Saturday 28 June 2014

Mt Nessing Golf Course

It’s taken 18 months but now, at long last, we are heading to my “new” golf club, Mt Nessing, to have a game of golf and meet some of the members. Mt Nessing is inland, about 40 minutes from Timaru, just east of Fairlie and very near Albury. And why am I member of this rather obscure (sorry Mt Nessing) golf club? Because I wanted to keep my NZ Golf handicap running while I am travelling, because I can play at other clubs as an affiliate member & because Mt Nessing has the lowest subscription fees in the country. Unfortunately the associate subscription  fees at my old club were nearly six times the cost of Mt Nessing so it made sense (cents) to join Mt Nessing.

We left Waitaki Waters Holiday Park after a most enjoyable stay, I’d highly recommend a stop there if ever you’re in the area. Derek runs a great ship, with neat & tidy grounds & buildings. Although I found it a little bit disconcerting sharing the “winter ablution block” with men. Crikey you never know who’s in the shower next door to you, one morning after quietly showering & making sure everything was covered & contained when I emerged, I had a great laugh when it turned out to be David next door!

It was another lovely winter’s day and we could see the Southern Alps as we crossed over the Waitaki River again, heading north.

We stopped to have lunch in St Andrews, at the well known art deco Masonic Hotel on the main road. This hotel (and its name) would have looked right at home on Emerson Street in Napier, the Art Deco Capital of the world (and my home town). And what a treat it was, we had a good chat with the landlady, who with her previous partner, had spent over half a million dollars restoring the hotel back to it’s former glory. Inside, the wooden panelling was perfectly finished after having years of grime & black paint removed. The reworked leadlight windows were beautiful with some amazing detail, especially the curved corner windows. The Masonic is also a POP (Park over property) for NZMCA members, there’s a huge back yard for parking and soon there will be a laundry & showers/toilets.

We turned inland just past St Andrews, heading for Cave. Through flat farmland at first and then just before the hills, to our surprise, a sharp turn and a choice between an old bridge or a ford. But more of a surprise was that it was called Evans Crossing (no time to stop for a photo). We chose the ford, along with another vehicle coming the other way. The car in front of us chose the bridge. This wouldn’t usually be that unusual but all the fords we’ve crossed in our travels have been on remote gravel roads and this road was quite a well used route.

We climbed up and through the Pareora Gorge then dropped back down to the river flats. Then just before Cave I spotted a sign for a historic church up a side road (I’m still taking church photos for the Historic Places Trust). Too late for David to haul the rig up and turn around and by now we were climbing again. We turned around down at the cross roads and climbed back up the hill again. At the top I took a quick shot of this memorial stone, another beautiful piece of work out in the middle of the countryside. I also spotted a very tall celtic cross high up on top of a nearby hill.

David felt obliged to turn around for this particular church, I wonder why….

St David's Pioneer Memorial Church was erected in 1930 in memory of the pioneers, runholders, shepherds and station hands who developed the Mackenzie district into one of the major pastoral areas of New Zealand. This beautiful stone church was constructed without the use of nails.

Oops……David wasn’t too pleased when he had to pull off the road to let a vehicle pass. We needed that ford again.

After all the sheep, dairy, cattle, deer & alpaca farms we’ve passed on our travels we finally passed a pig farm between Cave & Albury. Happy free-range pigs with good shelters and plenty of grass & mud to enjoy. It brought back memories of my childhood on our pig farm.

We pulled over at Albury to get our bearings & freshen up before we headed down a side road to Mt Nessing. The Albury Tavern, another hotel that’s the centre of the community. We didn’t know it then but were told later that the chef here is well known for his fabulous meals & in particular his Thai menu.

We turned into Mt Nessing Road and headed for the hills, The Hunters Hills of which Mt Nessing is part of. After 6 or 7 kms the road turned to gravel and before long we could see a row of dusty cars parked up and across the road the golf course. You'd never have a clean car out here in the country, if it's not mud it's dust. We felt right at home, our rig needed a darn good clean & it's been driving David mad for weeks!

We travelled a little further on to find a place to turn around and then pulled onto the long acre beside the course. Immediately we were made to feel very welcome when Penny, the secretary who I have had contact with, came off the course mid game to say hello & to tell us to make ourselves at home while they finished their club day golf. Next came Noel, the course convenor to say we could pull the fifth-wheeler off the road through the gate and park up there if we wanted. We decided the grass strip outside would be fine, we didn’t want to add deep tyre grooves to the course!

We set up camp while everyone finished their game & then we made our way to the deck of their brand new extended clubhouse to have a drink and watch the last players finish. There were about 20 golfers playing and they made us feel very welcome as they came in, introducing themselves and keen to hear about the fifth-wheeler & our travels. There was lots of friendly banter too, it was like meeting old friends. We were officially welcomed during the announcements & being a paid up member, I even got to have a vote on the new interior colour of the clubhouse. Although I suspect David got a bigger say in that than me.

Before long we had an invite to come and share a roast dinner, after our golf tomorrow, at Dusty’s place! Not only that but to park “Out There” up at his place for the night. And that is how we managed to be parked up at Albury Park Station.

After we’d said farewell to everyone & promised to come and play with them on club day next time, we had the road to ourselves for the night. Well nearly. It was pitch black outside except for the odd car that came barrelling down the road past us, lights on full flooding the interior. This was once the rugby test match had finished & the pub had closed no doubt. We were a little worried that they’d get a fright when they saw us and take out our slide out.

Sunday dawned cold but sunny & we were woken by a whole lot of magpies having a meeting on the verge beside us. I’m sure one of them was also tap-dancing on the roof. Next came a hundred & one tractors & quad bikes, up & down the road they rumbled & roared, there's no Sunday sleep-in for farming folk. It wouldn't have surprised me if next I was to hear a whole heap of mooing outside the window.

Time to have a game of golf. It was why we were out here in the middle of the countryside after all. We had the course totally to ourselves and what a lovely country 9-hole course it was. Very well maintained with well marked tees and all 18 holes named, and some great names too. I was looking forward to playing number one as we’d been told yesterday there would have been a fine view of Mt Cook (Aorangi) if the cloud hadn’t rolled in and sure enough across the valley & far in the distance Mt Cook peeked out from behind the hills.

Number 2, The Woolshed. Mt Nessing Station’s woolshed sit’s beside the green. The course is located on station land and is grazed by sheep during the summer. The course closes earlier than most other clubs, in September and opens again in February. Spring & summer are busy times for farming folk.

Initially we thought we’d be playing golf quite often while we were on the road but in fact this was only my 3rd game & David’s second. And although we thoroughly enjoyed our game, the results were nothing to write home about. A few good holes, a few average & more than two very bad. Never mind, it was a lovely to be out in the fresh air enjoying the sunshine. We didn't enjoy the mud that built up on our shoes and trundler wheels though. Thick sticky mud which took a fair while to clean off at the end so we could pack it all away clean in the storage box.

And so that was that, we’d made the pilgrimage, played the course & met some lovely people. Thanks Mt Nessing for your hospitality & for making us feel so welcome. We’ll look forward to seeing you all again one day.

Love that hair colour! It's easier to experiment on the road :)

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