Bobby Jones and the Ystrad Mynach Cup
“It was during a practice round for the Ystrad Mynach Cup that I first met Bobby Jones. Bobby Jones – the lege, the man. Probably the greatest golfer in, well, …. in ever. Here is the man that entered 20 majors and won 13 of them. Here’s the winner of 3 Opens Championships, 4 US Open Championships, 5 US Amateur Championships and the British Amateur Championship. He was the winner of the impossible ‘Grand Slam’, winning each of these championships in the same year – as an amateur! Well – amateurish. But, wow. Bobby ‘the man’ Jones. Here in Tregethin.”
Dr Dai Dogs, President of Tregethin Golf and Country Club was holding court. His face had been frequently compared, not unkindly, to a ripped dap. His hair was … disturbed. He looked exactly as he lived. The sad grey eyes had seen 87 hard years of grief and despair as a golfer, greyhound trainer and doctor in Tregethin. Dai Dogs fully understood the twin emotions of grief and despair as he was required to mete them out on a regular basis. There was a reason he was not nicknamed after his doctoring or golfing abilities. He was a good story teller though, and the expectant crowd were sitting at his feet – semi-metaphorically, of course. Most of them were seated at a large, and exponentially growing, mismatch of tables and chairs on the far side of the Dai Rees lounge looking out over the eighteenth hole of Tregethin Golf and Country Club.
Dr Dai Dogs sipped his beer, “I think I first met him in ’36 I believe. Yes, it must have been because I had combined the surgery and the kennels in ’35. I remember thinking – Wow, Bobby Jones. Although he had won all these events there was one tournament that had eluded him. This was the crème de la crème, the icing on the cake, the Ystrad Mynach Cup – the Y. M.C. A superb competition with a history, surpassed by many, but as unique as many unique big tournaments. The history of it was quite interesting, But, it wasn’t the fascinating, untellable history that was the attraction. It was the tournament ‘they all loved to win’. The tournament that separated the men and the women, from the boys and the girls. It was the thing to have on your CV. The Nobel prize, the Pulitzer prize. of golf, the Ballon d’Or, the Jnanpith Award, the Christmas number one. Yes – the Y M C. A number of great golfers have won this prize, and a number of great golfers have not won this prize. This may seem a surprise to people – but there is a good reason. The winners including some sparkling players in the roaring 20s – Joyce Wethered, Tom Morris senior, Walter Hagen, Glenna Collett-Vare. The clubhouse wall in Tregethin Golf and Country Club, reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ golfing list of people who have won the YMC. A list of the great and the best. It reads like a list of great players that have won the greatest golf tournament in the world. And you would be right. However, if you look at that list from 1940 to the present day – we’re in 1947 at present” he reminded people, “you don’t see your Sam Sneads, your Ben Hogans, your Patty Bergs, your Gene Sarazens and your Francis Ouimets. No. You see one name. A strange name for a strange person – a name that describes him as well as naming him – ‘Pensioner Steve’.”
He paused to take a new pint from Dai Snips. Snipsy had rushed to the bar and back to ensure Dogs was sufficiently lubricated. Dogs drank thirstily and continued.
“Granted, 1939 is a blank space on the wall – due to the war”, he again reminded people. “However, the past 6 years have seen the name ‘Pensioner Steve’. ‘Pensioner Steve’. ‘Pensioner Steve’. ‘Pensioner Steve’. ‘Pensioner Steve’. ‘Pensioner Steve’. Why? you ask. Well, following the 1939 cancellation a delegation was sent to Berlin to ask for, and get, special dispensation for the introduction of a non-bombing zone around the whole of Tregethin, not just the club and practice areas. With the ‘Dai Rees – Tregethin airport’ staying open this allowed golfers from all sides and all countries to get to the club to practice during the week and compete on the third Sunday in July. This proved satisfactory, as all the armies, obviously, released their best players for the occasion. So, we had the scenario of your Sam Sneads, your Ben Hogans, your Patty Bergs, your Walter Hagens, Martin Kaymers seniors and your Bernard Langers all competing together.”
He paused to think, looking out of the slightly grubby window and remembering, with a hint of a tear in his eye. Word had got around and there were people standing, quietly, filling every available space in the Dai Rees lounge and spilling over into the corridor and changing rooms. Dai Dogs looked around, finished his beer, took another full pint from an unknown, unidentifiable arm and moved on.
“How Pensioner Steve came to be the undefeatable champion is a funny story, and one I am finally allowed to tell. But first a little background on Pensioner Steve. Pensioner Steve is his real name – unlike some of the others and their pretend names – Bobby Jones was originally Robert Tyre Jones. Ben Hogan was Benjamin Haganeski, Sam Snead was Salaman Rushdie, Byron Nelson was Barbara Streisand and so on and so forth. No, Pensioner Steve was always Pensioner Steve from that fateful, indeterminate day he was born. Pensioner Steve grew up as a decent enough golfer. However, there are two sides to every coin and it is the side of the coin that has one side that tells the story of Pensioner Steve. On the head side, he was a good player, on the tail side he was a better player. The difference? The coin itself. In a way. He was a different person with a scorecard, a head, in his hand – than with a 10-shilling note, a tail.” The doctor waited for the crowd to work this out. Then he helped. “He was virtually unbeatable when playing for money but useless when the handicap secretary was around or playing on the intensely Christian, financially useless, Welsh Baptist Sabbath or playing a handicap-counting competition. So, it was unsurprising that Pensioner Steve never entered and competition. He had 2 reasons for playing golf – coins and notes. Both were unavailable in this god forsaken bible-bashing Bethesda belt of Tregethin.”
Dr Dogs didn’t pause.
“On the morning of the third Sabbath of the seventh month in the year of our lord 1940 Pensioner Steve was drinking in the members’ lounge (officially a German Presbyterian zone, as agreed during the negotiations of ’39 I mentioned earlier). He was sitting and drinking with Sir Tom Jones – former Chairman and Organiser of the Rules Committee. Sir Tom buys Pensioner Steve a drink. Under the 1939 terms of agreement drink was allowed, as was smoking. Gambling or mention of the Church was expressly forbidden – obviously. Sir Jones asked Pensioner Steve why he wasn’t playing in the competition. Pensioner Steve replied wearily that there’s no real point playing as the prize money is extremely poor, and still is – 100 pfennigs went nowhere in the 1940s – and there was no way to supplement the winnings it being Sunday and betting very banned.
Sir Tom smiled and pondered. He had heard rumours of Pensioner Steve’s prowess but had never seen him due to his (Sir Tom’s) career suddenly taking off and him (Sir Tom again) becoming, in effect, the titular Chairman only. On his travels, young Sir Tom had played a great deal of golf in America and he was keen to see Pensioner Steve slugging it out with Sir Tom’s friend – the young up and coming Gene Sarazen.
‘I tell you what’, grinned the slightly inebriated Sir Tom, ‘I’ll allow betting this once. Just this one-time mind you, as long as you enter.’ Pensioner Steve looked at him questionably. ‘I know what you’re thinking, Pensioner Steve, said Sir Tom Jones, but I assure you that legally this is something I can do. Something I must do. As you know I was heavily involved in the 1939 negotiations and as a reward, which I never thought I would use, it was writing into the agreement that I could overrule all current and future legislation on one occasion such as this. I refused to accept this honour several times but you know what,’ said Sir Tom, ‘I’m glad I accepted it now’.
Pensioner Steve thought. Pensioner Steve spoke, ‘Is it a medal competition?’. Sir Tom nodded and the game was nearly afoot.
‘Let’s have it in writing.’ said the ever-mistrusting Pensioner Steve and with a flourish Sir Tom produced a legal pad from his coat pocket and signed a local law then and pretty much there permitting betting from 6:58 a.m. (the time it currently was). The law was quickly ratified by the Clerk of the court, Chief Justice Llewellyn Ap Davies, who was in the members lounge and a local civil servant – Brenda Gwyneth Rees-Griffiths. Pensioner Steve shook Sir Thomas’ hand in that slightly sly little way he has and the game was really afoot.
‘I’ll rescind this law a soon as I get back in,’ announced Sir Tom O’Ponty as he moved swiftly toward through the lounge door toward the first tee to officially hit the first drive and start the competition.
And so, it came to pass that Pensioner Steve playing with the up and coming friend of Sir Thomas Jones, Gene Sarazen, won the competition by 3 shots. He had a remarkable round and in the process landed a fair number of wagers with various American and other International spectators.
Sir Tom enjoyed the day and the excitement greatly. Too greatly in fact and collapsed on the 18th green as Pensioner Steve holed his bunker shot for a course record 65.
The law was never rescinded and Pensioner Steve bets to his evil heart’s delight on this one special Sunday of the year. You would feel there would be no market in it. Such is life – there are always people to bet against – The hopeful, the foolish, the young, the old, the dreamers, especially at the odds offered by Pensioner Steve. As one of the competitors in last year’s Saturday pro-am famously said, ‘Never give a sucker an even break.’ This was of course WC Fields – a frequent visitor to the club and winner of the 1925 Saturday pro-am alongside a very, very young Walter Hagen.”
Dai Doggs stopped. He finished his drink, “And this, on my soul, is how this day came into being.”
He stood up and said, “I’ve got to go back to my surgery now to attend to the curs but if you’re here tomorrow I’ll tell you about Bobby Jones’ build up to this year’s tournament and reveal a few more secrets.”
He flounced out back to his surgery.
End of Part 1
West Mon is a course where the wind blows hard – always. It is rough, ragged and the fairways are sheep-lined. Contrary to folklore it doesn’t rain every weekend – it occasionally snows. It’s a traditional valley’s course. It’s harsh, unforgiving and proud of it. There are a few of these courses still left in the South East ex-mining valleys – clubs where a fifty something can have the nickname ‘young un’. Clubs where the official booking time is a week in advance, yet at 1 minute past 7 (official booking time) all times from 7 to 10 have been allocated to ‘the vets’. Not ‘the veterinarians’, but ‘the vets’, ‘the veterans’ – a group so powerful and frightening the Cardiff Mafia ‘the Tafia’ have never even dreamed of trying to open negotiations.
To the untrained eye the course looks like someone just went out one day with 18 brightly coloured flags and placed them around the mountain at random intervals. This isn’t entirely true.
The course was designed over a century ago by a remarkable Scottish professional golfer, Ben Sayers. Born in Leith, Scotland Ben had been an acrobat in his earlier life and took up golf aged 16. He was only 5 feet 3 inches and his life was taken up with his sport. He had every job you could imagine concerned with the sport. He was a golf ball maker, golf club maker, caddy, course architect, professional, and coach to royalty. He was second in the Open twice and unlucky not to win.
In 1906 he designed the West Mon course. The terrain must have been familiar to him brought up on the links courses of Scotland. West Mon has the feel of a traditional Scottish links course, without references to the sea. It’s windswept, sparse on vegetation and generally left to nature to manage. The only thing missing from a links course is the sea. The sea is a long way from the top of Mynydd Carn-y-Cefn.
The course is littered with sheep. Tough sheep. Sheep that own the course. Word in the clubhouse is that one November afternoon on the par 5 eleventh hole a hooked drive found the rear end of a grazing sheep. The force of the stroke would have stunned a fairly bulky human being and killed many small cows. The sheep stopped grazing. He turned around and stared at the perpetrator with a patronising look, “Is that the best you’ve got “, turned back around continued ruminating.
It’s known for being ‘natural’. There aren’t too many modern day ‘features’ to ‘spice up’ the course – no ‘risk or reward’ holes, ‘signature holes’.
The course is tough. The weather is tough. The ground is tough. The people were tough. What Ben Sayers achieved in 1905 was to carve eighteen unique golf holes out of a hostile environment. They have hardly changed since the course opened. He did a decent job of it, although I suspect it didn’t cost the 500 million dollars it will take to develop the Royal India Ocean Club in the Maldives.
In 1954 the legendary Henry Longhurst wrote a short article called ‘The Perversity of Putting’ which described his life as a frustrated putter. In essence, he told the universal golfing story of when he was putting well the rest of his game went to pot and when he putted badly the rest of his game went extremely well. A situation I guess many of us are not only familiar with on a daily basis, but come to accept as part of golf.
But why should this be? Is putting so weird and unearthly that success in it influences another aspect of your game? Have you only a finite amount of luck and if you spend it on one aspect of your game, inevitably the other areas of your game will suffer? Well – yes and yes. There is a long list of trite, but basically true, sayings that comment on some of the psychology and mysticism of “the game within a game” –
“Half of golf is fun; the other half is putting.”
“Hitting a golf ball and putting have nothing in common. They’re two different games.”
“A “gimme” can best be defined as an agreement between two golfers, neither of whom can putt very well.”
“The prime requisite for putting? An abounding confidence in one’s ability.”
“The ball doesn’t care how positive you are thinking when you hit it with a putter moving and aimed in the wrong direction.”
Putting truly is as weird and unearthly as all those sayings would have us believe. It is so, so different from any other aspect of golf. Other golf shots have to be accurate enough. They need be good enough. Getting the drive ‘on the fairway’ corresponds to ‘hit the ball accurately to within about 30 feet’. Getting your approach shot ‘on the green’ translates to ‘hitting a target the size of a medium sized swimming pool’.
Putting is not like that. Well, not real putting. i.e. putting from a distance where you can see if there’s anything in the hole whilst standing over your ball. I regard long and medium putts as ‘golf shots’ just like drives, approach shots or pitches. Like bunker shots long putts aren’t really expected to go in the hole and if they do then it’s great, a bit of a fluke, and should be shown on the highlight reel on tv.
Putts you are expected to make are what would be called real putting. It is the one part of the game that needs to be totally accurate. If a plane leaves Los Angeles bound for Cardiff but is just two degrees off course it lands in Anglesey. If your aim is two degrees out on a real putt – you miss – which is possibly even more serious than being in Anglesey, and far more embarrassing. If your aim is a few degrees out on a drive – so what – you’re still on the fairway, or even further out of bounds – it’s practically irrelevant.
So, rule number one for real putting is ‘hit the ball exactly where you are aiming it’. This is very, very difficult. It involves better eye-hand coordination than an open-heart surgeon, the nerve of a nerveless trained assassin, the temperament of the Dalai Lama and the touch of a brilliantly dexterous, concert pianist.
Even then you’re not even halfway there. This isn’t the hard part. To get the ball into the hole involves ‘hitting the ball exactly where you are aiming it’ plus knowing exactly where you should be aiming in the first place. It assumes you have calculated the direction and the speed of the putt. This is based on many, many, many variables – the length of the grass, the wind (strength and direction), the direction the grass grows in, the slope of the green, the moisture level, the air temperature and pressure, the characteristics of your golf ball, the precise gravitational pull of the tides, the earth and the moon. If you’re one percent short on your flight from Los Angeles to Cardiff and you end up in Cork, Ireland. Which is nice, some would argue – nicer. If you’re one percent short with a putt you miss. Which is a total binary fail. You don’t get half marks in golf.
As demonstrated – real putting is tricky. It’s an awful lot trickier than flying that aeroplane to Wales I would imagine. It’s so difficult I feel it verges on the impossible. Like the bumblebee that pseudoscientifically can’t fly, so pseudologically it is impossible for anyone to hole a putt. But the bumblebee does fly, and people, apparently, do hole putts. So, I hear you ask – “How do you account for that?”
“Luck” is my one-word answer. Luck is the defining characteristic of the successful bumblebee and the brilliant putter. It is a known fact that bumblebees are incredibly lucky animals. A Welsh piece of folklore says that it is very lucky if bumblebees set up home in or near your house. They bless it with prosperity – that is true. It is well known that finding a bumblebee on a ship is good luck. There were no bumblebees recorded on the Titanic – point proven. So, it’s no surprise bumblebees can fly. They are incredibly lucky insects.
In a similar vein I think that the best way to improve you putting is to focus more on being luckier. Gary Player once remarked that the more he practiced the luckier he got. For me, I reckon the luckier you are the less you need to practice. That should be motivation for every golfer out there.
Henry Longhurst said, “They say ‘practice makes perfect’. Of course, it doesn’t. For the vast majority of golfers, it merely consolidates imperfection.”
I believe golfers can influence their luck. You know it too. It’s one of the great secrets all humans know, but we have to pretend it can’t luck doesn’t exist and therefore cannot be influenced. Yet all our behaviours demonstrate the opposite. We wish opponents a grudging ‘good luck’. Why would we even say that if we didn’t believe it existed? Or ‘bad luck’ if they miss a putt. Let’s look at even more scientific evidence with five arguments to prove it;
Argument 1: 3.5 billion people, or more, can’t be wrong, can they?
Half the population of the world believe in the ancient Chinese philosophy of Feng Shui which promotes good luck. A number of large Western Organisations are willing to invest a great deal of money respecting their beliefs;
The Disney Corporation shifted the angle of the front gate of Hong Kong’s Disneyland by twelve degrees to align the park for maximum prosperity.
The entrance to the original MGM Grand casino in Las Vegas was inside the mouth of Leo the lion, MGM’s mascot. However, many
Chinese gamblers avoided the casino or entered the casino through the back entrance to avoid the bad luck they believed they would have entering the mouth of the lion. in 1998 the entrance was changed.
Argument 2: Animals can’t be wrong, can they?
Animals shouldn’t believe in luck, should they? In an experiment carried out by B.F. Skinner he proved that animals, in this case pigeons, like golfers, are superstitious at heart and will carry out a set of rituals, or superstitions in order to give themselves the best chance of success. Skinner set up an experiment which meant the pigeon had to peck the correct button from a number of options, to get some food. The pigeons quickly established this and learnt which button to peck. Skinner then changed the system and rewarded the pigeons randomly whichever button they pressed. The pigeons responded by behaving in an unusual way – They developed their own mannerisms; twisting their necks, flapping their wings, pecking close to the buttons in a consistent manner in a bid to reproduce the luck they had previously had achieved by gaining food.
Argument 3: Psychologists can’t be wrong, can they?
An experiment was carried out with people who described themselves as “lucky” and another set who didn’t describe themselves as lucky. A test was given to these two groups of people. Both groups were given newspapers with hidden messages. They were asked to complete a task and during that task they could come across clues and hidden messages giving them instructions on how to win $100. People from the “lucky” group did far better than the other group. The psychologists conducting this experiment concluded that feeling lucky can help you.
It gives you positive vibes and a more optimistic viewpoint. Feeling lucky makes you more likely to see the good side and influence your behaviour.
Argument 4: Psychologists can’t be wrong, can they (part 2)? People can control their luck. Or, more accurately, people behave as if they can control their luck. Ellen Langer, psychologist, describes this as the ‘illusion of control.’ This illusion of control was illustrated in an experiment she carried out based on a lottery. The lottery is an acknowledged game of pure chance with each ticket having as much chance of winning as any other, obviously. One group of people were given lottery tickets with images of famous sportspeople on them. Another group were able to select which lottery ticket sportsperson they choose. Each ticket cost $1. When scientists attempted to buy tickets from these groups, based on the excuse that there were no more lottery tickets left, they found that the people who had been given random tickets negotiated the sale of their tickets for on average, $1.96. Whilst the people in the group who had selected their own tickets sold them for an average of $8.67. Therefore, the second group, who had chosen their own tickets, behaved as though they had more control of their luck than the first group who’s chances of winning was predetermined.
Argument 5: Sports stars can’t be wrong, can they?
Paul Azinger, golfer, always marks the position of his golf ball on the green with a US penny that features Abraham Lincoln. Not only that but he lines the penny up to ensure Lincoln is looking at the hole. Wade Boggs, baseball star, liked to eat chicken before a game at 5.17pm precisely. He then went and hit exactly 150 balls in batting practice. Serena Williams blamed her failure to win the 2007 French Open on herself: “I didn’t tie my laces right and I didn’t bounce the ball five times and I didn’t bring my shower sandals to the court with me.” Ernie Els believes each golf ball only has one birdie in it and will change it after he’s extracted that birdie. Christina Kim refuses to step on the line where the fairway meets the green as she is convinced it will bring her bad luck.
The ‘Illusion of control’ is a great way of summarising the attempt to control your fate. On the one, rational, level it seems absurd. How can changing your golf ball for an identical one possibly affect your chances of winning? However, one of the most important aspects of putting, or any competitive activity really, is feeling comfortable about it and getting yourself in the best frame of mind. If this means wearing red on the last day of a competition like Tiger Woods, or pink like Paula Creamer, so what. You’ve got to do what feels right for you. Therefore, it follows that you can influence your putting ability by dressing in pink.
‘Putting is a Form of Self Torture’ is a Universal Truth and a book available on Amazon.
Arnold Palmer golfing in Wales (well, the best example I could find)
I have 2 characteristics I am addicted to keen to combine. These are the reading of biographies and stories of the great golfers and Welsh golf courses. For some strange reason I find it fascinating to discover reports, photos of great players visiting our tiny country.
There have been may instances, of course, of golfing Legends to Wales – Tiger Woods at Royal Porthcawl for the Walker Cup in 1995. Walter Hagen playing at exhibition match on the same course in 1933.
Having read about Arnold Palmer’s upcoming book – ‘A Life Well Played’ – I decided to focus my research on a true golfing hero and find if Mr Palmer had ever played in Wales. I looked and looked. Unfortunately, I could find no record of this but I will keep looking. He must have done mustn’t he?
The closest I could find was a visit by Arnold to Celtic Manor in May 2009 where he was the guest at the KPMG sixth annual Golf Business Forum.
It was interested to note that the address made by AP was quite prophetic for the time –
As a seven-time Ryder Cup veteran and former captain, Mr Palmer commented on the Ryder Cup coming to Wales in 2010. He said: “The Celtic Manor Resort will be a wonderful venue for the Ryder Cup. Conditions will make it very interesting for the players and the spectators. The American team better start thinking about the conditions they are likely to face in Wales as they will have to work very hard to win.”
He also prophesied – “I am very much in favour of golf becoming an Olympic sport. I don’t think we can comprehend what it would mean to the game. From any angle, what it will bring to business, and the wider public interest it will create, it is almost mind-boggling what the impact would be.” Which has, of course, come true recently.
I would doubt that this little trip to Wales will make his book but I am hoping that there may be an opportunity one day to see the great man and his remarkable swing, or even more remarkable to encounter his fiercely competitive, but sporting, character. Now, if someone out there can find some evidence that he has played here at some time in the past. That would be interesting and would go on my list alongside Tiger Woods and Walter Hagen.
Who knows there may even be a story in Arnold’s new book ……….
- Those nice people at Macmillan are offering a free sleeve of custom Callaway golf balls to anyone who pre-orders a copy of Mr. Palmer’s book online (the link to this offer is here: http://us.macmillan.com/static/smp/arnold-palmer/).
The 1904 Olympics at St Louis hosted a bizarre golf tournament that was, unsurprisingly, the last time it was held until this year.
It was very, very strange state of affairs. There was a team competition and an individual competition – both only open to men.
For the team competition 6 teams of 10 entered. Unfortunately, only 2 turned up. A makeshift team of 10 was put together at the last minute and there was a contest of 3 teams. Team USA was first. Team USA was second and Team USA was also third.
The individual event however involved international competition for the USA in the form of Canada. The Canadians had 3 representatives. The USA had 74. Soon the Canadians had only one – George Lyon. George took on the USA and a legend was born. George won. The USA did well in the other medal places however and took the silver and 2 bronzes. There was no women’s competition
There was a women’s competition at the previous Olympics. However, it was such a similar disaster you would be inclined to believe it was organised by the same people – it wasn’t. It was held in France alongside the men’s event. The men’s event was a 36-hole competition – the women were allowed 9 whole holes. The winner was Margaret Abbott with a score of 47. Her mother came seventh, with a score of 65. Margaret never knew she had won a gold medal throughout the rest of her lfe.
Most of the competitors for the women’s and the men’s competitions simply never realised they were competing at the Olympic games. They somehow believed it was just another tournament. These particular Olympic Games were spread out over 6 months and with limited internet access they had no idea that (in someone’s head at least) all the competitions were joined up.
Ignoring the lessons of the past 2 competitions, in 1908 the London Olympic Games committee decided that they would hold a golf tournament. However, the organising committee (English) and the Royal and Ancient (Scottish) first ignored each other, then argued with each other to such a degree that they received practically no entries.
No one told George however who sailed from Canada to England to defend his title.
He was offered a symbolic golf medal but George – man that he was, ‘sport is a gentlemanly affair, and I will only accept an award having won it through proper competition.
My new book of golf essays – ‘Putting is a Game of Self-Torture’ is available now on Amazon.
Interview with Author of ‘Putting is a Form of Self-Torture’ (“laugh? I thought I would never start”)
Tell me about your new book ‘Putting is a Form of Self-Torture’ available via your website (www.byronkalies.com) or the following Amazon link – ( https://www.amazon.co.uk/Putting-Form-Self-Torture-Collection-Articles/dp/1533538247) ?
I’m glad, and not a little surprised that you asked. The book is a collection of my best golf writing over the past 6 years. It’s a slim volume (that is a joke). It’s a 16 volume set (still joking). It’s a book with around 60 short articles looking at Welsh golf courses, stories from a mythical Welsh golf club, instruction and a great number of ‘diverse’ articles based on my experiences playing golf in Wales.
What has been the local reaction to your new book by members at your club – Bargoed Golf Club?
It has been underwhelming, to be honest. Isn’t there a saying about a prophet not being appreciated in his own land? Well, a golf writer is not appreciated in Bargoed Golf Club, that’s for sure. The Captain reviewed it – free copy – and commented “Not bad. I liked the bit about Bradley Dredge, but it does go about golf a lot doesn’t it?”
I had to admit that the golf book did go on a bit about golf. Last Saturday when I didn’t have any money on me (penniless writer) to pay my £1 for the Ball School – (we all put £1 in and the winner takes all). I offered to give the winner (Pensioner Dave) a signed copy of my book (RRP £8) instead. He passed with a “give me the £1 next week if you like.”
Sorry to hear that. What about in the larger cultural world?
It’s been a pretty similar story really. The top golfing magazine ‘Golf Today International Bunkered World’ and the ‘Caerphilly Herald’ both started serialising the book. After 2 weeks both had received so much abuse and threats from their readers to boycott the magazines that they stopped printing it. I was allowed to see some of the criticism from the readers –
“You’re no Dan Jenkins.” Someone claimed. This was the only comment I took to be positive as I regard Mr Jenkins as a right wing, stuck in the Victorian age, racist nob.
“Laugh? I thought I would never start.”
“About as funny as the ‘R & A Complete Rules of Golf’
“I had to read this book because my uncle told me to. It was the worst thing I ever read. A worthless good for nothing piece of junk! Actually it is good for something. I took this book with me to rifle practice and I shot at this instead of the target. I got busted but hey it was worth it. Mail me if you want a picture of my shooting.“
“Attempting to read this book is worse than watching the grass grow. At least the grass will become something you enjoy. The title of the story intrigued me to read it. Don’t get me wrong, if well-written, this book could be very interesting. But even after just ten pages, the only thought going through my mind was “When will this guy shut up and stop talking about golf???”
“I hate it. So boring. I fell asleep at the first page.”
“Not so hot; phony intellectuals are told this is a great work so they make up all sorts of lies about layering and craftsmanship, when it’s really just a so-so book about golf.”
“Once I put it down, I just couldn’t pick it up again.”
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/