Easy. There’s a calcified rat in your golf bag. That same rat probably starved to death after working its way through half your golf towel and all of your gloves.

This happened to the same bloke who, when he finally did play, marked his ball with an empty sleeve of Voltarin. It’s his back, you see. The same bloke who found a pack of Marlboro Lights and some matches in his golf bag, but he can’t remember the last time he actually smoked. “Must have been on a golf course,” he ventured. “Probably with you morons.”

For years, but not in years, three or four of us used to get together for a few days away. We called it Mr Mulloway and bought a trophy to play for. It was a combination of golfing, fishing, cards and drinking; the sort of stuff that might end up in a Paul Kelly song. Only, instead of being melancholy, it’s as much a celebration of what we used to be, as it is about what we’ve become.

Somehow we all managed to find the same hole in our schedules for two whole nights away. It felt like a miracle, like trying to organise your best friends for a dinner a month away. Then it was a matter of where. What would be the best place for freshly-minted 50-year-olds to swap lies and cast insults to get them through the next long, matey hiatus?

His paddock was perfect for pregnant sheep we weren’t allowed to look at in case we scared the lambs out of them. It was flat and cleared and possibly not the rolling thunder I might have created in my mind. 

I thought Barnbougle would be good. Or Adelaide and those Four Reds. But the bloke with the wonky back and towel-eating rat had other ideas. He’s a part-time farmer now, “best we go there,” he mused. “It’s close to pretty much everything, but far enough away to be near nothing.” And then. “Wait ‘til you see it, Daddster. You’ll figure out exactly what’s possible as soon as we drive through the gate.”

I fully expected to walk his paddock in gum boots, possibly with some kind of weapon, or at the very least a 7-iron. We’d stake out a course, I thought. Like Norman or Clayton, I’d point to folds in the land and suggest bunkers and greens. Holes would present themselves from the natural ebb and flow in the land. It’d be a simple case of mowing the middle and digging the bunkers.

Somehow, our few days of the lads catching up, would become an odyssey. We were on the precipice of a new golf course in golf coursing land. Bah to Barnbougle. King Island what? We were about to create Mulloway, what a name for a course, I thought. What a ring it has. “You played Mulloway?” 

“Whatcha doin’ this weekend? Yeah? Really? Having dinner with the Queen? Sounds good, but I’m playing Mulloway! I know, sucks to be me.”

Of course, I didn’t say any of this because it sounds like lunacy, but why else would he say I’d figure out exactly what was possible? He knows I’m a busted golfing unit. He knows I mowed a tee and a green into my backyard even though it’s only ten metres wide. For sure he’s aware of the calling. 

Turns out he wasn’t. 

His paddock was perfect for pregnant sheep we weren’t allowed to look at in case we scared the lambs out of them. It was flat and cleared and possibly not the rolling thunder I might have created in my mind. 

So that dream disappeared pretty quickly. 

But his place isn’t far from 13th Beach on Victoria’s Bellarine Peninsula, a significantly better, well-trodden golfing option. I had been there once, not long after it first opened and was instantly struck by how good time had been to the place. Both courses were beautiful. From tee to green we were literally out of excuses.

Thirteenth Beach in all its glory. PHOTO: Brendan James

The same couldn’t really be said for us. A sorry series of stretches was a lame attempt at a warm-up, and even that was punctuated with haggling over handicaps.

Despite the setting, and perfect weather, the golf was never really about golf. I mean, it was brilliant to play and be challenged at every turn. But rare moments with true best mates are about surviving the sledging and being able to get bat to ball. It’s about being reminded of a five putt on the 16th at Metro, the “long march” at Horizons or having to see the Russian “Reloadski” after bunting another ball into the boondah. 

It was a good reminder that often the best golf offers us, is time together. Yes, good shots are great, but they’re better with a bit of history behind them.