WHILST his grandfather, Charles, is perhaps better known to a wider section of the population, Bernard Darwin’s golf writing is still a joy to read.
When Darwin was golf correspondent for The Times, before the outbreak of World War I, competitors in an Open Championship took three to three-and-a-half hours to complete their rounds.
I was musing on this whilst standing in bright sunshine, standing on the 9th tee at the delightful Golf Las Americas course in southern Tenerife.
I was waiting for a number of competitors to fly in to complete the second leg of the Canary Islands Golf Challenge, a competition run by the island’s tourist board and open to members of British golf clubs. So I decided to attempt a brisk 18 holes before they landed.
I had enjoyed a pleasant snack and a glass of fruity red wine on the sun-drenched terrace of the superb timber and brick Las Americas clubhouse and was feeling at one with the world despite the numbers on the course below resembling a crowd scene from Ben Hur. My round would be anything but brisk.
Las Americas is situated in a tree-lined valley with stunning views of the great volcano, Mount Teide, to the north and some rather grim 1970s architecture to the south, some of which is thankfully about to be bulldozed.
It is an ideal holiday course, built in 1998, with some wide open spaces to aim at and is hugely popular with holiday makers and the legion of overseas home owners who, like swallows, fly to warmer climes each winter.
Which means Las Americas gets very busy at peak times with a fourball typically taking at least four-and-a-half hours although it is safer to assume five if you are planning a trip. And this is my point – it should not take five hours to play Las Americas at a shade over 6,600 yards off the back tees.
So I had another glass of wine, before setting off shortly after four o’clock which I thought might just get me round before dark. Darkness falls heavily and quickly at around 7pm in November in Tenerife.
To the right of the par-4 1st hole, which runs parallel with the 10th and the last, there is a large lake which contains a number of Australian black swans who glide serenely across its shimmering surface.
Everywhere one looks there is exotic birdlife with flocks of green parrots flying amongst the palms and little egrets – a small white species of heron – stalking slowly through the lakeside borders.
The attractive 153-yard 13th has water on all three sides of the approach which proved far too much of a temptation to the convoy.
The course is circular with the clubhouse forming the bull’s eye. The front nine sweeps up the right-hand side of the circle, climbing up to the high point of the 7th before turning back down a tricky 184-yard par three and dropping down into the valley floor by a cracking right-hand dogleg at nine.
From an elevated tee 388 yards out it is possible to really let one go here, hugging the right-hand side of the fairway as the fairway tumbles down and left towards a stand of palm trees at the corner of the dogleg.
So here I was, musing about slow play and the number of unrepaired pitch marks on the greens as a German fourball ahead of me, bizarrely in a golf buggy each, inched their way up the fairway in a convoy slashing large swathes from the turf before getting back into their buggies and setting off again.
I narrowly avoided an international incident by deciding that the convoy was far enough out of range for me to fire one down. As is so often the case in such circumstances the result was not only the best drive of the day but almost certainly the best drive of the year.
It soared in a glorious right to left arc, towering majestically, before falling to earth some 20 yards ahead of the convoy around 270 yards out and a good 50 yards further than I normally hit my drives. The convoy was lined out in formation straight across the fairway so I was able to wave my profuse apologies down to them whilst trying to suppress a jig of unalloyed joy at having hit a golf ball so far.
Thereafter we crept forward moving along the left-hand circumference of the circle as darkness started to engulf us. The attractive 153-yard 13th has water on all three sides of the approach which proved far too much of a temptation to the convoy.
They all lashed their balls into the drink but not once did they consider waving me through, possibly as a punishment for my ‘career’ drive at nine. I played 14 and started a long walk in for a much-needed beer. The convoy called it a day at the next which was nearer the clubhouse although by then they could have done with headlights on the buggies.
Next time, in order to enjoy all the holes this charming course has to offer, I shall have to beat the crowds, and especially the Germans, to the 1st tee. It is well worth playing, especially if staying at the adjoining and exceptional Las Madrigueras hotel, with some of the friendliest staff to be found anywhere in Europe.
One final suggestion. And that is, at each hole, there are signs erected in as many languages as possible saying ‘Please replace divots and repair pitch marks.’
Steve Killick was a guest of Carter Commercial Event Management who organised the Islas Canarias Golf Challenge on behalf of the Tourist Board of the Canary islands. He stayed at Hotel Las Madrigueras and flew from London Gatwick to Tenerife with Easyjet.
Contact Carter Commercial on 01932 708898 or www.cartercommercial.co.uk