Note: I am leading Lamar University’s study abroad group to my home town, Brighton, to study travel writing and photojournalism. As well as writing features about Brighton and beyond, I’m keeping a diary, of sorts, about the class experience. Here is part 13.
BRIGHTON, England — While the Brighton part of my trip involved shepherding students around for their study abroad program, I did find a couple of moments to play golf, which is getting to be a luxury in Texas as it seems to rain every time I plan to get on the course. Seriously, every single time.
My friend Steve and I try to fit in a round when I visit and he also invited our old school friend Rod, whom I haven’t seen it 20 years, which was nice. Steve had arranged for us to play at Pycombe Golf Club, just outside Brighton, a course I hadn’t played before.
The club was established in 1894 and legendary golfer and course architect James Braid helped shape the course.
I enjoy playing in Brighton as the courses are radically different to the courses in Southeast Texas. For a start, SETX is flat as a pancake. The courses around Brighton are built on the hills of the South Downs. There is also constant wind off the English Channel and even in summer it is not usual for a brief shower to come and go.
Being English, I think I am a bit of a masochist and I believe that golf is really all about suffering — just like life — punctuated by brief moments of happiness.
Another difference is that we would be walking and carrying bags, unlike in Southeast Texas where we ride a cart.
I packed my golf shoes for this trip having learned from my last visit where I borrowed my brother’s shoes. Unfortunately, he is a size 10 and a half while I wear a size 8. That’s not the most comfortable way to walk five miles up and down hill. I still had to borrow clubs which explains the dreadful score (that’s my excuse and I am sticking to it).
I wasn’t familiar with the course and on the first tee Rod pointed at the flag in the distance. It’s dead straight, he said. Yeah, I thought, straight uphill. We teed off and trudged up the steep incline. The next hole was also uphill. As was the third. Surely, we had to go downhill at some point.
Not to worry, the tee shot on the fourth was down into a valley. The hole laid out beautifully in front of us, giving us a clear view of the ball sailing into the distance. It also gave us a clear view of the green which was on the same level as the tee. Yep, once we had gone down it was all back uphill again. And this climb was even steeper.
It rained on the next hole for a few minutes, but the wind dried us out pretty quickly (it blew a steady 10-15 miles per hour, which is about average).
I was having a great time. It was good to chat with friends, to laugh at the terrible shots, to celebrate each other’s good one — and there were quite a few. We all had birdies punctuating the doubles and triples. And the last few holes were all steeply downhill, which was nice.
It’s frustrating that photos do not do justice to exactly how freaking steep some of these climbs were.
The fitness app on my phone registered the equivalent of 38 flights of stairs, all with a golf bag on my shoulder. I consider that a decent workout. And the pint in the bar after tasted really good.
Ten days later I played the Dyke Golf Club with my brother, Gary. The course was created in 1906 and at 650 feet elevation it spreads out across the top of the highest hills around Brighton
. It also means the sea winds blow with much more ferocity, probably 20-25 mph.
The first hole sloped from left to right, with a left-to-right wind. I hit what I thought was the perfect shot. I shaped it down the left side and landed in the left-hand light rough. The ball kicked forward, and I watched my “perfect” tee shot bound across the fairway, past the bunkers on the right side and bury into the deep rough to the right of the fairway.
It was going to be that sort of day. The wind buffeted the ball on every shot. Downwind balls went long, headwind shots held up. On one par 3 the ball literally went up into the wind, stopped, drifted backward and ended up rolling back toward me.
And all the while my brother and I chatted and caught up. That’s really the point of it all. Good company, terrible golf, pain and suffering, wind and rain, and significant amounts of swearing.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.