MY GOLF TRIP TO FRANCE …
WITH JUST A TOUCH OF HESITATION, REPETITION AND DEVIATION
No one likes a judgemental nitpicker. No one more so than the (non-self appointed) navigator of a 250-plus mile journey from Londontown into neighbouring France.
Our driver had been hit on route by some rather somber news and was in an understandable state of mourning. The other was strangely arranged across the back seat, blissfully unaware of her surrounds and absorbed in the latest lifestyle review section of the Daily Telegraph. I wouldn’t have minded so much but I’m more of a Times of London kind of girl.
And so it was that I, a fresh faced young slip of a thing from the colonies, ended up with the weighty yet reluctant task of delivering our Press Golfing Society trio from England to take on the Northcliffe Society at Golf de Belle Dune on Promenade du Marquenterre in Fort Mahon. Ranked I’m told amongst the 10 finest French courses – but more about that later.
Having negotiated our motorcar into a less than cavernous train carriage at Folkstone in Kent, we emerged blinking thirty-five minutes later from Eurotunnel’s through-shuttle service at the gateway to France. Calais is the capital of lacemaking I’m told and sits between wild landscape and savage seas, with impressive chalky cliffs mirroring those on the English side of the channel.
It was at that point our grieving motorist handed me a scrap of paper with a map headed: “Getting from Eurotunnel Le Shuttle – very easy to find thanks to direct motorway links.” Quite! Every journey matters they say, and with interminable ardor, we/I set off down the A16 aglow with anticipation towards Le Touquet.
It was apparent during the drive that almost every region has something interesting to discover – quiet pokey villages, stunning scenery, historical buildings lost in the countryside. When most people think of France they think of fine Pinot and les moules, a laid back lifestyle which is the envy of the rest of the world and gorgeously diverse landscape – which has inspired centuries of influential writers, artists and poets.
Then just like that it happened … a sizeable illuminated road sign came into view: Cologne 320km. Brussels 140km. I held my breath as I sluggishly glanced across at the bereaved driver. “What fresh hell is this?” I shuddered to myself, heart pounding and now virtually breathless. I had expected signs towards Paris. Paris God dammit – the gooey romantic capital firmly on the side of the 35-hour working week! Cautiously I glanced across to the back seat passenger still blithely unaware while scrutinising the small print of the Telegraph’s Claret Club. To ignore this issue would be a serious abnegation of my responsibility. I said nothing and on we drove.
Desperately I tried to pull out of this spiral and consulted the grubby map once more as signs for Germany’s fourth-largest city loomed with needless regularity. Perhaps if I adopted the honesty best policy theme, these travellers would succumb to my Teutonic charms. Alternatively if we sidled onto a slip road, we could bypass the inevitable and delicately make our way back in a Paris-bound direction with an air of discretion and complete control over this piloting mishap.
Deep thinking was shattered by the emphatic bleep of a text message that rang out from my phone: ‘WELCOME TO BELGUIM’ it read. “Why can’t I just catch a break?” I heard myself mumble. The grief-stricken driver’s mobile bleeped too, followed by more sodding bleeps from the rear. My fate was sealed.
Better late than never, I turned to the wistful chauffeur whilst enjoying a master class in how not to bluff your way out of a crisis: “You might want to think about doing a U-turn any time now.”
As predicted the driver now fully vigilant bolted upright in her seat and glared across at me before some sonorous language of condemnation relished to the effect: “WTF Barlow?”
What can I tell you … I am as God made me!
WELL TRAVELLED CHAMPIONS
There is nothing to compare this golf course to. Literally nothing. It is neither links, parkland nor heathland. More duneland meets an unusual mix of awesomeness. It is said to be one of the finest golf courses in France and I know three weary travellers who would not dispute that. Belle Dune is situated in a stunning nature park and amongst some of the largest sand dunes in Europe. A constant WOW factor hits you on every hole, each so widely different from the next they verge on the dangerous, exciting and at times just a little bit scary. If you’re inclined to spray and pray, it’s worth remembering that accuracy beats length on this course. Except when playing off the white tees, then you best just grip it and rip it. Outstanding!
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