John Dean has been one of the driving forces behind the very popular GolfPunk Magazine. Now he’s taking a break to do what he likes best: traveling and playing golf . John goes on an Interrail golf trip by train through 9 European countries, playing golf in every country he visits. This is his story!
And I’m off on the first leg of my golfing train journey adventure around Europe, courtesy of Interrail.
My first mission is get to St Pancras to catch the Eurostar to Paris. which leaves at 06.18am. You do need to check in at least 45 minutes before, so I find myself on the 4am milk train out of Haywards Heath in mid Sussex.
My traveling companion on this golf trip by train is a Big Max Double Decker golf bag holder, which contains my beloved sticks and all my earthly possessions for my month on the rails. It’s described as a hybrid bag, and can hold two complete sets of golf clubs, and all your clobber. I am going to give it a proper rail rather than road test for my month on the permanent way.
Feeling the excitement
The Eurostar is a unique experience: you feel more like that you are getting set to board a plane rather than a train, and everyone is buzzing, even at this early hour. There’s a palpable sense of excited expectation in the air, and I’m carried along by it.
If you are going on a golf trip by train and you’re taking a golf bag on the Eurostar you should book it in, and pay a supplement, but as my train is running later, I manage to blag my way on. I won’t be so lucky on my return journey, but I am up and running and soon accelerating out of London and through the Kent countryside.
The Channel Tunnel is also celebrating an important anniversary this year, as it is 25 years since it opened way back in 1994. It takes just 35 minutes to cover the 31.4 miles of the tunnel, of which 23.5 miles are under the sea, making it the longest undersea portion of any tunnel in the world. Put that in your pipe!
An average of 60,000 passengers pass through the tunnel each day, along with 4,600 trucks, 140 coaches and 7,300 cars. Each train is 775 metres long, which is equivalent to eight football pitches.
It is simply an awe inspiring piece of engineering, and is a wonderful way to break the bounds of the UK, and head into the heart of France, and Paris in just two hours and 16 minutes.
This is very much a moving day, if you’ll forgive the pun, and I’m not done by making it to Paris, as I now need to get in position for my first round of golf which will be at the stunning Royal Mougins in Cannes.
I take the metro from Gare Du Nord to Gare Du Lyon, and I am then ready for my first ever TGV experience, which will take me straight to the coast of the Mediterranean and the melting pot of a port city that is Marseilles.
With an Interrail pass you do need to book reservations on some key routes, and the Paris to Marseilles leg is one of them. It’s a €20 supplement, but you’ll have the peace of mind of a guaranteed seat.
Getting ready to play
There are no dramas with my golf bag this time, and I spend my next three hours and 24 minutes to be absolutely precise, starring out of the window watching the French countryside fly by.
A TGV test train set the world record for the fastest wheeled train, reaching 574.8 km/h (357.2 mph) on 3 April 2007, which is simply hard to comprehend.
My train chews up the 750 kilometre journey at a more sedate 200mph, and by the middle of the afternoon I am siting sipping my first glass of beer of the trip, with the best part of 1,400 kilometres under my belt. Ok, so I haven’t yet teed it up, but I am now knocking on the door of Cannes and Royal Mougins, which is just a two hour train journey that will take me right along the glorious French Riviera and the Cote D’Azur.