This weekend, I participated in a golf tournament organized among friends. It was very similar to the tournaments I participate in most Februarys. On Thursday evening, my friend, Manolo, and I left for Asturias, the Spanish region bordering Cantabria on the west. We stayed in Hotel Aldama, which has a 9-hole "Pitch & Putt" course next to it. Soon after we got there, the other 5 men arrived, and we went out for dinner and drinks in nearby Llanes. On Friday morning, we got up early, had breakfast at the hotel and headed to a seaside golf course called La Cuesta.
Our first view of the par-3 course at the hotel upon arrival.
Flowers along the hotel.
A golf course spider.
A decorative wood-carved bollard in the hotel restaurant.
This house structure is common to Asturias. I'm not sure what the reason behind it is.
Roberto and Javier coming out of the hotel on Friday morning.
One of the participants put in a lot of work and printed scorecards for each of the three rounds, complete with handicaps and stars indicating the holes we got strokes on. They were really well done. Except for the spelling of my name.
Manolo's company, Saneamientos San Fausto, was the official sponsor. He had three golf shirts, with his company's name embroidered on the breast, made for each of us, a different color for each of the three rounds. Unfortunately (and The Committee that plans the tournament I attend to in February will sympathize here), there was a shipping problem with the shirt order and they arrived to the hotel at the very last minute and the embroidering contained a misspelling.
Now that would be a cool place for a green!
Curvy seaside road.
Playing golf by the sea is really amazing.
Looking down towards the town of Llanes.
Manolo hits a drive.
Isn't that beautiful?
A panorama looking down into the valley. The golf course is on a ridge between the sea and this valley.
Manolo hits another drive.
Wooden decoy ducks didn't trick anyone in our foursome into hitting into the pond.
On the very first hole of the tournament, I had a triple-bogey 8. But after that, on Friday, I played really well. A little too well actually. The tournament was scored with a linear points system. Bogey: 1, Par: 2, Birdie: 3, Eagle: 4 points. So if you weren't going to make a net bogey, you could pick up your ball and not finish the hole. Obviously, if you play exactly to your handicap, you will get 36 points after 18 holes. My handicap on Friday, after slope calculations, was 16. So I should have scored an 87 on the par 71 course. In a strange coincidence, I shot 41 on the front nine, 41 on the back nine, and scored 41 points. This put me squarely into the lead by 9 or 10 points, as no one else came close to getting their average 36 points.
After a very nice lunch at our hotel, we went out to play two rounds around the 9-hole par-3 course at the hotel. The holes were all between 60 and 90 meters long, and I took only my pitching wedge and putter. Wedges, specifically not having many, is one of my weaknesses, and I overshot almost every green. I only scored 31 points and after it was over, I was only leading by 6 points.
After a quick shower, I headed down to the hotel bar to watch the Italy v. Romania Euro Cup game. At the bar, I had kind of a euphoric moment, leaned over to the guy next to me and said, "You know, it doesn't get any better than this. Here I am, dead tired from playing 36 holes of golf, I just got out of a nice warm shower, I'm on my second ice cold beer, and I'm watching world-class soccer on a giant plasma screen six feet in front of me with friends. I don't think life gets any better than this."
A minute later, the bartender brought us a bowl full of peanuts.
"I stand corrected," I said.
That night, we went out again in Llanes. We were still fairly full from lunch, so we ordered small finger food at various bars. And lots and lots and lots of cider. Sidra is a very typical drink in Asturias, most memorable for the way it is served, by pouring it from as high above the glass as you can. Cider is fairly low in alcohol, much weaker than beer, but served in a bottle the size of most wine bottles (75 cl). When the night was over, the seven of us had consumed twenty-two bottles of cider.
Llanes harbor before a night of partying.
Bizarre old vs. new architecture.
Nothing should ever be made in this shape. Especially not vending machines.
Some 17th century engraving.
Manolo demonstrates proper sidra pouring technique.
I love photos with falling drops like this. I have no idea why there are solid drops, but also motion-blur-like streaks in this photo. Neat.
One bar we went to had special machines to do this pouring for you.
Chief Sits-On-Underwood watched over our merriment.
The machine was pretty cool. You put the bottle in one end...
And push the button!
And out comes the cider into a glass!
The machine makes cider consumption a little too easy, if you know what I mean. Normally quite a bit of the contents of the bottle never make it into the glass, but not so with the machine.
These were the two signs on the bathroom doors of one of the bars we were in. It takes some thought to figure out what's what when you're sober, so when you're not it's darn near impossible. I can't remember which I used.
Needless to say, the next morning we were all pretty ragged looking. But we got up and drove almost all the way back home to play the final round in the municipal course in Santander that I played once before.
This was the landing on the top floor of the hotel where my room was. It was a gorgeous little hotel.
Posing for portraits. Finally we all had matching shirts. The guy on the top right, Juanjo, wasn't part of the tournament, but a friend of one of the participants that filled out our second foursome on Saturday.
I played pretty poorly on the front nine, with no pars at all and winning only 12 of my 18 average points. It was more or less a three-way tie after the front nine. But on the back nine I pulled away from the pack, making several pars and a birdie, and winning 18 points to seal the championship with a total of 102 (41 + 31 + 30) points.
I hope they invite me back next year. I had a blast!