car’s engine, our car’s engine and I begin hurtling down the winding track from the first tee.

I'm practising in my mind and through gritted teeth what I’m about to say, when I catch sight of him, dishevelled, clothes torn, legs bleeding, exhausted.

He’d found a lost ball trail, a rich mother lode of little white  Titlists, Callaway’s and Maxfli’s that led him deeper and deeper into the thick impenetrable bush. 


Becoming totally lost, the dense bush getting thicker, no idea  the points of the compass in relation to the 6th tee where last he had seen me, he had stumbled on,  crossing narrow creek beds, climbing and falling over rotting tree trunks, unwittingly moving further away from the manicured greens.  Until finally through the scrub and bush he saw a round concrete pipe and then the bitumen road that led from Golf Club to Dunwich town.

Hallelujah! He was saved, he stumbled and staggered along the road, not a car passed by; turned onto the dirt road to the club house,  and  finally to the car where I found him.   My poor bloodied, embarrassed hero.

Back home I got the distinct impression he would rather no one knew about his latest little adventure/debacle.  I promised not to say a word, I’d just let my fingers do the talking...

oOo







Robyn Mortimer ©2011