The course has plenty of wild life to crow about. It is a course scarred by nature and the ground staff (I.e. Ron Smith and son Ian) continually battle against nature. It was designed, or more accurately, hewn out of the landscape by Ron’s father’s father and a few friends drinking at ‘The Ram’s Revenge” over a hundred years ago on the back of a receipt. It’s not one of those classic Robert Tent Jones designed course where “our golf courses are of the earth but for the spirit.” It’s not a uplifting Jack Nicklaus course where the “number 1 goal in terms of creating individual shot values is to make the player use his mind ahead of his muscles — to control his emotions sufficiently to really think through his options before drawing a club from the bag”.
It’s a course where the war against nature has been fought every day for 31176 days and, for the moment at least, nature is taking second place.
It’s a mountain valley course hewn out of the Carboniferous Limestone against the unrelenting forces of nature. In the first years of the club electric wires were placed around the greens to keep the sheep and cattle off the greens. These are a thing of the past and today the wire is still used, but only as part of the armoury surrounding the car park against the marauding natives of Cwmbalc.
1. Bloods 2. Norte 3. Surenos 4. Crips marinating
On the course there are gangs of wild sheep bustin their moves along the fairways from nearby hoods with their dogs and they are are very tough Bloods indeed. Perhaps the more dangerous ones are the 4th fairway Crips and the 9th green Norte. There is an intense gansta rivalry for land. The other wildlife, the squirrel Thugs ‘n’ Harmony on fairway double 99 and the T’bird magpies are frequently seem marinating near the pond and the seventeenth. But it’s the sheep that have the respect. The sheep really are tough mothers.
I was playing with Dai Snips one day when he hooked a drive off the fourth tee straight at the rear end of a grazing sheep. The ball struck the sheep and split in two (the ball, not the sheep). I thought the force of the stroke would have stunned a fairly strong human and killed most sheep. The sheep stopped grazing. He turned around and stared at Dai with a patronising look as if to say, “Is that the best you’ve got?”, turned back around and continued ruminating.
The greens aren’t that green. At the last members and guest day they were measured as -1.5 feet on the stimpmeter uphill and +14 feet downhill. The greens are a mix of Bermuda grass, wolfsbane, slate, oleander, spinach and a local variety of angel’s trumpet. It’s not so much that they are fast, it’s that they’re invariably on a slope. On the 8th, for instance, the green in Escher-like in that every point on the putting surface leaves a slick downhill, left to right putt. Dai Snips a notoriously aggressive putter once scored an 8 on the par 3 12th having been on the green with his tee shot – This was the only occasion I’d seen anyone take a provisional putt.
On the par 4 tenth you have to send a scout out. The scout has to trudge 150 yards to the top of the ridge and keep an eye on the drive. It’s not that the terrain over the ridge is harsh, or particular sloping – it’s because the fairway has quite thick rough alongside it. The problem isn’t if the ball lands in the rough – at this point of the course the rough is not so bad. No, the problem is the gangs of school children hiding in the rough who will leave their hideouts in the rough to creep onto the fairway and steal your Pro V. It has been known for naïve visitors to buy their balls back at the end of the round via a third party (Johnny Sticks, the golf pro).