The bus journey there
At 5:30 on Friday, Danny and I finished work, filed our paperwork and left for Phu My Hung. I parked up my motorbike and we joined the rest of the lads who were waiting for us at a cafe/bar. At 6:30 our mini bus arrived, we collected 8 pizzas and I went to the off-license and emptied their beer fridge for the journey. We were all set to go!
The bus was ample size, surprising as most of my experiences in Vietnamese transport has been cramped, uncomfortable and claustrophobic. In addition, the driver was ace. He overtook at any given opportunity, and not in a scary way as is customary here. At one point I think he even outdid a Porsche Carrera, although I could be wrong as my knowledge of cars is pretty minimal.
However, the highlight was the company. I don't think I've ever laughed so hard. Everyone, some more than others, was the butt of one or two jokes and I think the only time there was silence was when we were eating! Some other points worth mentioning were DJ Jobe's tunes which entertained us in the second half of the trip and the frequency of 'pit stops' for those with weaker bladders who shall remain nameless for now! To quote Danny, 'He's no camel!'
I don't really care too much for golf. It's long, frustrating and to top it off, I'm just no good at it! I try to play it with a cricket stance and swing and I don't hard the ball very far. Add this to the fact I was playing with 6 relatively competent golfer meant my patience would be severely tested due to my competitive nature. How long would I hold out? 8 holes to be precise.
It all started so well. I got up early enough for breakfast and filled my face with a 4 course breakfast. I had an English breakfast followed by Coco pops! Next came the fruit course proceeded by pastries. Needless to say I had as much tea as they would serve me and I was good to go. I wondered down to the range with Carl and Kevin and hit a few balls. On the previous Wednesday we had gone down to the driving range and I had hit the ball pretty sweetly so I was a touch concerned when I could barely lift the ball from the mat! Regardless, after hitting about 20 balls, I made my way to the first tee.
The first 4 holes
Before I start talking about the golf, the course is stunning. Ocean Dunes is by far the most picturesque place I've ever played golf at. It's a challenging course offering plenty of opportunities to lose balls. As commented by Dan Malone 'we took those opportunities'. I've posted a few pictures throughout this entry, partly to stop you getting too bored of my musings, but also to wet any golf lovers appetites who think this might be up their street. Yes Dad, I'm talking to you!
The first four went so well. I hit a few crappy shots, but on the 3rd and 4th I scored boogies which I was really happy with. I played a few good shots off the tee, so irons went a reasonable distance and my chipping when putting me within range of holeable putts. Feeling pretty happy with myself, I sat down at the drinks stop think that this golf malarkey isn't that hard and that I was going to enjoy the next few hours....
Toys out the pram time
The fifth is where it went downhill. It was my honour off the tee for the 2nd time and until then I'd hit my tee shots pretty cleanly, but more importantly accurately down the fairway. 3 iron out of the bag, swing, water on the right. Opps. After Kevin and Carl had followed suit, it was up to Danny to save us the embarrassment of all four of us hitting the water hazard. He swung and immediately it looked great. It was going along way....in the air and dangerously close to the water. After an eternity....plop!
So, I decided to take another tee shot and put it back in the water. Bugger. But at this point I hadn't lost my cool. It was just one bad tee shot and I'd soon snap out of it. However, after taking a drop onto the fairway, I found the water again! 3 times in 3 shots! I couldn't believe it. I think this was the first time I uttered 'I hate this f***ing sport!'. Anyhows, damaged done I took a gentleman's 10 and moved onto the sixth. The tee shot barely left the ground and traveled about 10 yards into the fresh sand/soil in front of me. Hmmm. Taking more shots to get onto the fairway I could feel my blood pressure starting to rise. However, I played out the remainder of the hole hitting some decent shots.
By this point my partners had shaken off their hangovers and rustiness and had started hitting big drives, crisp irons and some decent chips. This added to my woes got at me a bit as I hate being that much worse than other people at sports. So at the 7th and 8th when I messed up off the tee again the toys come out. Once on the fairway I took the putter out of the bag, pushed the ball about 50 yards down the carpet, picked up the ball and threw it in the lake. Game over.
As we had hired clubs, I was getting more down on myself and I wanted to wrap my clubs around a tree I think I made the best call. Therefore I took on the role of photographer.
The back 9 and highlights
On the back 9 I made sure I took photos and videos of everyone playing. Fortunately I managed to take some decent footage and I'm pretty impressed with the quality considering my camera isn't particularly flashy. At this point the other pair had decide to follow Malone and Jobe's lead by hiring golf buggies. We already had caddies, but to speed up play (please consider the heat and humidity factor in VN) they thought 4 wheels would allow us to get more holes in. Some of the highlights of the golf were Danny's birdie at the 9th and Matt Cowan hitting a gorgeous approach into the 13th green after modestly telling me, on camera, that's exactly what he was going to do spring to mind but some cracking shots along with some average strokes were seen. Big Kevin won the 18 so congratulations to the big hitting American!
The 18 must have finished at about 2:30. By then I decided I wanted to play again. As we had unlimited golf for the day, I thought I should at least attempt the back 9. For those of you who don't know Texas Scramble (as I didn't) it works as follows. You play in a team. Each of you plays a shot from the same point. You choose the best ball and each of you plays from that point. Each person must hit a predetermined number of drives. I was paired was Big K for obvious reasons. We choose to play to back 9 again and each partner had to use at least 3 of their drives.
As the pressure was off my from the tee, I played much better. I hit some decent tee shots, reasonable approaches but the best aspect of my game was my touch around the greens. I can't hit the ball a long way, but I have a pretty decent judgement of pace and weight around the putting surface. Our partnership was probably the best fit of the 7 of us playing. Kevin can hit very long, allowing me the opportunity to attack the pin with my short game. This was nice as usually I don't get the chance to try to make par or birdies as my tee shots and irons aren't big enough. Therefore I had a lot of fun in this format. Kev and I hit 5 over for 9 and the other pair and trio hit very good back 9s, though I can't remember their tallies.
Off to Mui Ne
At about 6 we had wrapped up the golf. The rain had set in and we were just thankful we could complete our game as on the 15th we could see ominous lightning strikes in the distance. After settling our finances, we went to Mui Ne to find our accommodation, have a shower and get changed from our rather smelly golfing attire! From the hotel we went to the Sailing Club to enjoy some of the best food I've had in VN. It comes a very close second to Louisiana in Nha Trang. Then we went to see the best of Mui Ne's nightlife including Wax and DJ Station where Pete Harrold, the worlds best dressed non-golfing golfer owned the dance floor.
The trip home was pretty uneventful. The traffic wasn't too bad but it still took us much longer getting back as it did getting there. The conversation had moments of brilliance but as most of us were shattered from the golf or hungover from the night before we were somewhat muted. I could go on for hours about what happened, but needless to say it was up there on the best weekends I've had in VN. A big thanks must go out to Big Carl Day for organising an event that I'm sure will live long in the memory!