Saturday, November 8, 2008

Pianu de Jos: Championship Course in Romania

The Four-star Golf Hotel Pianu and the Paul Tomita Golf Course, home of Round I of the Romanian National Individual Golf Champ- ionship held on 27-28 September, 2008 are located at the tiny village of Pianu de Jos, some 12 Km southwest of Alba Iulia, itself about 100 Km south of Cluj. The web site to which I have linked you above describes the course as private. It is privately owned, but is very much open to the public, at least in early November. Since the September championships, extensive upgrades to the course have been initiated, including all new Tee-Boxes, many new bunkers, and new fringe drainage around the greens. As all this work is still in progress, being done partially by the owner, himself. The course is rough at present, though it must have been a very nice one, indeed, when primed for the tournaments it hosts, which are several each year. (As Romania has but four golf courses, the tournaments come often to this, its longest course at 5800 Meters).

Pro Shop
The young golf teacher present today was Gabriel, whose mother called while we were there to send her love on "his" Saint's Day, 8 November. He could not have been nicer to Vasile and me, two of only a dozen or so players on this beautiful fall Saturday of sunshine and about 60 degree (Fahrenheit) weather. The greens fee, walking (no carts were available), was a whopping 50 Lei, under $20, for as much golf as we cared to play. We were warned that the greens were slow, the conditions rough, and the course under construction in places. Gabriel rented me his own "old" clubs for 25 Lei, a complete set including a Taylormade 320 Driver, and he provided the used balls in his golf bag free of charge.

10th Hole from Tees
Vasile parred the Par-3 1oth as we launched on the back nine. He chipped in from about 15 meters. I told him that was terrible luck, to make such a great shot on the first hole. I took my bogey cu placere. From there on my driver performed beautifully, hitting uncharacteristic, for me, high fades that were consistently in the faiways and over 200 meters. A couple were much longer. When we returned to the clubhouse, I wanted to offer Gabriel 100 Lei for his old driver, but he was not in sight. Anyhow, drives aside, I hit my share of duffs, but finished our nine-hole day with the same Pinnacle 3 that I started with, and a score of 50. I was quite happy. Vasile, showing excellent golfing potential, shot a 53, in spite of losing three balls (for a couple of which we didn't assess penalty strokes, as they were lost in autumn leaves on the fairways).

Vasile had not had anything to eat all day, so we went into the hotel restaurant for lunch about 2:30. We were the sole customers. All they offered was soup and a sandwich at 22 Lei each, but it was excellent soup, and Vasile was starving, so we ate there, and I snapped this picture of Vasile standing in the Nineteeth Hole, next to the fish pond. It is a beautiful hotel, and I expect that next spring this will be a very good golf course. It is on a hill overlooking the Mures River Valley, with the white buildings of Alba Iulia off to the northeast, and Cartpathian mountains bordering the valley to the west and south. The views are gorgeous, the course has many interesting holes, and the people were great. Imagine Vasile's chatting with the owner as he leaned on his shovel while I hit an impressive high fade to right-center fairway, 100 meters from a Par four green. Yes, imagine that.

Colonel, Craig and Brad, you are all invited over about 22 May, 2009. Let's spend a three-day weekend at a four-star golf hotel in Romania. Shirl, you and I can play here, too. Bring your clubs when you come in the spring!

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