When I arrived here in mid January 1979 (at mid-day), having flown from Johannesburg to here in an old DC-3 that made my jet-lag from Lufthansa to the then Jan Smuts a mere memory, I was met by a very friendly Anders Hallden from the Swedish Embassy. As I had been writing about "Low, Medium and High Tech" elsewhere, I was amused by the flight, the same kind I had some years before in the Amazon and guessed that I had arrived at a land of medium tech - the stuff I like.
I was told that I had a room at President Hotel waiting for me but, seeing my golfbag, Anders decided to take me to his house for a much needed shower, a hot dog and a game of golf (his house was just opposite the Golf Club).
I've mentioned before, I think it was in Mmegi, that thanks to the former colonial rule (if there is anything to thank them for) there is a good golf course in the middle of the town. And I joked about two Brit's meeting in an UK colony, the first thing to construct was a....you know! The golf course of course! But still thank Lord you were not subjects to France, Spain or Portugal colonisation or you would have gone through all manners of tragedies.
So I had my first game here before even booking into the President Hotel where I would stay for more than a month.I liked the course, I liked the beer and the clubhouse and I met a good golfer in the shop who promised to help me get an acceptable handicap. The young golfer was the Pro - Peter Carr - and as the next day in Botswana was a Saturday, I had my first "loosening-up" swing session under his watch at 11.00 am.
Carr let me hit a few balls, looked up to see my eyes and said, "tall people like you probably must bend down a bit to find the ball, but maybe you should move a bit closer to it". Doing so, everything worked much better, indeed.
"How do I get a handicap, Carr?"
"Hit 500 balls at the range, play a few games and submit five cards and you will have it despite your homemade swing", Carr answered. And I remember, he said - golf balls are like cats, it's with you only for as long they like you!
So, very soon I was a member with 19 in handicap. And started Saturday competitions and soon down to 17. I had a great "free-time" thanks to this Gaborone Golf Club (five minutes from job) and made a lot of friends. And even got two Monthly Mugs, if I remember right (that reduced my handicap to15).I will also forever remember a friendly game with Ken and the late Uncle Parks. One day as we were having our usual game they all of a sudden had a big laugh. I had asked my caddie for my Polo driver - the brand of my clubs was Polo, you see! They looked at my clubs and laughed even more. "Don't play "mixed" with these clubs" Parks said. And I was told the secret of my club's name! In those days, before VW had introduced their small cars, it was quite remarkable to play Polo-golf.
So, I calculated my earnings and went to Carr and asked for a set of Pings' hoping that name wouldn't be a laugh.Carr checked my clubs for a decent trade - in price and said "Jan, why do you, tall as you are, play with shortened clubs - one full inch shorter than normal?" he asked "I bought them from my first pro in Sweden", I said losing even more confidence in my old country. "Here...", Carr said "...take these Pings, they have been hardly used. Anthony will put a 11/2 inch plug to them and then you can play golf upright! P500, only, please!"
That made a new game to me (down to 13 within short) until my neck "broke" some years later. But that probably just an occupational disease for architects of my generation who had flat tables and spent their lives bent over drawings.This was in 1995 and a Professor Marx from Joburg cut me up and, as he was not a golfer, he didn't bother what complications it had to my golf. He made my neck stiff and my golf went into shambles - the game was all of a sudden not so fun any longer when I moved up to
21 and C-team. All friends were A or B. Apartheid in golf, yes, but based on skills and results.
From old x-rays it looks that he confiscated my credit cards and stiffened up the neck with them. A Marxist way of fighting capitalism, I guess!
To something more funny - Glof!
In the early '90s my wife was a bit concerned about my late arrivals from the club and decided to take up golf, too.The Lady Section was short of members and liked her idea and she was given a lot of free instructions from them. And a good set of clubs for a decent price from a leaving lady. All of a sudden she was on the course playing Saturday competitions, too. And collecting more wins in a short time than I had done over many years. But a modern male chauvinist knows how to keep his tongue, doesn't he? And it's good to be taken home from the club in a car driven by somebody else - even in those times.
Anyhow, one Saturday I had finished my round. Sitting at a table close to Green 9 with my young Emma (Editor's note - the future Miss Universe princess), five years by then, we discovered Mom coming in. Mom had hit her second shot into the bunker close to us (she had a fine hand with the woods and seldom went into rough and bush - afraid of snakes, scorpions and spiders, I guess). Well, there she was in the bunker - shush, shush, Emma, didimala! BoomMom made a tremendous swing at the ball, and shoveled most of the sand into our drinks, to inch the ball only a foot forward.
"Look, Papa, Mom is playing Glof", Emma cried!
I think our laughs gave Mom the needed adrenalin and next shot from the bunker ended a few feet from the flag and the putt went in. Soon we had another mug and I promptly tested the drinkability of it! Many old golf-friends are no more and I'm very sad. But that's the fate of the ones that keep on living - less and less friends. I have to tell you a story about Uncle Parks that I had the fortune of playing with or against many times. He had a very peculiar sense of humor and used it creatively. It was a kind of psychological muti too, I guess.
Parks was a much better golfer than I but how things evolved one game, we had five holes to go and I was one up on him. When we turned "home" on hole14, I was nervous, took time to peg my ball and find a stance. Parks all of a sudden said "Jan, do you always take so long to tie up?"
I took a deep breath and answered, "Parks, it's not so easy when you stand there rattling your jewelry"Parks was silent for a few seconds and then broke into uncontrollable laughter - in fact, he had problems hitting his own ball and it was lost in the right side rough. He was still laughing when he conceded the game on 17 when I was close to a HIO, and gave me a hug. That's what golf-friends are for! May Peace Bestow on His Memory!
This Golf Club is a landmark in Gaborone! But strong forces are at hand to have it developed by some investor to a housing/commercial area. Let's fight this, dear readers - we have already lost too many old landmarks here in Gaborone.OK - we have another fine golf course near Gaborone but not so easy to reach for most people with limited time (and money for fuel). So, it's not for the "common man" - more for Tom, Dick and Harry Oppenheimer. I think Gaborone Golf Club has a more "balanced" membership with its policy and fees. And its location is superb which creates a lot of envy among realtors.
I still remember Philip Steenkamp, a golf club senior in the early '80s during my City Planning years when I asked him if I should reserve land in Gaborone West for a second golf club. "Never", he said, "that will only result in bad economics for both clubs and a kind of segregation". Clever words from an outstanding government worker. But it happened, anyhow, in time.
But primarily the Golf Club is one of the few landmarks we still have! Believe me, it's now time to fight for its future existence. The forces that want to replace it with some urban development are very strong.