Tenby Golf Club – The Railway, James Braid and Dai Rees

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Tenby is a town with a lot of history. Originally a Norse settlement, the town has developed fairly peacefully for the greater part of its life.  The architecture reflects the steady progress of history with some of the finest buildings remaining intact. For example the largest parish church in Wales, St. Mary’s. It is thought that this has been the site of a church since Norman times and the tower of the current church is over 700 years old.  The 15th century Tudor Merchant’s House on Quay Street is the oldest furnished building in Tenby and still decorated with authentic Tudor fittings.  However the most striking features of the town are the walls that were built following the destruction of the town by Prince Llewelyn in 1260 that surround part of the streets and alleyways. The narrow streets in some parts of the town give it an air of cosiness and warmth, at least for a great deal of the year. In the height of summer this protection from invading armies can become quite claustrophobic as the visitors push and jostle their way along the narrow, medieval streets.

This is in stark contrast to the golf course, situated close to the town, where the layout of fairway, rough and gorse give it the traditional links feel of being at one with nature. It embodies the word ‘links’ which literally means the linking of the land with the sea.

The town of Tenby is known in Welsh as Dinbych y Pysgod. This translates as ‘little fort of fishes’ which would have perfectly summed up the town and the surrounding walls for much of its long history where fishing has always been a vital part of the town’s’ economy.

The steady historical progress of the town came to an abrupt turn with the arrival of the double-edged sword of the railways in 1853. The town was seen as a health resort and Sir William Paxton, politician and merchant banker invested heavily in the town.  The Napoleonic wars prevented the affluent Victorians travelling to Europe and soon the area became increasingly popular. This elite trickle of tourists in the first half of the 19th century became a flood of popular visitors as the railway arrived at Tenby in 1863.

To accommodate the influx of visitors and their increasing desire for sport and entertainment the business people of the town created the golf club. The club was also a focal point for local business owners to relax, play and meet. Although the club was officially founded in 1888 there is evidence that even 13 years earlier the game was played along the coast. In a report in the ‘Laws of Markets and Fairs’ it is revealed that that court proceedings were delayed as the Mayor of Tenby adjourning a case to play.

Tenby is the oldest golf club in Wales. It was established on September 31st 1888 after a meeting in the Town Hall. At the meeting 6 local residents decided to officially form a club. The first membership fees were 10/6d per year or 5/- per month (equivalent to £280 / year or £130 / month today)

Tenby Golf Club was the first affiliated club in Wales and a founder member of the Welsh Golfing Union in 1895 with Porthcawl (founded 1892), Swansea Bay (1894), Glamorganshire (1890), Caernarvonshire (1890), Borth – Ynylas (1885), Aberdovey (1892), Rhyl (1890) and Merionethshire.

The golf course is as perfect as you can make a golf course. The gently undulating but rugged land running along the coast is perfect for seaside golf. The rough and gorse have been used to its maximum effect. If you hit a good shot you’ll get a good result. It’s a course for thinkers not sloggers. It’s not a long course and each hole is different from each other, and different from the previous day. The wind has a huge effect on the course as it should with a links course. The views across Carmarthen Bay and the monastic Caldey Island are spectacular. The course uses the features of the area in a fascinating contest that echoes the original golfing layouts of Scotland. It especially echoes the course at Prestwick, the setting for the first Open Competition. It can be tough, but always fair. Although there are some blind shots they add to the flavour of an ’old-fashioned‘  course compared to the relative homogeny of today’s courses where WYSIWYG. At Tenby there is still that element of surprise and luck that modern golf architects seem to be determined to take out of the game.

This is no accident. The main designer of the course, and the man responsible for the feel of the course is James Braid. Braid a golf professional and course designer from Fife, Scotland won 5 Open championships at the turn of the 20th century. However, it was as a course designer that he felt his great passion and designed over 200 golf courses in Britain including Championship courses at Carnoustie, Troon, and Prestwick. He worked on 20 courses in Wales. He was prolific and worked the same way. He kept the greens committee happy by charging a low fee and communicating his ideas quickly and effectively.

James Braid was brought to the club early in its existence. In July 1902 he was paid £6 to inspect the course and suggest improvements. Five years later he returned with suggestions and the course was expanded to 18 holes. This new course was opened at Easter 1907 and has largely remained the same ever since.

The course has had a number of famous supporters; Lloyd George, the only Welsh Prime Minister and keen golfer was a frequent visitor and had a holiday home close to the course.

Dai Rees, the Welsh Ryder Cup captain that took the Ryder Cup from USA in the middle of a period where British golf was dominated by America was also a keen player.

An unusual feature of the course is that each hole is named after a feature. Dai Rees is commemorated with the par 3 3rd. Other holes include; ‘Monks Way’, ‘View O’Caldey’, ‘The Railway’ and of course, ‘James Braid’.

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The American writer and golfer Robert Kroeger toured the links courses of Wales and summed up perfectly many golfers thoughts on Tenby golf course;

“Tenby was my favourite course in Wales. The blind shots didn’t seem overwhelming and the drama of high dunes and deep hollows more than compensated for this lack of visibility. The greens, true, fast, and always undulating, were the best we’d seen in Wales.” – Robert Kroeger

This article first appeared in Cambria Magazine December 2011

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Updated Bio

I’m a bit divided.

On the one hand, I write about the world of leadership and management – theory and practice, motivation, leadership skills, change matrices and decision making, communication, customer care, bottom lines, double-loop learning and stress, resilience and assertiveness,  attribution theory, behavioural interviewing, project management, group think, Egan’s Shadowside and Scholes’ excellent Cultural Web.

Which is fine.

However, I also write about golf. If inuits have 50 words for snow (which they don’t) then I wish us Welsh had 100 words for grass. It would make my life a lot easier.

I have written a number of books and articles on each area. However, thus far no-one has approached me to make a film of  ‘Tenby to Celtic Manor:  A History of Welsh Golf’ starring Tom Hardy …. thus far.

Surprising Netflix has offered me obscene amounts to make a TV series of ‘ 25 Management Techniques in 90 Minutes’, featuring Andrew Scott. I’m assuming they are involved in some bidding war with Amazon Prime.

I have been a columnist and feature writer for a diverse range of publications – Across The Board (U.S.A.), Business Day (South Africa), Career Times (Hong Kong), C.F.O. (Australia), Golf Today (U.S.A.), Management First (U.K.), Management Today (Australia), Marketing Magazine (N.Z.), Public Servant (U.K.), The Age (Australia), The Guardian (U.K.).

I was the author of Tales From the Front (HRD Press, U.S.A – and 25 Management Techniques in 90 minutes (MB2000),  From Tenby to Celtic Manor – a History of Golf in Wales ( Gwasg Carreg Gwalch) ‘.

And I’ll go t’foot of our stairs …… I’m listed on the Writers of Wales database

Tommy The Cat – Meanest Man In Cwm

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Tommy the Cat saves money with new ‘electric’ trolley system

Last summer the club needed some money. They offered members who had been members 20 years or more a deal –

Annual membership is £600.

The deal they offered was a one off £6000 payment for life long membership. Nothing to pay ever after that.

Tommy the Cat is intrigued. He is 65. He’s not in the best of health, to be fair, with a recent heart op and a gammy leg. Still, it’s something he could easily afford. He is a millionaire with a chain of bakeries in the valleys area and a lot of money in the bank for a variety of ‘projects’.

Tommy decided not to take up the offer.

Me – Why not Tommy?

Tommy – I went to see Dai Doggs, the doctor.

  • Tommy – Dai, tell me straight doc how long do you think I’ll live?
  • Dai – You’ll live for ever you daft, evil bastard.
  • Tommy – Stop pissing around Dai. Tell me seriously, honestly.
  • Dai – Well if I was a betting man I’d say 10 years more or less.
  • Tommy – More or less?
  • Dai – Eh?
  • Tommy – More or less?
  • Dai – Possibly less, I guess

Tommy – So I thought it’s not worth taking the gamble is it?

Tall Tales From Tregethin – 1. Bobby Jones And The Ystrad Mynach Cup

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Dai Rees Lounge, Cwm, Wales
“It was the week before the Ystrad Mynach Cup when I met Bobby Jones first. Bobby Jones – the legend, the man. Probably the greatest golfer in, well, in ever. Here in Tregethin was the man that entered twenty majors, won thirteen and lost seven. Here was the winner of three proper Opens , four yankee Opens, and whatever number is left Amateur Championships. And there he was in the flesh, as sure as I’m sitting here, as close as I am to Dai Copy. Bobby Jones walking down Balaclava Terrace like, you know, like a normal person. Bobby Jones the grand slam amateur winner – an amateur! Well – amateurish. But, wow. Bobby ‘the man’ Jones. He won almost everything. Almost everything.”

Doctor Dai Doggs lifted his pint of Guinness and finished the final third in a long, slow gulp. By the time he had wiped his mouth with his cuff there was another in front of him. It had been bought and delivered by a nameless tourist who walked backward slowly back to the other end of the table awaiting the nod of recognition from Dr. D. Never one to disappoint Dr. D. gave the faintest of head bows and resumed.

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Doctor Dai Doggs lifted his pint

“Although he had won everything in golf, he hadn’t won everything in golf. He hadn’t won the big one. The big prize had eluded him, the hufen de la hufen, the ‘Chair’, if you will, the Ystrad Mynach Cup – the Y. M. C. A unique competition. One of the most unique competitions in the world. It was the tournament, quote, they all loved to win. It is still the one. The thing to have on your mantlepiece or your C.V.. The thing to put on your Wiki page alongside your Nobel prizes, your Pulitzer prizes, your Ballon d’Ors, your Christmas number ones. It’s the Y. M. C.. A number of great golfers have won this prize, and a number of great golfers have not won this prize. You won’t see your Ben Hogans or your Sam Sneads or your Ian Woosnams names on the wall. And I’ll tell you why.”

Dr. Dai Doggs half-swivelled in his chair to point at a wooden mahogany board roughly six feet high and twenty foot long attached to the wall containing a list of all the Ystrad Mynach Cup winners. He drank the first third of his new pint.

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Pensioner Dave – a strange name for a strange person

“Look at the early years and you see some sparkling players from the last but one century and right up to the early years of the last century – the ‘roaring twenties’, as they were known in Wales. There were your great names – your Tom Morrises, your Joyce Wethereds, your Laurie Auchterlonies, your Harry Vardens, your Ted Rays, your Glenna Collett-Vares. But… look at the later years – the swinging seventies, early eighties, naughtical nineties and beyond and you see your Tiger Woodses, your Tom Watsonses, your Bradley Dredges, your Michele Wies, your Inbee Parkses,your Anika Sorenstenses. What you won’t see are your Walter Hagenses, your Henry Cottonses, your Babes Didriksonsses or your Nick Faldosis. This magnificent board behind you reads like a who’s who golfing list of stars, it’s fair to call them that, yes stars, who have won the YMC. A list of the greatest and the good. However, in a way it’s only half a story. It doesn’t tell the story of who the best players were for forty years in the middle of the twentieth century. if you look at the list from the thirties through to the seventies – the thirties, forties, fifties and sixties, you see how domineering one name features. Every year bar one from 1930 to 1970 there is just one name to see. A strange name for a strange person – a name that describes him as well as naming him – ‘Pensioner Dave’. A period of total domination. Well, almost total domination…..

If you look closely at the year 1934 you’ll see that the winner has been scratched out. It could be ‘Pensioner Dave’ or it could be any other name. The traditions of this club uphold the vision of this club –  ’peidiwch â throi o gwmpas’ – never look back. Thus there are no amendments to rules, no updating of golf fees in line with inflation and most definitely no reworking of the winners board. There’s been a debate for many years about that Sunday, 15 July 1934. Some say Pensioner Dave won it and got so excited pointing at his five time champion’s name that he eroded the barely dry paint. Some say Bobby Jones won it and Pensioner Dave rubbed it off in a fury. Some say Virginia Van Wie was so excited after she won the playoff with Reg Whitcombe that she gouged the surface of the board with her name on it and kept it as a memento where it took pride of place in her home in Alaska. (The fact that she retired soon afterwards has somehow been seen by some to add credence to the story). Some say potato some say potato. I know however, what really happened in 1935. I saw it. I was young but I was there.”

………

 

Saturday Morning Golf School On Tour

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EXT. COLD WINTER THURSDAY, CRIEFF GOLF CLUB.

It was Sparky’s first year on the Scotland golf tour. Every two years the SMGS (Saturday Morning Golf School) went to Scotland on the Wales v Scotland international weekend and played golf for a week. The group played a number of golf clubs every day in and around Edinburgh and watched the match on Saturday. Sparky was nervous. He’d been playing golf for a few years but had only encountered the electric, intense Saturday Morning Golf School atmosphere on a few occasions and knew very few people in the group.

It was the first tee at a nameless, but tough and windy proper links course. There were 11 others waiting around the first tee pretending to stretch and wake up and have their last cigarette (of the front nine).
Tommy the Cat (has become the self-appointed leader, and official welcomer)
TOMMY THE CAT
Sparky, as a special honour you get to tee off first.
Very muted applause, some abuse and a general murmur of ‘bandit’.
TOMMY THE CAT
Here you are I’ll even get Dai Proper to tee it up for you.

Dai Proper duly walks onto the tee and stares into the distance.

Sparky shakily places his ball on the tee and mutters to himself

SPARKY
Slow swing…slow swing
His bottom is going like a trout’s mouth as he lifts the club and hits it, not great but straight and quite long. He smiles at Tommy the Cat.
Tommy the Cat smiles back, then turns Sparky around 180 degrees.

TOMMY THE CAT
Well done. Now there’s the first fairway.
He points down the fairway, in the opposite direction to Sparky’s tee shot.

TOMMY THE CAT
I suggest you wander back to your ball and see if you can hit a couple of 5 irons back in this direction.

The Joys of Writing

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I manufactured for myself a full morning of writing and it started so well. Blah blah blah blah blah blah – full stop – new paragraph – capital letter – blah blah blah blah ….. Then from nowhere … BANG. Complete stop.

Temporary blip – check emails, twitter … go back ………

Where was I? oh yes blah blah blah blah ….. nothing…..

Another temporary blip.. watch end of rugby … go back..

Where was I? oh yes blah blah blah blah ….. nothing…..

Perhaps that’s all I’ve got? Maybe I can make what I’ve got into a short story. Sure why not that’s a great idea.

Research short story – free entry of course – lots – get a spreadsheet and list them all in closing date order – with links and everything. Done that – stop – that’s not going to work – it’s a terrible idea – delete spreadsheet.

Where was I? oh yes blah blah blah blah ….. nothing…..

Oh I know what I’ll think about choosing a cover for the book – that’ll be a great use of my time…. Look at images for a time – pretty – interesting – sardonic – choose one. Done that – stop – that’s not going to work – it’s a total waste of time – delete image.

Where was I? oh yes blah blah blah blah ….. nothing…..

Oh I know .. I’ll write a blog…….

War and Peace – Cradoc Golf Club

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Rhys ap Tewdwr, born 1065, was a descendant of Capell ap Rhodri, King of Seisyllwg, son of Rhodri the Great. He lived a short but eventful life. He seized the throne of Deheubarth in 1078. It was not an easy time however as he had continual political unrest – alliances and battles with  Caradog ap Gruffudd ap Rhydderch and Gruffydd ap Cynan . In 1088 he was forced into exile in Ireland but returned for more coalition and  chaos with fellow Welsh princes and eventually the Normans.

Rhys was slain in the Battle of Brecon by Bernard de Neufmarche in April 1093. One can only imagine the fear, noise and bloodshed of the battle over 800 years ago. The site of the encounter was the village now called Battle, a few miles from Brecon and a mile from the golf course of Cradoc.

Walking around the tranquil, beautiful course it is impossible to image that 800 years before there would once have been armies, mayhem and destruction. The Battle of Brecon was an important event in Welsh history and for many at the time seemed to indicate the end of the reign of Welsh princes and the capitulation of Wales to their of Norman conquerors.

Rhigyfarch al Sulien, a monk who later wrote a life of St David, wrote a long poem, ‘Lament’ at Llanbadarn Fawr. The opening few lines captures the fear of the time;

“Alas!  that the present time led us into this state of things,

where a cruel power threatens to drive away by its authority

those who are duly reading this poem.

Why have the blind fates not let us die?”

 

This dire pessimism, however, was not warranted and by the turn of the century most of the territories belonging to the Normans had been reclaimed by a resurgence from the Welsh.

 

The stark contrast between this period and a round of golf at a parkland course such a Cradoc could not be greater even though the land is the same.  The course at Cradoc is so quiet, so tranquil. The tree-lined fairways let you believe you are the only players on the course for a good deal of time as it winds along the valley floor and up and across the hills.

It is a remarkable golf course in a remarkable setting.  It was designed and build in 1967with the drive and commitment of local members especially John Morrell and Les Watkins.

The  Scottish course architect CK Cotton has been responsible for designing and remodelling a number of amazing courses, amongst them Royal Lytham and St. Annes, Pennard near Swansea,  St Pierre in Chepstow as well as many in his native land. The courses all  share similar characteristics ; they all use the land effectively. At Cradoc he used the changes in elevation to form spectacular views and some challenging holes.  There are stunning views across the valley from many of the holes.

Another feature of Cotton is the par 3s. These short holes on each course are all unique and each has a different challenge.

Cradoc is a nicely balanced course with 2 par 3s on the front nine and 2 on the back. The first short hole you encounter, the 3rd , is only 125 yards. There is however a pond in front of the green waiting for you. The hole is played from an elevated tee and looks spectacular, and dangerous.  The 7th hole looks deceptively straightforward with its large green.  However it can be difficult to 2 putt if you’re on the wrong level.  The 12th hole down the hill is a par 3 with bunkers to the left and right and a steep drop over the back. The final short hole, the 17th is the longest. You need a straight long iron to ensure your round stays on track.  If you can survive the par3s the chances are you are playing well and will be having a decent round. They test your skill and iron play and if the wind blows can be a really challenge.

The journey around the course takes you from the undulating. tree-lined, opening holes to the middle mountain section and then back again on to the valley floor.  Along your path you will encounter different views of the of the Brecon Beacons National Park, a variety of views of  Pen- y-fan the largest peak in South Wales, and some surprises; the   fourth green is set in front of the mansion that once belonged to the owners here at Penoyre Park; a number of the holes are laid out as dog legs where you have to decide if you want to risk cutting the corner or playing safe.

The course is immaculately kept and incredibly peaceful. The greens are green, fast and true. This is only half the charm of the day though. The organisation and running of the club are as immaculate as the layout and maintenance of the course. There are superb practice facilities – large driving range, warm up nets and good sized practice putting green. The pro shop is well stocked and the clubhouse has amazing views of the 1st tee and fairway and the 18th green set against the backdrop of the mountains.

The atmosphere of the club is welcoming, caring and professional and little wonder it was Welsh Golf Club of the year in 2005.

The past decade or so have been difficult for golf clubs across Wales and beyond. The recession bites hard on recreational activities in these times. Fortunately the manager of the club, Richard Southcott has been proactive and instrumental in developing a creative programme for a number of years to help generate interest in golf in the area. The Heart of Wales consortium comprises the golf clubs Cradoc, Builth Wells and Llandrindod Wells. The idea is to encourage golfers to visit this area and play all three unspoiled, quality golf courses at a reduced rate. It seemed to have worked well and has generated a lot of interest in the area.

The serenity of the course is reflected in the relative serenity of the area, even in the traditional market town of Brecon. The town is situated at the confluence of the rivers Usk and Honddu in the foothills of the Brecon Beacons National park. With a population of just under 8,000 Brecon is the focal point of the area. It has established itself as a place for tourism, arts and culture in recent years. Visitors enjoy the activities in the area as well as the peace and quiet.

The cathedral in Brecon has a history tracing back to the year 1093 where Bernard de Neufmarche ordered a priority to be built after his victory. The priority was destroyed  in the reign of Henry VIII and became the site of a parish church and in the 1920s was designated a cathedral.

For a short period each year Brecon loses its tranquil nature as it becomes the centre for music fans from around the world as it hosts the Brecon Jazz Festival. Since its inception in 1984 it has grown and developed into a genuine world-wide phenomena.

Practically all the leading jazz artists in the world have performed at the festival including George Melly, who lived locally, Courtney Pine, Humphrey Littleton, Amy Winehouse, Van Morrison, Joan Armitrading and Hugh Masekela.

The site of Cradoc golf course has seen a great deal of gory history over the centuries but there are few more peaceful places to enjoy a relaxing (well as relaxing as golf can be) game with superb scenery and delightful facilities.