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Golfing in Andalucia

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That’s golfers for you

There are lots of websites out there that will give you loads of information about individual golf courses in Andalucia. I don't want to do that. I would like to give you a flavour of the golfers.

Neither Julie nor I are golfers. A wonderful chap called Penguin John (because he was the landlord of the Penguin pub in Puerto de la Duquesa), took us under his wing as it were when we arrived in Spain back in 1999. He tried to educate us into golf, failing miserably. He ran a golf club from his bar, not surprisingly called the Penguin Golf Association, or PGA for short. We had Duquesa Business Centre in those days and we used to print his membership cards. He was very particular about the design. It was years later that I discovered the potential benefits of belonging to the (genuine) Professional Golfers Association.

Another character we ran into through the Business Centre, or perhaps the Penguin Bar, was called Jiff (Jeffrey) Turner. Jiff liked to organise things, including golf holidays for visiting Brits. One day he rang the Business Centre and told me he had forgotten to book tee times for his `12 man party. As he was on his way, with his group, in the minibus, could I do that for him? I asked him which course he was going to. Jiff (who often started on the gin for breakfast) replied, ‘Can’t remember exactly. It begins with ‘M’ and it’s the first one in the book I gave to Julie (a golfing directory). The first one beginning with ‘M’ was Monte Mayor near Benahavis in Malaga province. Jiff meanwhile pitched up at Montenmedio in Cádiz. It could have ended in tears, but his party, a group of police officers from Hampshire Constabulary led by a burly Chief Inspector, were quite understanding. The C.I. had a ‘quiet word’ with the golf pro and managed to proceed with golf. He later had a not so quiet word with Jiff.

Mentioning Montenmedio, it is not just a golf course, they have villas scattered about the course and a couple of years later, Julie and I rented one for a few days. We kept finding fluorescent yellow golf balls in the garden. I figured they would be good for Jiff since he was always complaining that he regularly lost his balls so, when we returned, we presented Jiff with his free gift, a bag full of yellow balls, ‘so you won’t lose as many’. Jiff never knew how to take us, on this occasion he thought I was extracting the urine. It was only later that John told me they were practise balls. By that time of course the story was all round the bar.

In light of our ignorance, I was astonished when we were asked to run the drinks buggy for the PGA (see above) annual tournament to be held that year at Estepona Golf Club. Perhaps we were the only people left in the bar who were not playing. Through our magazine, Andalucia Life, Julie and I knew Rory Leader and his wife, Amanda, quite well. They were not averse to two non-members charging around their course with a drinks buggy. I will cut a long story short here. Suffice it to say that it was a bright and sunny day but with a perishingly cold wind. The map of the course made no sense to us and neither of us had ever sat in a golf buggy before, never mind driven one. We spent an entire day sailing over hill and dale, round sand pits and lakes, dishing out drinks to any golfer we could find, having abandoned the original idea of arriving at set meeting points that neither we nor the players could find anyhow. We made regular runs back to the clubhouse to replenish supplies. The box of Pringles was ditched on the first resupply trip to make room for more gin.

Our PGA group reckoned that being chased by a drinks buggy was the proper way to go about the job. Working out the scores was entertaining. It was some sort of honesty system whereby each golfer marked off his own score card. I still do not understand it. As far as I could judge, they all cheated but because they all cheated equally it sort of evened out. Anyhow it was about then that somebody realised two bodies were missing. One was found snoring in a bunker somewhere near the 17th hole (see I do know something), the other was meandering down the N340 (as it was then) main coastal road in a golf buggy. The local police were, and still are, very understanding about such things.

Then there were the proper tournaments held at famous courses at Sotogrande, the Ryder Cup, the Volvo Masters. We had a magazine by then called Andalucia Life and we had a golfing correspondent, properly accredited by us, and the PGA of course, called Bob Gaston. He kept us updated on the jolly japes of golfers and caddies - a right bunch, in return for a free lunch and getting himself on the telly, Sky Sports I seem to remember. The whole of the coast would be in turmoil with the support teams arriving early to set up marquees, arrange catering and so on. It was like an army descending. Not surprisingly they were all a hard drinking crowd so the bars were lively. Pop, sport and film stars mingled with the throng. Sean Connery, Cilla Black and Keith Floyd could be found in the aptly named Ryders Bar. There were others but I know as little about television personalities as I do about golf.

One year it was intensely hot. The N340 road to Algeciras was solid, with the annual migration to Morocco having been brought to a halt by a strike at the port. People in the stalled convoy were literally dropping to the ground with thirst. I heard that some died of dehydration. The golfers, caddies, visitors, residents, rich and famous, tent erectors and media crews carried armfuls of bottled water from Duquesa Port up the hill to the N340 to do what they could.

That’s golfers for you.

Nick Nutter

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