I‚??m afraid it‚??s true. ¬†Michael and I are only human. ¬†Well I am anyway, jury‚??s still out on y‚??er man. ¬†Though we‚??d like to be shining beacons of enthusiasm to you, dear friends, every day...sometimes it‚??s just not possible. ¬†Or even appropriate. ¬†This journey you see can be challenging. ¬†It might be a tumbling of rain from the skies; a quarrel over something petty; bad news about our solvency; doubts about our ability to Succeed; negative feedback from a Doubting Thomas; or any combination of downward pulling factors. ¬†Or, even, just an ‚??off‚?Ě day. ¬†99 times out of a hundred life on The Road is frighteningly good, and our spirits soar high. ¬†That other lone per cent though is just as much part of the journey as any other ‚?? and we‚??d be na√Įve to ignore it. ¬†
No apocalypse, don‚??t worry. ¬†Just reflections on a day where I‚??d perhaps rather not have been half of puregolf2010. ¬†In this instance, no trigger event to point to either. ¬†J D Patton on Day 306 was just flat as a pancake; to those who shared the day with me, then, please forgive me. ¬†
Our new friend Phil Adcock who has so handsomely look after us in north Leeds teed up a visit to Moortown: site of the first Ryder Cup on English soil in 1929. ¬†A Dr. Alistair MacKenzie layout, no less. ¬†Or so the story goes. ¬†Peter Rishworth is the Secretary at Moortown, and what a good natured Yorkshireman he is too (Peter if you‚??re not from Yorkshire please forgive my ears ‚?? must be all the music I bounce off my ear drums with terrifying regularity and intensity). ¬†He explained to us a bit about the history of the club and that Dr. MacKenzie laid down next door Alwoodley ‚??as practice for his real masterpiece.‚?Ě ¬†Who am I to question such an assertion?
Well over the subsequent few hours I found myself doing just that. ¬†Try as I might, I just couldn‚??t ‚??get‚?Ě Moortown. ¬†Where the other MacKenzie courses we‚??ve played ‚?? The Alwoodley very much included ‚?? have Atmosphere at every turn, Moortown was...different. ¬†I‚??m no course reviewer by any stretch of the imagination, but can only talk to my experience. ¬†The dodgy weather didn‚??t so much bother me (well used to that by now, and having grown up in bonnie Scotland). ¬†Nor was the hospitality anything short of marvellous (Peter upon taking his leave organised bacon butties and coffee for us, to line the stomachs). ¬†The company too was grand ‚?? Phil and his pal Alex being perfect gentlemen and not short of a pearl of banter. ¬†But every dog has his (off) day. ¬†And this day was mine.
Later in the evening we caught up with a tremendous South African lad by the name of Cameron Roy, whom we‚??ve been in contact with throughout the year. ¬†He‚??s a huge great strapping lad that came across here to play cricket; and who married an Irish girl (lucky sod) and got stuck. ¬†Despite having two young nippers he made the time to come and meet us for a beer in central Leeds at none other than the Neon Cactus. ¬†Sounds like time is very precious hwen there are little ‚??uns about... ¬†Cam had jacked up our happy visit to the Alwoodley yesterday, along with a couple of media slots. ¬†It was nice then to get the chance to thank him in person and put a face to the name (so many people we come across this year are just the name on their email address until we actually meet them in ¬†the flesh...). ¬†In my next life I think I‚??d like to be a South African ‚?? love the accent...
Ganton tomorrow...should be a blinder...
When we woke up in my cousin Simon‚??s flat on Sunday morning, two thirds of puregolf2010 were Not Well. ¬†A dodgy Ruby Murray ‚?? ironically from ‚??Lucky Tandoori‚?Ě ‚?? was causing mayhem in the gastronomic quarters of Messrs Goldstein and De Vries; and I was struggling to contain my amusement. ¬†After an absolutely smashing couple of days seeing family I hadn‚??t seen in years, it was with heavy hearts and dodgy guts that we left for Aldeburgh ‚?? a quaint wee town an hour down the coast in Suffolk. ¬†There we would be meeting Willie Lebus, one of the more colourful characters of the year.
The story was a one that has become increasingly familiar of late. ¬†That is, our friend Paul organised the game with Willie at the 11th hour, the day prior. ¬†He was up for the weekend from London with his wife, and fortunately for us was only too happy to entertain. ¬†In more ways than one. ¬†Paul had mentioned over the phone that Willie was one of life‚??s truly great characters, but even that couldn‚??t have prepared us for the side splitting eccentricity he exudes. ¬†On an overcast Sunday in Norfolk ‚?? when 2 out of our 3 were struggling to keep their trousers clean ‚?? a healthy dose of Monsieur Lebus was just what the doctor ordered. ¬†
Aldeburgh itself seems to be an apt weekend getaway for City Folk, just a couple of hours away by car. ¬†¬†Once you‚??re there though, you may as well be in Wick, such is the relaxed vibe. ¬†Not on the coast but near it. ¬†The town is a bonnie wee one from what we could make out and, as fate would have it, it has a fantastic golf club to call its own.
On arrival I ventured immediately into the clubhouse, which is a Panmure-esque job. ¬†Very traditional and homely. ¬†Having poked my nose into every nook and cranny there was still no sign of Willie, so I began my retreat to the car park. ¬†As I was about to push open the front door a shorter man than me wearing a big navy blue fleece and cap burst through. ¬†I knew right away it could only be Mr. Lebus. ¬†‚??Those are a well travelled looking set of clubs out there; ...must be one of the New Zealanders...‚?Ě ¬†Indeed, Kia Ora Willie, Te Na Kou Tou Te Na Kou Tou Te Na Kou Tou Katoa. ¬†The man had Energy.
Back outside we were introduced to his wife, who was fantastically named Venetia (I can only assume) by her parents. ¬†Venetia‚??s family hail from Nu Zillin, so once more we found ourselves in the company of someone who probably knows more about ‚??our country‚?Ě than we do. ¬†(This has happened several times of late). ¬†Venetia was supposed to be joining us for golf, but in Bart she found an excuse not to. ¬†Just the lads then.
As has become customary for us down in England, we played a foursomes match. ¬†Notwithstanding the near miss that we had at Royal West Norfolk, Goldy and I were paired together once more (this time it was the ball toss that conspired against us). ¬†My faith in his short game at this point had reached even lower levels than Friday, because Ruby Murray threatened to be very much a factor. ¬†Nothing like a cold sweat moistening your brow when you‚??re playing a flop shot from the greenside heather...
Willie‚??s involved with the biggest independent wine merchant in the UK, so given our interest in the stuff we had plenty to chat about from the get go. ¬†Bart‚??s even planning to start an export business smuggling NZ wine into South East Asia when he gets back. ¬†I think I‚??ll just continue supporting the industry in the best way I know how and to the best of my ability. ¬†Michael‚??s nodding in agreement too. ¬†I imagine Willie‚??s a good man to have on tour, but sadly he‚??s passing on the upcoming Lucifers trip to God‚??s Own (‚??Some people have to work...‚?Ě). ¬†
The course itself was, I suppose, an inland links. ¬†Good sandy soil just a mile or two from the Suffolk coast. ¬†There used to be a fair bit of gorse around but like many clubs they‚??ve ripped a fair bit of it out in recent times. ¬†Improves pace of play, of course. ¬†No par 5s either. ¬†What struck me most were the views back down the hill to the clubhouse from holes like the 7th. ¬†On a clearer day I suspect we could‚??ve seen the North Sea too, in all its aqua blue splendour. ¬†For what it‚??s worth I also thought the short par 3 4th hole was a gem too ‚?? with a 50 yard long narrow green pitched back towards you making it difficult to gauge where the pin actually is.
Goldy played quite delightful golf for the most part ‚?? showing signs that he‚??s coming back into some form. ¬†Willie was beside himself as Goldy caressed high 4 irons from 220 yards to 15 feet, or nipped a wee pitch stone dead. ¬†Michael‚??s Masterclass was Quite Masterful. ¬†Remarkable I can still take such pleasure in watching him play well after this long...(although not as much as Willie). ¬†We were victorious in the match; in the Bye match; and in the Bye Bye match. ¬†Comprehensive.
In the hut the omnipresent Oxford & Cambridge Golf Society were lunching mid-match. ¬†I suspect they play more golf than us. ¬†One chap had a fantastic pair of red chords which I‚??ve vowed to track down once I‚??m gainfully employed and have the time once more. ¬†I‚??ll be unstoppable in those breeks. ¬†
Willie proved to be a wonderfully eccentric and ‚?? more to the point ‚?? fun host. ¬†The sort of chap you could quite happily set anyone up with and know they‚??d have a whale of a time. ¬†On course I took a liking to sledging him (he developed the same hankering), but were I to continue along the same lines I fear the tone of satire might be lost to the internet Gods. ¬†So J‚??ll pay my respects respectfully and thank Willie and Aldeburgh for putting on a Super Sunday of good natured banter. ¬†And golf.
The world of golf is, in a word, idiosyncratic. ¬†Trotting the globe, moving from club to club, you come across some interesting sights; some interesting people; and of course some interesting golf courses. ¬†Royal West Norfolk (or ‚??Brancaster‚?Ě, among the well heeled) just about takes the cake. ¬†The sort of place that when I visit, I‚??m thinking ‚??how the hell am I going to describe this place to our readers?‚?Ě ¬†With great difficulty, is the answer.
This morning - our last one in England - I'm rinsed. ¬†England I must admit has got the better of us, with darkening skies and dropping temperatures making us feel like we've aged 5 years in 5 weeks. ¬†The body's a' creakin'. ¬†
Bart is our physio. ¬†He was brought across to preserve and even improve our physical shape. ¬†The irony in all of this being that HE'S WRECKED ME! ¬†A couple of nights ago I pressed him for a few exercises, to at least postpone for a brief moment the constant bloating of my body into that of a middle aged man. ¬†So he gave me a rigorous regime of unnatural poses and the like - and since I woke up the next day I've hardly been able to move. ¬†Hitting the ball 150 yards and / or in remotely the right direction was an order too tall for me yesterday at Ganton. ¬†i only hope that this morning's foray to Bingley St Ives is less disgraceful.
With only a few days to go until our Dubai hop, we're rather exhausted. ¬†But, honestly, having a ball. ¬†Last night we had the pleasure of staying with the Tennant family, the middle son of which played cricket with Goldy in Wellington last year. ¬†What great people. ¬†And lovely to stay out on a farm after the urban madness that's been plaguing us. ¬†The air's therapeutic out here...
Now hopping in the car to drive 2 hours back west to Bingley. ¬†Then it's a mission over the border to the Land Of My Mother - Selkirk. ¬†Little brother Conor has come back to the homeland to play rugby, so I'm looking forward to hearing how his first 3 months have gone. ¬†And to seeing old family friends that he's spending a lot of time with. ¬†Likely to be a long day, but a good one. ¬†Might even catch up on a few course reviews along the way...
Have a good one y'all!
Yesterday I made a rookie error. ¬†I turned to Michael and said, "isn't it remarkable that we've not had a cold, wet, windy, miserable sod of a day throughout an English October?" ¬†The next day - today - we got all of the above. ¬†I knew my error as soon as I'd made it. ¬†
At Moortown today we got blown around, mildly soaked, and generally battered. ¬†This was entirely at odds yesterday with the mild and indeed pleasant weather we had yesterday at The Alwoodley, which not surprisingly endeared itself more to us - probably because of the conditions.
They held the Ryder Cup here back in '29 - a fact that's drawn to your attention as you enter the Moortown driveway in north Leeds. ¬†Nearby Lindrick and Ganton also held the Cup. ¬†At Moortown Great Britain won 7-5 over the US, the decisive match apparently being George Duncan's 10&8 win over one Walter Hagen. ¬†Walter incidentally is an honourary member of the club. ¬†I would've liked to have met Walter - reputedly one of the game's more colourful (and talented) characters.
Apres golf we were so famished that we each sank a plate of sausages, egg and chips the size of Greenland. ¬†Hit the spot nicely. ¬†Although it's probably not done Fat Goldy's waistline any good...
Few phonecalls to make to Aotearoa now - goodness gracious we'll be there in a few weeks! ¬†Kindly arrange for the sun to be shining by then please, my Kiwi friends. ¬†This precipitation is not sustainable...
Golly gosh. ¬†There could be no better place to capture dandy English gentlemen golfing the links in tweed with their black Labradors than Rye. ¬†Here you will find immaculate gents celebrating the game‚??s best traditions of friendship and, most likely, playing matches. ¬†The Captain has the opportunity to play in 84 of ‚??em during his annum... ¬†And here‚??s the thing: the lot of them are very fine chaps indeed. ¬†The other thing: members at Rye have one hell of a course to call their own (two in fact, although we only played the big one). ¬†Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, you might say.
Oh and they have quite a catering corps. ¬†Lunch in the Rye dining room is a striking affair. ¬†Take 50 public school boys; age them 40 to 60 years; dress them up in tweed jackets, checked shirts and club ties; and plonk them in a buffet room with silver cutlery and the odd bottle of wine. ¬†Et voila. ¬†When you buy your lunch ticket you specify how many courses you‚??ll be having (this determines what colour ticket you get). ¬†Then you treat yourself ‚?? taking your plate up to the pigeon hole in the corner of the room after each course, naturally. ¬†A bit like a very agreeable boarding school. ¬†Very, very agreeable.
Again two Lucifers were our hosts ‚?? Peter Costain and David Pettman. ¬†No doubt successful guys in their own right, but they were as unassuming as they were good craic. ¬†Syd Murrel whom we‚??d been staying with (think back to Day 39 at Pukekohe in Nu Zillin...) in Hastings came out to caddy too, given he‚??s an artisan member of the club and he felt like stretching the legs. ¬†Bless him. ¬†Peter‚??s dog Brae made it half a dozen. ¬†(His other dog who usually accompanies Peter was sitting this one out, after having bitten his master in the melee of a scrap with another pooch the day prior). ¬† ¬†
Foursomes again was the name of the game. ¬†Rye being one of the remaining 2 ball clubs in England. ¬†Good on the members for staying strong ‚?? a fast game is a good game. ¬†And foursomes really is far more fun than four ball golf. ¬†I‚??m a convert. ¬†Just don‚??t give me Ed Bayley as a partner.
In the bar over a preparatory coffee we were introduced to James the Secretary, who was wearing the same tie as me. ¬†Well, not exactly the same ‚?? his had the logo of The Mourne Club, Newcastle; mine was Portadown GC (the club of my grandparents). ¬†In any case it struck up a conversation out of which came the fact that James was the Secretary at Royal County Down for 7 years. ¬†Given my good grandfather ‚?? Dr David Thomas Patton ‚?? was a member there for many years, I asked whether he‚??d come across Tommy‚??s troublemaking ways. ¬†Of course he had. ¬†And for the next couple of minutes we reflected on what a small world it is we live in.
David and I would take on Peter and Michael in a flat match. ¬†With a 35 knot wind the scene was set for a good old fashioned skirmish. ¬†Which David managed to win without much help from my end. ¬†The result is always of little consequence anyway, at least in our world. ¬†What mattered was the fact that we had a terrific time out there in the elements. ¬†Holes like the postage stamp 2nd and knife edge 4th were more than just a little tricky. ¬†In fact the 4th may be one of the hardest par 4s we‚??ve played all year. ¬†The tee shot is akin to landing a punted rugby ball on a gymnastics beam from 60 yards ‚?? and keeping it there. ¬†Curse you Harry Colt! ¬†(Harry was the Secretary at Rye early in his career, before his time at Sunningdale).
A highlight of the whole experience was the greens, which at Rye are renowned for their excellence. ¬†Particularly in winter, as it happens. ¬†A couple of ‚??em had just been punched, but even they were a pleasure. ¬†In wind like we endured, you need to have good greens to have any hope. ¬†(N.B. The locals will probably insist that a 35 knot wind is little more than average; that they often play in 50 or more...but Trust Me ‚?? it was Windy).
At the turn we were warned in good humour but without a hint of falsity that we‚??d just played the easy nine. ¬†Hmmmmmm. ¬†They weren‚??t joking either ‚?? it really is a stern test, Rye. ¬†Sadly the tide wasn‚??t right in, so we didn‚??t see sails passing us along the 12th ‚?? but no doubt on a fine summer‚??s day it would be quite a picture. ¬†Interestingly enough the golf club has also been reclaiming land from the sea, like Royal Dublin. ¬†What opened in 1977 as a 9 hole course ‚?? The Jubilee ‚?? is now a fully fledged 18 hole layout that the club has pumped a fair bit of money into in recent years. ¬†Syd reckoned it‚??s almost as good as Colt‚??s big course. ¬†¬†¬†¬†
In the changing sheds we came across a couple of familiar faces: Geoff and Martyn, our good hosts at Sunningdale. ¬†Geoff was wearing the same jacket, but it‚??s a good one so he‚??s excused. ¬†He‚??d also discovered the secret to putting (look at the hole as you swing back and through, not down at the ball), which had instilled a bright spark in his eye. ¬†Martyn as ever was looking jolly and full of chat. ¬†Great pair of red trousers he was sporting too. ¬†I need to kit myself out with some of these English country gent staples...
Then we had Lunch. ¬†Which I mentioned above. ¬†Despite having put on 10 kilos or so in just a few months, I did not protest when Peter produced my 3 course lunch ticket. ¬†‚??I‚??m sure I can manage to fit it all in, thank you‚?Ě. ¬†In a packed dining room we sat, pondering the little and big questions in life alike. ¬†Not sure if we came up with any satisfactory answers. ¬†More to the point we discussed strategy for The Lucifers‚?? upcoming NZ Tour ‚?? a far more productive discussion, I hope. ¬†Now Peter and David are armed with information about the ‚??must see‚?Ě and ‚??must do‚?Ě sights / activities / wineries. ¬†If they have anything less than a life changing time I‚??ll feel personally responsible.
What a brilliant bloody day. ¬†Thanks Peter, David and James for your hospitality ‚?? I leave Rye fatter, humbler and with a few less golf balls. ¬†An enhanced love for foursomes golf too. ¬†A privilege. ¬†
Would have liked to have taken more photos but after a few holes the camera blew away. ¬†Here's a shot of Syd and the lads that we took before ducking off to Prince's the next morning...Great human being - thanks Syd and Sandy for your warm hospitality and wonderful cooking...just like being at home.
The Kent Mission has been a much anticipated one. ¬†After the heathland interlude that has been the past few weeks, it was with great enthusiasm that we returned to the links. ¬†After four months of bumping and running, fescue has become our natural habitat; and a happy habitat it‚??s been at that. ¬†With the triumvirate of Royal Cinque Ports, Prince‚??s and Royal St Georges lying within a stone‚??s throw of one another this little slice of England had always been on our radar. ¬†Having Rye only an hour away over in East Sussex only served to multiply the magnetic pull. ¬†Four days to savour. ¬†
There was nearly a monumental balls up on my part but one Mark Chaplin ‚?? our fairy godfather ‚?? came to the rescue. ¬†You see we‚??d had a couple of invitations throughout the year to RCP, one of which I thought we‚??d locked in when in fact we hadn‚??t. ¬†Oops. ¬†So just a few days out I spot the mishap and scratch my head with fervent self loathing. ¬†Twit. ¬†As it happens though, Mark has come upon our website; seen we‚??re scheduled to play Deal on Monday (RCP‚??s colloquial name, taken from the town it borders); and enquired who our host was. ¬†I explain the situation and Mark rectifies it:
Jamie, I have put you down to play at 1030 as guests of the club... ¬†If you arrange to arrive around 0945 I will ensure you are met and taken care of...not sure if I can get down on the day, will try my best. ¬†You will meet Richard Craven the new captain who drives in this Sunday...and senior past Captain Findlay Gordon an R&A member and regular visitor to NZ. ¬†Your luncheon account will be on me. ¬†Mark
Absolute gentleman. ¬†Fortunately Mark did make it down so we were able to thank him in person. ¬†He‚??d taken the train down from Tumbridge ‚?? an hour or so away ‚?? to meet us, and to walk around for a few holes...before heading up into London for a meeting with Scotland yard (he‚??s a policeman). ¬†Now if that‚??s not hospitality I don‚??t know what is. ¬†Not only that either. ¬†Over coffee in the bar Mark asks us where we‚??re staying while down in Kent, and upon hearing that we‚??ve got a gap on Wednesday night he jacks up a stay in the dormy house for us too. ¬†The sort of guy who‚??d give the shirt off his back to anyone ‚?? ATTENTION New Zealand: when Mark Chaplin comes across please make sure that he is extended every thinkable courtesy and as many unthinkable ones as possible too.
Incidentally ‚?? the Captain‚??s driving in? ¬†I assumed Richard had spent the summer elsewhere, and was literally driving back to Deal to take up his post. ¬†And so naturally I asked Richard ‚??where have you driven in from?‚?Ě. ¬†Of course, ‚??driving in‚?Ě in this context means hitting a tee shot down the 1st hole to ceremonially mark the commencement of one‚??s tenure. ¬†In this case with a white hot golf ball fresh from the oven (they go further). ¬†Now I know. ¬†Muppet.
It was a crisp blue morning, the light darting in sideways from the low winter sun. ¬†The only visible clouds were homeonimbus (i.e. our breath). ¬†Findlay and Richard looked like they‚??d just robbed the Pringle factory, wrapped up in a dozen wooly sweaters. ¬†Findlay‚??s top layer looked as if it had been handed down through the generations and had the saggy appearance of being freshly pulled from the sea. ¬†Richard‚??s top layer (a V neck) was on backwards in what looked like a cunning ploy to keep his throat warm. ¬†
The Skipper and I were paired together to take on Young Goldstein and the Weegie (Findlay hails from Glasgow). ¬†Deal like the other traditional clubs down ‚??ere is a 2 ball club on most occasions, certainly on Mondays. ¬†I think green fee paying visitors can play a fourball on certain days. ¬†Our last game of foursomes was up at Muirfield some months ago, so we were looking forward to having another bite at the cherry. ¬†It adds colour to the game. ¬†Right away The Good Captain revealed himself to be an excellent putter, wielding a blade like instrument that‚??s no doubt lived across three centuries to devastating effect. ¬†Y‚??er man Faxon wouldn‚??t dare take this chap on for a bob on the putting green.
The course sits below the sea wall and is the southernmost of the links triumvirate of the Kentish coast ‚?? Royal St. Georges being next door and Prince‚??s immediately beyond. ¬†Indeed out at the turn you‚??re closer to the St Georges clubhouse than you are to the RCP one. ¬†The golf cognoscenti among you will know that Deal held The Open Championship back in 1920, so it‚??s one of The Fourteen. ¬†¬†¬†
Richard and Findlay were quite a pair; tremendous company. Findlay very Scottish (he even worked for DC Thompson in Dundee for a spell, before he had to move on because there was no longer a woman in the office whose company he hadn‚??t enjoyed! ¬†Which he won‚??t thank me for mentioning). ¬†Richard was very English (down the 18th I loved his utterance, ‚??now come on Richard, let‚??s hit something rather juicy‚?Ě). ¬†Quote of the day must have been his instruction to me on one of the (down wind short) par 3s: ‚??Jamie, I want to see you hit a firm wedge here with plenty of munch on it.‚?Ě ¬†Munch!
In the smart room upstairs we were looked after like kings by the lovely Laura. ¬†A hearty lunch avec dessert (Eton Mess, no less) was inhaled around a large round table in the bay window. ¬†Richard and Findlay had a couple of half baked bottles of vino left over from Richard‚??s driving in. ¬†Or that was their story anyway ‚?? I think they‚??ve always got a bottle handy for a wee tipple. ¬†Being sociable characters and all. ¬†
Perhaps the highlight of the day was Story Time. ¬†Findlay produced the club scrap book, an ancient looking beast jam packed with good humour and the odd newspaper clipping of a successful member (notably Karen Stupples, who hails from RCP and who won the Weetbix Women‚??s Open a few years back at Sunningdale). ¬†One of the better letters was one Findlay wrote as the then Captain to The First Admiral of The Sea, concerning a member whom Findlay hoped would be called away to sea rather than being able to attend a club function. ¬†But the best one for mine anyway was An Absolute Stomper. ¬†
An eccentric and revered past Captain of the club is one Major David Morris, and he had a dog named Badger who accompanied him around the course frequently. ¬†Now, as y‚??all know the English golfscape has struck as being hugely dog friendly. ¬†Not so with Deal. ¬†Permission to take your hound out on course comes and goes here, apparently. ¬†Badger must have been defecating in the wrong spots, because the good Major received a letter from the Secretary asking that he desist from keeping Badger‚??s company on course, on account of the mess he was making. ¬†Naturally Badger himself penned a response, that went something like this (I emphasise the ‚??something‚?Ě because I don‚??t have the letter in front of me...):
I take exception to your assertion that my behaviour has been unbecoming of a Deal member... ¬†Over the past twelve years I estimate that I have walked some six thousand miles around the links, and that I‚??ve supported the half way house to the tune of seven hundred sausages... ¬†
No one writes letters like this these days, it seems. ¬†And what a shame too. ¬†I salute you Badger (Major David) Morris for your wit, and commitment to the club. ¬†And I thank Richard, Findlay, Ken, Mark and Laura for making our RCP experience a delightful one. ¬†Will be back. ¬†With bells on.
I remember it dawning on me several times this year that life is full of contrasts. ¬†Our topsy turvy existence lends itself particularly well to learning this lesson. ¬†Sometimes we wake up in a car and not an hour later are on the receiving end of six star hospitality at one of the world‚??s great golf clubs. ¬†Other times everything appears to be going to plan, only for a rogue spanner to be thrown in the works. ¬†One never knows what‚??s around the corner. ¬†Nor does two. ¬†Three occasionally has a useful insight.
Ivinghoe and Brian Haworth‚??s hospitality have made for a wonderful experience over the past couple of days. ¬†Paying a visit to a humble club with salt of the earth members can be far more fun than dropping in to an exclusive club with members whose noses are up each other‚??s posteriors. ¬†Then again we have hardly found any clubs ‚?? even those with the most stuffy of reputations ‚?? to be terse, condescending or pretentious. ¬†Quite the opposite, actually. ¬†Often those perceived as being the most elite comprise members just as down to earth and engaging as those at the other end of the spectrum. ¬†In some cases, more so.
And so it was at The Berkshire. ¬†Perched on prime land adjacent to Sunningdale, Swinley Forest and other prestigious hangouts, The Berkshire keeps good company. ¬†The club has a huge red brick mansion of a clubhouse (which, I must say, reminded me of a school ‚?? a nice one, of course) and two fine Herbert Fowler courses (Red and Blue). ¬†The Red Course is perhaps better known than its brother, for it is one of the few courses in the world that have six par 3s, six par 4s and six par 5s. ¬†We played the Blue, which was a gentle and delightful affair; similar in nature to The New Zealand Club. ¬†
Our host was one Charlie Jamieson, who I can count with confidence among the most interesting and kind people we‚??ve met this year. ¬†The sort of guy who by his very nature commands instant respect and admiration. ¬†Charlie‚??s a member of The Lucifers Society who, loosely, are a great bunch of like minded individuals ‚?? businessmen, professionals, etc ‚?? that through golf maintain ties with the Commonwealth. ¬†As I understand it, they‚??ve all worked overseas in Australia, NZ, Canada, HK or wherever; and, having been enriched by their experiences, they extend the hand of friendship through golf to other Commonwealth nationals. ¬†A noble and commendable endeavour indeed. ¬†
Charlie‚??s responsible for organising The Lucifers‚?? trip to New Zealand this coming February, and so it‚??s perhaps not surprising that our paths crossed. ¬†In recent months I‚??ve been corresponding with him by email and in that time he‚??s been kind enough to fix a series of games for us with other Lucifers. ¬†(Incidentally, a side note: the founders wanted to call themselves The Match Society but that name was already taken so...the common (only?) brand of matches (as in the ones that make fire) at the time was Lucifers...hence The Lucifers). ¬†He and they really have been very kind to us. ¬†
On a bright, fresh Saturday morning we did the usual routine of wandering between pro shop and breakfast bar, looking for someone who looked like they might be called (in this case) Charlie Jamieson. ¬†Fortunately he‚??d been on this blog at least once, and knew what we looked like. ¬†Surely being a trio of bright eyed bushy tailed Kiwis in scruffy gear we stick out in places like The Berkshire, anyway. ¬†Because Charlie hadn‚??t brought a pal, he invited Bart to play too. ¬†In an instant Bart was transformed from the kid who gets picked last at football to the kid who‚??s just won a trip to Disneyland in a radio competition. ¬†Just Thrilled, he was. ¬†A nice moment.
As I wrestled with a couple of golden retrievers by the putting green Charlie disappeared and reappeared, this time furnishing us with cards and stroke savers. ¬†No excuses then. ¬†Like Royal Lytham and Walton Heath (Old) the course begins with a long par 3, which forces one‚??s concentration. ¬†Or at least it should: I still managed to end up in the deep greenside bunker with little hope of making a three. ¬†From memory Michael was the only one who didn‚??t drop a shot ‚?? all the best rounds start with bogeys anyway...
Being married to a Kiwi (an Aucklander, no less) Charlie probably knows Nu Zillin better than us, but he humoured the three of us by asking the odd question about what The Lucifers might do in their ‚??days off‚?Ě. ¬†Again I caught myself. ¬†When asked about my adopted homeland I get probably more excited than I should. ¬†Mike‚??s quipped on a number of occasions this year that I should be on the Tourism New Zealand payroll (I should, by the way, John Key, if you‚??re reading this). ¬†Truth is I can‚??t help it. ¬†I LOVE NEW ZEALAND. ¬†And so, non-Kiwi friends, when you come down to our neck of the woods allow me the pleasure of showing you around. ¬†Because I like doing it. ¬†And I‚??m currently unemployed (NB. I still don‚??t charge, don‚??t worry).
Some good golf and some bad golf was played, but that doesn‚??t really give you any insight. ¬†I mean to say it was one of those rounds where you‚??re really just walking around bouncing sound waves off each other and there happens to be the odd golf ball struck in between exchanges. ¬†A sign that the conversation was interesting and no one was under par. ¬†
What followed the golf was quite extraordinary. ¬†(At the time) The best shower in England (question mark as to whether it‚??s since been overtaken by Royal St Georges). ¬†Then surely the best golf club lunch in England (although New Zealand would push it close). ¬†It was one of those blissful two hour windows of life that regrettably you can never get back ‚?? but if you could, you‚??d relive over and over. ¬†A Crabbie‚??s ginger beer in the bar; a 3 or 4 course silver spoon lunch ‚?? each plateful more mouth watering than the next (although the treacle tart wasn‚??t on); then coffee and mints back in the bar. ¬†I won‚??t labour the point, but folks it truly was heaven.
We left Charlie‚??s company feeling like we‚??d just caught up with an old friend. ¬†Then, as soon as Charlie‚??s wagon pulled out of the driveway another friend rolled in. ¬†Fitzy! ¬†Bart had left his camera and jacket in Fitzy‚??s bag when caddying at New Zealand on Thursday, and the big man had been kind enough to pop round to drop the gear off. ¬†Chins were wagged for a few minutes; resolutions were made to put on a dinner when he‚??s back in NZ next year for the World Cup; then ‚?? Fitzy never being one to miss a photo opportunity (poser!) ‚?? we, as the Germans say, made a picture.
Epic, epic day. ¬†Thanks Charlie for your hospitality ‚?? thoroughly enjoyed your company. ¬†And thanks to one Sean Fitzpatrick for popping by with a rather necessary puregolf2010 utensil. ¬†Champions, the both of you.
JP ¬† ¬†¬†
How apt that we should pay a visit while in the Surrey ‚??hood to The New Zealand Club. ¬†An illustrious and quite brilliant club it is too, if I may say so. ¬†It gets better: the Secretary upon hearing of our impending visit shoulder tapped a recent visitor to the club, to ask whether he‚??d be free to make up a four. ¬†He graciously accepted. ¬†His name is Sean Fitzpatrick. ¬†And he‚??s a living legend.
With a membership scroll of six score or so (give or take), TNZC is a very small, discreet and private club. ¬†I‚??m not going to tell you just yet where the name comes from, because we were teased on the day and I‚??m going to afford you the same frustration. ¬†The first explanation I received from the Secretary was that the front nine taken as a whole forms the shape of the North Island, and the back nine of the South. ¬†Of course that was fallacious but I was gullible enough in the moment to swallow such a plausible explanation wholeheartedly. ¬†Fool.
‚??Fresh‚?Ě after a few minutes sleep ‚?? after jetting in from Amsterdam the night before ‚?? we awoke once more at DC‚??s place in Radlett. ¬†DC was in Hong Kong but his wife Jill and son Tommy looked after us handsomely for the brief duration of our (second) stay. ¬†The return leg of The Amsterdam Mission had gone smoothly until the last hurdle, when we were directed by a BR staffer to the wrong train which didn‚??t stop at our station. ¬†A cold 25 minute wait at Westhampstead wasn‚??t ideal but it could‚??ve been worse. ¬†Anyway we awoke back on English soil and set sail for a slice of home. ¬†Well, sort of.
Changing his boots in the car park by his big black Mercedes was our man (‚??call me Fitzy boys‚?Ě). ¬†Taller than I expected. ¬†Instantly endearing human being too. ¬†It‚??s amazing how Kiwi you become when after months on end away from Aotearoa you run into a true blue Kiwi ‚?? an All Black captain, no less ‚?? with a thuck Aughkland acceent. ¬†By Jove it was cold. ¬†As in, Baltic. ¬†The frost lying atop the ground was as thick as a Bible printed single-side 1UP. ¬†Which is how it‚??d be printed (in colour too) at Bell Gully, where paper and ink live in unimaginable abundance. ¬†Yes you, David Coull. ¬†
Around the bend, by the clubhouse, were our host ‚?? the charming Rupert Beaumont ‚?? and the Good Secretary, Roger. ¬†Standing freezing their testicles off (like men, granted). ¬†Pleasantries exchanged; quickly into the sheds. ¬†One of my favourite of the year, I‚??d like to say up front. ¬†Genuinely a relic of another age, when men were men and frosts were frosts. ¬†Each locker bears several crossed out names of tenants gone by; there‚??s an open fire in the bar and the lounge that looks like it hasn‚??t been sat in since the Titanic left Belfast (in perfect working order, no less, the Nor‚??n Irish will tell you); and there are more black Labradors walking around than people. ¬†Oozing charm and hospitality.
We had coffee while Jack began his retreat. ¬†At this point we talked around and around the inevitable question as to the club‚??s Nu Zillin Connection, but inevitably in smoke and mirrors fashion got nowhere. ¬†I began to wonder whether Rupert and Roger were of MI6 pedigree. ¬†They certainly cultivated an air of mystery. ¬†Fitzy played dumb too (I‚??m positive he knew). ¬†
Then, much to our surprise, we were led to the 1st tee while there was still 8 feet of frost lying. ¬†Crunch, crunch, crunch. ¬†Any other golf club in the world would‚??ve suspended play until Jack was no longer anywhere to be seen. ¬†Not at New Zealand. ¬†With frostbite attacking all 10 digits we made gestures resembling golf swings (perhaps not) and kicked off the light hearted satire that would be the Order Of Play. ¬†My partner Fitzy got stuck a little into the opposition right away and, more so, into me his partner! ¬†So I gave it back in Spades. ¬†It‚??s a miracle we were all still talking by the end. ¬†A few pep talks along the way (from The Skipper) steadied the ship intermittently. ¬†All good fun.
Rupert was a senior partner at a boutique firm called Slaughter & May for many years, and seems to have had a wonderfully challenging career in the law. ¬†It‚??s always great to hear someone wax lyrical about how fulfilling their working life has been ‚?? particularly 1. When it‚??s been a demanding one; and 2. When their career‚??s one you‚??ve already tried and...well...! ¬†Rupert‚??s admission that he only took up golf in recent years because he was always too busy to even consider it while working rang a familiar bell. ¬†Everyone strikes their own balance.
Fitzy spoke openly and frankly about his experiences: rugby and post-rugby (both equally interesting, I found). ¬†He and his wife now have a hospitality business and the big man also gives some of his time to motivational speaking, which obviously comes fairly natural. ¬†He casts a commanding shadow does our Sean. ¬†And hits a good ball too ‚?? absolutely burgling off a 12. ¬†Apparently Zinny‚??s not a bad marksman with a golf club too.
The course itself is a delight. ¬†That cow Heather makes another appearance and can, like grass, be found on every hole. ¬†Because trees also play an integral part in creating the atmosphere, it was a good while before the frost lifted. ¬†By the 9th blood was beginning to circulate through our vessels once more. ¬†A whisky coffee at the drinks cart might‚??ve helped. ¬†Rupert much to my astonishment opted for Bovril with a dash of sherry. ¬†Possibly the most disgusting drink I can imagine. ¬†I wouldn‚??t have dared friends in even the most senseless of games to take so much as a mouthful of this heathen tonic. ¬†But Rupert liked it, as did Bart (who was in his element caddying for Fitzy).
Goldy and Rupert (who together sound like a tap dancing or figure skating duo) won. ¬†There, I said it. ¬†Despite Fitzy‚??s fine play on the front nine we were pipped on the 17th. ¬†I did nothing all day save for make up the numbers. ¬†On one tee, SF: ‚??I‚??m just waiting for you to do something Jamie‚?Ě. ¬†He wasn‚??t joking either. ¬†And so commenced a pep talk.
Something amusing happened in the locker room that I‚??m compelled to share with you. ¬†Full disclosure and all that. ¬†We were stripping down readying ourselves for a wash. ¬†Bart and I were last undressed. ¬†Bart turns to me and whispers, ‚??Can you believe we‚??re about to shower with Sean Fitzpatrick?!‚?Ě. ¬†I nearly cried with laughter. ¬†Bart‚??s now known as GB; I‚??m sure you can guess what the ‚??G‚?Ě stands for...
We were treated to one of the most fantastical lunches ever consumed. ¬†Even the Romans would‚??ve been envious of this symphony of fine fare. ¬†Our six sat smack bang in the middle of the empty dining room and were served silver spoon style by the very capable wait staff who‚??d probably see less customers in a given week than a curry stand at Venice Beach. ¬†Like Augusta, the members here get a sweet deal on wine, which is procured by the Secretary (I can‚??t give away his methods or I‚??ll be shot) - what an honour! ¬†We had a belter of a Beaujolais. ¬†It really was the full nine yards. ¬†I remember sitting there thinking, ‚??Where did it all go wrong?‚?Ě ¬†The quality of the grub and refreshments was only matched by that of the company. ¬†A few hours that I‚??ll look back on fondly for many years to come (touch wood). ¬†¬†¬†¬†
Oh, the story behind the name? ¬†The New Zealand Club? ¬†You‚??ll just have to wait a bit longer...there‚??s not enough mystery these days...
A sincere thank you to Rupert, Roger and Fitzy for making our day at The New Zealand Club one to remember, for a number reasons. ¬†Fitzy: if we ever play together again, I promise I hope that you‚??ll play better.
JP ¬†¬†¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†
I find it hard to imagine that life could be any sweeter for an Englishman than to live and play his golf in Sunningdale. ¬†
The most affluent settlement I‚??ve seen since we left The Hamptons. ¬†By far. ¬†A club steeped with an atmosphere of, well, privilege. ¬†And two of the finest courses we‚??ve had the pleasure of playing this year. ¬†Sunningdale really is The Real McCoy; the most English of English clubs. ¬†
Our visit was graciously coordinated by a gentleman whom we met in the R&A Tent at The Open back in July. ¬†Marcus Ferguson Jones is a delightful gentleman, and happens to be a pretty sharp golfer in his own right. ¬†In fact he finished runner up in the Sunningdale Autumn Medal the day before our visit. ¬†When we met him up at St. Andrews, he had been up there trying to qualify as an amateur. ¬†Unfortunately Kingsbarns wasn‚??t kind (enough) to him, so he had to suffer the hardship of just watching the thing. ¬†Anyway, we met him over lunch ‚?? through a mutual friend ‚?? and before long he‚??d offered to tee up a game at his home club for us. ¬†Which happened to be Sunningdale. ¬†Lovely.
Actually Marcus teed up two games: on his counsel, we played both the New and Old. ¬†The New‚??s not that new, by the way. ¬†It was laid down by Harry Colt, who was the Secretary at Sunningdale after kicking off his career at Rye. ¬†The Old was the fine handiwork of one Willie Park Junior. ¬†I dare say there wouldn‚??t be another club in the world where the members can boast having both a Colt and a Park at their disposal. ¬†Apart from anything else, The Sunningdale Lot have 36 holes of dog walking paradise at their disposal too. ¬†We must‚??ve seen a dozen or so hounds of a dozen different flavours, out taking their masters for a stroll.
On this pristine Monday morning the ladies were playing a shotgun start invitational on the Old. ¬†Never in my life have I climbed out of the car to such a hubbub of pucker excitement. ¬†This was Their day. ¬†(Next door is the Sunningdale Ladies Golf Club; Sunningdale proper also has 77 lady members. ¬†This lot were from both clubs and beyond, I imagine). ¬†Each contestant was decked out to the nines in their Sunday (well, Monday) Best. ¬†And each spoke with a more Frightfully Frightfully brogue than the lady before her. ¬†No doubt they were all lovely human beings ‚?? every smile I shot off in the clubhouse was reciprocated ‚?? but I must admit the sense of occasion was almost unnerving.
Equally unnerving was the predicament I quickly found myself in. ¬†I‚??d arrived bursting at the seams and needing quickly to find a urinal. ¬†The pro gave me the code to the visitors‚?? locker room (upstairs, tucked away in the furthest corner from the stairwell), but it didn‚??t work. ¬†So I‚??m sprinting back down hill past paintings the size of a small house and into the pro shop, begging for the magic numbers. ¬†If y‚??er man doesn‚??t deliver second time around, I may be forced to dash into the bushes. ¬†Luckily he comes through and composure is restored. ¬†
Because there‚??s hardly another soul in the joint save for The Galvin Greene Brigade, there‚??s no hurry to tee off. ¬†I while away 15 minutes of Nirvana on the putting green ‚?? perhaps the most magnificent of the year. ¬†A brand new sleeve of Pro-v1s is popped to mark the occasion. ¬†One of our last sleeves, but there‚??s no questionning the decision; much as one may light up a Big Fat Cuban walking down the 18th of, say, Cypress or PV. ¬†Truly one of life‚??s pleasures. ¬†To one side is the grand old clubhouse; 15 yards away is the Old Oak (immortalised as the club‚??s infamous logo); at first base is #1 Old; between first and third and in the outfield are 35 holes of Golf Wonderland. ¬†The sun‚??s shining, the greens are rolling with absolute purity, and the odd putt is dropping. ¬†I could‚??ve left a happy man at this point.
Mike‚??s put together a video with shots of both courses, so I‚??ll let his iMovie wizardry do the talking on that front. ¬†Otherwise we‚??d all be here for days, wading through my lyrical wax. ¬†Suffice to say the morning round ‚?? a sharpish 3 hours playing around The New ‚?? was an enchanting experience. ¬†Between the heather, the pine, the bright morning sun, the perfect greens, the design, the atmosphere, the odd hound and, of course, the company, well...you get the picture.
Because Marcus couldn‚??t join us on the day, he organised for his father Martyn to accompany us around The Old. ¬†Martyn brought his pal Geoff along too. ¬†And Buckley, the most regal golden labrador in The Labrador Kingdom (likely that he‚??s of royal blood). ¬†Geoff‚??s a Heriots Old Boy, and spends 6 months of the year in Nu Zillin ‚?? so we had a fair bit in common from the get go. ¬†He‚??s also struggling with his putting at the moment, so we had more in common again... ¬†Our four had a pint in the members‚?? bar before play, whence we came across one Michael Lynagh who lives next door and who‚??d brought his father along for a game. ¬†The Lynagh Lads were in the group behind us, and played through at the 10th while we were ingesting possibly the most magnificent bangers and mustard ever consumed. ¬†And a gin and tonic (at Sunningdale, why not?). ¬†We spoke briefly at the time, but Goldy got a proper chance to speak with his childhood idol later on back in the bar. ¬†Tickled pink he was (Michael Goldstein, that is).
After nigh on every blow Buckley‚??s stick was hurtled off into the distance. ¬†Buckley would give chase and ‚?? with the prowess of a Golden Retriever ‚?? retrieve said stick, dropping it in front of Martyn. ¬†While one of us was over the ball, Buckley would lie down dead still, not so much as moving a lung until the shot was complete. ¬†He exhibited more discipline than a 14-year-old Chinese girl during exam week. ¬†On several tees Buckley would lead the advance party, darting forward onto the middle of the mown block; he knows when he gets ‚??a throw.‚?Ě ¬†I forget which holes they were, but obviously he doesn‚??t. ¬†
puregolf2010 took on The Old Guard and (largely thanks to Geoff‚??s jetlag ‚?? he‚??d only landed 15 hours prior on the long haul from NZ) managed to come out on top. ¬†Of course we‚??d had the advantage of warming up in the morning. ¬†And being the gracious hosts that they were, Martyn and Geoff probably let us win too. ¬†In The Press ‚?? this time Geoff and I paired up ‚?? I ruined the makings of a happy friendship by missing a 4 footer for par on the last. ¬†My excuse being distraction a la Old Oak.
The afternoon was a rather surreal experience. ¬†Bart‚??s figure emerged from the trees on 17 (he‚??d just rejoined the tour after a 36 hour hiatus up the road in London); I‚??m glad he got a short glimpse into The Sunningdale Experience, because the purity of it all is difficult to capture. ¬†In the members‚?? bar we were summoned to have a ginger beer with a trio of gentlemen parked at the window seat. ¬†On the left was the most French Frenchman in Le Monde: beige blazer, open neck white shirt with collar turned up to the ceiling, brightly coloured handkerchief tucked with casual indifference into the breast pocket, round tortoise shell glasses and a mop of ruffled brown hair. ¬†Jacques, we will call him for now (I‚??ve lost his actual name). ¬†In the centre sat Nicholas Royds, who may well have seen Queen Victoria on the throne. ¬†(His surname sticks in the mind because his pals took us through some gag about how there‚??s haemerrhoids, steroids, and myriad other -roids, but only one Nicholas Royds). ¬†In his crisp green Pine Valley blazer Nicholas looked quite the picture. ¬†I suspect he‚??d be the sort of character that might frustrate one or two others, only in that he‚??s a member of both Sunningdale and PV but no longer plays golf! ¬†To the right was John, who belonged to the ‚??very old‚?Ě Oxford & Cambridge Golf Society. ¬†An idiosyncratic threesome.
Happily we had the opportunity to thank the Secretary for his hospitality before leaving (he too was in the bar, entertaining a couple of guests). ¬†Nice guy. ¬†Then we took advantage of the best showers in Golf England (perhaps equal top with Goodwood) before leaving with heavy hearts. ¬†Sunningdale really is Another World, a world I could happily return to time and time again.
There is something about heathland courses that intrigues me. ¬†Maybe it‚??s just the heather. ¬†Or the fusion of sand and heath. ¬†Whatever ‚??it‚?Ě is, I get awfully excited when we set off on a heathland excursion. ¬†Today then was a particularly enticing prospect, given we were to play Walton Heath ‚?? one of the premier courses fashioned in this style in England, indeed in the world. ¬†I should mention they have two courses: the Old and the New (which isn‚??t all that new, but it‚??s younger than the old, surprisingly enough). ¬†Unlike tomorrow (when we play both Sunningdale Old and New), we just played The Old; 36 holes back to back would break us in two, and it was our host‚??s father‚??s birthday so in the event 18 holes suited everyone down to the ground. ¬†(The New looks stunning enough though, especially the 3rd hole!).
The Tank pulled through the gates circa 9.40; we were to meet our good host around 9.45 for a 10am tee off. ¬†On time for once then. ¬†Richard was introduced to us by a young gentleman by the name of David Ferreira, who we played with at Pine Valley a few months back. ¬†Turns out Richard was his boss when David was seconded for a short while at Barclays Capital ‚?? obviously he must‚??ve done a good job, because when David put the feelers out for who might be kind enough to host two dishevelled Kiwis for a game Richard answered the call. ¬†I‚??m not sure if I asked all my old bosses if they‚??d take a couple of random punters out for a hit they‚??d all do the same!
And so commenced a rather familiar routine, which goes something like this: JP to pro / locker room steward / receptionist ‚?? ‚??Good morning Sir / Madam, my name is Jamie Patton, and I‚??m here as a guest of Richard Jennings. ¬†We‚??re teeing off at 10. ¬†Except I don‚??t have the foggiest idea of what Richard looks like. ¬†So if you see him, could you please let him know that Jamie the (ahem) Kiwi is out on the putting green in a black Ballybunion vest? ¬†Thank you.‚?Ě ¬†Hit a few putts; look around for someone that looks like a Richard; still nothing. ¬†Eventually a tall chap edges over and we both know that we‚??ve eventually come across the person we‚??re supposed to be meeting. ¬†All very Cold War smoke and mirrors stuff, you see.
Unfortunately I suffered the embarrassment from the outset of having made a rather large f**k up. ¬†Richard had asked me days prior whether we had a fourth in mind; I suggested Bart might be keen for a game, unless Richard had other ideas. ¬†Great, he said. ¬†Only, I told Bart yesterday that I thought we had a four, so he went up to London to sample a bit of nightlife with family friends. ¬†And missed out on the joy that is Walton Heath. ¬†On a pure blue sky Sunday morning. ¬†Ooops. ¬†Richard was gracious enough to brush the glaring logistical error under the carpet, but I felt like crawling under a bush. ¬†Anyway.
We got chatting in the shop to the Assistant Head Pro, James, who‚??s spent a good bit of time in NZ with family based around Auckland town. ¬†He was perhaps the most ebullient human we‚??ve met this year; just gushing with enthusiasm about his time Down Under, and full of stories about his six thousand cousins that reside there. ¬†We chatted for what must‚??ve been 20 minutes before realising that we were supposed to be here to play golf. ¬†The members must feed off his chat.
Richard (recently engaged following a trip to California, which took in Pebble Beach, no less) led us down the road to the 1st tee. ¬†235 yards of par 3 welcomes you to Walton Heath. ¬†A very gentle start... ¬†¬†I pinged a 3 wood into the greenside bunker, only to discover perhaps one of the greatest pleasures of playing at the Heath (a colloquial nickname that I‚??ve selected, whether or not it‚??s actually used by anyone else): the sand. ¬†It has the most magnificent texture; a real treat to clip your ball from. ¬†The fact that I got up and down and thus our relationship started out on the right foot may have had something to do with it. ¬†But I like to think otherwise. ¬†Tremendous sand ‚?? as pleasing in form as in substance too.
Then you walk across the road (as we did at Goodwood yesterday). ¬†And the golf course starts to open up in front of you; in fact both of them do. ¬†A strong stretch of holes from 1 to 6 ensures you don‚??t get complacent ‚?? not least the 519 yard par 4 4th hole, which I managed to triple bogey after a lost ball from the tee. ¬†You can be 3 yards off the fairway at Walton Heath and lose your ball without trying. ¬†Such is the tyranny of the heather and gorse and hellish heathland undergrowth. ¬†What a challenge it presents; a challenge to relish.
Playing dead into the October sun ‚?? at this point, shining through the morning mist to create a blinding glow ‚?? presented yet another challenge. ¬†We couldn‚??t see where we were hitting the bloody thing. ¬†Ignorance is bliss. ¬†On the 3rd (a 290 yard par 4, playing slightly down breeze) we waited for the chaps ahead to clear the decks before launching. ¬†All three of us got near the front edge too (in Richard‚??s case, with a mere 3 metal). ¬†But this put us a couple of minutes behind time: something a cantankerous brigade of old farts in the group behind had no qualms about mentioning on the next tee. ¬†‚??Are you playing a match?‚?Ě one enquired rather sharply. ¬†‚??Of sorts,‚?Ě I jousted. ¬†‚??Well, I hope it moves quicker,‚?Ě replied the despot. ¬†I fired him a wry smile and moved on, hoping never to make his acquaintance again. ¬†And I didn‚??t. ¬†Because we played at a good pace as we are prone to doing, and he was fighting with more heather and gorse and sand than your average Prestwick member does in a year. ¬†There‚??s always one...
Walton Heath is surrounded by public land, used recreationally for a number of purposes. ¬†Like walking (surprise, surprise ‚?? we‚??re in England), horse riding and so on. ¬†Probably paintball too. ¬†I myself preferred to use it to find my own golf balls, several of them having disappeared into oblivion. ¬†One would have more luck finding a needle in a field of haystacks than one would trying to find a little white ball amongst the heath. ¬†
After the 6th the course gets a bit gentler, but it‚??s by no means a dawdle. ¬†Heather‚??s ne‚??er too far away. ¬†She‚??s a right bitch that Heather. ¬†Good looking but perilous. ¬†Like Russian women, I imagine.
Richard‚??s a few years our senior (33, he admitted, which means he‚??s probably 31 if the wisdom of psychology of the male psyche is to be believed), so it was interesting to see how life had panned out for him given our similar backgrounds (in law, etc). ¬†His path has been perhaps a more orthodox one than ours (go figure), but he seems to have cultivated a nice life for himself that manages to balance work with all the other stuff. ¬†It is possible then, in the banking world. ¬†He had four years at Linklaters, and in the latter of those billed over 2000 hours (which is quite a lot), but was still told he wasn‚??t working hard enough. ¬†They wanted two pounds of flesh. ¬†So he said, politely, ‚??go away‚?Ě. ¬†And now life appears to be running more smoothly. ¬†For every Richard though there‚??s an earnest young punter who would reply ‚??how high?‚?Ě, and work themselves into the ground. ¬†For a buck or two, and a chance at ‚?? drum roll please ‚?? Partnership! ¬†Not for me, and not for him. ¬†
We had a grand old time. ¬†Walton Heath is the sort of course you could happily play week in, week out, but that can be stretched out to monstrous and ferocious proportions as necessary (it‚??s used as a US Open qualifying course). ¬†And the members have the pleasure of having the New Course at their disposal too ‚?? which, though we didn‚??t play, looked rather special too. ¬†I wanted to go straight back out and play again, truth ¬†be told. ¬†But Richard insisted that we have a quick beverage on the deck, and a bowl of chips, before he shot off to do family duty. ¬†I could see inside a proper sit down lunch ‚?? jacket and tie job ‚?? going on, akin to a couple of the lunches we‚??ve been fortunate to have this year. ¬†Too nice a day to be sitting inside though! ¬†
Thanks Richard, and thanks to Walton Heath for hosting us ‚?? a very special experience. ¬†
Never is our life made easier than when we have the privilege of staying at the club we‚??re playing. ¬†Happily this was the case today at Cottesmore. ¬†It was sheer coincidence that our path crossed with this lovely little country hideaway, and a very happy one at that. ¬†You see, the proprietor Matt Rogerson and his wife Sue were at our launch event, back on 25 January at Terrace Downs. ¬†Matt and his friend Paul were random entries in the field, and we had the pleasure of playing around with them. ¬†Naturally the conversation turned at some point to where the remainder of the journey would take us, one stop being England. ¬†Matt insisted that when we make it down to West Sussex we pop in for a visit. ¬†So we did. ¬†And here we are.
Today fell at the front end of a 5 night stay in the wonderful Cottesmore Lodges (ours was ‚??Carnoustie‚?Ě ‚?? they‚??re each named after an Open course north of the border). ¬†Matt and Sue were still up in Scotland fishing, but we were instructed to make ourselves at home, and enjoy the facilities. ¬†After the chaos of the past week or so ‚?? from Birmingham, through Somerset and into Wales, and down to Devon and Cornwall ‚?? Cottesmore was an appealing prospect to say the least. ¬†Something of a holiday. ¬†
It‚??s been like staying in an alpine resort ‚?? the wood cabin having had a therapeutic, almost medicinal effect on our bruised bodies. ¬†Waking up I may as well have been deep into the Swiss Alps (except it was Tunnocks Tea Cakes by the bed, not Toblerone, and a rooster outside, not a yodeler). ¬†We each had our own bed on this occasion too! ¬†Bart‚??s been a fantastic injection into the puregolf2010 engine, but the novelty of sharing a bed with him is starting to wear off. ¬†Sorry Bart. ¬†Replace the B in his name with an F and you can guess what he spends most of the night doing.
The Fuhrer had us up bright and early, and into the pool for a spot of aqua jogging. ¬†We looked like a bunch of woofters, but if I‚??m being honest the episode did wonders for les jambes. ¬†Some improbable underwater routines were followed by Bikram yoga-like stretching torture in the gym. ¬†What a treat it was though to have these facilities at our disposal. ¬†The same can be said of the washing machine and dryer not 30 yards from Carnoustie ‚?? which got a good going over given we‚??ve been ‚??saving up‚?Ě a regiment‚??s worth of soggy breeks. ¬†Yes, Cottesmore has been the full shilling.
Back over breakfast Michael and I were topped up with pills and powders ‚?? Berocca, Glucosamine, fish oil, etc ‚?? by our new dietician. ¬†From woofter to geriatric in the space of an hour. ¬†With our tee time not scheduled until 1250 (on the Phoenix Course, little brother of the two), we had a spare hour or two with which to catch up on, well, everything. ¬†Primarily blogs. ¬†The sun was shining; we had Toons blaring through the fresh country air of Carnoustie; and life was incredibly good. ¬†After having done a shop last evening too, there was a full fruit bowl from which to gorge ourselves to keep productivity levels up too. ¬†Ahhhhhhhh...
Matt and his father Michael built the golf courses themselves, from scratch. ¬†Pioneers of the industry, they were. ¬†The first of the farmers to spot a gap in the market ‚?? golf at this point remained a largely elitist game in the south of England ‚?? they quickly found a following (600 members in the first couple of months) and went from strength to strength. ¬†They even had a waiting list of 200 before long. ¬†As the story goes, however, the R&A banjaxed everything ‚?? by bringing out a document called ‚??The Way Forward‚?Ě in 1988 (?). ¬†The learned gentlemen at that distinguished institution had done their sums ‚?? totalling all the waiting lists in the UK ‚?? and came out with a projection that another 700 golf courses were required to satisfy demand. ¬†What they failed to account for was the fact that many people had their names down on several waiting lists, giving a distorted (inflated) picture of reality. ¬†Needless to say, where Matt and father Michael had paved the way, a slew of other farmers followed.
Cottesmore however continued to enjoy success, and over the years Matt has added to the business with wisdom and enthusiasm. ¬†It‚??s quite amazing what he‚??s achieved. ¬†The set up now includes a fully functional country lodge (run separately for the past 12 years), which does weddings and weekend parties and the like. ¬†Of course there‚??s the health club too, and the Lodges themselves (which for me were the highlight). ¬†It‚??s a smashing piece of land; something Matt can be very proud of cultivating into what it is now. ¬†Incidentally his only brother runs the school next door, the other half of the family legacy. ¬†These Rogersons are a canny bunch. ¬†
And a charming lot too. ¬†Sue the Rogerson matriarch is a first class cook, and has been blessed with a nature of unparalleled grace. ¬†It hasn‚??t skipped a generation either: we had the pleasure of catching up with youngest daughter Louisa, who‚??s as charming as ma and pa. ¬†The newest addition to the family ‚?? Louisa‚??s husband of 3 months, JP (another one) ‚?? rounds off the bunch with a wealth of youthful charisma and fire in his belly. ¬†A great lot to chew the fat with over dinner, as we were fortunate enough to find out. ¬†
Thanks go then to the Rogerson Clan for their wonderful hospitality. ¬†Cottesmore has been a delight and a half, and we look forward to seeing y‚??all back in NZ in December ¬†/ January! ¬†For those not privy yet to the well kept secret that is Cottesmore, check it when you‚??re next near London ‚?? you won‚??t regret it believe me.
The golf world is full of tenuous claims ‚?? ‚??Tom Watson when he came here said this...‚?Ě, ‚??this is Ben Hogan‚??s favourite hole in the world,‚?Ě ‚??people have been playing golf here since Egyptian times...‚?Ě, etc etc. ¬†Some are credible, some you fire a wry smile at and change the subject. ¬†Westward Ho!‚??s claim to be the oldest course in England falls into the former category. ¬†For me, its credibility derives entirely from two sources. ¬†The first is the name, which is so immediately and intensely endearing that one can‚??t help but swallow anything fed to one about the club with lustful appetite. ¬†Second, is the place itself ‚?? clubhouse and course. ¬†So steeped in ancient dust and that smell of oldness is the clubhouse ‚?? and so quirky and St. Andrews-like is the course itself ‚?? that there can be no doubting Westward Ho!‚??s claim. ¬†Plus it‚??s Royal North Devon to us underlings ‚?? giving another, royal, stamp of approval. ¬†I rest my case.
Quite apart from all the history, RND is also just a tremendously pleasant place to visit. ¬†Mark the Secretary had kindly accommodated our request for a visit at relatively short notice (and a rescheduled tee time in light of burst tyre on the M5 to boot). ¬†When we met the man himself he was delightful, and spoke with what I can only assume is a thick Devonshire accent. ¬†In a past life he may have been a gentleman farmer. ¬†But that‚??s beside the point ‚?? Mark couldn‚??t have been more welcoming, something y‚??er man on the street doesn‚??t always expect when he visits a Royal club. ¬†(Truth be told, we‚??ve found most of the Royal clubs we‚??ve visited ‚?? some 14 or so, by now ‚?? to be among the most welcoming we‚??ve experienced this year). ¬†When in his presence, our three were like naughty school boys visiting the headmaster. ¬†I say that because we were standing in his office ‚?? which is just offset from the lounge / museum, where the members were sitting with apple juice in hand ‚?? in our socks, there being no spikes allowed in this part of the building and our loafers being back in the car. ¬†An unorthodox but warm encounter. ¬†
On the putting green we got talking to a very pleasant chap who looked and sounded like a pirate. ¬†An affable pirate, of course, who was clearly off duty from pillaging ships off the Devonshire Coast. ¬†Which, by the way, is nothing short of stunning. ¬†As we surveyed the vistas in front I couldn‚??t help but draw parallels with Waterville over in Ireland, which has a similar wow factor. ¬†Added to the mixer was the enchanting village of Bideford behind, set against the hill. ¬†All I could wonder was how many times this place has been invaded by the Normans and the Vikings (more likely) and the Romans (most likely) and every other dastardly uninvited guest through The Ages. ¬†In any case, today was the day of The puregolf2010 Invasion. ¬†What a windy day we‚??d picked for it too.
From the 1st tee you immediately get a sense that you‚??re not about to play an orthodox course. ¬†A burn gurgles some 50 yards or so ahead. ¬†A wide fairway opens up yet further ahead. ¬†Another burn / ditch runs along the right side of the hole. ¬†To the left is rough that you wouldn‚??t wish on anyone. ¬†Even your most bitter adversary. ¬†Nope, not even him. ¬†30 yards short of the surface snakes the same burn (it‚??s a short par 5, by the way) that was a‚??snakin‚?? before. ¬†Then there‚??s a fairly wide open green complex with little standing guard other than a flat-ish sandpit. ¬†In benign conditions the big boys would tear this up. ¬†However. ¬†I‚??d be surprised if the odds at William Hill on there being two calm days in a month were not longer than the Danube. ¬†This be windy country. ¬†And, like The Old Course at St. Andrews ‚?? Westward Ho!‚??s ever so slightly more ancient northern cousin ‚?? the course needs it. ¬†
A Sou‚?? Wester wind, coming from Bideford and beyond, makes the front nine a fairly gentle proposition. ¬†Relatively speaking. ¬†The inward nine on the other hand is a devil of a thing in such conditions ‚?? the sort of nine that you‚??d happily walk off having played within a shot or two of your handicap. ¬†Ahhhh, links golf.
On the third tee we spotted our first rafter bunker ‚?? something I‚??ve always thought the south of England is famed for. ¬†(Is it?). ¬†This miscreant was deeper than Barry White‚??s voice and apparently fortified with every tree felled in the northern hemisphere 116 years ago. ¬†A huge expanse of a hazard. ¬†Now, without sounding overly self-assured, The Thing wasn‚??t in play for us. ¬†In this wind the 385 yard hole was almost driveable (Mike and I were just short of the front edge). ¬†We did however witness a few more mature golfers toiling away ‚?? ‚??thud‚?Ě after ‚??thud‚?Ě ‚?? as we walked to the 17th tee, some hours later. ¬†Not funny of course, but mildly amusing.
More remarkable bunkering was to be found on the par 3 5th. ¬†Every shape and size of hole ‚?? a bit like Pine Valley in this sense; you look down in misbelief that someone‚??s been bold enough to cut a hole in the ground in this shape. ¬†We‚??ll blame it on the Romans for now.
Again, dog walking was a feature of this very traditional slice of golf land. ¬†Natural I suppose, given people like to walk their dogs by the seaside, and the UK‚??s coastline is peppered with prime golf terra firma. ¬†Often it means you have an audience when teeing off; an audience that unlike you probably doesn‚??t see one iota of sense in chasing a wee white ball around scrubby ground. ¬†Sometimes even the dogs look on with bemusement, even disdain. ¬†In such cases I stare ‚??em out and invariably win the battle of machismo (most probably they get a whiff of a good looking bitch down on the sand and decide they‚??d rather be looking at her posterior than my repugnant dial).
Bart on a number of occasions would blurt out ‚??this is the best designed golf course I‚??ve ever played.‚?Ě ¬†Quite spellbound was our gaffer. ¬†I was surprised at his preoccupation with this most quirky and fun of golf courses, given the real possibility that his mind could be elsewhere. ¬†Bart you see had met a wonderfully exotic ladyfriend the night prior who‚??d taken to his Kiwi charm like a bee to honey. ¬†Friends you‚??ll be pleased to hear the feeling was mutual. ¬†And so, I expected, pining could get in the way of his enjoyment of RND. ¬†But it didn‚??t. ¬†Indeed the three of us ‚?? like a trio of school pals at the beach on their summer holiday ‚?? were in our element, breathing in the salty Devonshire air. ¬†And pirate spotting. ¬†And staring out dogs.
Life changed when we turned into wind. ¬†Fresh off a solitary front nine birdie on the par 3 8th my tail was up, then quickly blown back down. ¬†Par 5s became par 5 and a halfs; par 4s became par 5s. ¬†Pars on the scorecard were replaced with bogeys. ¬†A right battle we had on our hands. ¬†
At RND you will find holes that you won‚??t find anywhere else. ¬†Like the 13th, deceptively named ‚??Trap.‚?Ě ¬†The only trap is the name, which leads you to believe you‚??re being trapped. ¬†In fact the 12th has one of the widest ‚?? if not The Widest ‚?? landing zones I have ever laid eyes on. ¬†Yet from the tee all you see is gorse in front and in the foreground on both sides ‚?? and so you assume it‚??s tight like a tiger the whole way to the green. ¬†When it‚??s not. ¬†A lone bunker guards the ‚??fairway‚?Ě and a couple of greenside bunkers ‚??guard‚?Ě what may be the most wide open green complex in the northern hemisphere. ¬†More threatening were the two horses munching down chlorophyll behind the green like it was going out of fashion. ¬†Oh, did I mention the wildlife? ¬†By this point, we‚??d also met the acquaintance of sheep and cattle. ¬†The horses then rounded off the barn animal complement. ¬†
Equally as quirky was the 440 yard par 5 14th. ¬†Straight into the Great White Shark Teeth of the hurricane. ¬†3 bunkers guarding the LZ (as we called it back in ‚??Nam), but 34 acres of light rough on either side of said sandpits in which to park your tee shot. ¬†Then it‚??s a heave with a 3 wood or long iron. ¬†Followed by a pitch or a chip (no, you won‚??t be keeping it on this green in twe). ¬†To say that the green is an upturned saucer would be to say you‚??re all sick of my pointless ramblings ‚?? a bloody great big understatement. ¬†More like an ice cream cone. ¬†Pitching from 50 yards to it ‚?? in a howling gale ‚?? is no enviable task; I suspect the Texas Wedge comes out frequently when the old boys are out ‚??ere. ¬†No one would build a hole like the 14th and that, my friends, is a shame.
The rest of the round is something of a blur: a struggle into the wind, past cowpats, over roads and burns and God knows what else. ¬†I do remember though that it was a boatload of fun. ¬†There‚??s that word again: Westward Ho! Is a fun name to say and an even more fun course to play. ¬†Fun, fun, fun.
Three weary Kiwis washed away the cobwebs in the shower, then perched by the fire with a couple of locals. ¬†There we drank pints and pints of OJ and lemonade; ate a fill of chippies; and put the world to rest with our new friends, whose names sadly have escaped me. ¬†Let‚??s call them Bert and Eddie, for those are two names befitting of these cheerful and somewhat long in the tooth characters. ¬†Exchanges like this are in many ways what puregolf2010 is all about ‚?? spontaneous, interesting and banterous. ¬†(At this point, Microsoft is telling me something that my ‚??friends‚?Ě have long asserted: namely, that ‚??banterous‚?Ě is not a proper word, and I shouldn‚??t use it ‚?? WELL, to hell with you Microsoft and to you, my righteous so-called friends; I‚??m using it anyway).
Mark popped his head around the corner and insisted that we pop our heads back into the office before leaving. ¬†After we‚??d inspected the riches of the museum (honours boards going back to 1874; medals of biblical age; clubs from times gone by that look improbably difficult to use; paintings of The Great Triumvirate Braid, Vardon and Taylor (the latter having been a past Captain); etc etc) we did just that. ¬†Much to our amazement Mark produced four wonderful prints of the course and of RND mischief gone by ‚?? a gift to us, to auction off for The First Tee when we make it back home in December. ¬†What a gentleman. ¬†Folks warm up your wallets; these are of a rare beauty. ¬†They were done as a fundraiser for the upcoming 150th anniversary of the club, and will look spiffing on your wall. ¬†
On that note, a sincere thank you to Mark & Westward Ho! for their incredibly gracious hospitality, and touching gift. ¬†Today was a real step back in time and a tremendous amount of...fun!
JP ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† ¬† ¬†
Up next on the roster was Burnham & Berrow Golf Club on the South West Coast of England some 45 minutes South of what has been base camp at Bristol.¬† After waking up to a few plumming dramas at the abode of JP‚??s cousin, Ross & Rachel‚??s house we headed south ‚?? to continue our loop around England, manager Bart (Doug) in tow, and met our hosts for the day, Euan Bremner & Richard Read.¬†¬†
These two lads are partners in a corporate law firm based out of Bristol and had taken the day out to entertain us. ¬†¬†The connection was through our mate Zyg from up at Royal Aberdeen so this blogpost inadvertently gives me a chance to recall the now infamous stories of Zyg and his shanks on that picture perfect day at Balgownie that is forever stuck in my memory.¬† That day Zyggie and SP entertained us like no other & after 12 hours at the club we had enough stories to fill a book ‚?? probably an R-rated book.¬† So when Zyg jacked up his mate Euan (formerly from the old stomping ground at Aberdeen) to play with us we knew we were in for a fun day.¬† ¬†¬†Euan had made the connection with his workmate Richard who is a member at B&B and thus the plan was hatched.
We broke the ice over a coffee, a breakfast bap and a few stories, many involving Zyg and a place called Magaloof.¬† These stories are not for public consumption.¬†
After playing a few more local courses over the last week Burnham & Berrow was a real treat.¬† A pure out-and-back links along the coastline and through the dunes.¬† The turf was good and the greens pure.¬† As JP would say, the stars were aligned.
We also had some local help at hand ‚?? in the form of Frank ‚?? a member who was once upon a time from NZ until he immigrated to these parts in 1956. ¬†
B&B is another course that has been blessed with the touch of Harry Colt, but also had input from Dr MacKenzie during the 20‚??s. ¬†One of the great professionals, James Taylor, also plied his trade here as a pro for 16 months before he went on to bigger and better things (namely winning 5 Open championships, designing a number of courses and being part of the great triumvirate).¬†¬† How is that for some name dropping?
It was a classic day out really.¬† Four guys all playing some good golf, some average golf but generally talking the way around the golf course caring little about putts missed, shots shanked and balls lost.¬†¬† Don‚??t get me wrong there were some fine golfing moments such as Euans 320 yard drive on the par five 8th hole.. Actually I can‚??t go past his tee shot on the 7th‚?¶‚?¶ You see, Euan had started his pre-shot routine ‚?? a serious pre-shot routine for a serious 19 handicap golfer.¬† Yet Rick wanted to tell him the line to hit it between the bunkers on the left and the hazard right.¬† This wasn‚??t an easy tee shot and definitely not one the prudent golfer would go at guns blazing with the driver.¬† So Rick wandered up to point the direction, standing mere inches from Euans ball teed up between the pegs.¬† ‚??You see, don‚??t go too far right‚?Ě Rick said, ‚??as there is a ‚?¶. WHACK‚?Ě ‚?¶. and with that Rick was interrupted by an almighty swing by Euan the swoosh of the club felt on his leg as the titanium driver barely missed Rick‚??s left leg.¬† We all got the fright of our lives and looked up, laughter everywhere, only to be shocked to see the ball sailing straight down the middle to position A1.¬† ‚??Don‚??t interrupt me in my pre-shot routine‚?Ě chipped Euan, clearly stoked that impulsiveness had paid off for him on this occasion.¬† The blighter won that hole knocking a sand wedge to a few feet to make a 4 net 3.¬† But, despite Rick‚??s reliable swing leading him nowhere but straight all day, the match was going our way, match fitness and all prevailing for the kiwi boys who rarely get paired together but on this occasion dovetailed to perfection with 7 birdies spaced out across the round.
The back nine was always going to be more difficult as the wind was unrelentingly in our faces and any golfer knows you need to be on Top Form to come home with consistency in these conditions.¬† Bogeys were made but the banter continued all the way to the clubhouse, where our resolution to stay off the beers was broken as we yarned over a pint.
Not having anywhere to stay Euan invited us back to Bristol.¬† So much for continuing our journey south but it did make sense rather than all try and find something further down the coast at this late stage in the day.¬† Actually Doug had been making some calls in his managerial role, but so far had lucked out (that is lucked out in NZ terminology‚?? eg unlucky, as opposed to in the US lingo).¬†¬† The decision to go back to Bristol also made great sense later that night when we were out in the pubs having a whale of a time with our man Euan.¬† Although I think Rick was still on the side of the motorway trying to change his tyre!!¬† He thought he had it fixed thanks to us stopping and puregolf2010 manager/ mechanic Doug putting the spare tyre on, but we‚??ve subsequently found out Doug made a balls up of that and Rick was there some time fixing it‚?¶.
Needless to say after a cracking night of banter with Euan we woke up the following day braced for a very long drive to Westwood Ho and feeling a little bit sorry for ourselves.¬† But Burnham & Berrow ‚?? one of the best in England so far.¬† Thanks lads for arranging this ‚?? thanks for making the connection Zyg and thanks Frank for showing us the ropes.¬† This time, we‚??re finally out from Bristol ‚?? next stop Cornwall!¬†
After the past couple of days at Birkdale and Lytham ‚?? the ‚??Royals‚?Ě, both Open Championship links ‚?? Charlie took us down to his club, Formby, which has riches of a different character. ¬†I‚??d describe it as heathland. ¬†And what a phenomenal piece of ground they have there too: enough for a championship course and an equally mouth watering (but shorter) track for the girls that plays inside Big Brother. ¬†The club has an illustrious history to boot, and a rather proper atmosphere. ¬†How they let riff raff like Charlie in I‚??ll never know. ¬†He changes his shoes in the car park in defiance of The Rools, but suggested we take ours inside ‚?? as if he‚??d carved a niche for himself as an outlaw, Lone Ranger, and didn‚??t want us encroaching on his turf! ¬†You gotta love this guy.
Charles ‚?? like a short tempered army Major, or a despotic boarding house tutor ‚?? gave us a wake up call (we were staying at Chateau Donald up in Southport). ¬†The three musketeers packed down the biggest feast of muesli and marmalade smothered toast you have Ever seen. ¬†Anticipation levels were high. ¬†I was excited to see that England does actually have sky above the clouds. ¬†And it‚??s ‚?? you won‚??t believe this folks... ‚?? blue! ¬†Yes, it was a bluebird day to rival the most crisp of Christchurch winter mornings. ¬†Delighted.
Formby like Lytham is tucked away down a residential street in suburbia, just next to a train station (Freshfields?). ¬†To minimise the risk of us getting lost we all travelled together ‚?? a decision also driven by the ulterior motive / desire to travel in style (Charlie has a sharp Audi that‚??s not packed to the rafters with the sort of things you‚??d find in a student flat: wet clothes, food wrappers, empty bottles, etc). ¬†The man drives like a lunatic. ¬†No, I‚??m kidding: just wanted to get a wee jab in; Charlie and I being fellow Scots like to tear strips off each other.
Y‚??er man had arranged for another Michael to make up a four. ¬†Naturally the Michaels were paired together in what would prove to be a formidable team. ¬†The Scots not for the first time (and not for the last) failed to offer much resistance, save for a few satirical verbal knifings and the odd expletive. ¬†
Right away we were confronted with heather, pine and sand. ¬†Set against the piercing blue of the seldom visible sky, it was quite a picture. ¬†At this point in the morning shadows were cast long too, giving an early bird feel to proceedings (even though it was 8 o‚??clock). ¬†Here‚??s the view from the 2nd tee, to give you an idea. ¬†(Incidentally this hole has, I think, one of the tougher greens in England to hit).
Charlie being a staunch believer in the principle that golf clubs should strive to always improve their course, and worry less about all the trimmings like a new members‚?? lounge, was frequently asking us how we thought a hole could be altered for the better. ¬†‚??And for f**k sake, be honest‚?Ě, he‚??d caveat. ¬†The man reminds me of why it can be so endearing to be Scottish. ¬†
As we were teeing off on the par 5 3rd hole, a few dog walkers (if you could call them that; they were being walked by wooly mammoth-like St. Bernards and the like) paced across in front of us. ¬†I‚??m not sure they had the foggiest idea that the path they were treading ran straight through the middle of a golf course. ¬†If they did know, there wasn‚??t the slightest indication that they cared one bit for their safety. ¬†This is a feature of English golf that we‚??ve come to notice with surprise, an occurrence that happened yesterday at Lytham too. ¬†Walkers must have right of way. ¬†Which seems illogical to me given golfers are the most important creatures on this earth.
Holes like the short par 4 4th (above) were a delight: clever bunkering very much making Strategy the name of the game. ¬†Charlie questioned the merit of the couple of ‚??new‚?Ě holes (i.e. 25 years old or so) ‚?? 7 and 8 ‚?? but I thought they were rather good. ¬†(In times gone by there were apparently a few great holes playing right down to the sea, but these had to be scrapped due to erosion). ¬†The 7th (pictured below) is a pretty classy short-ish par 4 if you ask me: a tee shot that‚??s not as tight as it looks and an approach that‚??s longer than it looks. ¬†Sure, you can get blocked out if you take the wrong line, but so you well should for being so careless. ¬†The hole had atmosphere.
8 equally was a par 5 (stroke index 1) that gives you options. ¬†Mike (or ‚??Sick Boy‚?Ě, as he‚??s now known) knocked two phenomenal shots to 8 feet, proving it can be reached. ¬†From the tee it‚??s a ¬†case of pick your line, depending on how aggressive you want to be. ¬†Then you can go for it if you‚??re long enough or lay up and still have a good chance at birdie. ¬†The green is a McKenzie one though, so if you get on the wrong tier then 2 putt is very unlikely (as Charlie proved). ¬†Again, it had atmosphere.
Here‚??s a photo of the 9th, which ‚?? for mine ‚?? is one of the few holes that could be improved. ¬†As you can see, Goldy gets right on his tip toes even with a 2 iron!
Below is the view down to the sea, to where a few of the old holes played. ¬†From the horizon a par 5 came towards the point I was standing, and then around to the right, to where the current 10th green is (now a par 3).
Canny fairway bunkering on the 11th below. ¬†I was in the left hand one, from which par is only a dream. ¬†A distant one at that. ¬†By this point the Michaels were beginning to strengthen their grip on the match, Michael Senior rolling in putts from everywhere (as he‚??s prone to doing, per Charlie). ¬†
On the 17th tee, just after the match concluded, Charlie pointed through the woods to a gargantuan house the owner of which is something of a ‚??character‚?Ě. ¬†He bought all the houses around him and knocked them down so he could build a big adventure playground for his kids. ¬†On Saturdays they can be heard darting around on their little quad bikes while members try to hold their nerve on the tee! ¬†He installed CCTV in the woods as well, obviously to catch out any badgers or foxes that feel the urge to use the playground facilities under the cover of dark. ¬†
17 and 18 are two picturesque finishing holes; on both your eye is drawn towards the very regal looking clubhouse ahead. ¬†One feels like one is playing somewhere special.
Michael Snr looked pleased as punch with his victory inside the shed as he munched down the fruits of his labour: Cumberland sausage with dipping mustard. ¬†Every Sunday morning the loser(s) pays for the sausages. ¬†It was a pork pie with Branston pickle that caught my fancy, although the sausage was a delight. ¬†Our 4 became 5 when Alan, a friend of theirs who lives next door, popped in to join us for a pow wow. ¬†Y‚??er man was a Walker Cup player a year or three ago, and had some famous victories in the (British) Amateur Championship, stories of which we had to draw out of him with torturuous techniques that would rival even the most sadistic of Japanese wartime rituals ‚?? such was the modesty of the man.
A famous morning had by all. ¬†Golf was followed by a drool laden power nap at Chateau Donald, then we nipped back to Wayne‚??s in Manchester for a(n extended) family dinner. ¬†Gayle‚??s roast potatoes may be the best spuds I‚??ve ever had. ¬†And I‚??ve had a few spuds in my time... ¬†(As a child, it was the only vegetable I ate ‚?? at about 15 years old I ventured into onions and eggplant, and now can wolf down the whole veggie garden, save for brussel sprouts and cauliflower ‚?? just so you know).
JP ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†