My next day at Reddish Vale was Sunday. The plan was to play with the 7:30am “school” in the pro’s Stableford (10 pounds entry fee) and then stick around for lunch and to play with Duncan in the afternoon. I was a bit concerned about where I would eat breakfast if I had to leave the hotel too early to get any food but Gary had mentioned before I left on Thursday that he opens at 7am on Sundays to serve bacon rolls to anyone playing in the early game. So that worked out brilliantly. The club has one of those coin-operated coffee machines that grind your beans fresh and make excellent Americano coffee or Espresso drinks for one pound a go. A generous serving of bacon on a large bun plus coffee was plenty for getting me through my first round of the day.
When I had arrived on Wednesday, club manager Dave Sanders had inquired as to how my 18.0 USGA handicap index might translate into English terms. When I assured him a one-to-one mapping would suffice he asked “You’re not going to enter the pro’s Stableford as an 18 and turn in a scorecard with 50 points are you?” to which I replied that as far as I can recall I’d only had Stableford rounds in the UK exceeding 30 points on a couple of occasions and that 30+ points would be a worthy goal. I probably should have said “When I get to 40 points I’ll quit playing, even if it takes 36 holes”.
Unfortunately my bacon-fueled round came up well short of that number as I carded 23 points (12 front, 11 back) including several “blobs” and too many 3-putts to recall. I don’t know what happened to my putter that day, the previous afternoon at Delamere I’d putted well by my usual standards and even Thursday and Friday my scoring problems were more full-swing related than putting.
I turned in my card to Andy in the pro shop and inquired if I should worry about winning the “Crap Round Of The Day” prize. His reply was, “Thanks for playing but you won’t even be close to the worst of the day”. Sure enough I believe I overheard someone in the bar admitting to something like 16 or 17 points on the day. In fact, I was only about 16 strokes behind the day’s winning 39!
Sunday afternoon I played with Duncan and another member Stewart who is a ringer for our friend Blake back home. They look dead similar and except for the fact that our Blake doesn’t play golf, doesn’t rebuild jet engines and isn’t English they are alike in all respects. Stewart and Duncan were having their pro’s Stableford round and I was just along for the ride so we played a handicapped game among ourselves for one-pound stakes, plus birdies. I played a bit better, still putted like a hack and managed 17 points on the front nine but only 11 on the back for 28 total. Duncan matched my score while Stewart nipped us with 31 including a birdie. So it cost me a pound-twenty but the winner generously bought drinks after, presumably incurring a net loss on the day.
I’ll admit to being “knackered” as they might say. That big hill on the 18th is enough to preclude extended conversation at all times but the second time I climbed it in the same day I wasn’t sure I had enough breath to walk. Talking wasn’t even a thought that crossed my mind. I can only say thank goodness for the excellent Motocaddy power trolley Andy I rents out. No way I could do 36 at Reddish Vale carrying a bag on my shoulder or even using a push/pull trolley.
That evening I said my goodbyes since I was not at all sure I’d be up for a final time around Reddish Vale after my Monday morning round at Prestbury. But I couldn’t stay away in the end so I came back around shortly after 3pm with the plan to play until my feet were too tired to go on or until I used up my eight remaining golf balls (of the 24 I had brought from home). As it turned out, the golf balls outlasted my bunions. I played the first 10 holes and after climbing the hill to the ninth green was already plotting for making my return across the river. The course was virtually empty except for a couple groups on the 17th and 18th holes so I skipped the 11th (not my favorite golf hole, truth be told) and 12th, played the 13th then decided to have one more crack at my nemesis 17th hole.
Unlike any of my previous four tries at that tee shot, this final time I managed to place a ball in the fairway instead of the River Tame. Just to prove that golf is an easy game, I then followed it up by a gorgeous 3-iron shot from 175 yards that ended up on the green. And finally to prove that putting is harder than it looks, a 3-putt from the very back left corner of the green to the hole in the front right. It ain’t a great shot if you don’t make the putt but next time I will no longer consider the 17th to be an impossible hole, merely difficult and unforgiving!
I took my time walking back along the river, paused on the bridge for a minute then contemplated the 6th and 18th holes for a time before hitting my longest tee shot of the week on the 18th, reaching just inside the 150 marker. I thought surely taking 4-iron up the hill would let a well-struck shot scoot onto the green but alas that little mound just short and right of the green used up the shot’s final ounce of energy, leaving me 10 feet short. Chip and two putts for one final bogey.
It was by far the most beautiful day of the week, although Saturday evening had been pretty spectacular as well. Nobody seemed much interested in hanging out in the bar. Rather, a small selection of the usual suspects had staked out that table near the end of the putting green and were admiring the evening light and warm breeze rolling up the hill. I hang out for a half-hour or so but really needed to get some dinner and start packing back at the hotel. My one regret from the whole trip was not capturing a snapshot of that last, magical evening gathering.