Faced with the looming prospect of crocodile hunting on the northern tip of Australia in May and, later in the year, visiting gorillas in Uganda, early autumn golf seemed a doodle. Not playing it, for that would be stretching things, but watching from the relative safety of a buggy and murmuring approval, shock, anger, sadness and disbelief depending on he drive, putt, lie of the land and so forth. It’s a bonding process, like lying in healing mud or sitting in the lotus position for days on end.
Golf and cats are the two subjects apparently discussed most often by human beings, hard as this may be to believe; those who mock should remember that when writer Alan Coren, who knew his onions when it came to canniness, wrote a book, called Golf for Cats. It outsold the Bible, I am reliably told, although it mentioned neither cats nor golf.
New Zealand, apparently, has the best golf courses in the world and this one, so I had been told repeatedly, was the denier cris. It simply didn’t get any better than Kauri Cliffs.
The Bay of Islands off the North Island is, in its own small way, a piece of visual paradise; beautiful, desolate and haunting, and reminded us of Halong Bay in Vietnam, where they filmed Indochine. And where we once tip toed across the misty bays on small boats, with pointy straw hats tied under our chins, imagining we had gone back a century or two, until gingerly groping out way down a cave, surely unmarred by human hands, we came across three soldiers huddled around a television set, watching CNN.
Golf seems to run in families, including mine. My parents, brothers and sister spent their lives pursuing the little white ball and went off at the drop of a hat on golfing holidays to an inhospitable small town on the coast of Natal that boasted hotels called St Andrews and The Links.
For weeks before they went they practised shots on the front lawn and walked around the house swinging their arms like human windmills, while I hid under the bed reading the giant classics such as Sue Barton, Neighbourhood Nurse or What Katy Did Next.
Along with golf, violence also runs in the family, for when they were not hitting the ball my family was shark shooting in the murky river leading into the sea and snake bashing on the fairways. You had to be able to conquer the squeams.
So golf isn’t strictly my cup of tea; it seems too fraught with peripheral lurking dangers.
There are no snakes in NZ and sharks even Our Great White Greg Norman one – seemed thin on the ground, so one almost wept with relief, and at Kauri Cliffs every player is treated with mood enhancing reverence by the staff, who cut the grass with nail scissors and stop cutting, mowing, raking, talking and breathing, while the shot is played. Silly old bugger, they may have been thinking. You bloody genius; said their faces.
I asked carefully, for golfers are a touch lot; if Augusta, Georgia, where they hold the US Masters, is the cathedral of golf, what have we here? A tabernacle, perhaps or Mecca or even the Vatican? No, no, I was severely chastised. The Fairway to Heaven. Could that be a best seller?