Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

January 24, 2022
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Head for the Hockley Hills

A his-and-hers spa and golf getaway in southern Ontario

Ten years ago I would have told you that golf was boring and stupid. How was I to know that I would become addicted to chasing dimpled white balls all over the planet?

Ten years ago, my husband Bill would not have set foot in a spa. But times change. So here we are at the Hockley Valley Resort in Orangeville, Ontario, for a golf and spa getaway weekend.

In its first Golfers' Choice Awards, SCORE Golf Magazine gave the golf course at Hockley a bronze rating for Best Resort Course. The sign pointing to the ski and golf bag drop warns of the roller-coaster ride that designer Thomas McBroom carved out of the Hockley Hills. Carts are mandatory here and you'll quickly discover why.

The first, relatively flat hole, is a gentle start. The up- and downhill battle starts on number two and continues through to number 17. McBroom didn't have a lot of land to work with on the Scottish links-style layout. Yardage ranges from 6403 from the championship back tees to 4646 from the forward tees (it's now politically incorrect to call them ladies' tees). The front nine features two par threes; the back nine has four. Get behind a bunch of duffers on a corporate outing and those short holes become bottlenecks. But remember, a slow day on the golf course is better than any day at the office, so enjoy the view -- especially in autumn when the deciduous trees flaunt their fall colours.

With narrow fairways, lots of fescue rough and elevation changes, club selection and marksmanship are critical. On the number five, par three, the hourglass entrance to the green narrows to the length of your putter. The contours don't end on the fairways -- the sadistic side of McBroom must have had fun with several tri-level greens. Mercifully, the course has no sand traps, but a number of pot bunkers will test your aim. Hockley's signature hole, number 16, is also the toughest. From the back tees this 476-yard par four demands a long, straight tee shot and an approach onto a heavily guarded three-tiered green. The yardage book states "Par here is fabulous!" I wouldn't know.

Number 18 introduces something seldom encountered on the upper holes -- water. Not once but twice. First you must navigate the Nottawasaga River, then a large pond guarding the green.

From the green to the spa
Knowing that the Hockley Valley Resort caters to a number of conference groups, my culinary expectations were not grand. I expected rubber chicken prepared for the masses. Horizons' dining room proved me wrong. Egyptian chef Kamal Bekheet's menu is both innovative and cosmopolitan. I started with grilled marinated portobello mushrooms dressed up with a splash of truffle oil, followed by sea bass on a bed of herbed risotto and a puddle of lobster sauce. Bill had a spicy Cajun eggplant soup and chicken with a brilliant Chardonnay sauce. Crème brulée tarts, mango mousse and a couple of Spanish coffees on the covered patio rounded out a memorable dinner with top-notch service. For less indulgent appetites, the chef also includes "heart smart" items listing calories and nutritional breakdowns.

My idea of a perfect getaway includes great golf, good food and some pampering. With new spas opening at hotels and resorts all over the world, I'm obviously not the only hedonist on the planet. Hoping to convert Bill to a spa aficionado, I'd booked a Vichy rain massage, facial and pedicure for myself and a Swedish massage and pedicure for him at Hockley's new European Spa. I figured we'd start him with the basics and work up to such treatments as the Gentleman's Facial or Slimming Pineapple Body Wrap. He ate his breakfast with enthusiasm but entered the etched glass doors of the sanctuary with trepidation. While I was enjoying a full-body massage under a track of shower nozzles that sprayed a gentle warm rain over me, my better half was being pummeled (his words) by his masseuse.

"Enjoy your massage?" I asked over our spa lunch. "It's not really my thing," Bill shrugged as he ate a colourful fig, prosciutto and raspberry salad. Wait until the pedicurist starts on his feet, I thought. Bill needs clippers as tough as garden secateurs to trim his toenails.

He actually enjoyed the pedicure, especially the heated "throne" seat with remote-control automatic back massage. Maybe he was starting to mellow. Maybe a decade from now he'll be game to try a side-by-side Couples' Massage, or a Sunshine Facial featuring vitamin C and bioflavinoids from the famous Italian blood oranges of Sicily. Right. And maybe I'll have a single-digit handicap.


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