Two weeks for half term in late October is a long haul for parents, especially those abandoned by their wives and daughters (in Venice for a weekend of bellinis and vaporetti). My godson’s father suggested a ‘get into golf’ experiment, and Nicky’s brother Chris and my son George decided Nicky would have more fun if they came too. We chose France …..
….. a generous golfing nation where the handicap goes up to 54 and a more relaxed dress code prevails. If this is designed to make golf more inviting to the uninitiated, it seems to work. A ring-round of every course we could think of in southern Brittany and the western Loire found everywhere booked solid. A small window was open at a course called Rhuys Kerver, remotely sited on the eastern claw of the gulf of Morbihan, between St Gildas and Port Navalo. After a dig at the Brittany Ferries buffet and a cosy night in the bowels of the SS Bretagne, the motorway journey from St Malo took us a little more than two hours. A slight dogleg, but still the straightest drive of the day. On the stroke of 11, all were upstanding for the first lesson.
It fell to Florent Alès from Guadeloupe, a plus three handicap in his amateur days and course record holder at such prestigious courses as Moliets and Mont de Marsan, to perform the rites of the boys’ golfing baptism, on the practice ground and in a quiet corner of the light rough. Florent’s handicap at English would be a bit higher, but golf terminology translates easily enough. A slice is un slice, unless it’s un push. An hour passed quickly and the boys’ attention never wavered.
Florent sent them away with one thought each.
George’s swing is too flat.
Chris’s grip is twisted
Comme ça, the only possibility is a géant slice or a gigantesque ‘ook.
Nicky: en avant mon brave …
Please to play off le pied gauche.
After a moules baptism at Arzon’s Bar de la Plage, the boys returned to roll out their new skills on the course
… les seniors also giving it their best swing. The course is a beauty, with lakes full of wildfowl (and water) making up for any disappointment at the lack of sea views.
22 balls were lost before nightfall. Nicky lost only 4, so he was declared the winner.
On the second day, after a tour of the old town of Vannes
and a stroll on la Côte des Mégalithes near Carnac
it was time for another Breton baptism.
Tray très bon?
The briny bivalves
were greatly enjoyed
by almost everyone.
And so to the Stade du Moustoir in Lorient, where les Merlus took an early lead against Rennes, but
after the first goal in French league history awarded by goal-line technology, had to settle for a draw: one all, in goals and sendings off.
On Sunday hostilities resumed at Omaha Beach, with a big swipe of the credit card. This club in the D-Day landing area near Bayeux is an upscale facility with two courses. Thick clingy rough, fast greens, slow play. Holes are named after the heroes of 1944, starting with Roosevelt and followed by Sir Winston Churchill, a downhill par 3 of derisory length, completed by us in 15 minutes and 15 over par (aggregate). Naming holes in this way does not make them any better or worse but on a slow Sunday morning there is something to be said for reading material on the tee. The story of the Normandy landings put the disappointments of golf in perspective.
La Mer is a course of parts. Fortunately the front nine is the best part. After thirteen holes and almost as many good shots, the boys putted out for the last time, threw everything in the battle bus and made for Caen, Pegasus Bridge and Sword Beach, aka the Brittany Ferries gateway at Ouistreham. They have given golf a try, and it has tried them. Whether they have got into it, time will reveal.