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,
1 Links Road,
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
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
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
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
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
Gi: So when did the game begin over
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
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,
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
Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine