The colours strike a soothing nerve in the fairytale sunrise of Saturday. Vast vistas stretching from hole to insufferably hard hole glimmer with the reflection of the creeping sun on the deep coat of dew across endless lawns, redolent fields, and a canopy bursting with bloom like it was still the height of summer.
A mild hangover harangues me and the ground that is my cot does my body no favours.
Fretful and anxious I let my gaze wander over the Eden of English Disc Golf, mind sown with deep seated worry over various threats of insurmountable obstacles and the sheer length of holes that offer few birdies to squat men armed but with tiny forehands.
The luck of the draw gives me the big guns of Dan Ryan as my guide on my first foray into the Quarry Park Black Course and an assortment of odds and clowns to keep us well stocked with comic relief.
Holes 10 and 12 prove instant favorites, as the former is a guaranteed park job, and the latter an exercise in technique, restraint, and the finer points of course management. If holes had theme songs, number 12 would have Fred Durst chanting “Rollin’, rollin´, rollin´…” on a continuous loop.
Hole 13 on the other hand, is the mother of all… frustration, and 5 comes equipped with a convenient perch where to solemnly sit while wistfully watching the river wash your rating away.
By the grace of steady threes I shoot a 61 and surprisingly find myself in 2nd place of the Advanced Division. Clifton credits my supposedly solid up and down game for this fortuitous finish, and by the force of jinx – or a weak mental game- robs me of that gift for the duration of the tournament.
Saturday night is a frenzy of fire and folding chairs. The simple introduction of a Pringles lid lends greater joy to the ring of fire round the burning logs than a run of birdies, and we toss the precious plastic around in a play on updrafts and trick shots de Derek until enthusiasm dies like the eventual melting of the lid. It is, after all, the little things in life.
Sunday serves the sky with a palette of stark off-whites, which yield to a warm yellow that lends deep hues to its bluebird canvas.
Blue again proves harder than black and I shoot a dirt poor 66 that clouds my ego with great doubt.
Lunch is a treat that day and the sizzling beef fuels my veins with machismo and hell-bent stamina.
On the final black I launch a full-blown blitzkrieg on our first seven holes and shoot a succession of threes from 6 to 12.
After a rare birdie miss on 10, I sink a 30 yard fairway ace out of a bush and around a slew of trees for a three on 10a, causing an outburst of appreciation from the neighboring tee.
On 10b I pot a three from four yards to a standing ovation of my entire card, who claim never to have witnessed a pair of threes in the woods before. I, ever the humble brag, offer as my defense that I have the competitive advantage of having played the pair of holes once before. Only ten holes later am I offered the inside information that the hole is actually a Par 4.
13 kills the dream as is it’s wont, and after a brief comeback of a drop-in three on 14, hole 15 commits daylight robbery on me and delivers the spoils to Adam Willets, who with my mojo in hand opens up his crushing backhand for an impressive collection of birdie 2s that finally drown my hopes of clawing my way back up the board a bit.
Our back 9 is a gallery of grief for my score performed on the backdrop of an idyllic English countryside and ironically saluted by 21 gunshot blasts aimed, surely, at a similarly moribund fox in a neighboring field.
But all is well that ends well, as Haukur, my makeshift traveling companion, whose attendance my raging solipsism has thus far omitted from the story, nabs a shared 3rd in the Master Division. My 9th place finish then serves as a pretty respectable companion to my new PB at Lloyd Park on the Friday before.
As Andy’s tin chariot speeds us towards imminent Sunday evening congestions on the M40, vows are made for a return visit and to work on the backhand needed to fully master this monster of a course and its contempt of those preaching the gospel of the sidearm.
Nick Blakehills excellent Video taken while playing at the QP Open…. there is hopefully going to be a lot more of these in months to come.