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  • Writer's pictureRuth Mcbride

That’s it?

Day 42/138 2022/2023 Viking Neptune World Cruise

Our morning started with the smell of diesel fuel in our cabin. There is nothing like the smell of diesel fuel to Wake up with…or is that ”I love the smell of napalm in the morning”, either way, it wasn’t pleasant, and I was wide awake, once I smelled the diesel fumes!

The view from our balcony of the refuelling ship on the port side of the Neptune this morning.

We were docked very close to the Ponant luxury ship which had been next to us overnight. The Ponant looked like it was getting ready to leave this morning. With only 184 guests, and 118 crew this French cruise line is about small ship, luxury cruising. Ponant has something no other ship has, which is a multi sensory, underwater lounge, called ‘Blue Eye’.

Richard went to The World Cafe, and brought us back some fruit and toast to eat in our cabin, so we could quickly get ready to disembark the ship this morning. The weather looked pretty good outside and thankfully no rain either!

We headed down in the elevator to Deck 2, to disembark.

Richard startled me in this photo! My weapons of mass destruction as my friend Miss H. would call them! Safe travels to Florida Miss H!

We headed off the ship and across the street to the H&M store where we knew we could connect to their free wifi. Richard was able to get us a Toyota Prius Uber within 3 minutes of hailing the Uber, and we were off to the golf course.

Waiting for the Uber. Richard was so happy he had free wifi!

Our route was along the highway going South of Auckland to a place called Paptoetoe. We were in for a 21 minute ride in traffic this morning. When we got to the turnoff to the golf club, the road was closed, due to the recent flooding, so our Uber driver had to go past the golf club and circle back and enter through a different entrance to allow us to finally go through the metal gate to the golf club. Luckily another car pulled in right in front of us, so we did not need to announce ourselves at the gate today to the club.

Our first impressions of the golf clubhouse were “That’s it?” Royal Auckland and Grange Golf Club. It kind of looked like a museum it was so modern in its design.

The player’s entrance was down below by the white framed door. We had never seen such a modern club house in our lives before! For a club that was founded in 1894, this structure for a clubhouse was NOT what we were expecting at all!

As we entered the Player’s Entrance, we passed by a bank of computer terminals which were available for players to print out their scorecards. Interesting….I’ve never seen individual scorecards printed out before except for tournaments I’ve played.

After the long hallway with the computerized scorecard machines, we came upon this very modern common lounge area.

I had to put my golf shoes on and rather than put them on in the cart and look ‘uncivilized’ I decided to put the shoes on in the ladies locker room.

The door to the locker room was a very heavy wooden door and as I entered the locker room, the lights automatically came on. I’ve seen a lot of beautifully locker rooms before, but I think this was one of the nicest, and most modern I have ever seen!

I don’t mind if I do park myself on this lovely divan and put my golf shoes on.

More heavy wooden doors. I wondered how old this clubhouse was, because it was beautifully appointed and it looked brand new!

I headed up the stairs taking photos inside the clubhouse, when I knew that phones were only allowed in the parking lot. I had to capture this sight for the blog though, so I was very unobtrusive with my iphone.

The stairs led up to the dining area, with the pro shop open to the dining area as well which was another feature about this clubhouse that I have never seen before. Usually the pro shop is very separate from the dining area, but this clubhouse had the doors to the outside open, a breeze blowing through and a very open concept feel to it.

Richard checked us in and we were way too early, but it gave us time to practise at the range, gorgeous short game facility and putting green before we finally teed off at 11:50am. Richard was also given personalize scorecards for our round today. One score card for him, and one for me. That’s definitely different. The score cards were numbered too.

The golf course was in meters today. Luckily I have my golf laser which means I can still play the course in yards! 5,018 metres or 5,488 yards. There was one tee box ahead of me, but based on my handicap, I was playing the yardage I was told to play by the computer, which was Gold Tees, 5,018 metres. I had never seen such a complicated score card either. The section on the left was completely foreign to me. I guess what happens is the members scratch off their scores on the left, and then put the cards into the machines we saw earlier, and the computer reads the card and posts their scores. With cards being recorded for each player, there would be no ‘sandbagging’ and not entering scores, since if a card was issued for a player on a given day, then their must be a corresponding score recorded. It is actually a good system to prevent people from manipulating their handicaps!

Richard’s scorecard today.

We went and hit some golf balls at the range. The range grass was horrible and there was hardly any grass to hit from, so we didn’t last long hitting balls. It was nice to swing though since it has been almost a few weeks since we last played in Hawaii. We came back to our driving cart and we were blocked in by members who had randomly parked in front of us. I finally got out and moved the cart from some old guy who parked right in front of us and had toddled off to the range, oblivious that he had blocked us in with his cart. Clueless!

As we waited for our tee time and watched other groups teeing off on the front 9 which was called ’Middlemore’, we saw that the cart path seemed to be closed by the first tee and other members were navigating up a small ramp and then driving beside the putting green, to the first tee.

Small black ramp off the cart path, to drive beside the putting green, to the first tee. We had watched 3 groups do the exact same thing to navigate to the first tee since the cart path had construction on it. As soon as it was our turn to navigate the ramp and drive up beside the putting green we get this “HEY MATE, YOU‘RE NOT SUPPOSED TO DRIVE UP HERE!” Yeesh! So much for good first impressions of this very private golf club! So we told the member that was yelling at us, that the cart path was closed and we had just watched 3 other groups pull up next to the tee, and then he proceeds to tell us, he hasn’t been here since the flooding, so “Good on ya”, have a good day. I’m glad we were playing as a twosome, because already the members were getting on my nerves and we had not even teed off!

The view from the first tee. A dog leg right par 5. 426 metres. We were told that the sand traps were not to be played out of, since the course had so much rain, and the sand in the traps was like cement from all of the rain in the past week.

Par 3, 2nd hole, 104 metres from the Gold tees. The greens were very firm and undulating.

The golf course really took some figuring out and I’m glad the cart had a gps system in it, with a map overview, hole flyover, to be able to see where the water hazards were, because they were not visible off the tee on some holes.

The back of the Royal Auckland and Grange club house with a beautiful patio overlooking the golf course. The clubhouse as it turns out was only opened in March 2020. Not a great time to open a new clubhouse, with Covid, locking everything down about that time. The nine hole front nine we were playing called ‘Middlemore’ is a Chris Cochran, Nicklaus Design, and was only opened in 2022…no wonder the greens wouldn’t hold any approach shots to the green!

The back patio of the Royal Auckland and Grange Golf clubhouse.

9th hole of ‘Middlemore’. I had a great drive on this hole. I was so close to the green off the tee, I had a small chip shot into the green and made the putt for a birdie.

I had brought a few Belvenia chocolate breakfast cookies for us to eat in sealed packages, since New Zealand has such strict biohazard restrictions I did not want to bring anything from the ship to eat, unless it was pre-packaged. We were hungry though after 9 holes, so I asked Richard to please buy us some sandwiches while I went to the ladies room.

When I got back to the cart I asked for the sandwich and this was all there was to it!

White bread, no crust, 2 thin slices of ham, one slice of cheese, and a bit of lettuce with relish on the sandwich. I knew I would need to savour this sandwich if I was to last the back 9! Oh my, this club!

I brought exactly 6 ProV1 golf balls for this World Cruise/golf trip. Personalized too, and so far, so good. I have not had to go and buy any new golf balls!

There were a few un inspiring houses along the back nine course which was called Tamaki. Tamaki Makaurau is the Maori name for Auckland which means ‘desired by many’ because of the abundance of natural resources, strategic vantage points, and portage routes. In Polynesian the word Tamaki means ‘BATTLE’. We hoped the back nine would not be a TAMAKI today!

We felt a few scant raindrops as we teed off on the 5th hole (14th) on the back nine and we were really hoping the rain, that had been called for, would hold off until we finished our round.

We got our round in, and Richard went on the patio and ordered a drink. I followed shortly after and I was just about to sit down to enjoy the view from the back patio, when the rain started coming down sideways.

We moved into the very modern clubhouse to finish our drinks. I really enjoyed the Bundaberg, non alcoholic soda today. It was very refreshing after golf, with the bitters in it!

Richard had to go and move our clubs from the bag drop area because the rain was coming down really hard and we didn’t want wet bags to store under the bed in our cabin! After perusing the pro shop and buying Richard a long sleeved pullover, we were ready to take another Uber ride back to the Neptune in rush hour traffic.

I had a pretty good round today at Royal Auckland and Grange Golf Club.

I think the scoring on the left is correct, if I were to record this score in their computer system. I really liked the greens and found them very ‘puttable’ and I made quite a few long putts to save par today. The course layout though from the front to the back was quite different and I’m a purist and like a golf course that ‘flows’ and this course did not flow at all for me. A couple of silly short par 4’s to start the back nine, was strange followed by some really long unreachable par 4’s. Anyway, I would give it a 7/10 if I was grading just the golf course. The initial shock of seeing the clubhouse and thinking “That’s it?” wore off, once we were inside and saw how functional and beautiful the space was. The members though, were another matter, but we won’t be going back there to play again, so we won’t have to deal with them.

We got back to our cabin and both quickly had showers and changed out of our golf clothes, because we wanted to eat out in Auckland this evening. Since we’ve been on the Neptune for so long, we were both craving some good, hearty, ‘pub food’. Comfort food! We walked down by the waterfront in the opposite direction we had walked yesterday and we found an entire promising section of restaurants and pubs that abutted the harbour and private yacht club.

The Fox, a British pub is all decorated with American flags for the upcoming Super Bowl game next weekend.

A steak and ale cheese pie with mushy pea gravy, peas and mashed potatoes for me.

Butter chicken, with basmati rice, mint yoghurt sauce and papadum for Richard.

A delicious meal and just what we needed, at an affordable price of about $55 including a pint of Guinness for Richard and a glass of shiraz for me. Tipping is not done at restaurants in Auckland, but rounding up to an even number is encouraged.

Sailboats outside the restaurant where we had dinner. The Park Hyatt hotel is in the background. Auckland is a beautiful city and the ability to walk to many shops and restaurants in the CBD (Central Business District) is very appealing.

The rain had started again as we walked back to the Neptune to go to the World Cafe for a bowl of gelato each! We worked hard today golfing, so I think we both deserved it!

We enjoyed our day out golfing in Auckland, instead of doing more tours today. It was nice to play such a storied old club, despite some of the issues with the members we had, who did not make us feel very welcome. Regardless, it was a nice day of golf and I’m really looking forward to the next round in a few days!

Tomorrow I think it will be raining again in the morning, so we will do the HoHo bus and see where that takes us, to give our feet and bodies a bit of a rest tomorrow. There only is so much time when we are in port, so we need to pace ourselves instead of trying to cram a week’s worth of activity into 3 short days! I’m pooped and Richard has been asleep for hours now. We also need to pack sunscreen in our golf bags. Richard got the worst sunburn on his face and buying aloe Vera will be on our list of things to do tomorrow!


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