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 THE MAJOR

Major RJM Warren-Dawlish M.C. has been Secretary of Royal St Luke’s Golf Club in Suffolk since 1985. A leading authority on the Rules of Golf, guerrilla tactics and continental drift, he has graciously agreed to publish items of his correspondence is these columns. The opinions, prejudices and obsessions expressed are his alone and do not (necessarily) reflect those of Golf International or Golf Today.
EDITED BY PROF. DAVID PURDIE - ILLUSTRATION BY SANDY ROBB

Royal St. Luke’s Golf Club (Est. 1603)
pulsa inveni repulsa

From; The Secretary,
The Clubhouse,
1 Links Road,
Carrington Magna,
Suffolk SU3 1GC

Gi: Major, I understand you have recently returned from the United States, and I wondered if you might share with us your observation on the clubs, courses and indeed on the golfing culture of...
W-D: Will you get on with it!

Gi: Right. So, what are the principal differences?
W-D: For a start, language.

Gi: For example.
W-D: It’s quite extraordinary. They speak Middle English – the language of Shakespeare! And it’s literally wearing well over there. A jacket to them is a coat; A waistcoat is a vest; trousers are pants; pants are shorts; a short is a beverage; and, most alarmingly, braces are suspenders – while to cap it all, plusfours are knickerbockers, shortened to knickers!

Gi: I had no idea. I thought they spoke a sort of New English.
W-D: Not at all. They’ve conserved a swathe of Old English. No American golfer would think twice about saying to his caddy that his suspenders needed tightening to get a better grip on his knickers – imagine my coming out with that to old Willie McTaggart at Gleneagles… he’d think I was coming out!

Gi: What else was of interest?
W-D: A visit to the Merion Club at Ardmore in Pennsylvania.

Gi: Indeed? Where the US Open will be held in June.
W-D: Exactly. The 2013 Open was offered to The Country Club at Brookline as it’s the Centenary – Centennial to them – of Francis Ouimet’s famous playoff win over Harry Vardon and J.H. Taylor. But Brookline didn’t want all the disruption and took the quieter US Amateur instead.

Gi: Indeed? And is it looking good for June at Merion?
W-D: Yes, but there’s a difference from our Open arrangements. My host was Morse Harrison, a member at Merion and here at St Lukes. He was hopping mad at the USGA for insisting on a tee at one of their par-threes being moved back twenty yards – and raised ten feet. Cost Merion a million dollars.

Gi: The USGA insisted – but didn’t pay?
W-D: They never do. In contrast, if the R&A were to agree with the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers that, say, one of their bunkers at Muirfield needed to be shallowed – so that the player in it could actually be seen – then the R&A would meet the bill.

Gi: Talking of bunkers, did you find the Americans busy revetting the faces of theirs?
W-D: No.

Gi: Why not?
W-D: Because, young man, Americans do not have bunkers. They have sand traps. Laughably still called a ‘hazard’, a sand trap is just what it says on the tin cup. It is a shallow declivity in which one’s ball is simply trapped, i.e. arrested in its forward career. One is not fined distance. I have actually escaped from such entrapment in the US with my Spoon! (a 3-wood to you) It’s different here…

Gi: In what way?
W-D: In a bunker at St Lukes or Lytham, Carnoustie or Muirfield, there’s no escape with distance. In the States one is punished by being in a trap – here, one is in a bunker to be punished. Mind you it’s not the Muirfield bunkers that will settle Claret Jug next July…

Gi: Indeed. So what will?
W-D: The rough.

Gi: Really. Is it very severe?
W-D: Severe? Certainly not – it’s far worse. I lack sufficient command of the language to categorise it. It’s gigantic, a runaway hayfield, a towering jungle of thick, matted, thatched undergrowth. It couldn’t be more hazardous if there were Achtung Minen! signs scattered through it. My friend Sir Hubert Doddsley, a member of the Hon. Co., says the rough is such that, over the past summer golfing season, 650 balls, 24 sets of clubs, six caddies and several members have failed to emerge from it.

Gi: How interesting. But to return to the USA, I hear that you took with you the latest discovery of the origins of Golf in North America.
W-D: I did. We now know that a Scottishborn merchant in Charleston, ordered ‘Clubbes & Balles’ from a clubmaker back home in Edinburgh, these being shipped to our then colony of South Carolina. This was, of course, long before the illegal Declaration of Independence which led, incidentally, to an EGM at St Lukes in 1776 and at which Benjamin Franklin, a keen player, was suspended from Overseas Membership.

Gi: So when did the game begin over there?
W-D: This was in the 1730s, nearly three hundred years ago, and the clubs were not only used by the settlers – they were bartered with the local Indian tribes In fact, and quite remarkably, the oldest golf course in America is now known to be Cherokee Falls Golf & Hunting Ground in Georgia, whose first captain or Big Chief was called Two Eagles. His three at the opening par-5 at the Falls led to his name displacing our ‘albatross.’

Gi: Is the course still in existence?
W-D: Indeed it is. I visited it and had a pow-wow with the present Captain, Chief Sitting Coyote. ‘A white-eyes wanting a round here,’ he said, ‘must have reservation. This good, because now it usually my people who have Reservations!’ A charming chap.

Gi: Clearly. Finally, Major, the golfing world knows that eccentricity is a byword at St Lukes. However, even by your standards the reports about your President, Mr Bertram Wallingford, are remarkable. Is it the case that he, at the age of 97 is about to divorce his wife, aged 95?
WD: Apparently so. I actually asked Bertie gently; ‘But why now, Mr President? He said that he and Cynthia had waited to do this out of consideration for the family. I said, ‘In what sense?’ He said, ‘We wanted to wait – until all the children were dead…’

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine

 

 
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