This morning we had the privilege of gaining insight into one of the most unique golf clubs on earth ‚?? Burning Tree. ¬†Sadly we didn‚??t play the course; we didn‚??t have time. ¬†However a kind member named Frank called ahead and arranged for the pro, Michael, to give us a tour and school us a little on the club‚??s surreal history. ¬†Some of you may have heard of the club. ¬†Certainly in golf circles there‚??s a fair bit of folklore surrounding its ethos and practices. ¬†Some are true; some aren‚??t; and some...well, we don‚??t (and will never) know.
I can tell you that women aren‚??t allowed on the property, save for a short period on Christmas Eve (to allow them to purchase gifts for their husbands in the pro shop). ¬†‚??Burning Tree is, and will forever be, a man‚??s club,‚?Ě I read on the wall. ¬†There are stories circulating about female pilots in distress crash landing on the property and being escorted immediately off it without delay; of female paramedics showing up to cart off a member who‚??s had a heart attack on the course, only to be told they must wait at the gate; and so on. ¬†There are other stories yet about members playing in the nude, or hitting balls on the range in their underwear. ¬†It‚??s not my place to confirm or deny whether tales these are true, or to spread the rumours yet further. ¬†But, to be honest, I wouldn‚??t be surprised.
There are no rules at Burning Tree ‚?? rather the only rules governing members‚?? conduct are the rules of honour, good humour and sportsmanship (or principles to these effects ‚?? I should‚??ve taken a photo of the charter in question). ¬†Wandering through the clubhouse I took time to read carefully several beautifully prepared and framed documents, encapsulating the spirit of this place. ¬†One in fact was entitled The Spirit of Burning Tree. ¬†Another was an address by a former Supreme Court Justice, dated 1957. ¬†We also saw paintings and other gifts presented by past Presidents of the United States to the club. ¬†They were all members here.
Among the current and past members are 4 and 5 star generals; Presidents; and the like. ¬†In the locker room are a number of flags hanging handsomely from the ceiling ‚?? each being a flag bestowed upon the member by virtue of their office. ¬†Quite amazing stuff, I can tell you. ¬†Apparently Eisenhauer played something like 800 games of golf during his 4 years in office ‚?? and half of those were here. ¬†Again, I wouldn‚??t be surprised.
You can‚??t help but be impressed by Burning Tree. ¬†The course itself looks beautiful (a C.H. Alison design ‚?? who at the time was in partnership with H. Colt and Dr. A. MacKenzie). ¬†Simple, traditional, and you better believe it‚??s well manicured (the entrances to the greens are hand mown). ¬†But the clubhouse and, more pertinently, the atmosphere of this place are what makes it so special. ¬†In today‚??s world where gender barriers are becoming fewer and further between, Burning Tree is something of a last bastion of male domination. ¬†Those stirring speeches and charters I mentioned before speak directly to that domination. ¬†
In this sense the club must surely be the paradigm, the archetypal old boys‚?? club. ¬†I‚??m sure the members wouldn‚??t mind that accusation being leveled at them at all. ¬†¬†In days gone by there was a standing invitation to US Supreme Court Justices to come and play. ¬†Then Sandra Day O‚??Connor got elected to the Court, and one day rang up to let them know she‚??d be coming down for a game. ¬†An emergency meeting was held and the standing ¬†invitation rescinded! ¬†Justice O‚??Connor, so the story goes, then took it upon herself to exact some revenge. ¬†To my knowledge, she managed to get their tax credit removed. ¬†The members apparently didn‚??t care and footed up with the extra cash anyway ‚?? I imagine they‚??re not hard up for a buck.
Whether rightly or wrongly ‚?? and I make no judgment here ‚?? the members have clearly cultivated a place where they can relax, entirely. ¬†Often, we were told, they will show up as singles or perhaps with a friend, looking for a game. ¬†A social dynamic, whereby the gents mix and mingle, rather than a club fragmented into political clusters. ¬†Funny, in a way, given the place is full of high profile politicians! ¬†
Anyway it was a privilege to experience Burning Tree and to imagine what life would be like as a member. ¬†Michael was an informative and generous tour guide, and the members we came across in the hallways were very pleasant. ¬†If only there were more days in the year...
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