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 At the 19th

La vie sans golf – c’est rien
Holidays in France are all very good and well but what if you don’t have your golf clubs with you? In that case, the prospect is a load of boules

lease don’t be unbearably jealous if I reveal that I’m tapping this out on a laptop while lying head-down on a sun-lounger no more than two clubs length from a sizeable swimming pool. Yes, you guessed it, I’m on holiday. If you’re really interested – and my instinct tells me you are – I'm in France. Unlike most people who forget about work when they’re away, I can never truly relax as deadlines loom larger than an overweight, tattooed, British holidaymaker searching for a bar that sells his favourite lager.

Far from feeling resentful at having to write while others doze, I’m genuinely grateful to be doing something that’s golf-related. You see, this is a family holiday, and in what can best be described as a ‘magnificent gesture’, I left my shiny new set of Cobra clubs back in Blighty. The problem is, take golf out of life’s equation and there really isn’t anything left that is anywhere near as much fun. So, in the same way I often wonder what nongolfers do with their lives in general and weekends in particular, I’m now struggling to think of things to occupy my time. You see, the wonderful thing about golf is that it consumes enormous, great, four-hour dollops of the day.

Throw in a couple of pints after the round and a thorough post-mortem and you’ve barely time to squeeze in a meal before going to bed to dream of winning majors.

What else of importance is there? Although not a complete philistine, museums and art galleries don’t do it for me in the same way that, say, a lovely links course does. Statues and paintings merely represent the real world whereas a pretty par-three is reality, especially if the green is well protected with bunkers and, say, a small lake.

Shopping is even more unappealing than culture. Apart from when you need milk or a new lob-wedge, what is the point of it? Traipsing round shops is worse than being stuck behind a geriatric fourball in an individual strokeplay competition. I would rather try and play left-handed and concede my opponent four-foot putts than spend a hot afternoon pushing and shoving through crowds of fanatical consumers. It’s sick, I tell you. Add to that nightmare the headache induced by converting metric to imperial and euros to sterling and you can perhaps understand why I’m having to lie down.

When I was young and there really was very little going on, especially on Sundays, my family would frequently go for a drive. Motor cars were still something of a novelty and, although we didn’t appreciate the fact back then, the roads were blissfully uncrowded. And so my brother, sister and I would clamber into the back of our Austin and, for a couple of hours or so, Dad would drive us around Hertfordshire. Perhaps I was scarred by these pointless early excursions but I’ve never been one of that curious breed of man who enjoy driving and lists motoring as a hobby. Consequently, even if it’s unfamiliar and moderately pretty, I don’t want to waste fuel exploring the French countryside.

There are meals, of course, which are genuinely enjoyable occasions, especially if a restaurant is involved. But even then the value comparison with, for example, a round of golf suggests that eating is a disproportionately expensive activity. Leaving to one side any health and fitness issues, for the price of a decent dinner in a reasonably smart restaurant here in the Dordogne you could enjoy 18 holes at all but the very smartest French courses. Perversely one course does you more good and lasts considerably longer than three courses, if you know what I mean.

Obviously golf is not the only sport on offer in France. There's boules, for example. Best played in a horizontally striped top and with a small beret perched on the head, it is both good fun and quintessentially French. Not unlike a perpetual nearest-the-pin competition, it’s strangely compelling. We played it yesterday and I found myself involuntarily grunting, shrugging my shoulders in a rather Gallic way and quietly humming Johnny Hallyday hits. All that was missing was a Gauloise screwed into the corner of my mouth. Boules even has a couple of modest advantages over golf; losing a boule is extremely unlikely and mixed foursomes seems to lack the mutual recrimination that is such a feature of the format when applied to golf.

A naturally modest man, I hesitate to reveal that I am rather good at the game and would guess that my boules handicap would be in single figures before too long; possibly even before the next strike by French air traffic controllers. However, although boules is entertaining in modest doses, the tedium of walking endlessly back and forwards over the same dreary patch of gravel finally proves too much for those of us used to breathtaking scenery, sweeping panoramas and ever-changing vistas.

Merci Dieu pour le golf, I say.

November 2010

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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