• Halfway house heaven

    Halfway house
    Halfway house

    I dusted off my clubs (euphemism for removing rat droppings) and gave the new decade my best shot, together with about 98 of my worst shots.

    My clubs are entering their fourth decade of service, which might explain their reluctance to do my bidding.

    My neighbour and I set forth on a blazing February morning and had our usual ding-dong battle on the front nine – 1 up, all square, 1 up, all square or, if you must, I picked up, he picked up, I picked up, he picked up, etc.

    Our salvation was found at the halfway house. There is something about a proper English breakfast that resonates with a man’s soul and, with one each inside us, we improved on the back nine to the extent that it might almost be said we played poorly.

    It has long been my contention that the halfway house is not given enough credit when golf course rankings are published. I may be an unconvincing 18-handicapper, but with a knife and fork in my hand I’m at least +6. In my opinion, you can have bumpy greens or unevenly mown fairways, as long as the food is up to scratch.

    I have travelled the world playing the game, but the courses I remember are the ones with the best food: the one in Thailand that served Tom Yum Goong; Country Club Johannesburg, where the food is so good a marshal is employed to urge you from your table to the 10th tee box; Victoria Country Club with its speciality, curry sandwiches … the list goes on.

    There are those who will tell you the best thing to eat at halfway is a pie and gravy. Indeed, the great Peter Dobereiner, who wrote on golf for the Guardian and Observer for half a century, once began an Open Championship preview by taking Carnoustie to task for the quality of its pies. He lamented that the only liquid known to man with the ability to break down a Carnoustie pie was single malt whisky. Fortunately, Carnoustie was never short of single malt.

    As a member of the fourth estate, my experience of golf course food is wider than most, since the majority of the press rooms are situated inside the clubhouse. An exception is the Gary Player Country Club, which has limited space and has thus moved us around to different parts of Sun City for the tournament that is now the Nedbank Golf Challenge.

    The best was one of the first, adapted for the week of the tournament from a creche situated next to the swimming pool at the Cascades. Sol Kerzner arranged hot and cold running waitresses, who brought us platters of canapes and petit fours every hour, on the hour. In the evening, when the last copy had been dictated (understand, this was a long time ago), a fridge stocked with beverages was emptied as we dangled our feet in the pool.

    Then there was the SA PGA Championship, which for years was held at the Wanderers. Lunch was a marinated rump steak that you cooked yourself at one of the dozen or so braais set up between the hospitality tents.

    And now you’ll have to excuse me; there’s saliva on my keyboard.

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