Lost Balls but Paradise Regained – Marbella 2017

Having not hit a golf ball on a regular course for almost 3 months, with just indoor golf to feed my addiction the prospect of a week’s sport in the south of Spain was a golf junkie`s dream hit.

With the temperatures in Switzerland having dipped to a refreshing minus 10 degrees Centigrade or so in January, anything in the plus column would be welcome and naturally with this being a Golf4Fun production the weather gods were sure to deliver.

We, as it transpired, were not alone in our quest for a bit of R+R, as we arrived at Zürich  airport on the Saturday morning to be greeted with throngs of golfers, skiers etc. resulting in extensive queues for both ticket machines and the bag drop off area. Luckily there were plenty of Swiss ground staff on hand and they quickly dealt with the backlog and we could whisk through in the end, and having purchased the obligatory duty free we had time for quick snack and a glass of wine before boarding.

Our flight to Malaga was full, and whilst still on the gate the cockpit announced that they would have to adjust the luggage to ensure the correct centre of gravity resulting in a 15 minute delay.

The journey was a good one and we landed in Andalucía almost on time. Waiting at baggage reclaim it soon became evident that the adjustment to the cargo in Zürich had resulted in a number of us having our golf clubs left on the tarmac in Switzerland.

So having formed a queue at the lost luggage counter, we were dealt with by a very pleasant Spanish lady who assured us that our sticks would be delivered to the hotel the next evening.

Once we had all assembled outside the terminal building, our coach driver —who some would say for the ladies was easy on the eyes –led us to our awaiting transport.

Quite a vehicle and one that would happily satisfy the demands of any top flight La Liga football team.

A 50 minute transfer saw us outside the impressive entrance to the Villa Padierna palace hotel, all very baroque, columns and statues with artwork to match. The reception staff soon had us placed, and the room that Dawn and I had been assigned was top notch. A definite plus was having real coat hangers rather than those fiddly ones you find in some hotels.

We quickly unpacked and went down to the bar for Apèro, and with the help of the bar staff settled on a cold crisp and highly agreeable Verdejo priced at Euro 21 a bottle ( a gin and tonic was Euro 18!!!).

For this evening we would dine in La Loggia, one of the two hotel restaurants open at this time of the year and enjoyed a pleasant meal accompanied by a glorious Ribera del Douro red , before retiring to the terrace for a nightcap.

After a sound night’s sleep, it was down to breakfast. An impressive spread was on display, with coffee that tasted of coffee and orange juice that consistent of something that might actually have grown on an orange tree. The omelette made to order was also a plus.

With our own golf clubs currently around 10,000 meters above Europe in transit, it was off to the pro shop to pick up our rental sets that had been organised for us courtesy of our chief of ceremonies Nora. Purchasing balls, tees, gloves etc. and booking a buggy we set off to the first tee of Alferini GC

Whilst this is a first class golf set up, the only one niggle  I had was that the practice area was 2 km from the hotel, and so with time constraints we were to go out cold as they say.

Now playing with a set of rentals is akin to washing your hands in effluent. You know how to play but the accessories may not be fit for purpose. Well today, I was metaphorically speaking, washing my hands in raw sewage.

This course is TOUGH!!!!!!

They may give you extra shots on this course but you certainly needed them. I used most of mine up on the first two holes. Over the week this 18 holes was to achieve the accolade of being christened with four names, Alferini GC,   correctly but also Hölle, from the German speaking contingent, Inferno from our Spanish friends , with the English members simply calling it HELL!!

It is however a beautiful course with fairways set into valleys and large receptive greens. There is however little room for error and this golfer managed the feat of losing  more balls than Stableford points scored. I was so thankful for the gentleman on the course boundary who sold me 50 mixed balls for Euro 20. (Actually I think he had quite a good day).

The other feature of this course is that there are a few holes where the distance between green and tee is considerable, and as a result some of those that had decided to walk were feeling it at the end.  At least we would get a second crack at this monster on Thursday.

Tonight after a wash and brush up, and a soak of those tired limbs in the bath, and in the knowledge that things could probably not get any worse, it was down for pre-dinner drinkies in Eddies Bar  before settling down to a three course dinner in La Veranda at a set price of Euro 60 a head .

At this juncture I would like to mention the generosity of one of our new members Alex, who kindly picked up the bar bill for the evening. I still owe you one Alex – thanks.

Monday, and Atalaya old course was on the agenda. A civilised pick up time from the hotel afforded us a leisurely breakfast, and overnight ones golf equipment had arrived, which was a relief.

Another glorious day, allowing for the wearing of shorts. The view across the Med was so clear; you could see both the rock of Gibraltar and the peaks of the Atlas Mountains on the north coast of Africa.

Today’s 18 was on a much more forgiving course, with the added benefit of a pre-game warm up on the practice area, and overall the scores today improved. Also, thank heavens, I managed to adjust the lost balls /stableford point’s ratio dramatically the right way.

This evening, the group split up for dinner, with myself and a few friends enjoying the delights of a recommended small establishment in the charming village of Benahavis. The welcome we received at the Bodegon gallery was wonderful with the owner enthusing about various dishes and wines and the resultant meal was most enjoyable. The C21 red was delicious . I could personally recommend this restaurant, quite an experience.

Tuesday, and blue skies again, although an earlier start today with an 8.25 pick-up, and a short hop to El Paraiso golf. The club has around an 80 pct. English membership and the clubhouse had a slightly pub like feel to it. The course itself has a number of spectacular elevated T boxes, allowing a photo opportunity or two.  There was some good scoring today , including yours truly , allowing myself a celebratory beverage  — though the gut wrenching double bogey on the 18th , having been on the dance floor in two ,was a little hard to take .

The next day we were to play the second of the hotel courses, in an optional round on Los Flamingos. Today we were joined by Cal and Collette, who are fortunate enough to have a small place in the area at La Cala .Jealous?  Me? Yes!!!

On the first Tee it seemed that some players were taking inspiration from  the course`s name( no, not standing on one leg )  but with a number of pink accessories on display, although the Flamingos obviously left some time ago, no doubt to get away from the sound of jack hammers and reversing lorries, as the boundaries of this course have been transformed into a sea of construction, with some nice little places up for sale   around the Euro 1.5 million plus mark. –I will keep filling in those lottery tickets.

There were two memorable moments during the round in my flight. Firstly the power mud slide as Peter S lost his footing walking down the embankment behind the sixth green –no damage done, to Peter luckily, although the grounds men were left with some repair work. The other moment was to occur on the very next hole as my Dawn chipped it in from 45 meters for a point!!

This evening some friends, Dawn and I ventured out in a cab to the small town of San Pedro, where we went a bit more nouvelle cuisine at Benistys. Another personal recommendation, with a fine wine list, friendly staff, and some yummy grub.

Thursday, and again perfect weather, although perhaps a tad nippy in the shade, but things would soon warm up as we were back to play HELL again. There were, not surprisingly, more buggies on the first Tee this morning, and our gentleman on the boundaries did not have such a good day, despite me giving him back some of the 50 I had purchased from him  earlier in the week,  as there were some hot scores coming in at the end.

The final day arrived, with a change in the weather. A light rain was falling but the temperature was pleasant enough. The conditions did mean that for those of us with buggies that it was to be cart path only and so a good deal more walking would be involved on our second time on Los Flamingos. Some of our group however seemed to forget this rule on a few holes, but I am not naming names.  Following the round we met up in the official club house where prices seemed a lot more reasonable. After a few snifters it was back to the room to get ready for the last night.

Tonight’s dinner was to be in Benahavis , at restaurant Los Abanicos. This is a very popular establishment and the waiters are like a well-oiled machine which keeps things moving along. Dawn, I and a couple of friends had actually dined here the night before and so were well aware that the portion sizes were on the large side. So we  stayed away from the lamb  ( half a sheep ) or the cutlet (  I didn’t know they made grills that big ) , but had  a  very pleasant evening, and the wine  flowed.

Throughout the week there had been a competition running where the three best individual combined scores from the Monday to Friday rounds excluding Wednesday’s optional round were taken and added up to  produce a winner.

So having just returned from 3 weeks golf in Turkey and a very respectful score of 113  points was our Daniel M , second on  107  Peter v.I  and third with  106  Georg . Dick and Manuel were close on their heels with 104 apiece.

Saturday and time to head homeward –  After some initial delays involving passports and how many golf bags we should have, and settling up for the weeks wassailing – we hit the road back to Malaga and our flight home, back to reality.

It had been a marvellous week with some great weather for February and some impressive golf. Nora’s organisation was much appreciated and the hotel employees were most friendly and helpful, even assisting in the later recovery of some items to their rightful owner from Room 120. Lastly, also, a thank you to Swiss, for being super-efficient in settling my insurance claim.

So Season 2017 is about to begin with what looks like a pretty packed programme, starting with the first of this seasons tournament series to be played at Steisslingen on Sunday April 30th . There are also a number of new events in the calendar with a proposed 6 hole challenge series at Otelfingen to be held on Wednesday evenings beginning May 17th. Also, and this will peak some interest I am certain, a weekend in October with a chance to play Crans Montana  and Sion G.C with a wine tasting and dinner .

There is the usual selection of friendly rounds, the first on April 23rd, and for those of you keen to hone your short game check out the excellent pitch and putt course at Bad Schinznach on April 08th.

You can find all the details on the website – community.golf4fun.ch – click on the 2017 Calendar link

Lastly, I hear there could be some new sponsors this year, including a Swiss Gin producer and a few others to boot; hopefully a liver salts manufacturer can be lined up as well.

In the mean time I am off to my boss’s office to ask for a pay rise.

Nos vemos pronto.

Peter Martin, Hopeful Tiger 2017