A Love Letter to the Clare Golf Course

In the world of cinema it’s known as mise-en-scène and refers to the poetic arrangement within a camera shot. This embraces composition, sets, props, actors, costumes, and lighting and is designed to evoke certain audience reactions.

 

Indeed, golf and film might share this idea, if not the term, and the seventh hole at Clare in South Australia’s mid-north valley is beautifully-constructed visual art. Set among fetching hills and riesling vineyards on the town’s outskirts, the course speaks of the joys of nature, our extraordinary privilege, and the enduring value of connection.

 

Last Saturday dawned brisk as it does approaching 1300 feet above sea-level, but after breakfast the sun was breathing balminess into the earth and onto our faces. It was cloudless and the kindest of breezes moved about the trees. The AFL grand final would commence mid-afternoon and we’d claim our spot by an open window in the Taminga pub.

 

If a golf course presents a narrative then the fifth is a memorable scene. With driver or three-wood from the tee care must be taken to not drift right as an out of bounds vineyard awaits patiently growing fruit. For some these grapes represent golf’s truest occupation: a long walk before a crisp cup; a healthy delay until Bacchus takes considerable charge.

 

 

Never mind that it has been deceased for decades, but the ghostly eucalyptus guarding the fairway fringe is a mighty reminder that perhaps golf should be of only minor consequence during a round. If there’s painterly beauty and awe in death, then this tree could be it, all cryogenic limbs and leafless silence.

 

Like Mediterranean sailors and the sirens’ call most of our group’s Hot-Dots are lured to this solitary gum. On the green as Mozz lines up his long, curling putt I whisper to Claire, “Golf can be like being at war with yourself.” Mozz leaves it about ten foot short. I lean in again, “He might be losing.”

 

But, of course, we’re all winning.

 

If we continue our theatrical theme then the next hole is a climactic point.

 

The preceding holes have climbed quietly and the seventh tee is the natural and dramatic pinnacle, providing a vista over the course, Inchiquin Lake and the drowsy township. Sevenhill, Kybunga and Polish Hill hug the horizon.

 

However, looking down at the hole it’s astonishing how much it communicates. The original course architect must have smiled as he imagined the simple challenge; how he must have nodded at his good fortune to conceive this marriage of human invention and astounding nature.

 

 

It’s an unforgettable golf hole.

 

130 feet below in the amphitheatrical apron a willow sits patiently by the wide green.

 

A nine iron only from off this cliff and the ball hangs frozen in today’s azure, before gravity escorts it back to earth.

 

One of our ensemble, Paul, fluffs his shot and lands in the rocky creek bed that twists like a reptilian. Amid the banter I’m aware that his tiny calamity is emblematic of our huge luck in being here, in the morning air with full bellies and endless ease.

Like the sport itself it’s a hole that invites optimism (surely the golf bags of the pessimists are dusty at the back of countless garages), but condemns arrogance and only one of our group, Bazz, finds the outwardly impossible-to-miss putting surface with a shot in this grand context that’s humble and reverential.

 

There’s nods, and staccato yelps of, “Nice” and “Yeah, done Bazz.”

 

Our electric carts whirl down the goat-track through the scrub and bush, and the seventh green materialises as a verdant altar. Birdsong is both hymn and soundtrack. As we exit Clare’s golfing cathedral and go to the eighth, scores are confessed and then forgotten.

 

We press on through the laughter and the brief disappointments, and as it should, golf performs as a prop for poetic connection and conversation.

 

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About Mickey Randall

Favourite film: The Shawshank Redemption Favourite song: Khe Sahn Favourite holiday destination: Gold Coast Favourite food: steak Favourite beer: VB Best player seen: Dogga Worst player seen: Frogga Last score on beep test: 3.14159 Favourite minor character in Joyce’s Ulysses: Punch Costello

Comments

  1. Grand Mickey. Have been trialling Perth courses for my hard earned membership $.” Challenging. Testing. Championship. Competitive.” Brochure adjectives for why I should choose them. Seaview GC is a little 9 holer on the beach at Cottesloe. It won me over at “good walk” and “scenic consolation”.
    Carts? Not unless its over 38 or have a pressing lunch engagement. Devils work. This is golf as it should be played. Nature and human frailty our dual enemies.

  2. Colin Ritchie says

    Great clip PB! Don’t you just love the plus 4’s? Obviously golf very popular back, fair crowd following the play.

  3. And what can you share of your own golfing escapades on the day Mickey? X

  4. PB- Seaview it is. I wonder how golf is going around the country. Some clubs I understand are struggling and Belair – did you ever play up there?- closed a few years’ back.

    Thanks Colin. Love Roger Davis in the +4s.

    Someone- not point sharing a yarn of such predictable hideousness!

  5. In the sixties, of a Sunday afternoon, my father and I enjoyed watching “Top Pro Golf” on my newly purchased black and white Admiral Carrington TV set. Dad was really impressed with the sweet swing of “Slammin’ Sammy Snead and his superb putting. So much so that he bought himself a set of clubs and started practicing.

    Being a natural sportsman, it didn’t take long before he started having success on the chip and put course. Eventually he joined a golf club where he did reasonably well. I’ve no idea of what his handicap was but i know he managed some birdies and an occasional eagle but never a hole- in- one. I would have heard about it.

    Whenever Mrs Fisho and i visited Mum and Dad it was always a pleasure hearing him talk about the various courses he played on. However, I suspect he was most disappointed that I, although very interested, never had the natural ability he had. My only skills were on ST VINCENTS AND SPENCER’S GULF.

    The only birdies I ever got were when whilst casting my line a seagull would fly directly into it and become entangled. Then the fun would start. His mates would squawk and fly around in a frenzy. Whilst untangling I was always very careful not to hurt the bird. One day, whilst fishing in West Lakes, unbeknown to me, a fellow walking his dog witnessed me releasing a gull. After completing the task I turned to hear him applauding me. He was very impressed with how I handled the situation

  6. Great yarn about golf and gulls Fisho.

    One of our dogs ate some chocolate recently and telling someone later they made me feel better with a story about a Labrador pup and some fishing tackle. Ouch! Both dogs were ultimately fine.

    At Clare last Saturday one of the boys who plays off 19 started with an Eagle on the Par 4 tenth after driving it. Nice job, but sadly he couldn’t maintain it.

    Thanks again for reading and commenting.

  7. In the last half hour I remembered this about my Father, who I miss terribly since his death in ’93. There used to be an annual golf tournament called, I think, the Lord Mayor’s Cup. Dad religiously entered each year. Anyway, one Monday morning after said cup, at morning tea a certain Jim Willing sat at our table.

    In his youth Jim was quite a sportsman having played cricket with Les Favell at East Torrens. At that time Jim’s main sporting interests were golf. Anyway, after a few minutes, Jim asked me if I was related to Colin Bennett. Naturally I said I was. Jim then revealed his partner in the Golf tournament was none other that my Dad. On asking him how did Dad go. Jim’s reply was, “Bloody well better than me – he’s quite a player” Hope you enjoyed this true tale Mickey. Cheers

  8. Ah Claire. I lived there, but moved away when I was 3 and a half years old. From that time, I can remember the grandstand at the football oval had some floorboards that were missing so you could see through to the change rooms below.

  9. Luke Reynolds says

    Mickey, the seventh at Clare looks very much like the second at Birregurra, known locally as ‘Niagara’.
    Golf goes together with nature like no other sport.
    I wish I had time to play it!

  10. Thanks Mickey, I enjoy reading about golf – but not playing it.

    This year marks 29 years since I last graced a golf course. It was in Pittsburgh – and it is a long story.

  11. Daryl Schramm says

    Can we have more details on the Pittsburgh adventure please Smokie. Sounds intriguing. Thanks for posting Mickey.

  12. Nice Mickey. I’ve never played Clare. But a dead gum tree is a genuine feature on bush courses. There’s a classic at Heritage from memory. On a par 5 (remind me please?) Among many other places.

    The 11th at Tanunda Pines is another down the escarpment par 3 – great vineyard views over the Barossa.

    Do tell more Smoke.

  13. Classic footage PB. How’s the train!

    You mentioned somewhere that Uni golf was at Royal Adelaide. At UQ it was Indooroopilly GC. $1.50 in the cigar box. Full rights to the course and clubhouse. And perfect beers afterwards poured by the archetypal barman known as Star (because he was). That Uni club had its share of eccentrics – including theologian poet DR Ray Barraclough with whom I am still in contact. And a Kiwi law lecturer- was it Dr Fletcher? I remember Don Fardon was a member – and went on to be a pro. I saw him hit a ball 400m (no joke) with a 70km/h August westerlies behind him on the dry frost-baked par 5 3rd on the East Course. He was a character – probably still is.

  14. There are some classic golf gambling stories up to the 60’s when the PGA Tour started to pay enough for a living. All the top pros Snead; Hogan; Hagen; Locke; Von Nida; Thomson made more out of exhibitions or side bets against businessmen who fancied themselves with a start. Your 400 metre drive reminds me of a Titanic Thompson story – one of the first black pros Calvin Peete was his setup man on a lot of scams. Peete would get a casual job on the greens staff and after a week Thompson would turn up and tell the locals he could beat them with any deadbeat partner. When the game/stake was set the young Peete would be standing around the tee in his overalls with a rake and “miraculously” be asked to partner TT. The long drive story was a scam at a top golf course set on Lake Michigan in Chicago. TT bet the locals he could hit a 500 yard drive but didn’t say when. Being winter he waited until Lake Michigan had frozen over and hit his ball off the first tee across the lake where it rolled for miles on the frozen surface. Peete is still alive and said they had to get out of Texas quickly a few times with angry oil money on their tail.
    Don Fardon – I remember him. Great song.

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