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Readers Letters - April/May 2009

Another one bites the dust!

Golf. It never struck me as particularly worth the effort. I did bang a ball about on the Old Course at St Andrews during a stint in rep at the Byre Theatre. I also remember that it took me 18 strokes to sink my ball on the first and I eventually retired to the 19th with a strong suspicion that this was not the game for me.

As I got older the learning curve – at least from where my stiffening frame was standing – appeared to be ever steeper. Then came the call. “Can you play golf?” When an actor is asked any question like that, he keeps all avenues open with a confident affirmative. Dishonest answers to the questions “Can you play poker?” and “Can you ride a horse?” have led to two of the most rewarding jobs in my career. But I then owe my conscience, my professionalism and my fear of failure some considerable investment in achieving some degree of honourable competence. So I rushed off and bought a 7 iron and a driver. My nearest golf course was Shooter’s Hill where David Brotherton assured me that a few hours intensive tuition could turn me into something that looked a bit like a golfer. Well, from a distance.

The bug started to bite.

Notwithstanding the fact that, always ready to try something new, I had finally found something that I was completely rubbish at. I was fatally undeterred and consummately hooked. When one of those ghastly ‘clunks’ at the end of my club magically transposed into a seductive ‘click’, telling me my iron has collected the ball, lofted it far into the air and landed it an astonishing 100 yards away in the middle of the fairway, I gained a glimpse of the possible. I was transported. I would not rest until I could do it again. I was infected. I understood.

My game is improving. Frustratingly slowly. But the pleasures it brings are manifold and joyous. I have begun to play regularly with my sister and discover the pleasures of her company anew. I have played with an old friend whom I hardly ever used to see. I will soon be playing with another old friend that I haven't seen for three years. This extraordinarily seductive pastime is connecting me with all kinds of interesting people.

It’s now too easy to set the in-tray aside and drive off to Sidcup World of Golf where the challenge of persuading the excellent James Skelton that he hadn’t wasted his time on me the previous week will push all other cares way beyond my concern.

What on earth is it that so pulls on me and so makes me yearn to be back on the course, any course, anywhere, in any weather? Every now and then, for reasons that seem beyond my complete control and comprehension, I hit a perfect shot. The next perfect shot might even be the very next shot I take. It isn’t, of course. But one day, it just might be!

Nicholas Day, London

Not exactly golf!

As a subscriber to Gi for many years now I am gradually getting used to your quirky ideas of publishing lightweight non-golfing material. Last year we had endless pages on golf related songs and music. The one thing about that particular project was that it was based on reality, whereas the recent Bond issue is based on pure fiction and little more than a drawn out joke.

However, the Ian Fleming article on playing golf with Peter Thomson at The Berkshire brought back memories of golf in a different age. I have walked many an unroped fairway with players such as Thomson, Bobby Locke, Dai Rees, Harry Weetman, Max Faulkner and many others who played with equipment which was not nearly on a par with today’s clubs, and nor were the courses maintained as well as they are today.

Bobby Locke was an interesting man, always wore a collar and tie, grey flannels, white hat and shoes. He would turn up at a tournament venue a few days before the start of an event and invite club members to join him for nine holes.

“I just want to get the pace of the greens,” he would say!

In those days people didn’t shout out “You’re the man”, or “In the hole!” as they do today, basically because spectators had self-discipline and a better understanding of how a spectator should behave.

However, I’m looking forward to the day when normal service is resumed.

R White, Weybridge, Surrey

Editor’s note: So I guess we need to resign to the back burner our planned exclusive, ‘The Pussycat Dolls’ A-Z Guide to The Secrets of Touch & Feel?’

Unwanted advice!

I consider myself a fairly knowledgeable person when it comes to the ins and outs of the golf swing. I use numerous forums sites, the majority of posts relating to the instruction section. I have taken hundreds of lessons, many from leading coaches in the game who have taught major champions. I have an extensive library of golf books and dozens of DVD’s all based on instruction.

I subscribe to Golf International for the quality of the instruction articles, I have countless training aids and I have 70 gigabytes’ worth of swing sequence analysis on my PC. I basically eat, sleep and breath this game and the ‘How to’ instruction side is my chief interest.

Yesterday, whilst out playing, a guy in a three-ball behind our group called me up after I had teed off at the 14th – not a bad shot, a gentle fade that wound up in the first cut of rough. In total seriousness, he said “You’re dipping in your follow-through. You must stay level.”

I was furious inside but did not react as I like being a member at my club. I wonder if other readers can give similar examples of this unsolicited advice and how they deal with it.

MatthewEmerson Via e-mail

This guy’s got balls!

I am writing to advise the Gi readership of a wonderful collection of over 1,400 (mostly new or pristine) golf club logo balls which I have built up over the last eight years or so, and which includes balls from over 45 countries. My reason for doing so is quite simple: the collection has taken over my study and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to convince my wife that my beloved collection is not a cunning ploy to delay its conversion into a second bathroom!

Thus, with heavy heart, I must reduce its number. I am more interested in my collection going to a good home of some sort rather than the financial renumeration involved. If you should have any interest in this collection (part or whole), please contact Gi’s memorabilia expert Kevin McGimpsey who has agreed to pass on details to me so that a full list of the collection can be emailed. Also, please take a look at www.davidsroyalgolfballs. net to view not only my unique collection of balls but also ballmarkers from all the Commonwealth Royal Golf Clubs.

David Tracey, Bourne End, Bucks

Kevin McGimpsey writes: Logos on golf balls have been used for many years by golf clubs and businesses as mini billboards advertising their brands or course. In 2007, over 25% of the 600 million golf balls produced annually were logo golf balls. It is an inexpensive hobby until you amass the number of golf balls that our reader has – just multiply the number of balls by, say, £2.00 for a new ball and it quickly mounts up.

Our reader also has a superb ballmarker collection. The merits of collecting ball markers are that they are durable, often attractive, and inexpensive and are an archive of ones personal golfing memories. They are also easy and cheap to display.

David now wishes to pass on his unique collection of logo golf balls from 1,435 different golf clubs from across the world. If interested please email me – letters@golfinternationalmag. com and I will forward details to him.

A broader view

I was quite taken by John Huggan’s reasoning for widening fairways. Such action is something I would previously have argued against, but I can now see how it could still challenge the better player as well as increase the enjoyment and speed of play for all. I hope that golf clubs take note and are brave enough to embrace this idea.

My one reservation about John’s article, however, is that widening the fairways would not work to restore the magic at the Masters – Augusta being a unique case. There is no doubt that it was much more exciting before all the lengthening and the addition of new trees and rough. But of course those were also the days before the phenomenal distance achieved with the modern drivers and balls. With Augusta’s extreme greens, distance is a disproportionate factor, because anyone with a shorter iron in their hand has a distinct advantage over someone playing an approach with a less lofted club. And whilst there’s nothing wrong in that old adage “a god long ‘un will always beat a good short ‘un”, wide fairways at Augusta could mean that a bad long un would always beat a good short ‘un – and that would be unacceptable.

So, with Augusta National being pretty much unique perhaps it would be the perfect place to trial the often suggested ‘tournament ball’. Designed to reign in distances, it would return the courses to the shot-making beauty of old. It needn’t be that everyone played the same ball: if a set of parameters were laid down, each manufacturer could still produce enough subtle differences to take the acclaim when one of their players ended up wearing the coveted green jacket.

And those manufacturers could no doubt get a return on their money producing the ball, because you can bet that added to the fixture list of every club throughout the land would be an ‘Augusta Cup, to be played only with the said tournament ball.

Pete Wells, Worcester Park

Fair pay – and fair play

I have recently become aware of your magazine and I am very impressed at the layout and content. I would like to congratulate you on that.

I read your prize letter from issue 87 relating to the hardship some golf clubs around the country are finding when it comes to attracting and holding onto members – particularly younger members.

My club in West Yorkshire has, in recent years, been experiencing these exact same problems, the chief reasons being (1) the cost of membership being prohibitive to younger age brackets and (2) the dress code, which was fairly rigid and offered little lattitude for younger members to try and emulate Ian Poulter’s natty attire on the course.

To combat the first of these issues, my club introduced a tiered membership system which I am not aware of at any other club locally. The cost of membership is now set in direct correlation with a players age group. There are memberships available for under 18’s, 19-21’s, 22-24’s, 25-27’s, 28-29’s, and 30 and over. Each tier has its own price rising from £150 to £825 for the over 30’s. Members have equal playing rights whatever category they belong to. Since this scheme was launched the club has seen a huge increase in applications for memberships from people aged under 30, and as a direct result we have a very healthy and successful junior section.

The second problem was overcome by inviting younger members to make a contribution to committee decisions – one of which was to highlight the fact that many younger players like to explore the latest fashion. Which they now can as long as they stay within the trousers and collared shirt dress code. All of which adds to the enjoyment of the game and a more welcoming club atmosphere.

Matthew Cresswell Project Engineer, OPERON Design

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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