Muirfield Golf Club / Peter Alliss – Really?

In the light of the recent Muirfield Golf Club decision to not allow women to join, and Peter Alliss’ helpful suggestions, I have revived this article from almost exactly 4 years ago. How times have changed.

bushinjeans

You wouldn’t get in my club with those jeans Mr Bush

DRESS SENSE – A ONE WORD QUESTION

Look through the lists blow (not drawn from a remote, Southern United States Country Club, an English Home Counties club, nor a Colonial backwater from the Victorian era) and if anyone can give me a satisfactory, sensible, non-sexist, non-offensive, non-elitist, answer to one question I’ll eat my large, indiscrete Nike-logoed, backward-worn baseball cap.

Ready….… the one-word question is ‘Why?’

“ Dress Code:
Women (all ages)
Conservative, tailored slacks, golf skirts, shorts
Socks should be knee high or no more than two inches above the ankle

Men (all ages)
Tailored slacks or Bermuda shorts
Shirts with both a collar and sleeves and tucked in at all times
Socks should be knee high or no more than two inches above the ankle

Prohibited dress;
Denim apparel in all colours,
Racer backs, tank tops or halters,
Front of shirt must not descend below the collar bone,
Bare midriffs in standing position,
Large or indiscrete logos are not acceptable,
Cargo pants with buckles and ties,
Stirrup pants,
Warm-up suits,
Pull-on drawstring shorts/slacks,
Skirts / shorts that are more than five inches above the knee or less than 18 inches when measured from the bottom of the waistband,
Hats worn backwards.“

I love the sport of golf. However, I detest the nonsense that goes on around it. I don’t think I’m on my own.

Ask potential golfers that can’t afford the extortionate rates to join a club. This is assuming their face fits and they are allowed to part with their money.
We should be grateful, I suppose, that this isn’t as bad as it used to be. There used to be a time when you needed a 5 year wait, a thousand pound joining fee and a Masonic handshake to get into a golf club. We’ve moved on from that.

This is true. However, I’d like to believe the reason we’ve moved on is due to an enlightened attitude in the Committee room. I suspect though that it’s more to do with the recession and the current economic climate.

Ask women or juniors who frequently get shoved to an odd afternoon in the middle of the week or a few unsociable hours on the weekend when the men have finished their rounds and are in the bar.

However, all is not doom and gloom. There are exceptions. Not too many, but there are exceptions. The Celtic Manor 2010 Club, as I understand it has no different times for men, women or juniors on the 2010 course. Membership is the same for all and there is no discrimination of any sort. Fantastic and a role model to other clubs. Unfortunately, you need to pay £6,000 to buy fair treatment. Why wouldn’t all golf clubs do this? Answer on a postcard to the usual address.

I can hear some of you whingeing from here. Yes, I know many clubs don’t have specific times for anyone – men, women or juniors – but really. Ask any junior who tries to get on the course on a Saturday or Sunday morning. Ask any woman who tries to get on the course at any time. Even if they manage to get on the course they are subject to mild, ‘playful’ harassment about how long they take, etc. etc..

Let’s go back to the nonsense that is symbolic of the attitude of golf clubs – the dress code. Now I believe there are occasions where you need a dress code – deep sea diving for instance, working in a nuclear power plant or being a catalogue model. These professions will require a certain standard of clothing and rightly so. I get that.

What I can’t quite grasp is the fact that I pay thousands of pounds, well hundreds, to spend my sparse and valuable leisure time being told what to wear. I’m not sure I’m keen on that. I don’t have this down the pub, in my lounge or in my garden. So what is it all about?

The dress code is so, so nonsensical. It’s a trip to an older, happier time when men dressed properly, there was respect, good manners, child poverty, a life expectancy of twenty-eight and women knew their place. For instance – Why can’t you wear a comfortable tee-shirt? Why can’t you wear jeans to play golf?

Let’s look at the argument-
Denim / tee-shirts / etc.. look scruffy.

On at least 2 levels this argument is nonsense –

  1. to most people under the age of 80 they don’t look scruffy and
    2. so what?

Let’s not even get into the argument of jeans being more expensive that trousers and whilst a £300 pair of True Religion jeans are deemed unacceptable, a twenty years old pair of scruffy, worn-out trousers is somehow perfectly acceptable. Let’s go straight for the ‘so what?’

Why on earth does it matter is someone’s shirt isn’t tucked in, or the shorts aren’t tailored, or the jeans are scruffy. You aren’t going to have tea with the Queen (although I’ve a few thoughts on that one). You’re playing a game. A game involving grass, mud, water, rain, etc… It’s supposed to be fun. Which does not mean everyone must wear jeans. I don’t want to tell you what to wear. It’s supposed to be pleasure.

In my own, personal, golf club the dress code would say; ‘Be Comfortable. Keep Warm. Don’t wear anything that could upset anyone else.’  I would not be bothered if your shorts were 6 inches above the knee or your socks were three inches above your ankle (what is that one all about?). It’s a game – enjoy yourself.

I suspect the reason undlying the dress code is a wealth of old twaddle concerning class, Victorian values and often just plain prejudice and elitism around golf clubs (or tradition as some would deem it). Why do we take our hats off and shake hands on the eighteenth? It’s tradition. Why do golf courses have eighteen holes? It’s tradition. Why don’t we have any women or juniors on our committees to make decisions unless they’re in a ‘secretarial’ capacity or are there basically as observers with no real voting power? It’s tradition.

Now I’m not an anti-traditionalist myself. I quite like the ‘hats off and hand shaking’ thing but I can’t really say I’m a fan of any institution where a handful of like-minded, similarly educated, similarly dressed sixty – seventy year old middle-class, professional men make all the decisions on when I can play, who I can play with and what I’m allowed to wear based on an archaic set of values that are deemed ‘proper’.

Oh, and sometime soon the argument will crop us, “Well what would happen if everybody behaved like you and wore what they liked and didn’t take their hats off when they walked into the bar?” I have a well-thought out succinct argument for that too, “Nothing would happen. Let people keep their hats on in the club if they wanted to. Why on earth would it matter?”

It’s tradition. So on that basis let’s keep a gang of small children around the back of the clubhouse and wheel a few out to carry our golf clubs and tee up for us for a few pence each round. Also let’s keep women out of the bar or stop blacks and other minorities playing golf altogether. These have been some of the traditions of golf clubs in the (not too distant) past.

Most members are glad some of these traditions have disappeared but seem to have trouble fighting the subtler nuances of discrimination and personal freedom………
Or is it that somewhere deep down many men still want to cling to those Victorian values where they were obeyed?

So perhaps the recession has been a good thing in this one respect. Golf clubs are becoming more open about membership. It’s often a matter of survival these days – hopefully this will survive even if there’s a financial upturn. Perhaps not. For the sake of fairness and equality let’s hope this recession is here to stay

Note – The dress code list comes from ‘The Ladies Golf Club of Toronto’ which describes itself as ‘A Classic Club for Contemporary Women’.

Great Welsh Golf Courses – West Monmouthshire Golf Club

westmon990

WEST MONMOUTHSHIRE GOLF CLUB

It was windy. Standing on the 9th tee I could feel the wind through my Primark backswing performance jacket, red, and I’m sure my brother in his Galvin Green Malone limited edition polo shirt (short sleeved) could feel it too. It was windy.

“How come the wind blows into your face on every hole?” John wondered. “Because it does” I replied enigmatically. I had played the course before and had gained this insight.

Pensioner Dave nodded and hit his tee shot. Short and straight. I hit my shot short and straight also. John was long and straight. We waited in anticipation. So far we had never all been on the fairway at the same time (well not the same fairway).

Andy hit his drive. It started straight then went left and left and left bounding over sheep, fairways, rough.

“I’m not looking for that,” came the sympathetic response from Pensioner Dave. John commiserated with Andy, “See you on the green”

I shrugged and went to help him look for it. We battled on.

I had driven from Newport where it was a glorious spring day – 22 miles, 22 years and 11 degrees ahead of Nantyglo. To be fair it was quite pleasant when we arrived at the car park and there was some debate about what to wear. I had played the course before. I opted to wear everything I had in the car.

The first two holes had been deceptive. They were fairly flat along the floor of the valley. The third was a long, long par five up the mountain. It was marked on the card as, ‘Long Pull’. This hole could be described as ‘challenging’. It was an almost vertical tee shot up the steep, steep slope of Mynydd Carn-y-Cefn, the mountain separating the Ebbw Fach valley from the Ebbw valley. Apparently the intense steepness is a result of the action of glacial ice in the Pleistocene era which started around two and a half million years ago.

“When Pensioner Dave was just a boy”, John remarked.

Monmouthshire County Champion 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925 V.H. Smith wrote an understated article describing each hole in the ‘Ebbw Vale Works Magazine’ a few years after the course was founded. He described the 3rd (Long Pull);

“Hole 3. Longest hole on the course. Requires a good tee shot which must clear ravine. Good second shot of 150 yards carry required to carry a hazard forty yards wide; all difficulties now being overcome a good iron shot will reach the green.”

Thirty minutes later we met on the green feeling like we had conquered Everest. We had each taken a variety of routes to the flag and no-one was likely to complete the hole in single figures without holing a twenty foot putt.

It was windy. We moved on.

West Mon is a course where the wind blows hard – always. It is rough, ragged and the fairways are sheep-lined. It’s a traditional valley’s course. It’s harsh, unforgiving and proud of it. There are a few still left in the South East ex-mining valleys. 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.

Once we reached the 3rd green there were a few holes of relative flatness across the mountain top toward Ebbw Vale in the next valley. There a few excellent holes that can feel 600 yards long or 300 yards long depending on the wind direction. The greens are in amazing condition, true and green. For all the natural hazards of the course you can use as an excuse – you can never blame he greens.

The course is littered with sheep. Tough sheep. Sheep that own the course. On the par 5 eleventh hole John hooked a drive straight at the rear end of a grazing sheep. I thought 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 John with a patronising look, “Is that the best you’ve got “, turned back around continued ruminating.

Walking across the mountain top with the greens and fairways subtly fashioned across and around the few features it is easy to imagine it a hundred years ago. It is an incredibly natural golf course. There aren’t too many modern day ‘features’ to ‘spice up’ the course – no ‘risk or reward’ holes, ‘signature holes’.

“I like it” announced Pensioner Dave, ever the traditionalist “hit it – find it – hit it again”. He’s a man of simple pleasures. It’s easy to imagine him and Ben Sayers having a ten second conversation on the design of the course.

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 pretty decent job of it.

The course has a significant claim to fame in that it is the highest golf course in Great Britain. The tee to the fourteenth is the highest tee in Great Britain with a spectacular view of South Wales.

Before you reach this peak though you have to navigate the highest green in Great Britain – the 13th. This hole is truly amazing. It’s a vertical 484 yard par 4 up and across the mountain against the wind – “It’s always against the wind”, the locals informed me.

We staggering toward the green like 2 pair of Hilary and Tenzings. Low on food, oxygen and humour. We reached the green that had the temerity to have a series of subtle slopes and undulating borrows on it. It’s not enough to hit a perfect drive, two perfect woods and an immaculate wedge. You then have to relax, catch your breath and think.

Watching Pensioner Dave attempt to calm down after tacking his way up the mountain put me in mind of the biathlon where the competitors ski furiously for miles then have to stop and relax enough to fire five shots at a target.

We managed it somehow and remarkably everyone scored a point.

Then we had a walk up to the highest tee in Britain. The tee is 1500 feet above sea level. It feels higher. There are spectacular views of the Brecon Beacons to the north with the Sugarloaf mountain to the east. On the card it is called, ‘High Tee’. Really?

From this point it’s, literally, all downhill. The 16th hole is called ‘Round House’. This is a theme for the club. Nantyglo is famous, in Nantyglo at least, for its round towers. On the badge of the golf club there’s a yellow tower. The story of the towers illustrates the attitude of the people in the area better than anything else;

At the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the Ironmasters brothers Crawshaw and Joseph Bailey constructed two round towers to protect themselves against the locals due to the unrest concerning high wheat prices. There was serious rioting in the village and the industrialists defended their property by building the last castle fortifications to be built in Britain.

“Ah, the struggles between rich and poor, haves and have nots”, I started to philosophise.

“We get it. Your shot.”

Reaching the end of the round it’s back to reality. Relatively flat final holes. Relatively less oxygen needed as we approach the short, squat, functional clubhouse. It’s been tough. It’s been fun.

The club is full of has function rooms, people and some history. There are framed minutes of the first meeting where a group of doctors and teachers established a golf course with a membership of 183 members. The entrance fees were half a guinea per member with subscriptions of one guinea for gentleman and half a guinea for ladies. There were 120 men, 54 women and 9 juniors intially.

“The prices haven’t gone up that much”, Pensioner Dave remarked to the secretary. The secretary pointed out that the current fees are probably the cheapest anywhere in Wales.

“Less than the cost of an 18 hole two ball at Royal Porthcawl”, he proudly announced.

We concurred.

“I asked once how much green fees were at Royal Porthcawl” he continued.

We waited eagerly.

“I was told that if you had to ask then you couldn’t afford it.”

In the past few decades the financial crisis has hit clubs like West Mon hard. The closure of the steel works and high unemployment in the area have put a strain on the economy of the locals and a subsequent drop in membership, Fortunately the members at West Mon are a hardy resourceful bunch and the club survives on initiative, hard work and a good social scene. There have been cutbacks and the club manages. There are few visitors and the number of golf societies visiting has declined across the whole of Wales.

“We don’t get much passing trade” one of the members wryly informed me.

The club carries on. There is a community there. The social events held in the clubhouse and function room help a great deal these days. It’s still about the golf though. The members are a tough breed out in most weathers braving the elements.

I’m sure we’ll be back there – When we’ve thawed out.

 

West Mon Golf Club

established 1906,

Golf Road,

Nantyglo,

Ebbw Vale,

Monmouthshire,

NP23 4QT

www. westmongolfclub.co.uk

From the comments book:

“It’s bleak.” – S. Morrissey

 “I creamed a driver, mullered 2 three woods and still ended up 20 yards short of the green.” – John Daly describing the 3rd hole.

 “It’s cold.” – Captain R. F. Scott

– first published Cymru Culture ( 1 / 9 / 15)

A Cogitation on the Question – ‘Which Golf Ball Do You Use?’


golfballsheep

Which golf ball do you use?

An extract from an article I recently read described a particular golf ball as  ‘a three-piece, multi-component technology with a very soft compression ZG process core, ionomeric casing layer, softer thermoset urethane elastomer cover, and spherically-tiled 352 tetrahedral dimple design’

Describing it, with obvious passion and relish one of the team of 75 engineers and scientists said, “It’s important to remember that no single element of design can determine the performance of the golf ball. There needs to be a symbiotic relationship between all of the elements.”

I feel bad now about how badly and how frequently I kept hitting this particular brand.

However, my question – ‘Which golf ball do you use?’ does not mean, ‘Which golf ball is right for you?’  . This is another country altogether. This answer consists of you answering a series of questions on your attributes such as – handicap, swing, gender age, height, star sign and so on and so on and so on. A computer then analyses all these variables and produces your perfect match. Sounds like a personal ads column entry – ‘easygoing M seeks GB with similar interests. Likes sports, looking for a yang to my yin, a Hardy to my Laurel, an Ernie to my Bert, a Wise to my Morecambe, a Ball to my Cannon. I don’t expect the relationship to me a long one – they rarely are with me. Just some fun and a few laughs.  No strings attached.

I don’t mean this type of ‘Which golf ball do you use?’ question. I mean – ‘Which golf ball do you use on a day to day, ‘fancy a knock’ type basis?’. Or, ‘It’s the Ystrad Mynach Cup on Sunday (one of the key days in the Barged Golf Club calendar) which ball will you be losing in the trees on the third?’

Let’s go through the process – I suspect your golf bag is a little like mine. There are a number of pockets for golf balls. They all have a certain place and purpose. You cannot mix the balls up, although through wear and tear one ball may be relegated to another pocket.

The ultimate. The top level – it’s not even a pocket. It’s the brand new golf ball level. The pinnacle, but not the ‘Pinnacle’ levels are pristine balls in a box. These were perhaps prizes, or more likely, presents for Christmas or fathers’ day.  These are the balls I never use. The balls I’m keeping for some special occasion or ‘keeping them for best’ as my mother used to say. I’m not sure what ‘best’ would be. If I do ever have the luck, and develop the talent, to play at the Open at St Andrews, I suspect I may well be given a few free packs of Callaways.

Starting at the nadir. Somewhere in a forgotten part of my bag there is a pocket containing golf balls that I would be reluctant to open the zip of and put my hand into. Inside this golfing room 101 are balls that have been found, given to me by well-meaning people or somehow just apparated into my bag. These balls are weird and maybe not so wonderful. There are a few Donnay Pro Ones, some Penfold Commandoes (I could probably take them to the Antiques Roadshow next year), Dunlop Locos, a Pinnacle Gold distance and a Precept Laddie. Also in this tardis-like pocket I encounter the occasional ‘decent’ (Nike, Callaway, Mazuno) ball, but they all have a cut in them and I vaguely remember I’m keeping them for an occasion where I will use them. Maybe to give away to adoring fans when I win my first Major, or  perhaps if I’ve already put two balls in the lake and don’t want to lose another decent ball I’ll choose one of these?

In another pocket – the ‘halfway house, ‘Morrisons’ pocket (not Aldi or Lidl, not Waitrose or Ocado), are some proper balls with minor defect – some TaylorMades or Bridgestones I’ve used once, or found. Or some high-end Nikes with marker pen or horrid logos, or some mid-range Titleist with tiny nicks. These are probably the ones I’d use after work on a Friday to play nine holes before a quick drink.

Now I come to the toppish end. This is not quite the Dom Perignon equivalent, but it’s definitely not the ‘Tesco Finest Vintage Cru’. It’s more a fine Moet…… Stop it. Who am I kidding? It’s a Strongbow cider rather than a Diamond White.  These are my good balls – not quite new – not quite top of the range – they are Nike, Bridgestone, Srixon. They are called ‘Tour’ or ‘Preferred’ rather than ‘Distance’ or ‘Ultimate Distance’. These are good, decent, hard-working, working class golf balls. They are balls you wouldn’t be ashamed to be seen playing with. Maybe they’ve been used once or perhaps they are Pond balls that look new. There are a few Titleist here as well. These are not the Titleist balls you see on websites you have to click to see the price (What is that all about!). But they are Titleists with random names instead of letters – ‘Titeleist Solos’ or ‘Titelist Velocities’. These are the serious Sunday medal competition type balls……… usually.

Assuming my description matches your collection to some degree, the next step in choosing which ball to use would be to consider the occasion. Is it a Saturday morning ball school? Is it a Sunday afternoon monthly medal? A social game? Another vital, perhaps the most vital, consideration to take into account is – ‘Who is playing with you?’  If it’s someone you’ve played with since Noah was a boy then they are unlikely to be impressed, or bothered much whichever ball you choose. On the other hand, if it’s a client, a prospective father in law or a person you really don’t like but still need to be better than, this may elicit a quick trip to the pro shop to have the following embarrassing conversation,

“Good afternoon young golf professional. How old are you? Twelve. Sorry. I digress. Which golf ball would you consider to be a match for me?”

“I would heartily recommend Titelist Pro V1 X High Number, sir.”

“Certainly, young man. And how much would these cost?”

DELETED X RATED REPLY.

How much? Really. You’re having a ****** laugh. I wanted 3 balls not 3 ****** dozen!

“That’s the price… sir.”

“If I don’t get at least one hole in one I’m coming back here and I’m going to *******”

I once took part in a competition at Mountain Ash. Mountain Ash is a nice enough course tucked neatly into the Welsh valleys.  We had all qualified from our local club competitions and the top six of so from this competition would go forward to Royal Porthcawl. There were players from Tredegar and Rhymney, Blackwood, Aberdare, Maesteg, Pontypool – a range of exotic venues. These top six would be joined at Royal Porthcawl by players from the length and breadth of Wales – Pwhelli,  Cwmrhydneuadd, Rhosgoch and other unpronounceable locations. Then on to the Belfry. Then … ultimately Spain – (before you write in – I got no further than Mountain Ash). However, Mountain Ash was a big deal for me and the hundred odd other competitors from local courses.  The point of this story? Ah yes, on the first I hooked my tee shot over a row of trees. So did two others in my group. The group coming toward us on an adjoining fairway were playing a parallel hole and their drives ended up in similar spots. From the group playing the 18th another ball appeared. When I walked through the trees to find my ball I saw about seven or eight golf balls within twenty yards of each other. I also saw a perturbed chap picking each one up carefully, studying it, putting it back down again and saying,  ‘They’re all Titleist pro V1s’. It was a nightmare assigning the seven balls to us seven owners.

For non- golfers this all seems a bit ridiculous. To these strange people, a golf ball is a golf ball – white and hard, with dimples. For us double digit handicap golfers it’s probably not going to make a yard of difference if we lose a £5 brand new Titleist or a 50p used Srixon. In our heads we know this as surely as we know that range finders are useless. (I’ve rarely hit 2 shots the same distance with the same club in all the years I’ve been playing golf. Yet I hear 28 handicappers staring through a range finder, announcing that it’s 183.5 yards to the front of the green and then consulting a chart to see which club they are going to use to dribble it 20 yards down the fairway). But in our hearts we still believe it can be the final piece of the jigsaw. Using an expensive ball is all we need to turn a dodgy swing into a swing Rory McIlroy would watch and try to emulate.

In truth there is  surely no greater feeling than playing your first shot on the first tee with a brand new father’s day Titleist Pro V1x . The feeling only lasts a whole 2.8 seconds though. It is closely followed by a totally different feeling as you see your unsullied, unmuddied, uncaring ball take a left turn in mid-air and slowly fade over the trees toward the pond, never to be seen again. That hurts.

Steepest Golf Holes

entabeni

We were playing the 8th hole at Cradoc golf club. It’s a tough old climb.

Pensioner Dave, one of our party. then recounted an avalanche of steep golf holes – the 3rd at West Mon, Tidy Pull, the 11th at Monmouth, several at Mountain ash, practically all of them at Pontypool. He mentioned more, but we weren’t listening (by the way if you have any suggestions for steepest golf hole in Wales, please let me know). He then mentioned a course he had only heard about. This is the 19th hole at Entabeni which as I understand, is in mid Wales. I dug out a clip from ‘You Tube’. Enjoy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pyRe8SBjKf4

Why Do You Play Golf?

Why Do You Play Golf?

There’s a fundamental question you need to ask yourself when you play golf. This is not the obvious question golf books / non golfers would suggest the questions you ask yourself are;

it’s not;

a. how much am I  willing to spend on the game ? or
b. how much time am I willing to commit ?

Those aren’t real questions. Once you’ve got ‘the bug’ you know what the answer to those questions will be;
a. as much as I can afford  and then some more
b. see answer to a. above

No, the fundamental question to ask about golf is, “What do I want to get from a round of golf; enjoyment or getting the lowest score?”

How you answer this question will influence your whole approach to the game. I read a book from John Daly recently and his first chapter was all about… turning up early and practicing – the irony, I thought. However it made absolute sense though. If you are serious about getting the lowest score you can then you need to spend 20 minutes or so warming up. Otherwise you will lose 3 shots each round (a conservative estimate to me).

How many players in your club spend 2 minutes let alone 20 practicing before a round? Stretching and taking 3 swings with a 5 iron don’t really count.

If you want to play golf for fun then don’t leave the house until 5 minutes before your tee time. Or, stay in the bar until someone comes in to tell you your playing partners have teed off. However, don’t be surprised when you come in with another 100+ round.

It may well not be as straightforward as that though. You, like me, may well feel that you really want to score as low as you can because that’s where the fun is. That’s the challenge. So we may occasionally get to the club a few minutes early and have a quick half-hearted putt before we stroll to the first tee.

Part of the problem is not a big deal but just requires some thought and a little courage. In psychology / management jargon it’s about making a choice – Do you want to look good? Or do you want to get the job done?

A classic example of ‘looking good’ instead of ‘getting the job done’ crops up when you are 3 feet short of the green. How do you deal with shots just off the green. Do you, like me, sometimes choose a pitching wedge from 6 feet wide of the green rather than use a putter?  I know a putter will get me closer on 8 out of 10 occasions yet somehow it doesn’t feel right. I feel that I should use a wedge. There’s a pressure on me, a macho, male thing about having to copy the professionals. I can see it in the faces of most of my playing partners – they all feel the same. They’d rather lose a hole going for that ‘tiny gap between the trees and fading it around the corner’ shot than adopt the sensible ‘just chip it back on the fairway’ route. This isn’t everyone – just most of them. The one that doesn’t do this plays off scratch. Perhaps there’s a lesson there.

Ironically the main problem comes when I’ve hit the best drive of my life on the shortish par 5 7th. I know now that I should hit a nice iron, chip over the pond and have a putt for a birdie.
However…. there are demons in my head saying;
“Go on, get a 3 wood and go for it.”, “When will you ever get the chance of doing this again?”, “Go on – wimp.”
So I do and it goes in the pond, I duff the chip, 3 putt and hit driver off every tee thereafter and come in at double figures over my handicap.

So are you saying be boring and don’t take any risks?
Well not really – I’m advocating take a sensible risk and don’t sulk if it goes wrong and don’t carry on taking risks if it works… if you’re committed to getting the best score you can. If you committed to having fun then, in the words of the enigma that is John Daly, “Grip it and rip it.”

However if you are committed to getting a lower score, as I am, then perhaps the next time I’m on the edge of a par 4 in 2 I’m going to reach for a putter, lag it up and tap in for a par……. well, maybe as long as none of my regular playing partners are watching.

‘Bring Me the Head of Sergio Garcia’ Tom Cox – Review of Perfect Book With Perfect Title

tomcox

“Here. Listen to this bit ….. After he was disqualified for playing the wrong ball he drove off thinking of the only consolation he had. The only hole he had played properly. Listen – “I smiled to myself: the first hole was supposed to be the hardest, and at least I could give myself a pat on the back for completing that. As if on cue, my clubs fell off the back of the buggy.’”. I stood there waiting for my partner to laugh or cry – she did neither. She didn’t really get golf.

“So what about his cat? “, she added. “This was before the cat… well he peed on his bag…. but it doesn’t matter. Oh forget it.” She really didn’t get golf.

Bring me the Head of Sergio Garcia’ is an amazing book. It’s the perfect blend of stupidity, humour, pathos, stubbornness and golf. It is the first novelish / biographyish book about golf that really works. I had, unfortunately, been given one of Dan Jenkins’ appalling tomes a few months ago and it had almost ruined my taste for any golf books.  I’m so glad I bought Tom Cox’s book. It restored my faith in writing about golf and made me incredibly jealous at the same time. He writes so effortlessly and apparently casually that you know it has taken a long time and a great deal of care. It’s pitched (pun intended) perfectly for all of us middle aged, used to be good at something once, sportsmen / writers who want to believe ‘they could have been contenders. It’s hilarious. Buy it. Now.

“My name is Byron and I am a golfer.”

itreallyworks

 

 

I believe this – “When you play a golf ball that is properly fit for your game, your shot execution will improve and you will shoot lower scores.”

and will buy this – 

“Even Softer Feel, More Distance and Longer Lasting. Tour-proven around the globe, the Titleist Pro V1® golf ball is engineered to deliver exceptional distance, consistent flight, very soft feel, Drop-and-Stopgreenside control and longer lasting durability. The multi-component construction of the Pro V1® golf ball utilises a softer compression ZG process core technology, features a responsive ionomeric casing layer, and an improved high-performance Urethane Elastomer cover system with a 352 tetrahedral dimple design.”

titlist

I believe this –

“When you slip on this specially structured compression shirt you will feel a sensation of “connection” which is exactly what the best ball-strikers feel as they are swinging.”

and am willing to look to like this

golfswingshirt-300x336

I believe there are things out there that things can help my putting accuracy, muscle memory, driving distance and decrease my scoring average by 10 shots in a week. For example –

the X is a very clever helper. A mini-computer that clamps to your driver (a putter version is being developed), it takes a million measurements per second to track the crucial speed of the swing right up to when club head meets ball. Slowing down the swing before impact is said to be a major problem for players of all levels. So, using the X, it’s possible to self-correct and gain those crucial extra yards.

and I am willing to buy things like this –

 

golfaid

 

I read about things like this-

“a kinaesthetic golf training aid which can be used at home or at the golf course. It develops your muscle memory of the optimum golf swing, helping you feel what it’s like to hit the perfect shot.”

 

and will buy things like this this-

 

golfaid4

Why? It’s no different from anything else – stopping smoking, writing that novel. We want a magic way to move from a hacker to a single figure handicap without  all the time, effort and application. 

It’s pathetic really – as if the clothing wasn’t bad enough. There is some hope however –

I read this –

“It’s a true innovation in getting the most out of each trip to the restroom.? Get one for the office and one for home.? Finally, you can play some golf without all those bothersome people? ”

But  didn’t buy this –

bathroom_golf

 

Golfers Say The Funniest Things

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“In no other sport does the nature of the contest allow the players to be so free of jealousy and enmity, so willing to help and support each other and be so sincere in their acceptance of each other’s success.– Jack Nicklaus

“Golf is a game, not a sport” – Larry Ramirez

“To find a man’s true character, play golf with him.”- PG Wodehouse

“Golf has made me and shaped me into the person I am here today.” – Tiger Woods

“Golf is a spiritual game. It’s like Zen. You have to let your mind take over.” – Amy Alcott

“The main idea in golf as in life, I suppose is to learn to accept what cannot be altered and to keep on doing one’s own reasoned and resolute best whether the prospect be bleak or rosy.” – Bobby Jones

“Eighteen holes of match or medal play will teach you more about your foe than will 18 years of dealing with him across a desk” – Grantland Rice

“Yes, I did talk to my players, but my vice captains were very instrumental in making decisions.” – Tom Watson

“What other people find in poetry or art museums l, I find in the flight of a good drive.” – Arnold Palmer

“What Would Tom Do?”

tomwatson

Waiting on the 2nd tee the discussion invariably was of the Open. In essence the argument was on who’s camp you were in. It was not Tiger v Phil Mickelson, but rather Phil Mickelson v Tom Watson. It was agreed (by some) that Tom Watson was ‘a real gentleman’ whereas Phil Mickleson was a bit arrogant, cocky and fundamentally too ‘smiley’.
“He doesn’t look like he suffers enough” said someone.

It became a theme of the round after that “What would Tom do?”. It seemed to have a profound effect as in the round we let a junior 2 ball though and waited for a green to clear before we drove off. Ah, the power of Tom.

This prompted me to do a little research on Tom. I had read that he had done at least one good thing in Kansas City so I looked for more tales. For people who don’t know Tom Watson had resigned from the ‘ultra-restrictive’ Kansas City Country Club to protest the club’s blackballing of Jewish tax-preparation tycoon Henry Bloch. Although Watson is not Jewish, his wife, Linda, and their two children are. Watson was quoted as saying that his conscience had forced him to resign “out of respect for my family—my wife, my children and myself.”

Well done Tom.

Then I read that Tom had been a member of this Country Club that had secret membership that seemed to be discriminatory for many, many years. So, why did Tom wait until a Jewish millionaire friend was rejected before he spoke out?

I looked for more Country Clubs Tom had resigned from or criticised because of perceived racist or religious discrimination. I was disappointed.  I read that earlier Tom had said that people should “chill out” and that private clubs had the right to choose their members.

I found other reports of Tom and controversy though. Apparently at the 1993 Ryder Cup pre-match dinner Sam Torrance picked up a programme and in a gesture of camaraderie walked over to ask Tom Watson for his autograph. Tom refused. He said that he didn’t want his players bothered by autograph hunters.

This seems as childish as the report of the 1969 Ryder Cup captain Eric Brown telling his players not to look for American balls in the rough.

He doesn’t seem to be popular with everyone; Los Angeles Times columnist Larry Stewart called Watson a “backstabber,” while Jonathan Rand of the hometown Kansas City Star settled for “stuffed shirt.”

Watson criticised Bill Murray for inappropriate antics in a charity Pro-Am.

He managed to get Gary McCord the sack for on-air quips by sending a handwritten demand to CBS director and producer Frank Chirkinian to “get rid of him, now.”

In a positive article John Garrity describes him;  “Watson always seeks the middle ground. He likes Rush Limbaugh……….”

Tom said of Tiger Woods, “I feel that he has not carried the same stature as other great players like Jack Nickolas, Arnold Palmer, Byron Nelson or the Hogans, in the sense that there was language and club throwing on the golf course. You can grant that of a young person that has not been out here for awhile. But I think he needs to clean up his act and show the respect for the game that other people before him have shown.”

Tom Watson is a real old-fashioned, 18th century gentleman. He is a man from a different age. A man with real Victorian values. It’s no wonder he’s so popular with so many golf club members around the world – including Bargoed.

Mr Happy – not if he came to Bargoed

Phil Mickelson on the other hand is young and wore a bleeper during the 1999 U.S. Open when his wife Amy was expecting the couple’s first child (“Wouldn’t be allowed in Bargoed”)

In an article on Mickelson ArtSpander says “It bothers some that Mickelson plays without a scowl, waving at the fans who yell his name, eating up the approval…..Phil is outwardly gracious when asked about Tiger’s success, affirming him as the world No. 1. He’s agreed that, in the previous five months, with Woods not around, golf was poorer in his absence.

His personality is pretty well summed up in ‘Shanghai’s Oriental Morning Post ‘:
“Without a doubt Mickelson is the most approachable star at Sheshan. When he hits a good shot he rewards fans’ applause by smiling or tipping his cap. When he goes through the crowd, if you put out your hand he’ll even give a ‘high-five.’ (“Wouldn’t happen in Bargoed”)

* first published 17/7/2010

“Why Don’t You Relax And Take Up Golf?”

angry

“Moderate exercise, such as playing a round of golf, may help protect people against future anxiety and stress.”  – a study by the University of Maryland

“Relax and have a game of golf,” people say. They could just as well say “I hear that your uncle’s been eaten by a tiger. Why don’t you take your mind off it and take a trip to the zoo?”

There should only be tips about reducing your stress whilst playing golf, not assuming that the very act of playing golf will somehow automatically reduce your stress. It is nonsense. Luckily, I’ve carried out a little research and have examined the top tips for reducing stress and tried to apply them to golf;

Tip 1. A good way to reduce your stress levels is to set yourself realistic targets

Sounds like a good idea. In principle I would be delighted to shoot a few shots under my handicap each time I play. However, when I’m playing the stroke index 3 par 5 and I’ve hit a glorious drive leaving me 200 yards from the green it would take the combined strength of Samson, Hercules and She-Ra to get the 3 wood out of my hand and make me hit me a mid-iron. The overwhelming majority of golfers play golf because of those rare, rare moments when they hit a shot as good as a Rory McIlroy or a Bradley Dredge. Most of us know that a 7 iron, wedge and 2 putts will give us lots of stableford points but that really isn’t the game is it? There are those amongst us that calculate the chances of success at each shot and play the percentages. These people often win tournaments and are ‘good clubmen’ (they will be men). However, they are solid, sad, unloved, boring. Their only aspiration in life is to be in the top 10 % best handicap secretaries in the South Wales region (South East valleys area).

Tip 2. When you have completed a task take a few minutes to pause and reflect before you start a new one.

It seems that many golfers are already doing this judging by the amount of time it takes 4 people to walk 10 yards to a tee and hit a ball in the general direction of the next green.

Tip 3. Address problems as they occur. Don’t let them build up.

Let your stress out as you go along – If you miss a putt … let it out. If you top a tee shot… let it out. Don’t save it all up and go home and kick the cat. Sometimes you can take this too far; I once saw someone on the 7th par 3 at Dewstow. He was having a bad, bad day after a number of bad, bad weeks and after topping 3 titleists into the pond he followed this us by sending his bag and golf clubs after them. He stormed across the course toward the clubhouse. He had only stormed about 100 yards before he turned back and walked sheepishly back to the pond. He walked right past us and into the water. He waded towards his bag where he pulled out his golf bag. he unzipped the pocket and brought out his car keys.

This aspect of letting go of  your emotions doesn’t seem to be too much of a problem for golfers at Bargoed Golf Club. I know what the groups 3 holes in front of me are doing every shot of their round.

Tip 4: Stay in the ‘here and now’

OK this sounds very another lot of psychological twaddle but I really like it. If I were calling myself a consultant psychological sports guru and charged you £2,000 per day you’d listen to me if I told you this. It really means hit one shot at a time. Often we’re hitting a shot and worrying about the putt, or the next tee shot, or the winners speech. When I was very new at the game a pal of mine who was also new, and quite a good player was always wide on par 3s. He eventually told me that he was worried about getting a hole in one and having to buy everyone a drink as he was invariably skint. So – hit the ball. Find it. Hit the ball. Find it…..

Tip 5: Avoid all drugs including tobacco and alcohol