Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Golf In France

If you are new to golf in France the best course of action is to apply for a license from FFgolf (http://www.ffgolf.org). As well as providing you with the means to obtain an official French golf handicap, the most important feature is insurance coverage should your errant golf ball hit a building, car or head (or should someone else's ball hit YOUR head!)

The license has space for a "carte verte" sticker, which you can obtain after being accompanied on a 9 hole round by any club pro. The idea is purely to ensure that you can complete 9 holes of golf in under 3 hours and you don't kill anyone in the process. A basic knowledge of rules and etiquette is also expected, but there is no "test" as such.

When you first obtain your license, you are allocated a handicap of 54. This is GREAT - you get 3 strokes per hole over someone who plays from scratch, and this allows you to compete in club competitions far earlier than you would be able to in the UK (bear in mind that in France you need a current medical certificate from your GP certifying your fitness to play golf before you can play in any competitions, even "fun" ones organised by your local club - this has to be renewed each year)

If you have a valid handicap in any other country, FFgolf will simply transfer that to your new French license if you inform them. For the "newbie", you can begin to reduce your handicap by playing in any "proper" competition organised by your local club. These can be sponsored events with prizes, or "classement" competitions which are generally held weekly at every club with the sole aim of allowing people to register a score towards their handicap.

Note that you cannot simply register any old score card towards your handicap, it has to be from a recognised competition where the club will print out official FFgolf score cards which must be marked by one of your co-competitors, signed and handed in at the end of the round - all very official (well, this IS France, after all).

Every license holder gets their own "portal page" on the FFgolf site which allows you to track the current status of your license, whether you have a carte verte, whether you have registered your medical certificate, and the evolution of your handicap (plus stats of your current position in your club, the league, the region and nationally!)

My advice for anyone looking to play over here regularly would be to apply for a French license regardless - it costs 48 Euros a year and gives you the benefit of the insurance. Officially, a license is obligatory to play on any French course, though the likelyhood of that being enforced is remote. Of course, if you have an accident and you are without insurance, things could get tricky...

If you already have a handicap, you can have it transferred to that license, and you don't need to do the carte verte test. If you don't have a handicap but you play regularly, you could probably just explain and ask the club for the carte verte sticker - they might give it to you or they might require that you complete one round with the pro. Probably worth doing, since it only needs doing once and then you are "official", and it really is VERY straightforward to do (not at all like getting a carte grise!)

If you are just an occasional visitor, there is no need to do anything, but you should make sure your travel (or golf) insurance policy covers you for accidents abroad.

As with the UK, there are clubs that will insist you have a handicap to play (proven by your French golf license) and those who don't care as long as you pay your green fees.

I hope that helps - if I have left anything out, just ask. There is lots of info on the FFgolf site too for those who read French.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

English Weather

For several years now we have been very smug about the fact that, although it can rain here (and I mean RAIN, with a capital R-A-I-N), it usually only lasts for a day or two and then returns to beautiful blue skies. And although we can get the odd cold snap in the winter, the temperatures are usually high enough to go out in a light coat - and, of course, it is always sunny, even when cold.

And the rest of the time... well, it's just sunny, with a capital S-U.... well, you get the idea.

So it has been a bit of a shock this winter to have long periods of wet weather with leaden grey skies. Damp, horrible, feel-it-in-your-bones type weather. And every time it looks like clearing up and you think "spring has arrived", it just turns to crap again.

And so it is this week. Only last weekend we were playing golf all day in t-shirts and contemplating how many more days before we go the whole hog and switch from long pants to shorts. And now, here we are again, huddled indoors, staring wistfully through the windows at the leaden skies and rapidly flooding garden.

Even though the English are born to this sort of weather, you get used to the other stuff once you have been here a few years and the crap stuff just seems to hit you harder, for some reason.

Not helped by the fact that the rain gives us an excuse to do the cleaning. How the hell that dog can lose so much bloody hair and not be bald is beyond me. I'm going to clingfilm him....

Monday, April 06, 2009

Golf Overdose

Getting too old to play 54 holes of golf in 2 days.

Yesterday we played 18 holes at Vacquerolles first thing in the morning with Harry, which at least meant we didn't have to walk him separately. Then in the afternoon we went to the Cleveland Golf demo day at la Grande Motte.

The intention was to mooch around the new range of clubs and drool for a while, but the Cleveland guy had other ideas to sucker us in. He determined which range of clubs interested us, then gave us a full set on loan to go and play the course. Well, how could we refuse? One small point regarding the way the French do business here. In England, we would have had to leave a passport, driving license, cheque to cover the amount of the clubs borrowed and a small child as security for the clubs. Here, the guy just took down my name, didn't ask for any ID, and wished us a "bon parcours". Amazing!

And so we found ourselves playing another 18 holes. Given that I already own a lot of the Cleveland driver/wood/hybrid clubs that I need, it was really only the new irons in which I was interested. So much to the dismay of the guy behind us, I was hitting multiple iron shots up the fairway instead of driver/hybrid + small iron. Par 4's were becoming par 8's for me - but at least it was deliberate this time. The guy behind was terribly unimpressed, however...

Today was our regular weekly threesome with myself, Hans and Stuart round Vacquerolles - and very nice it was too. A big part of this weekly event is the time spent at the 19th afterwards, and so it's a jolly good job Lynne was driving...