Golf & The Art of Business

The beginnings of a book by David Gilroy

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Spyglass Hill at Pebble Beach – My day out

The clock at Spyglass Hill up close and personalI don’t know why I thought of it, but it struck me in the plane on the way over that like most US golf courses, I would have to buy a course planner for the courses at Pebble Beach. But then I caught myself and said, “Really, at $385 for a round at Spyglass Hill, surely they will throw in a Planner”?

But no, my first thought was the correct one. When we got to the Pro Shop at Spyglass Hill the planner was an extra $10. When I commented on the fact that I had to pay for one, the lady behind the counter bless her, thought I was complaining that the price was too high. I corrected her and said that frankly any course in the UK that charged that much money would throw in a planner. Either that, or they’d put their charges up $10 and then include the planner and make everyone feel better.

OK, rant over, the annoying thing is that I know tomorrow on Pebble Beach Links that the same thing is going to happen!

Anyway, all the service we received at the Pro Shop and from the cart people and Starter was extremely attentive. There was one bit of weirdness though. When we finished the round as we came off the course, I was invited by a lovely man called Rick to “take a seat” and he them promptly used an air gun to blow all the dirt off my shoes (fine) and give them a quick rub over (fine) but then he stuck the air gun down the side of my shoe and my foot and gave it a decent blast…hell, it tickled and it was all I could do not to burst out laughing.

Once we’d checked in it was down to the driving range where you were hitting off grass and with proper balls, no yellow “range balls” here, no sireee. Not only that, but the range balls were free which is completely disconnected from the charging for a course planner.

At the first tee I was introduced to my caddie, Brennan. A young lad with a degree in Kinesiology but most importantly a decent knowledge of the course. When checking in at the Pro Shop they made a point of making sure I knew what the “standard” gratuity was for a caddie. The problem was without my reading glasses, I think I could just about make it out! Brennan, if I short changed you, I apologise.

Spyglass Hill – The Course

The course itself was immaculate. Smooth fairways, super slick greens. Just a joy to play. The pace of play was OK at 4:40 (target time is 4:30) with a fair amount of standing around waiting for the group in front but could not see if they were being “held up”. We did get warned by Brennan to expect 5:00 to 5:30 for Pebble Beach itself (I guess there must be a lot of standing around taking photos…well, either that or looking for balls).

There were deer everywhere on the course, one photo below just about has one in it if you can pick it out.  I didn’t actually hit one although our playing partner, Bill, commented that some people thought they were “vermin”.  Turns out he was right, back in 2007 Daryl Hall (some might say the better looking half of that classic Philadelphian 1980s soft hair rock combo Hall & Oates told the then chat show host Howard Stern “Kill all the fuckin’ deer!”.  Turns out Mr Hall suffers from Lyme disease, a nasty, multi-symptom illness borne by deer ticks and he’s called for the extermination of “disease-carrying giant rats” he blames for his condition.

There is an excellent choice of tee boxes ranging from 5,381 yards (Red) to 6,690 from the Blues. I chose the Gold tees at 6,538 to give myself a bit of a challenge.

There some generous landing areas on most fairways and as I’ve already said, the greens were fantastic. You hit the ball on the right line, the ball goes in! Having spent the last six months in the UK playing on some shocking greens all over the country (Saunton excepted) I was a bit worried about adapting quickly, but 30 mins on the practice green was all it took to get a pretty decent handle on the pace.

I think there was a pin sheet, but forgot to get one, Brennan compensated though!

Oh, and my golf, well, even though I say it myself, it was pretty decent (see scorecard in the photo gallery below). 5 over for 18 holes on a course I’ve never played before, single bogeys at worse and two good birdies at 9 and 17. So, VERY happy with my first outing at Spyglass Hill.

Even better news was the Manda’s golfer’s elbow did not stop her playing her first full round for over six months, her elbow was a bit sore afterwards but hitting through the ball it was fine unless she took too much turf, no surprise there really.

Saunton spring outing

Finally, some good weather coincided with my availability over the Easter weekend to have a quick flit to Saunton.  It’s one of the advantages of having a Country Membership down there and living in Bristol.  In just over two hours you can be on the first tee cracking one away down the 470 yard, par 4, stroke 5 opening hole!

It’s the first time I’ve been down since the refurbished clubhouse has re-opened and doesn’t it look fabulous.

Refusbished Saunton Golf Club clubhouse

I played the East Course with a friend of mine (who slept all the way home in the car) and had a pretty good round as you can see below.

Ever played golf below sea level?

Well I’m looking forward to it in May this year.  MrsG and are taking a holiday to the US West Coast and are thinking of driving from San Francisco to Scottsdale and along the way stopping at the Furnace Creek Resort to experience playing golf in Death Valley.

The course is 214ft below sea level so I’m looking forward to seeing how far less the ball flies.  A couple of years ago we played at the Sedona Golf Resort which was the complete opposite, it was at 3,000ft, and the ball went flipping miles.  I was hitting a 9 iron around 160 yards (120-130 yards normally).  It was fun.

Anyone got any experience of playing at Furnace Creek?

Gilroy wins the 2013 Gilroy/Taylor Tour (14½ : 2½)

There was going to be no repeat of my collapse in the 2012 tournament.  Last year I got 8:2 up and then managed to lose all 8 of the next 8 games and lose 8:10.

This year I got ahead just as early on in the year but Mark could not catch up .  He did beat me twice and we halved one match, but that was it.

The great thing about a competition like this is that even as best friends it just makes us that bit more competitive and focused even when we are out having a “Sunday Fiver” game.  There’s a picture of the “cup” in this post about the inaugural 2011 Gilroy/Taylor Tour competition.  I’ll post an updated one soon.

But, for the record books, the score stand as follows :-

Year Score
2013 14½ : 2½ – Gilroy
2012 8:10 – Taylor
2011 7½ : 2½ – Gilroy

Nike Matchplay practice round. Have I peaked too early?

NikeGolf Matchplay logoToday my friend Mark Taylor and I went to Bristol & Clifton Golf Club for a practice round ahead of the regional final of the NikeGolf Matchplay Championship.

We’ve already won our way through four matchplay rounds and now it’s a betterball regional final.  The top two from 12 pairs go through to an all expenses paid trip to Vale de Lobo in Portugal.  Now that is some kind of incentive in my book.

So, Mark and I thought we’d better get organised and have a practice round.  It is a golf course that we’ve both played a few times before, but it was still worth making sure we played it close to the event.

Now, I’ve been playing pretty average golf for most of the year and have not really been playing that much in the last few weeks so was not expecting too much from my round today.  So where the hell a one over par, 71 came from I have NO IDEA!  My driving was fantastic, only missed three fairways all day and even when I missed them, it was into the first cut and did not cause any problems.  My short game was sharp with only a couple of exceptions and could easily have shot level par or even one under.

So, have I peaked to early before Thursday or what??

My scorecard from Bristol & CliftonGolf Club


Why I love playing at Saunton Golf Club

So on Thursday I drove down to Saunton to attempt to play golf with some friends who were driving down from Surrey.  I say “attempt to play” as the weather forecast was awful, with it possibly clearing by around 3 or 4pm.

I left Bristol at 11am and as soon as I was just past Weston-Super-Mare it started raining.  And boy did it rain!  At one point everyone was driving at less than 50mph it was so bad.

A quick call to my friends who were on the A303 showed it to be the same over there.

It rained all the way to Barnstaple and when I got to the course at 1pm it was still raining. So into the clubhouse for lunch (chicken caesar salad) and a shandy and by 2pm, it looked bareable i.e. just some spits of rain.

For two holes it was raincoats on, but then it cleared.  By the end of the first hour it was into shirt sleeves and then it looked like this for the next three hours!

Saunton Golf Club in brilliant October sunshine

Saunton Golf Club in brilliant October sunshine

Someone once explained this to me by saying that the big sandy dunes area on which Saunton sits acts like a massive heat absorber.  When that heat gets released it often pushes the bad weather over the hills by Barnstaple and out into the Bristol Channel.  Sounds plausible to me.

A review of Saunton Open Week 2013

Last year I decided to join Saunton Golf Club as a Country Member. It’s a course I’d played a few times before and one of the first golf clubs I went to in the year that I took up golf.

So this year MrsG and I decided to go down to Saunton for the whole of their Open Week, and what a great week it was. There are 12 competitions across the 10 days with 7 in which ladies can play and 9 in which men can play.

Here are details of each competition along with some notes from my experience playing each one.

Date/Competition Notes
Thursday August 1st – LADIES OPEN MEDAL (East Course) 18 Hole handicap in three divisions – Silver, Bronze I and Bronze II. Handicap Limit 36. (Trophy for Members Only) Limited to 96 entries with the lowest handicaps.
Friday August 2nd – ANY COMBINATION 3 BALL OPEN (East & West Course) 18 Hole Stableford two scores to count. Handicap allowance 3/4 of individual handicaps to a maximum of 18. (Ladies add East 3 & West 2 before calculation).
Saturday August 3rd – 18 HOLES MEDAL (East Course) CLUB SCRATCH GOLD MEDAL & HANDICAP CUP (Trophies for Members only of Maximum Allowance: 18). If oversubscribed the entry will be limited to the first 165 entries. A pretty windy day and my first experience of playing off the Blue Tees on the Saunton East course.  I shot a fairly respectable 78 and got my first surprise of the week when I discovered that the CSS varies between local members and visitors (which I’m considered to be as a Country member).  CSS was 74 & 77 respectively, which meant I was just in the buffer zone from a handicap perspective.  If you’ve not played much links golf then do not underestimate just how much a breezy day can affect your score and your ability to hit the right shot at the right time.  It’s not as a simple as saying “less club” downwind and “more club” into, the wind will magnify any slight flaw in your ball flight.  Your normal gentle fade turns into a massive slice and that perfect draw a huge hook when the wind takes the ball!
Sunday, Monday, Thursday & Saturday August 4th, 5th, 8th & 10th. SAUNTON PLATE MATCH PLAY (East Course) Day 1 – Rounds 1 & 2; Day 2 – Rounds 3 & 4; Day 3 – Rounds 5 & Semi-Finals; Day 4 – Final. 18 Hole match play full difference of handicap – Maximum Handicap 24.  Prizes: 1st – £300, 2nd – £200, S/F – £100, Q/F – £50. You know what a nice summer it’s been?  Well the Sunday started sunny, got cloudy quickly and with a mid-morning tee time, but the time Mike Pennicott and I got to the 5th hole it was raining pretty persistently.  And, it did not stop until the match was over – I lost 2&1 having lost my ball on the par 3 17th (played into a 2-3 club headwind!).  So that was it for me for the Matchplay competition that ran throughout the whole week.
Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday August 4th, 6th, 8th & 10th. LADIES OPEN MATCH PLAY (West Course). Day 1 – Round 1; Day 2 – Round 2; Day 3 – Round 3 & Semi-Finals ; Day 4 – Final. 18 Hole match play full difference of handicap – Maximum individual handicap – 28.
Monday August 5th – JACK CROPPER MEMORIAL TROPHY 18 HOLE STABLEFORD (West Course) Yellow Tees. 18 Hole handicap in two divisions – Division 1 up to 15 H’cap. Division 2 16 – 28 H’cap.  (Trophy for Members only). If oversubscribed limited to the first 183 entries. Having got soaked on Sunday in the Matchplay, I had barely got my shoes dry before it was time to go out again on the Monday.  I played with two visitors from Ingestre Park Golf Club ( and oh what fun we had.  It was drizzling as we teed off on the West Course.  It was properly raining by the 2nd and halfway down the 10th the hooter sounded and everyone was called off the course.  By that time I was soaking wet down to my underpants, even with full wet weather gear on.  annoyingly I scored 19 points on the front nine, however, I was nowhere near as upset as the two players who were already in the clubhouse with 40+ points by the time the competition was cancelled!  Calling it off was the right thing to to do as I have NEVER played in rain like it, it was horrendous.  Everyone got their money back as you’d expect.
Tuesday August 6th - MICKY PAINE MEMORIAL CUP 18 HOLE STABLEFORD (East Course – White Tees)  (Trophy for Members only). Maximum allowance for trophy: 18. If oversubscribed the entry will be limited to the first 165 entries. I didn’t play in this competition.  Stupidly I thought I might have needed a rest day having played three days in a row, as it was, the body held up just fine bearing in mind the shortened round the day before.  So, MrsG and I went out and played round the West Course and I sneaked off the Blue Tees and got my ball round in a respectable 5 over!
Wednesday August 7th – OPEN MONTHLY MEDAL (East Course) 18 Hole handicap in two divisions – Division 1 up to 15 H’cap. Division 2 16 – 28 H’cap. REID PUTTER (Trophy for Members only) Maximum allowance for trophy: 18. If oversubscribed limited to the first 165 entries. Another breezy day dawned, full sun but breezy.  But it felt like I was getting the hang of playing in the wind and managed to golf my ball round in 79 (net 72) and with visitors CSS going to 76, that meant a 0.8 cut in my handicap from 7.2 to 6.4…yay, me, a 6 handicap golfer!  Highlight of the week so far.
Wednesday August 7th – LADIES OPEN STABLEFORD (West Course) 18 Hole handicap in three divisions – Silver, Bronze I & Bronze II. Handicap Limit 36. (Trophy for Members only) Limited to 96 entries with the lowest handicaps.
Thursday August 8th – GOODBAN SALVERS – 18 HOLE MEDAL FOURSOMES (any combination) (East Course). Handicap allowance ½ combined . Ladies to add 3 strokes to their handicap before calculation. MrsG and I played the first of two foursomes competitions during the week.  This is a Medal competition, possibly one of the hardest formats to play as husband and wife. None of the “two off the tee” rubbish you get with Greensomes.  One ball, one swing and a whole lot of trust in the other person.We played pretty well on the front nine but then let it all go on the back nine and finished nowhere really.  Great fun though playing with two other Henbury GC members who were down for the day.
Friday August 9th – KILLARD-LEAVEY SALVER (East) & KILLARD-LEAVEY CUP (West) 18 HOLE STABLEFORD Open to MEN & LADIES. The course played will be decided by draw. (Ladies to play off Ladies card) Men off White Tees & Ladies of Red Tees. Played in 2’s. This competition is drawn at random as to whether you get to play on the East or the West Course. Also the format of 2-balls is an interesting one, but apparently it was specified in this format by the person (a lady I think) who originally sponsored the competition and paid for the trophies.It was going really well until the 9th tee (150 yard par 3) when I got my club selection one wrong (one club too much) and put my tee shot over the green with one bounce into the rough, had to take a drop and a chip & two putts later carded a blob. This was followed by a lost ball on my second shot on the par 5 10th and that was it for me really, all over. As it was I bounced back pretty well and was level par for the next five holes before blobbing the par 3 16th having two shots in the right hand bunker. So that was it, 31 points and a 0.1 increase in handicap to 6.5 and back to a playing handicap of 7. However, having tasted a few days playing as a 6 handicap golfer I’m going to work a bit harder towards the end of the season to try and get back there!
Saturday August 10th – FOSTER MEMORIAL CUPS – 18 HOLE MIXED FOURSOMES STABLEFORD (East Course). Handicap allowance ½ combined – Maximum allowance 18. Entry fee inclusive of lunch voucher. MrsG and I were back on the East Course playing foursomes on this last event of the week.  This was a stableford competition so felt a bit more relaxed.  A bogey on the 1st and a blog on the 2nd didn’t seem like a good start, but the 18 points we accumulated on the front nine said otherwise.  The back nine was also going well until the par 3 13th when I thinned the tee shot and left MrsG with a hiding to nothing of a shot and we walked off with a blog.  But for the last five holes we played really well and finished with 36 points which at the end of the day was enough to place us 5th overall which gave us a name check that evening at the presentation evening and a pro shop voucher for £30 each…not bad!

You can see all the results at

Saunton Open Week is a great set of events and even if you are the only golfer in your family, why not bring the family and stay somewhere locally for the whole week and play hooky on a few days and play in some competitive, yet fun, golf competitions.

So, see you in 2014!

William Hunt Trilby Tour 2013 – St Pierre, Wales

I had a great day out at St Pierre on Thursday 4 July 2013 playing in the William Hunt Trilby Tour for the third time. The first two times I played at Trevose, scoring 28 & then 32 points (off 8, with 3/4 handicap so given 6 shots). Nice progression in the my game. My home course is Henbury in Bristol which although a fair bit shorter than St. Pierre (6,103 yards, par 69) is, I think, a whole lot tighter in terms of tree lined fairways and real rough/bushes in which you can easily lose a ball with loose shots.

On Thursday I was off 7, so only 5 shots given. My 7:27 tee time meant a REALLY early start from Bristol. Only three groups out in front of us, which could be considered good or bad. Good in that when you come off the 9th there’s only a few names/scores on the leaderboard (you feel good if you are playing well) and bad in that when you come off the 9th there’s only a few names/scores on the leaderboard (you feel not quite so good if you are playing well).

After six holes I realised I was striking the ball pretty well, scrambling pretty well and putting like a pro. 12 points in the bag and the drizzle was not putting me off. At this point I gave my scorecard to my caddie and let him to the rest of it.

After 9 holes as I walked of the green past the scorers, I just jabbed my thumb at my caddie and said “He’s got my card!”. Not even a glance at the board, but in my head I was pretty sure that 18 points was a pretty good front nine and would probably get my name up there (only the third group out remember!!!).

At 11:45 I walked off the course with 33 points, just one blob on the 11th. A terrific drive to the right centre of the fairway, a rubbish pushed 7 iron to miss the green short & right, a duffer chip into the bunker, out of the bunker a chip and two putts for a six.

Picture to the right of me and the leaderboard! What that meant was a REALLY long wait to find out if I would make the three hole playoff at the end of the day. The wait got longer, and longer, and longer. But, at 7pm, it was clear that I MIGHT in the playoff. In fact there were five of us, so we had to have a nearest the pin on the 18th hole (shortened tee from 134 yards).

I could write a whole separate post about how long it took to whittle five players down to four. I think the last two to “play off” needed to hit six shots each and by then it was “nearest the pin whether on the green or not” as we were losing the light rapidly.

I got through in the first round of shots, and then there were four. So, it was off to the 16th hole (where the photo below was taken). My caddie for the full round had been Paul Mitchell from Bristol & Clifton Golf Club who has been my teacher for the seven years since I took up the game. For the playoff I had a junior from St Pierre called Callum who kindly agreed to carry my bag. The scorer (shown in the photo below) is Mark Wood one of the Professional staff at St Pierre, but those of you reading this who are Henbury members will remember him from our club.

After two playoff holes I’m at level par and leading by one shot. On the 18th I hit a great 3-rescue but got a slightly unlucky bounce into the back of the bunker right of the green, left a bunker shot in the bunker, just got it out, chipped and two putted for a six and lost by one shot!

However, having come in the top ten I qualified for the Grand Final on 28 August at Rockliffe Hall in Co. Durham. Can’t wait for that.

If you want to play in an “anyone can enter” amateur event that feels as much like a pro tour event would feel, the Trilby Tour is the one to enter.

A bit of a purple patching in terms of golf scheduling!

I seem to have had/about to have a bit of a run in playing golf in some lovely places.  Here’s what’s been and what’s coming.

Played here last week :-

Playing here next week
13-Jun -
14-Jun -

Here the week after
18-Jun -

Here the week after
25-Jun -
30-Jun -

Then playing in this the following week
4-Jul - at the St Pierre venue

Then the big one
25-Jun -
26-Jun -
As part of my 50th year celebrations!!!

Oh yeah, then a whole week down at Saunton for the Open Week competition
4-Aug -
where Manda & I are members

What is it with the red tees on some courses?

Having just finished ten days golfing at the excellent Belle Mare Plage resort in Mauritius, my wife and I were reflecting on some of our on-course discussions during our eight rounds of golf!

Most typically they settled on the position of the ladies tees on some holes. Let’s take The Links course for example. A great golf course, but some, we feel, anomalies, in the position of the ladies tees.

This the same as courses we’ve played in the US. There are no extra shots given for the red tees, just much shorter holes in many cases. An extreme example of this is the par 3 14th hole. 137 off the whites, just 90 yards off the reds with most of the water taken out of play.

Overall here is how the The Links course measures up to our home course

White Red
Henbury 6,001 5,527
The Links 6,112 4,594
5th hole at The Links at Belle Mare Plage

5th hole at The Links / Belle Mare Plage

So almost 1,000 yards shorter off the red tees.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not moaning just making observations about the way some holes are designed.

Take for example this hole, the par 4 5th hole. From the white tees the it’s 360 yards. For me that’s a strongish 3-wood to the fairway and then an 8/9-iron to the green (with a one club following wind).  Let’s ignore the fact that in two of my four rounds I managed to miss the green completely, but did manage to get up and down both times!

For MrsG the hole is just 231 yards. So with a good drive & a decent roll she had just 54 yards to the flag.


13th hole at The Links at Belle Mare Plage

13th hole at The Links / Belle Mare Plage

Contrast that with the par 4 13th hole. 384 yards from the white tees and 319 from the reds. The landing area is mostly up slopes and it’s mostly into the prevailing wind. So on this hole MrsG was getting around a 150-160 yard drive. Leaving a second shot into the green, that’s longer than her  drive, over a large expanse of water.

My point here is that it’s fine to shorten the course but give more thought to where the red tees are positioned. I just wonder whether when Rodney Wright & Peter Alliss designed the course they had a woman golfer on the team?


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