Introducing Samael Watcher Y.P. -Disciplinary Meeting, ‘The Dai Rees Lounge’, Cwm Golf Club.

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Dai Rees – The Legend who had a lounge named after him

Let me put you in the picture. I am sitting on an ex-crimson old chair crushed against the flock wallpaper of the crappy ‘Dai Rees Committee Room’ at poxy Cwm Rhymney Golf Club. It feels like we’re still in the 1940s. I’m feeling uncomfortable wearing a suit and tie and my head is full of words and words. I’ve endured the Chairman’s verbal report, the Secretary’s verbal report and the verbal report of Dai Dogs (Handicap Sec) standing in for the green keeper who was unable to attend due to his hay fever being particularly troublesome at the moment.

But, beyond all this – Beyond. All. This. Iesu Mawr – I am so bored.
Let me tell you precisely where I am. I’m in the aforementioned crappy ‘Dai Rees Committee Room’ of the aforementioned poxy Cwm poxy Golf poxy Club. – a speck of a village the size of a baby ant’s arse in the north edge of the Ebbw valley in the south east quarter of the south-east quarter of the ancient country ( principality if you’re going to split hairs) of Wales.
Why? Because I’m waiting for my turn.

‘Next item – Flags.’ said Tommy.
There was total silence. The seven attendees dropped their seven heads in one synchronised swoon. The speaker was the President. El Presidente. Tommy the President. Tommy the Pres. Tommy the Cat. Tommy the owner of a chain of, brackets three, count them, one, two, three, bread shops in this region of the northern Ebbw Valley. Tommy the impresario, as he liked to be known, or Tommy the wheeling-dealing, money-grabbing, ‘tight as a duck’s arse’ little shit as he is commonly known when out of earshot and gunshot. Tommy the Cat. So named because a long time ago – a long time ago – he was the more than half decent Cwm goalkeeper. Trials with Brithdir, allegedly. Tommy the Cat. Now, a man universally hated and despised in equal measure. A man of whom his closest friend would say to me a few hours from now –
‘It would be easier really to give you a list of the people who wouldn’t want to kill him. And as his best friend I’d certainly put myself on the ‘I’d rather kill him than not’ list.’

Tommy the Cat was discussing flags. Tommy is a bully. Full stop. A Fatty Aruncle lookalike cliché of a man. Fatty Arbuncle nasty twin brother..

I’m sorry. How rude of me. I haven’t introduced myself. The name is Sam, Samael K. Watcher P.I. Or to be truly bilingual as is the fashion slash law these days – Y.P. Ymchwilydd Preifat.

I’m a fully licensed Ymchwilydd Preifat. and have been for a year or so now. I’m a lone fox, unmarried,young, gifted and poor. I don’t do divorce business. I like whiskey and women and golf and a few other things. I’m a native son, born in Cwm, both parents dead, a pain in the arse sister called Seren. Oh, and there was a decade where I have no memory of anything that happened. It happens – but I’m over that now and like I said I am attending a committee meeting at Cwm Rhymney Golf Club. In a non-professional capacity, I hasten to add. I am here under duress. Well, under compulsion really. I was due to attend the disciplinary element of this surreal cabaret but had wandered in early and been wordlessly directed, by Tommy’s eyes, to sit and observe the whole performance at a discrete distance from the main stage in a shoddy, battered, crappy old chair under the frequently unwashed window at the edge of the ‘Dai Rees lounge’.

I heard the word ‘flags’ again, louder, and awoke from my revere. Is it revere? Or reverie? Is that even a word?………………

 

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Adjer Bill

 

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In these dark golfing days of penalising professional golfers for moving their ball 2 cms and ‘trial by video’ and blah blah blah, I remember a time when even cheating used to be simpler..

BERWYN:                     Do you remember that guy from Pontnewydd that used to cheat?

PENSIONER DAVE:     Aye. Adjer.

BERWYN:                     I went to school with him.

ANDY:                           Adjer? Why was he called Adjer.

PENSIONER DAVE:     That was his name. He would always put his marker in front of his ball on the green and behind it when he wanted to putt.

ANDY:                          I don’t understand.

DAVE DEMONSTRATES

ANDY:                          Ah I see he was adjing nearer the hole every time.

JOHN:                            Is he still playing at Pontnewydd?

PENSIONER DAVE:     No. Dai Snips sorted him out.

JOHN:                           Big Snipsy? The barber?

PENSIONER DAVE:     Unisex hairdresser if you don’t mind.

ANDY:                           How?

PENSIONER DAVE:     How what?

ANDY:                          How did he sort him out?

PENSIONER DAVE:     Well Adjer marked his ball against Snipsy a few times in a match. You know adjing and adjing and Snipsy is getting more and more wound up, you know. On the 16th he loses it. Adjer has cleaned and marked his ball a couple of times, getting nearer and nearer to the hole each time. Then Adjer picks the ball up again and starts cleaning it. He puts it down again and Snipsy looks at him hard. “Well,“ he says, “that’s close enough now for a gimme Adjer. So pick it up. Pick it up, put it in your pocket and if I see you in this club again I’ll stick the ball, your marker and your putter”…. Well he did tell him where he was going to put his putting equipment but I don’t want to upset a nice young man as you Andy. Anyway Adjer never played in Pontnewydd again.

BERWYN:                     He was always an idiot. As Thick as ……

JOHN:                           (INTERUPTING) … Charon’s ferry boat is with phantoms?

BERWYN:                     No. Is was going to say as thick as shit.

ANDY:                           Well what about him?

BERWYN:                     I saw him in Cardiff last Friday.

PENSIONER DAVE:     What was he doing?

BERWYN:                     Same job. Oh but he’s Chief Inspector Adjer now.

 

Golf snippets from Mynydd Brawdafad

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“Il fait froid.” I said…. “It is cold” I explained penetratingly.
“Il fait extremely fucking froid” trumped Pensioner Steve.
“Maen o’er!” I added frostily for no sensible reason I could think of.
We were waiting on the wintry, first tee as Dai Proper and Dai Copy (twins) were completing their frozen first nine holes and wandering past us.
“Cold enough for you?”, trited Pensioner Steve
“Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey”, further trited Fred the Bread, icily.
“It’s cold enough to freeze the balls off a pool table”, even more numbing tritefulness from Pensioner Steve.
“It’s nobbling. It is.” Said Dai Proper, a man of gelid reserve,  in passing.
“It’s as cold as my mother in law’s love.” I quipped bitterly. Silence.
Dai Copy was very very nobbling. He cough, sneezed and shivered glacially past us complaining to Dai Proper (twin), “The trouble with this club Dai. The trouble with this club is the weather. Everyone moans about it. All of us members moan about it, but nobody ever does a fucking thing about it.”
We looked.We waited for the quartet to glide past us.
“Well.”
“Get on with it.”
We got on with it. We played. We moaned and not one of the committee did a thing about it.

The Old and the New – Royal Porthcawl and Machynys

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Until the Ryder Cup of 2010 Wales would not have been a country people would naturally associate with golf. It isn’t Scotland, to be fair. The Ryder Cup played at the Celtic Manor Resort, Newport, was a huge success with an estimated 615 million viewers around the globe. This single event put Wales on the map for golfers and visitors across the world. It catapulted Wales and Welsh golf into the world spotlight, finally.

Wales has had its fair share of great golfers over the years, from Dai Rees and Brian Huggett to Ian Woosnam and Jamie Donaldson. Wales, less publically, also has a number of exceptional, world renowned golf courses.

There are 176 courses in Wales and they cater for all golfers and all golfer pockets. There is a myth I was brought up with, that golf is a game for the elite. It was thought of as a game for doctors and bankers. There was the belief that you needed to be rich to join a golf club. There were, and in some cases still are, elements of that but this has been generally eradicated over the past few decades. Social change and television  has meant that more children, and adults, believe they can play golf. In the past decade which has seen businesses struggling financially, golf courses have had to open their doors, challenges old habits of elitism and become professional in order to survive. Far more children now play golf in wales than ever before. Part of this is due to the number of Ryder Cup initiatives where an estimated 200,000 people in Wales tried out the game.

Wales has had a surprising long history of golf. The earliest recorded golf game in Wales seems to be at Tenby where a passage from the ‘Laws of Markets and Fairs’ (1875) tells of court proceedings being adjourned whilst the Mayor took time off to play golf. However, this claim as the first golf club is contested by Borth & Ynyslas which has evidence of golf from a similar date.

There are a number of quirky features for welsh golf courses. For instance the West Mon Golf Course, Nantyglo  boosts the highest in the United Kingdom with the 14th tee situated over 1500 feet above sea level. Or Llanynynech, which advertises itself as the only dual country course in Europe. On the 4th hole you drive in Wales and putt out on the green in England.

In the South West of the country there are two of the finest golf courses in the world,

Royal Porthcawl and Machynys. Both of these links courses are ranked in the top dozen courses in Wales. Royal Porthcawl is ranked number one in Wales, and 86th in the world, whilst the up and coming Maychynys course is already ranked just outside the top 10 courses in Wales.

These courses are incredibly different in so many ways but in other ways they are so similar. They are both links courses, that is golf course built along the seaside with numerous bunkers. They both appeal to the whole range of golfing abilities in different ways.

They were designed and developed over 100 years apart. Royal Porthcawl was designed and developed by golf professional Charles Gibson with other legendary golfers and course designers including James Braid, Open winner on 5 occasions, involved at various stages in the development.

Machynys was designed and developed by Gary Nicklaus on behalf of his father the legendary Jack Nicklaus, 18 major wins. The project cost an estimated £3.5 million and introduced 25 acres of salt and freshwater lakes, 12 miles of irrigation pipes and 6 miles of drainage pipes. It opened in 2005 and is an amazing development. Situated just outside Llanelli it is bordered by the Millennium coastal path and Carmarthen Bay to the south and the Wild Fowl and Wetlands Trust at Penclacwydd to the West.This gives the course a natural feel with water being a huge feature.

The club was opened less than a decade ago and was voted best new links course in 2010. In its brief history it has hosted a number of prestigious events, including the R&A Seniors Open Amateur Championship in 2012, the Ladies British Open Championship in 2013 and has become part of the Ladies European Tour holding the ‘S4C Wales Ladies Championship of Europe’.

The reason for the praise is the quality of the golf course. It is a spectacular, flexible, modern golf course that like all of the best courses changes frequently depending on the wind and the weather. Golfers have a challenging course to battle as the course navigates its way through the water, sand and marsh land.

It can be a tough course, especially when the wind blows. Although there is a fair amount of water to contend with, but it is fair. As a golfer you know where it is and need to avoid it. The greens are deep, slick and true. The course rewards good players with no hidden tricks which is all you can ask for really.

Beyond the course there is the club house. This attractive, modern building is the centre for the golf, spa, restaurant, conference centre, bar and pro shop.

Less than 30 miles south east from this modern icon is a golf course that was opened over a century early yet embodies the same challenges and excitement to golfers. Royal Porthcawl was opened in 1892 and is as traditional a golf club as you can get.

The course was founded by a group of coal and shipping businessmen from Cardiff in the later nineteenth century. It has developed with the wind and rain and the encouragement of many of the world’s top golf course architects, James Braid and Harry Colt amongst them. It is a typical natural links course changing subtly over the years like many of the finest Scottish courses.

On 30th march 1909 the club was given the rare privilege of being called ‘Royal’. It was just the 26th golf club to be granted that honour. The story of how that honour was attained is shrouded in mystery. However the result was a letter from the Home Secretary Herbert Gladstone concluding that “after enquiry and consideration I have felt able to recommend the King to permit the club to use the title “Royal” and that His Majesty has been pleased to approve the recommendation.”

Perched on the Bristol Channel, subject to the winds and storms, playing Royal Porthcawl is a unique experience. You are so aware of the history, the traditions. It is the epitome of a links golf course. You can see the sea from every hole. The bunkers protect the course, which is not particularly long, by todays’ standards. The greens are superb and fast.

At Royal Porthcawl no two holes are played consecutively in the same direction. This may seem a minor point for non-golfers. For golfers it means you constantly have to adjust your swing and your aiming to allow for the wind.

The course has many remarkable features. On a clear, windless day it can seem to be an extremely benign course. However like many of the seemingly benevolent links courses the wind is rarely quiet for more than a few hours or days at a time.

There is a great passage in the writing of possibly the finest golf writer of all time, Bernard Darwin. He played Royal Porthcawl in 1910. On the first day there was no wind or rain and at the Welsh Championship meeting; “all sorts of wonders were observed. A competitor holed a full brassie shot and 3s were as plentiful as blackberries.” The following day conditions had changed. He continued;

“I remember being left with a putt of some eight or ten yards, and banging the ball past the hole with a light and careless heart, fully prepared to see it trickling in. Alas! The green was a little wet that morning and the ball stuck firmly on the opposite bank and refused to come back.”

It really is a special golf club. It consistently figures in the top courses to play by many magazines and professionals. It has hosted many leading amateur and professional  tournaments, including the Walker Cup, the Amateur Championship (six times) Curtis Cup, European Team Championship, the Home Internationals, the Ladies British Open Amateur, Dunlop Masters. It’s the course where  Tiger Woods lost his singles in the 1995 Walker Cup to Gary Wolstenholme and the USA team lost 14 -10.

Now it seems there is the possibility of Royal Porthcawl achieving the ultimate accolade for a British golf course – it is being seriously considered to hold the Open Championship. It was always felt that the travel infrastructure and lack of space around the course would never make this possible. It now seems these obstacles could be overcome and who knows, before 2020 Wales could hold its first Open Championship.

article with images first published in Cymru Culture 2014 :

http://www.cymruculture.co.uk/featuredarticles_89967.html

Real Rules for Real Golfers

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There is very little written down about how golfers should really conduct themselves on a golf course, which seems strange. There are books, dvds, computer games on all other aspects of golf – swinging the club, chipping from 76 yards, putting from 12.7 yards on a North West facing slope, playing out of bunkers containing a particular sand mix,etc.

There are even a number of books on that most bizarre of topics; golf etiquette – with hundreds of things to do or not to do –

don’t fire a gun on your opponents backswing,

shake hands even though it’s killing you inside,

say ‘good shot’ when your opponent’s duffed a chip and bounced backward from a rake to within 2 feet.

Yet nothing apart from the most inane “keep up with the group in front”, on how you actually conduct yourself on the golf course to avoid slow play……… until now…..

Real rules for real golfers …

Rule 1 – Turn up on time, ie turn up 25 minutes early. You need this time to…

a) put your ball on the first tee … to indicate you’re next in the queue

b) get ALL your stuff out of the car… trolley, bag, clubs, tees, pencil….

c) put bag on trolley

d) mess about with trolley battery

e) get tees from bottom of bag (remind yourself to put tees in better place after round today)

f) get least crinkled, driest ‘monkey’s paw’ glove from bottom of bag (remind yourself ………..)

g) saunter confidentially to first tee

h) go back to the car to get your pitchmark repairer

i) walk back to first tee more briskly

j) go back to the car when your mobile phone rings embarrassing you

k) creep back to first tee

l) verbally abuse group in front of you with traditional taunts about not being shy about calling you through when they’ve lost 2 holes

m) prepare and practice – take 3 practice swings and put club back in bag

n) put down mental markers with your playing partners – “I haven’t touched a club for 3 weeks”, “my back’s been playing up”, “My handicap’s down to 19 but I’m nowhere near that”

o) go back to car for golf shoes

p) sprint back from car running verbal abuse gauntlet of jibes from other golfers as your playing partners tee off

q) slice first drive into trees

As the round starts;

It’s slightly misleading of me to say that it will take 2 hours for a round as this is for 1 person. For a group of 4 I guess it will take 8 hours – Well sometimes it feels like that. There is a major, major internal mindshift golfers need to take here – Playing golf involves parallel process, not a serial process. You play golf at the same time as your playing partners – not after your partners.

OK, OK I know what you’re saying but basically I’m correct. As your partners are playing their shots – you should be preparing – pause long enough, of course, to watch where they hit it and praise / heckle /commiserate accordingly but it really should take nearer to 2 hours to play than 8 – shouldn’t it?

You play golf on your own – in a way – what your partners do shouldn’t often affect you – so you need to focus on your own game and conduct and be a little selfish.

Tips for being a little selfish

a) look for your own ball at the same time as others look for theirs. Don’t react like a bunch of 5 year olds playing football and swarm around each ball in turn.

b) prepare your shot even if you are about the same distance from the hole. Of course the furthest-away person hits first but you should then be ready to hit – especially if you are wider than your partners – it should be practically instantaneous

c) line up putts at the same time as your partners – unless you’re a professional and earn your living doing this – if you are putting to win the Ryder Cup then perhaps I’ll allow a little more latitude. If there’s a silence on the green and people are looking at you and you say “On me?” you deserve to have your ball stood on the next time your opponent passes it in the rough.

Positioning on the golf course, or course management as it’s often called, is vital to the game of golf. By this I don’t mean that nonsense of getting the ball on the correct side of the fairway or leaving an uphill putt – unless you’re off scratch I believe hitting a fairway or leaving yourself a putt are as much as you could dream of.

Tips on positioning /green play and generalities

a) put your bag in a sensible position. It should be placed on the edge of the green in the direction nearest the point where you leave the green to advance to the next tee. No-one preparing their approach shot wants to see the situation on the green ahead where a golfer puts the flag in then does a funny run and apologetic wave as he (and it will be a he) moves to the front of the green then has to pull his trolley around the green to catch up with his sensible playing partners.

b) if you’re lucky enough to be the first in your group to hole your putt first grab the flag and be quiet. Do not offer advise on the speed, slope, wetness, firmness of the green as others try to concentrate.

c) mark your card on the next tee – do not EVER, EVER, EVER stand on the green looking down the fairway pointing at various invisible marks mouthing 1… 2… 3… 4 … etc.. then take your card out of a back pocket, extract a pencil from your bag, shout to your partner “How many for you?” and carefully mark the card. In this circumstance for the group behind it should be allowed, no not allowed, it should be mandatory to hit to your green and anyone hitting you should not have to count that shot.

d) stop talking and prepare to take your your shot.

e) stop talking and prepare to take your shot.

SLOW PLAY – 2 THOUGHTS

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Slow Play is not a recent phenomenon. In an essay from 1934 on ‘The People in Front’ –you know who you are – Bernard Darwin describes them …….

“They waggle for hours; they stroll rather than walk; they dive into their monstrous bags for the right club, and then it is the wrong number, but they are not sorry that we have been troubled. Their putting is a kind of funereal ping-pong. We could forgive them all this tricks, from which we are conspicuously free, if it were not for the absurd punctilio with which they observe the rules. They will insist on waiting for the people in front when it must be palpable even to their intellects that the best shot they ever hit in their lives would  be fifty yards short.”

The final word on slow play.. a sign that will…encourage people to play quicker…

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Mynydd Brawdafad Golf Club

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David Lloyd George with guests (including original cast members of Pobol Y Cwm and the Likely Lads) at the initial Captain’s drive in ceremony – note club had affiliation with Llanfrechfa fishing club and president on right is carrying the ceremonial rod

Brawdafad is a tough course, in a tough part of the world. The land was bought in early 1921 (year of the acquittal of Harold Greenwood, birth of Dick Francis, 6-5 win for Wales rugby team in Paris) and a few short weeks later was opened. A report from the local newspaper makes fascinating reading;

“At the opening ceremony Captain Mr. P. Dave asked Dr Gwyn T. Bara, Chairman of the club to declare the course open. Dr Bara, their enthusiastic and highly efficient chairman was presented with a wonderful weapon, a golf driver, with which to drive a mighty ball from the first tee (laughter and applause). He thanked the lady and gentlemen of the committee for honouring him by asking him to open the course. He referred to the early beginnings of the club and its uphill struggles and said that were it not for the generosity of a local businessman, Mr. D. S. Snips (snr.) of Aber Annwyd the club would never have reached its present state (enthusiastic applause).

Dr Gwyn T. Bara explained that the situation reminded him of a remark Mr Ramsay Macdonald, the ex-premier made that ‘Golf is to me what his Sabine farm was to the poet Horace – a solace and an inspiration.’ (embarrassed silence). Dr Bara duly took the first hit on the course and hooked it through the clubhouse window.” The first club captain David Lloyd George then took over proceedings and in his own words “It’s time to get the party started”.

Brawdaf and Annwyd Valley Express Monday June 27th 1921

The club was bombed during the Second World War by a rather wayward squadron of German bomber. It was reported after the war that with all the bomb damage the course had never looked better.

It is a mountain course. It is rough and rugged and sheep-lined. It must be pretty much how many early Scottish courses looked. However, not many early Scottish courses were built alongside council estates. There is a scarcity of land at Brawdafad and every inch of the ground is used. It feels like someone has placed a full size snooker table in a small lounge. Each tee seems to be against a fence and at times it seems that you’ve barely enough room to take a full backswing.

The rough is very rough. Pensioner Dave once sliced a drive into the rough off the sixth tee and against all our advice went chasing after it. He disappeared from view for a good few minutes. Feeling slightly anxious we called out to him;

“Pensioner Dave have you found your ball?” we called.
“Not yet,” came the reply, “But I have found a golf bag and a set of clubs.”

Extract from Collection of golf articles – ‘Putting is a Form of Self-Torture’ now available – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Putting-Form-Self-Torture-Collection-Articles/dp/1533538247/