When the cool weather starts in our latitudes and the fog rolls in, we golfers head for warmer climes. This time around, Katja and I resumed our “running duel” in Cyprus. When it was all over, it couldn’t have been any closer…
We enjoy puffing up our little golf jaunts into mini golf tournaments for just the two of us. But I went through a lengthy dry spell lately when I lost my touch and my swing along with it — and, of all things, right after I had walked off with the winner’s trophy at a (real) golf tournament. So, when I recently seemed to get my groove back, it felt like a minor miracle. After slogging through that mental and physical golf desert of wicked golf balls sailing embarrassingly off target, I actually started giving Katja a run for her money again, so that at least some of our rounds were up for grabs until the last hole!
To close out this year’s golf season, we decided it would be game on, this time in Cyprus…
Round 1: Minthis Hills Golf Club
We were both eager to find out if the golf gods were really with me again….what better place to give it my best shot than on Cyprus, an island rife with legendary gods of antiquity? So it was that full of vim and light of step that I approached the first tee of the Minthis Hills Golf Course that is idyllically located in the island’s hill country.
And promptly down came the first dampener! No sooner had I adroitly placed the ball and was waggling into my stance for what was to be my first wonder drive when the clouds burst right above me and drenched the green with a deluge worthy of Noah. Even the Scottish greens keeper, no doubt used to all kinds of weather, urged us to seek refuge in his hut where he was already sheltering. But, by the time we made it there we were already soaked to the skin.
And what with the sudden shock, we forgot to snap any after-action photos….
Anyway, we were immediately handed towels and in the checkroom we let the hairdryers do their thing — as clothes dryers, of course. It took just a few minutes for the spooky episode to be over and soon we actually had the fairway under our golf shoes again.
But still befuddled and all shook up as I was, the ball flights resulting from my first few artistic swings still left something to be desired. Fortunately, things improved steadily from hole to hole for me so that by the time we reached the club house I had outplayed Katja to a comfortable 7 point advantage!
In professional golf that would be an infinity and even for us it’s quite a lot. Dear Katja, I thought, you will never ever make that up! So I thought, and said so, that’s how sure I was I had it in the bag…
But anyone who knows anything about the game of golf will tell you: As soon as you think you know how it’s going to go… Watch out!
Round 2: Secret Valley Golf Club
On our tournament’s second day, we had sunshine in buckets and so instead of wielding hair dryers we sloshed on the sunscreen.
As hinted by its name, the Secret Valley Golf Club hides away in a long side valley. It generally goes up and down one time and then it goes hither and yon where it is relatively flat. With a huge lead and the hot sun in my neck, I didn’t think it would be necessary to warm up on the driving range. It was warm enough, I was definitely hot and so were my clubs.
Famous last words… on the first tee shot my swing almost totally deserted me once again. Hmm. But the frustration-proof golfer naturally shakes this sort of setback off with ease, and so I made my way to where my ball had wound up. It wasn’t that far away, to be honest….
My next swing promptly also missed. And the one after that. And the next one! Only then did it dawn on me what hockey sticks the caddy had stuffed into my golf bag: ramrod-stiff steel shaft clubs! Tiger Woods maybe would know how to get the most out of them. I, on the other hand, could only try to practice highly conservative damage control.
To add to my general dissatisfaction, Katja had played up in a big way, so that half of my lead had melted away like snow on Cyprus cactus: altogether quickly and completely.
I tried enjoying the partly picturesque landscape instead as my golf game suffered. It got so bad that even the lizards on the course would slink away from the fairway shaking their heads. And so what was bound to happen, happened: by the time we reached the last green, I, too, could only drag my tail onto it, burdened by a point deficit equal in size if not grandeur to the surplus I had the previous day.
Since Katja was riding high and not inclined to help me get better, I sought solace with a chilled blond. A cool Pilsner after a hot round of golf, incidentally, is among the best things money can buy!
In Cyprus, the brand is Keo. It won’t make it on my Top 10 list of beers, but it certainly hit the spot for me after that hellish round…
Round 3: Aphrodite Hills
On Day 3 of our tournament, we headed to the course that promised to be high point of the island of the gods, located appropriately high on the coastal rise and named after the goddess of love herself: Aphrodite Hills. I was determined to live up to the venue, telling myself to get on the ball and leave it all on the course.
Aphrodite Hills nestles between spacious golf villas and a luxury hotel. Golf carts are a must because of the long distances between the teeing grounds. With studied nonchalance, I thus drove up to the first tee and whetted my clubs.
It seemed all sunshine and roses for my game at first, and I went at it like a fire fighter! The fairways, picturesquely laid out in the landscape, that day seemed to suit my game perfectly. Even the rental clubs once more had plenty of dynamism, so that the struck golf ball whipped through the scenery like nobody’s business. Regrettably, as time went by, more and more of them decided to take off in directions I never intended. I’m not sure if I was overpowered by the terrain or distracted by the villas or even Katja (?!); in any case, the longer I played the grimmer things looked.
By the 18th hole, I was once more trailing so badly that the overall tournament victory was scarcely within reach any longer. Chastened, I returned the sleek golf-cart and walked to the club house where I could drown my sorrows in another comfort beer. Make that another Keo…
There was no denying it, going by my score, things indeed looked bitter. Would I on the last day be able to pull off a winning round so I could at least tie with Katja in golf rounds won? Only the gods knew…
Round 4: Elea Golf
Last but not least we played that fateful last round on the relatively new Elea golf course. It is situated near Paphos on a nondescript hillside. From below it is barely visible. and the drive up leads through a barren landscape. But arrive at the club house on top, and you are rewarded with a rare view of the southwestern coast of Cyprus. The course is built to very high standards with the clubhouse very attractively appointed.
So, I couldn’t blame it on the course, and the rent-a-clubs seemed also of good quality. In high spirits, therefore, I made my way to the first tee, this time after warming up in spite of the sun on high. After all, a person can learn…
The first tee shot turned out nearly perfect. Always an important indicator…But already with the second stroke that wayward ball disappeared into bush and scree, never to be seen again. Despite more hooks and shanks, somehow I managed to get on the green and sink the replacement ball in fairly good form. From then on, my clubs and I got hotter and hotter until I felt like I really was cooking, back in top form. Finally!
Only thing is, Katja, too, was having a hot run that day. Having skylarked a bit too long after I took my shots, I turned back only to see that Katja had been holing balls like there was no tomorrow. So, we were still playing head to head down to the wire, just like the pros!
At the half-way house, I still clung to a razor-thin, two-point margin. From here, we continued at the same hot pace to 17th hole, except that Katja by now had pulled up even! On this hole, you drive blind over much scree and bushes up quite a long fairway. It was a shot I promptly flubbed, meaning my ball pulled another disappearing act and even the replacement ball showed the same loser tendencies.
On the next to last hole!
But for once the love goddess Aphrodite brought me luck and Katja’s ball also arced into the bushes. Zero points, too! You could clearly hear the oohs and aahs coming from the gallery (what gallery?!).
And so it came down to the last, decisive 18th hole…by now, the tension was nearly unbearable!
Once again, I chose a particularly beautiful white ball and then risked it onto the upper edge of the sideways- sloping fairway. As if propelled by an invisible hand, it rolled past wicked sand bunkers and other hazards right onto the middle of the fairway. Wow, what a great lie for the approach shot!
Katja also has a good tee shot! Her ball flies straight and far — but then it trundles down the tilted fairway into the sloping rough! Gee, that’s too bad.
Indeed, the poor lie gives her enough of a hard time that I can loft my ball and then sink it in the cup, to stay ahead of her and take the round by a hairsbreadth …
I win! I did it! It’s a tie! 2:2 through four rounds!
Admittedly, I was outpointed by Katja. No argument there. But my form graph did slope up again. It’s just too bad that it was the last round of the season…Now we wonder: can my regained form be conserved during the winter break?
Cyprus golf safari – the courses
You can reach this Mediterranean island of the gods in less than four hours flying time from Zurich. With daytime temperatures averaging 20 degrees Centigrade even in the winter months, Cyprus is an ideal golf destination. We played the following courses in October, with temperatures still hovering around a summery 28 degrees:
Minthis Hills Golf Club
The Donald Steel-designed Minthis Hills Golf Course (formerly the Tsada Golf Club) is located about 15 km north of Paphos. The course is laid out around the 12th century Stavros Tis Minthis monastery and is fringed by beautiful fruit, walnut, and almond trees as well as grapevines. The 19th hole – the clubhouse, that is – is not to be missed. They serve fine snacks as well as menu items here in a stylishly modern ambiance.
Secret Valley Golf Club
In Secret Valley, you feel almost as if you are already in the desert. Uniquely embedded in a valley between cacti and Oleander shrubs — with the gigantic, reddish rocks always in view — the Secret Valley course winds through a beautiful landscape. Speaking of snakes: please poke around in the shrubbery for balls only with your 7 iron!
We thought that the 14th hole with its “beach bunker” was particularly funny.
Aphrodite Hills Golf
Quite close to Secret Valley lies the legendary and extremely well-tended Aphrodite Hill golf course. A 6,299- meter-long championship course, it stretches through hilly terrain. Time and again, spectacular ocean views reveal themselves. Incidentally, nearby is Petra tou Romiou, where legend has it that Aphrodite rose from the sea.
One of the highlights on this course is the steep cart drive across a wild, serpentine path to the 7th tee. From here you must drive your ball across a shallow canyon onto what looks like a postage-stamp sized green, relatively speaking, on the opposite rim.
In other words, not the place for a sudden case of nerves! Our adrenaline did suffice to get our balls to the other side without any problems.
Elea Golf Course
The Elea Golf Club sports the newest golf course on the island. The championship 18-hole course was laid out on a former carob tree plantation by Sir Nick Faldo, the English pro golfer and course designer. Great job!
Thanos Hotel Almyra
We stayed in the Almyra Design Hotel in Paphos during our golf week. Check out prices and availability here:
All four courses are within a 22 km radius and so can be reached by rental car in short order. Driving on the left side of the road, to be sure!