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Fore!

19 May

I returned home to Zhuhai from Hong Kong. And last week I had the cool chance to check out a fancy-schmancy golf club here in south China. Since the grass must be getting greener these days back in Bemidji, I’ll provide a timely, seasonal piece here for ya. So for all you putters, drivers and chippers out there, pull up a chair (I reckon you already are seated) and come play 18 with me, or at least enjoy the 19th by reading this post. :)

If you’re not a golfer, don’t feel out of place. This is just one more interesting look at something we’re familiar with, but done with a Chinese twist. Plus, I’m not a very serious golfer, anyway. I played in high school because of a girl and I’ve only played a couple rounds per summer since. Heck, I had as much fun with my caddy as I did smacking the little white, dimpled spheres.

I never imagined I’d play golf in China, but like a disobedient dog, Fate had other ideas. I was assigned to teach English one-on-one with a 12-year-old named, Michael. (Well, actually, his name is Zhou Zi Qian. But students like to have an English name, too. Thank goodness.) My supervisors mentioned he had a thing for golf. I’d say so—turns out he wins all the youth tournaments in these parts.

His parents are happy with my lessons, so offered Michael and I “a good walk spoiled”—that’s Mark Twain’s definition of golf. Right on. Let’s see what an afternoon of 18 looks like in China!

Geez, how big are the holes?

Lakewood Golf Course: yep, sounds like a golf course to me. It’s sort of like how nursing homes are always sunny and happy, like Bob Ross named them–”Happy Little Trees Retirement Home”.

Here’s a shot of Michael and I:

Yep, he's just 12.

The scenery here was top notch. Pleasant, yet, striking hillsides walled-in parts of this course. The day was gorgeous with me getting just a tad sunburned–perfect, just the way I like my marshmellows. First, though, we had to enter the facilities which matched the high bar set by the environmental beauty:

Wow. See? Who says teachers don't live a high falutin lifestyle?!

Turning right, we were met with the friendly reception:

But because I had to wait for this slow-poke, I was forced to look up and enjoy the art. (C’mon, I’m not here to enjoy things; I’m here to golf!)

After that, it was off to the locker room, where the uniforms of hierarchy are replaced with the evening of nudity.

Plus, I had a reminder that these fancy-pants folks still apparently need a tip or two when it comes to Western toileting:

Old habits die hard.

Okay, now let’s get outside and hit some balls.

Right, guys?

'So I says to the guy...'

Heading out, here was the biggest Chinese variable of this golf course:

The caddy shack, Chinese style.

The similar outfits didn’t surprise me, but the fact that all the caddies were women sure did. But, hey, when in Rome, right? These gals grabbed your bag and like a good waitress were there for your every need. They would bring the clubs, wash the ball, drive the cart, and did a heck of job lining up puts. Once I disagreed and it cost me, my ball arching on the green in a way I didn’t foresee, but she did.

Let’s take a look at who “she” was:

Michael's and my caddy. They wore hardhats underneath the bonnets.

And here’s a shot of the others:

At ease, Ladies. Now go out there and read some greens!

Next, the swinging commenced. And I will say that, once you got used to the caddies, it was really no different than playing most anywhere:

'I like your hat.' 'Shhh!, don't talk.'

Lovely view.

And another.

And another.

She putted for me...and missed.

The dress, the etiquette, the manner of the players, the whole vibe was similar. So the million dollar question is: Is this a good example of Chinese imitation of a Western experience? The Chinese, I have found, so adore Western fashion, music, athletes, technology and try to be like them.

Or is it a statement about the way humans from opposite ends of the world like to do things in the same ways?

Either way, I had to remind myself, “Oh ya, I’m in China playing golf!” Then it was obvious, because everyone from the ground crew to the caddies to the players are Chinese. One race here, but social classes are still in place.

And this was most clear toward the end of the day when I walked to the final tee box and noticed these folks from behind a fence:

They were trying for my attention.

So I saw what they were about:

Lost and found golf balls.

Chances are, they chill out behind the fence in a legal grey-area like so many in China do. The portable food vendors in town are all illegal, but they sell regardless–until the authorities come around and then it’s time to high-tail. At the golf course, a security guard was near the tee box, looking out, perhaps, to make sure these ball-sellers didn’t solicit onto the course property.

I suspect as long as they remained behind the fence, they were okay. Although they were not camera friendly, boy, let me tell you. They ducked and covered when I pulled my camera out. I thought I might not get my change back for a few balls after trying to get a shot.

Spending all day on this kick-butt course, it was a reminder of the poverty here, the attempts to get some of that trickle-down $ action, and the line that divides them–literally–right here at this fence.

Much is said about your world even when you try to escape with a day at the links.

The greens were fast, the wind gusty.
My first swings of the year were rusty.

keep that elbow straight,

to new plateaus,

-Brandon

 
 

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  1. SF Fan

    May 20, 2011 at 5:47 am

    Niiiice post, Brandon. Dig the pix. Also, little tidbits like the caddies wearing hardhats under their bonnets and illustrated instructions on proper toilet-postionings….well, that’s just darn good reporting. Carry on.

     
  2. Terry

    May 23, 2011 at 12:43 am

    Cool Brandon. Yes, finally summer here. Lot’s of rain. What a neat experience. Interesting they are still learning English. We all need our children and grandchildren to learn Cantonese.