South Africa’s men’s hockey team played a tournament in Potchefstroom in February. It was a big deal; they hosted India, Germany, France and the Netherlands, in the FIH Pro League at the North-West University.
Someone, who may well have been a disciple of the dimpled ball, decided that all the games would start at either 6pm or 8pm, leaving the day free for other activities. And so it was that my SuperSport producer and I made a pact to find some time for golf.
I left home in the Midlands at 7am one Saturday, cruised down the hill into Pietermaritzburg and came to a grinding halt. A tanker carrying gas had overturned at Ashburton and the N3 was closed. People were getting out of their vehicles, lighting cigarettes and settling in for the long haul. I didn’t have that luxury; my golf clubs and I were due in Potch.
After an hour of going nowhere, I had missed my flight and worn down the battery of my phone, but help was at hand. With some fancy driving I managed to wriggle off the highway and reach Pietermaritzburg Airport. There I picked up a hire car and drove back the way I had come. Five and a half hours later I was in Potch. The suspicious rattling noise that accompanied me on the journey turned out to be my clubs, nestling on the back seat.
After a few days immersed in hockey, the moment arrived. A fellow guest, hearing us chatting about our forthcoming game, advised us to forget any other plans we may have had and book a round at Parys Golf Club. It was with some trepidation that we drove the 45km from Potch to Parys; we were English-speakers, after all. We needn’t have worried.
First of all, the rolling farmland on the way was a tonic for the soul. Then we discovered that Thursday was Specials Day. For a combined R900 we purchased three rounds and two carts. Furthermore, for the duration of our round we were the only people on the course. That’s unless you count the wildlife, and for the purpose of this piece, we are definitely counting the wildlife.
On the 1st green a golden mongoose sauntered into view, weighed up the standard of golf and sauntered off again. On the 4th tee box we disturbed a monitor lizard, warming his blood under the hot sun. Unperturbed, he stood up and wandered slowly down the fairway.
We played this hole twice; once with golf balls, once with cameras.
After our drives on the 6th we were met by a herd of springbok. Not rugby players or Nude Girls, but the real thing. You haven’t lived until you’ve watched a springbok pronk through a bunker. At halfway we sipped a beer and watched a fish eagle wheel through the sky above the swollen Vaal River.
It was at about this point that I realised quite how privileged we are to live in South Africa and when the moment came, a few days later, to fly home, the R250 excess I had to pay for my clubs brought a beaming smile to my face. The lady who swiped my card was more than a little suspicious. She’d doesn’t see many smiling customers, I suspect.
– This column first appeared in the April 2022 issue of Compleat Golfer magazine. Subscribe here!