Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Minigolfing gluten free in Margate

I’m an avid blogger and tweeter on all things Minigolf and Gluten Free so with May being Celiac Awareness Month in the USA and Canada and Coeliac UK running its annual Awareness Week from the 12th to the 18th May what better time for me to be exploring the gluten free options available while on a roadtrip to the British Minigolf Association’s National Championships in Margate, Kent.

Minigolfer, and Coeliac, 'Squire' Richard Gottfried at Strokes Adventure Golf course in Margate

Arriving in Margate in the early afternoon on practice-day-Friday Emily and I headed straight for Strokes Adventure Golf course on Westbrook Promenade. We’d spent the previous day in nearby Whitstable – via Gillingham and the Isle of Sheppey – and had a great meal at the Pearson’s Arms on the seafront there.

Richard Gottfried playing the 14th hole at Strokes Adventure Golf course

After the first practice round – Emily winning by 39(+3) to my 41(+5) – we had a bit of a sit-down with team-mate/rival John ‘Thighs’ Moore. While we were relaxing a bit of post arrived for me at the course, in the form of a Coeliac UK t-shirt!

Special delivery

A second practice round followed, with me, Emily and John having a round with BMGA Tour rookie Derek ‘Needs a nickname’ Bentall. The scores in this round saw me hit a 38(+2), with John shooting a 39(+3), Emily a 44(+8) and Derek a 46(+10).

Strokes Adventure Golf course in Margate, Kent
Playing the 16th hole - Shark's Teeth - at Strokes Adventure Golf course

After some more practice on the course’s more testing holes Emily and I headed off to check in to our hotel and explore Margate. We hadn’t been to the town since the BMGA British Open tournament in 2012 so we wanted to see what had changed. The Old Town in Margate is always worth a look and we popped into a few of the new vintage shops searching out old postcards.

Unfortunately one of the things that had changed for the worse in the town is the closure of the classic Arnold Palmer Crazy Golf course in Cliftonville. We played there in 2007 and 2011.

On the plus-side The Ambrette restaurant is still going strong in Margate and after our last visit – a recommendation by Matt Wood at Strokes Adventure Golf – we were really looking forward to our meal.

What a gluten free feast

I can’t recommend The Ambrette enough, it really is great. The staff are very knowledgeable about the gluten free needs of Coeliac diners and when you eat there you don’t feel like you’re missing out on anything. For example, with the main course you are served a dosa pancake, rather than a naan bread – whereas in many other places you’d just have to ‘go without’. My dessert of Chocolate Silk was amazing. 

Time for pudding at The Ambrette

The first day’s play of the 2014 BMGA British Minigolf Championships teed-off on National Miniature Golf Day and the minigolfing gods were somewhat on our side as the rain which had been forecast never arrived. However, the field of 30-players had to contend with some very windy weather indeed, making the difficult Strokes course even harder in places. With nine-rounds(!) in total a lot of minigolf was to be played over the weekend.

A view of the 18-hole Strokes Adventure Golf course in Margate, Kent
A rather overcast day in Margate

During the rules briefing and announcement of the groups and playing order I tweeted "This year's @bmga_minigolf championships @strokesgolf features a Portuguese and a Canadian. And a bunch of Brits. #minigolf #Margate" to which @Strokesgolf replied "and a coeliac." Brilliant :-)

Despite the wind cutting through the players there were still some opportunities to play some great shots and Emily and I hit ten and eight holes-in-one during the day respectively.

Prior to visiting places on the BMGA Tour and during our roadtrips I will put out a tweet or two to see if anyone can recommend anywhere to safely eat gluten free.

A great reply came from Annie’s Supperclub and Larder who let me know she was able to arrange delivery of a variety of picnic and lunch orders to any of the beaches, or stations (and Minigolf courses!) in Thanet. This sounded great, as I always struggle to eat anything substantial during the day while playing in a competition. 

While I did keep myself going on the Pom Bears Strokes Adventure Golf course sells, it was great to know I’d be having a proper lunch too.

The lunch of a Chicken & Bacon Sub (freshly baked bread), a bag of Prawn Cocktail crisps and a Chocolate Cupcake was great and I’d certainly use the service again and recommend it to others. It made such a big difference in being able to eat some well made, fresh and tasty food – all in the knowledge it was 100% gluten free and made by someone with extensive knowledge of coeliac disease and gluten free food.

Lunchtime - a proper meal after a busy morning of tournament minigolf

Having had two large and delicious meals out on Thursday and Friday, plus a filling lunch, I opted for a ‘hotel room picnic’, while Emily had a meal at the hotel restaurant while we watched the Eurovision Song Contest with some of our fellow minigolfers – living the high-life!

Having visited the local Morrisons it was an opportunity to complete one of the Coeliac UK Awareness Week postcards detailing what was available in the store’s free from section. I duly noted what was there, and what was missing, and sent this off. I’d encourage all my fellow coeliacs to have a look in their local (or not so local) supermarkets to help inform the work of Coeliac UK.

Day two began much like day one, with windy weather, but a little less sun – that’s not to say we didn’t catch the sun after three days exposure – getting a nice tan on my face and hands!

During the break between rounds the Hole-In-One Charity Challenge took place, with 28-players stepping up to tackle the 17th hole – the Ski Jump – with a standard low-bounce course ball, rather than with a Minigolf sport ball that we’d used during the main-event.

Playing the 17th hole at Strokes Adventure Golf during the BMGA Hole-in-One Challenge contest

I was third to play the hole, with neither of the first two players managing to score an Ace I lined-up the shot, hit it for a jump over the ramp, a rebound off the bricks at the back of the green and in it went! I greeted the shot with my Ace-shout of “Yee-ha” and a round of applause from my fellow competitors. It was a nervy ten or so minutes of waiting for the rest of the field to give it a shot. Luckily for me no-one else managed to score a hole-in-one, though some came very very close, so I won the shootout – my first win in a BMGA Hole-in-One Challenge!

Just as I was being declared the winner of the challenge contest I noticed my lunch from Annie’s Larder was arriving – a great victory meal of Falafel Sub with a salad, Prawn Cocktail crisps and a Lemon Polenta Cake.

Playing the 11th - Heartbreak Ridge - a real killer hole in Minigolf

It was a brilliant weekend of minigolf, food & drink, good company and nice seasides.

Thank you to Matt, Brian and Frankie at Strokes Adventure Golf for allowing me to use the course as my weekend’s residence and 'mail-drop' and to the team at Coeliac UK for putting the t-shirt and Awareness Week information in the post to me.

Strokes Adventure Golf course - an 18-hole Minigolf course on Westbrook Promenade in Margate Kent
Strokes Adventure Golf course in Margate - well worth a visit 

For more information about Coeliac UK, Coeliac Disease and the Gluten-free Guarantee Awareness Week check out the Coeliac UK website.

As a Coeliac I’m always keen to highlight the condition and spread the word in order to get more places offering uncontaminated gluten-free choices. I’m also a Gfree Athlete with the Glutenlibre team based in the USA. Check out my interview with them here.

Coeliac Disease is a lifelong autoimmune disease caused by intolerance to gluten and while there is no cure (yet!) the only treatment is to adhere (endure) a strict lifelong gluten free diet – which can be harder than you think when you factor in the risks and hazards of cross-contamination!


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1 comment:

Richard Gottfried said...

Minigolfing gluten free in Hastings was not a patch on Minigolfing gluten free in Margate earlier this season.

As a Coeliac there's a real dearth of safe places to eat in Hastings. A real shame.

Didn't eat much at all :-( A 'good' way to lose six pounds in weight!

Nice to have my first cooked meal in four days on arriving home late yesterday though :-)