Over par: golfing in Cork

This was a taster to see whether I still like the game. I do but there has always been a touch of the inedible being hunted by the unspeakable about it, especially in the Home Counties where pomposity, prissiness and self-inflated egos abound. However, as in so many other ways, the Irish are different. Probably the most literate society on Buddha’s earth, they imbue much of what happens on their island with their self-constructed national type. They are not obsequious which is a big plus when being served in bars and restaurants They seek to engage the visitor in the sunny side of life. In a Spa Europe (the sort of store that abounded in the UK before supermarkets, I asked how expensive the batteries were. We pride ourselves in only selling the most expensive goods, he replied urbanely. This hit at the heart of the economy here which is reeling under the unparalleled strength of the euro. A bar of chocolate costs three pounds fifty when it used to be one-fifty, for example. The cheapest plonk is six quid and is the stuff you use to keep the weeds down.

Anyway, the golf. There is a nine hole course near here boasting the emerald grass, the shallow and infrequent bunkers and the most perfectly playable fairways imaginable. A kind of Elysian field for the afterlife. The old feller in the hotel that owns it could not find change and so let me have the clubs on free hire. The groundsman found me some balls. He also explained the nature of the layout which was impossible when looking at the course layout on their map. It had all the beauty of the London tube map without any of the logic. At several holes players play across each other’s heads. Luckily this is October and I play in a blissful solitude. In the clubhouse (where you pay on trust by slipping your fifteen euros into a letter box) it is like the Marie Celeste, with all the evidence of a bustling social life and complex organisation, yet no-one around.

To cap off this rumination, I turned on the television and found three channels showing identical images of pretty painted buildings in pretty painted Cork towns. What was extraordinary was that one had a rock anthem playing over it, another had a sentimental modern Irish love song, plush with strings and the last had Irish pipes accompanying a frenzied updated folk song somewhat in the manner, if not the anarchism, of the Pogues. Why? Given the lush tourist literature everywhere extolling everytning from local cookery to surfing and the fact that everyone seems to be employed in selling the aforesaid national character, I suppose these are ads on loops, artistic installations to feed the frenzy of the gullible tourist, whatever the musical taste. But I didn’t hang around to check.

Here in Eire, being literate does not necessarily mean being cultured. In Ghana the reverse can be true.

They do have golf courses in Accra. More of them as and when. I am bitten by the bug again – and I don’t mean mosquitos.

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