Golf & The Art of Business

The beginnings of a book by David Gilroy

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The Legend at Belle Mare Plage, Mauritius

The Legend Golf Course / Belle Mare Plage

The Legend Golf Course / Belle Mare Plage

Day two of our Mauritius golfing odyssey at Belle Mare Plage saw us take on The Legend course.  This was where David Frost (RSA) won the MCB Tour Championship last December.  Albeit off the blue tees (6,588 yards) with me off the white tees (6,178 yards).  Although I did have a caddie the same as they would have done.

The Legend does allow you to walk the course and carry your bag, but in the heat you would have to be bonkers to do that.  A, what is called, 1st Grade caddie will cost you around £9 + tip and these will not just carry, but offer advice on club selection, line off the tee and crucially lines on the green.

There are also 2nd Grade caddies available, think “Fore Caddie” in the USA where they just carry your bag, find your ball if necessary and that’s it.

My caddie was called Miguel (8 handicapper) and if you go there an play I recommend you ask for him by name.  Within five holes he was handling me clubs without any discussion and with only one exception he was right every time.  He knew when to chat, when to keep quiet and got me round in 5 over par (handicap 7) and no double bogies or worse….which in unusual for me (I normally throw in at least one double bogey every round if not two).  The highlight was consecutive birdies at holes 13 & 14, stroke index 6 & 4, so not particularly easy holes!

The course is very different to The Links.  Much flatter and better worked into the natural surroundings.  Lots more water around.  In fact there is water on around 16 of the 18 holes, but for someone with my length & handicap, there are probably only 9 holes where it is truly in play.

My only encounter with the water was actually on the 18th.  I pushed my 3 wood second shot into the water right of the fairway/green, when frankly I should have hit a 4 iron to 100 yards out and left a wedge for my third shot.  As it was the point where my ball crossed the hazard was 105 yards out and with a hard 52 degree wedge to 12”, it was a tap in for a five!

Having played both courses I can’t actually choose a favourite as they are so different in terms of layout and the types of holes.  If you spray the ball around, then I think The Links is much more forgiving.

I really nice touch on the 18th green was Miguel asking me to write a little recommendation for him in a small notebook, which I was of course very happy to do.  I also left him the address of this blog, so one day I hope he’ll pop up below with a comment!

BethPage – Yellow & Black Course

BethPage State Park Welcome Sign

BethPage State Park welcome sign

I had a week in New York City last week on a combined pleasure/business trip so took my clubs.  On Saturday I decided to go out to BethPage State Park and play some golf.

Unfortunately I was there a week before the Black Course opened so had to settle for one of the others.

I left Manhattan at 9:15 on the Long Island Railroad and it was a pleasant 54min journey to Farmingdale Station (don’t get off at BethPage station – apparently there are fewer cabs).  The cabbies clearly know what time the trains get in as there were 3 or 4 waiting.  Don’t be surprised that they put 2, 3 or even 4 people in each cab.  If they do, they still charge you a flat rate $4 per person.  When I came back my myself it was still only $5.

I pitched up at around 10:15 and only had a 45min wait before teeing off on the Yellow Course.

The following day I thought I’d go back again and see if I could get on the Red Course.  So on Sunday morning I got up at 6:30 am, got the train from Penn Station at 7:15 and was at the clubhouse by 8:15.  The first tee time for a “single” on the Red was at 11:40!!!  Yep, an over three hour wait.  So I called a taxi (+1 516 249 1212) and headed back to Farmingdale to get a train straight back into Manhattan.

So, my top tip, is see if you can register ahead of time and use the phone reservation system.  You HAVE to be registered and the information on the website does not make it clear if non-US residents can register in this way.  But it would be worth checking/trying.

The Yellow Course

Considered by everyone to be the easiest course, it still took me 17 over par to get round (my exact handicap is 7.5 ) but it was freezing cold and blowing a hoolie, so in my own defence it wasn’t just my wayward driving that was to blame!

The course was in OK condition bearing in mind New York only just seemed to be coming out of winter weather so I suspect there’s been little or no “growing weather”.  The greens had been punched & sanded the week before so they were not in best condition.

Overall, I enjoyed my day out.  In summer I suspect the courses all look magnificent but with no leaves on the trees it was all pretty barren in early April.

Slow Play

I write this post the day after 14 year old Tianlang Guan was penalised one stroke for slow play in The Masters.  Be prepared for at least a five hour round at BethPage.  This is a “public” golf course which means that pretty much anyone can turn up and play and with 8min gaps between tee times, the course stacks up pretty quickly.  You have been warned.

 

 

Gilroy/Taylor Tour 2012 final result

This season was a bit of a disaster for me personally. Back in the summer I was 8:2 up on my best friend Mark having had a great run of form during the spring & early summer.

However, in the later half of the year my form deserted me just at the same time as he found his.

This culminated with him winning eight straight matches on the bounce and taking the 2012 Gilroy/Taylor Tour 8:10.

I could try and make excuses about being busy at work, not making enough time to practice etc etc, but that would all be “horse”. He just played better than me for those eight games.

Roll on 2013′s competition.

Diaries (a golf joke)

Wife’s Diary:
Tonight, I thought my husband was acting weird. We had made plans to
meet at a nice restaurant for dinner. I was shopping with my friends
all day long, so I thought he was upset at the fact that I was a bit
late, but he made no comment on it. Conversation wasn’t flowing, so I
suggested that we go somewhere quiet so we could talk. He agreed, but
he didn’t say much.

I asked him what was wrong; He said, ‘Nothing..’ I asked him if it was
my fault that he was upset. He said he wasn’t upset, that it had
nothing to do with me, and not to worry about it. On the way home, I
told him that I loved him. He smiled slightly, and kept driving. I
can’t explain his behaviour. I don’t know why he didn’t say, ‘I love
you, too.’

When we got home, I felt as if I had lost him completely, as if he
wanted nothing to do with me anymore. He just sat there quietly, and
watched TV. He continued to seem distant and absent. Finally, with
silence all around us, I decided to go to bed. About 15 minutes later,
he came to bed. But I still felt that he was distracted, and his
thoughts were somewhere else. He fell asleep; I cried. I don’t know
what to do. I’m almost sure that his thoughts are with someone else.
My life is a disaster.

Husbands Diary:
A two-foot putt……….who the hell misses a two-foot putt ?

Winter swing changes underway

I had a lesson last week with @PaulMitchell and we’ve started work on my winter swing changes. The first hour we just looked at me widening my takeaway in order to stop me taking the club back on the inside.

Then instead of a change of direction, coming “over the top” on the start of the downswing, trying to keep the club on a flatter plane on the downswing and back to address.

Yep, it felt weird, but I thought what the hell, let’s take it out on the course over the weekend. In Saturday’s medal I shot 79 with a quadruple bogey. CSS went up to 70 and so playing off my 8 handicap I got cut 0.2. Excellent. Then on Sunday in a £5 game with two friends I shot a 78 with nine single bogeys, no doubles and no birdies.

So pretty tidy rounds considering I was being “consciously competent” about my new swing plane i.e. properly thinking about it every time I swung the club. The good news is that the Gilroy/Taylor Cup is now nicely placed at 9:9 with probably only a few more rounds to be fitted in before the end of the year. It would be nice to hang on to the cup for a second year in succession.

Royal Birkdale in even more of a hoolie

Royal Birkdale front entrance

Royal Birkdale front entrance

My week of links golf continued this week with a two day trip to Birkdale.  The plan was to play on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning.  I’ve been very lucky to play some of the great links courses in the UK over the last six years (The Old Course, Prestwick, Royal Troon, Turnberry, Saunton, Princes, Royal Porthcawl) but as I drove up the M5/M6/M62/M58 I have to say that my spine was tingling a little bit at the thought of playing one of the true greats.

As you turn off the main road and into the car park the art deco club house right in front of you.  Apparently from the course it was designed to look a little like an ocean liner.

The club house was everything you would expect from a club of the history and quality of Royal Birkdale.  It’s always a good sign when there is a massive pile of fluffy towels in the locker room.

I met my host, Richard Gardiner of Fathom Consulting and there was plenty of time to sit in front of the big bay window and stare down the 18th fairway whilst having a nice cup of tea.

So, off to the first tee. There was a 3-4 club wind howling over our left shoulder.  You just knew that it was going to be a brutal test of golf.  So with a quick hello to the starter we were off.  A 3 wood, 5 iron, chip & two putts later I’d walked off with my first point of the day.

What a fabulous golf course it is.  You can see why the Pros love it so much when it hosts The Open.  Yes there are a few blind shots, but compared to some links courses the fairways were pretty flat and your ball was not thrown left or right when you hit them.  And therein lies my problem.  Hitting the fairways on a course like this is vital.  The rough was horrible, if you missed the second cut that was it, your ball was gone.  The expression “knowing were to miss” was never more true.

18 holes later we were back in the club house celebrating surviving one of the toughest rounds of golf any of us had ever played.  I was quite happy with my 25 points!

That night it was off to stay in Southport itself.  A cheap room at the Britannia Prince of Wales hotel (and when I said cheap, I mean cheap) but the nice thing about the Britannia chain is “it does what it says on the tin”.  Clean, warm room and a perfectly acceptable breakfast, all for £59.  For dinner we went to The Warehouse a restaurant co-owned by Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard.  Initially a little quiet when we arrived it liven up a bit.  Great food, excellent wine list and good service was all we needed.  A nightcap at The Vincent Hotel followed and as soon as we were back at the hotel I was asleep before I’m turned the bedroom light off!

Birkdale scorecard

Birkdale scorecard

Friday morning dawned and I looked out the window.  Unbelieveably the wind had got worse, when we assembled for breakfast there were more than a few giggles in expectation of what lay ahead.  I felt that getting anywhere yesterday’s 25pts was going to be a good result.

Down to the club and we changed into “full wets” as it was very, very, grey overhead and a couple of showers blew through before we went out. Then we were off.  3 wood, 4 iron, a 40 yard chip and three putts later and I was off to a “blob” start.

My scorecard is on the right.  It’s a bit all over the place as you can see.  It was the windiest conditions I’ve EVER played golf in bar none. In fact none of the three of us could remember a time when we had played in windier conditions.

Take the 13th for example.  422 yard par 4.  Even with a brilliant punch drive, it only travelled 190 yards. So now you’re faced with a 232 yard second shot, what the hell do you do then?  Driver off the deck was never my favourite shot.

On another occasion one of my fellow players hit a full 4 rescue from 140 yards and only just made the front of the green.

When we got into the club house and sat down for lunch I started celebrating my 23 points, it took the money and was close enough to yesterday’s 25 points bearing mind the worsened conditions.  We then found out that the Ladies British Open had been suspended due to the high winds. Royal Liverpol (Hoylake) is probably only 20 miles away down the coast as the crow flies so I can completely understand why.   We were being buffeted on the tee and the balls were oscillating on the greens.

Royal Birkdale club house from the 18th fairway

Royal Birkdale club house from the 18th fairway

The photo on the right was taken from the 18th fairway on Friday morning.  Look at the sky beyond the club house, that was what it was like all morning.

If you get the chance to play the course, take it.  Just pray that you get some decent weather else it’s likely to destroy your golf game if you are not in complete control of your golf ball.

Royal Porthcawl in a bit of a hoolie!

Teapot at Royal Porthcawl

Today I had the pleasure of playing at Royal Porthcawl for the first time.  A quick flit from Bristol along the M4 and over the River Severn, scoot past Cardiff and hang a left takes you down to the coast.  As you approach the clubhouse you pass the old Miners Rest which was established as a seaside convalescent hospital for the working classes, particularly miners, in 1862.

We’d driven over in pretty reasonable weather but the second we pulled into the car park it absolutely chucked it down with rain.  At that precise moment I was all for going home.  But, a glance across the bay to Swansea showed that in the howling wind it was going to blow over pretty quickly.

We were there in plenty of time to have a good look round the clubhouse and what a beautifully old quaint place it was (in places) by blended with a nice modern dining room where we were to later have lunch.

The old parts of the clubhouse were festooned with all kinds of golfing memorabilia along with rows and rows of old black & white photos of past captains.

Royal Portcawl 1st hole

So off to the first tee. A fairly gentle par 4 to start at 353 off the white tees, but an overall course length of 6,580 yards off the whites, you knew was going to be a challenge in the wind.  And when I say wind, I mean something like a 3-4 club window.

I won’t talk you through every hole, but suffice to say that coming in with 25pts shows just how tough a course it was to play in the wind.

This is definitely a course I shall be returning to.  Apparently from Nov – Mar you can get a four-ball for £200 including bacon roll/coffee before you go out.  A bargain for when your inland/parkland course is waterlogged.

The Ailsa Course at Turnberry


Teeing off on the 9th hole on the Ailsa Course at Turnberry
What a fantastic day out yesterday on The Ailsa Course at Turnberry Resort. A twilight rate of £95, teeing off at 4pm with MrsG. We were paired with two other guys, but after two great drives, two greens in regulation and two two putts from yours truly, they politely asked us to “go on” and leave them to their game…it was quite funny!

We treated ourselves to two caddies (£40 cash in hand + tip). MrsG had Martin who it turns out works on the greenkeeping staff and I had Bill. Turns out after three holes that I worked out that Bill was the same caddie I had when we played the course last summer.

Anyway, back to the golf. I shot 11 over (playing off an 8 handicap) with a couple of double bogeys. The biggest problem? The fairway bunkers. They are JUST in the right place for my driving distance, I ended up in four of them, so there’s four shots lost right there.

Right from the greeting by the Starter to when he puts a course planner in your hand, you know you’re in for a treat. That said, the course planner is flipping complicated. There are more lines on the greens than on a game of noughts and crosses!!

The course was in magnificent condition. The Senior Open was there just two weeks before. Green is not the word for the course, I’ve never seen the fairways look so green, and the greens were the same. Still running very true but a tad on the fluffy side.

David & MrsG on the 8th tee of The Ailsa Course at Turnberry

My only real birdie chance was the par 5 17th.  A good drive to the left hand short rough, a 3 wood to 20 yards short of the green taking out the two bunkers short and right left a chip & a putt.  The chip was great, to around 5ft, but a slight misread on the putt saw it slide by the left side by just an inch or so.  VERY fustrating.

If you’ve never played the course I’d seriously encourage you to make your way to the West Coast of Scotland at this time of year. If you rock up for a week there’s a REALLY good chance you’ll find a calm, sunny afternoon where you can go and play The Ailsa. We managed to book the day before, so often there is not too much pressure on tee times.

After the golf it was in to the clubhouse for a chilled glass of wine before trekking back up to Troon (our base for the week) via the Taj Tandoori, a great indian restaurant in Prestwick.  They have buffet nights on Tues, Thurs & Sun.

Henbury GC annual club championships RD1

Today was the first round of our Club Championships.  I had a reasonable start time of 8:40 and then proceeded to have a distinctly average round as you can see from below.

Henbury Golf Club
White Tees 70.0 / 124
Bristol, Avon United Kingdom
June 2, 2012
EAGLE BIRDIE PAR BOGEY 2BOGEY+
GILLY 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 OUT
WHITE 400 374 383 135 485 462 157 394 320 3110
HANDICAP 9 13 5 17 7 1 15 3 11
PAR 4 4 4 3 5 4 3 4 4 35
SCORE 4 4 5 6 6 5 2 6 4 42
ROUND SCORE E E E +3 +3 +3 +2 +3 +3 +3
NET SCORE 4 4 4 6 5 4 2 5 4 38
TEE CLUB 1W 1W 1W 6i 1W 1W 6i 1W
FAIRWAYS ⇒ x ⇐ ⇐ ⇒ x ⇐ 29%
GIR x x x x 44%
PUTTS 2 2 2 2 2 2 1 2 2 17
SAND SHOTS 2 2
PENALTIES

 

Henbury Golf Club
White Tees 70.0 / 124
Bristol, Avon United Kingdom
June 2, 2012
EAGLE BIRDIE PAR BOGEY 2BOGEY+
GILLY 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 IN TOTAL
WHITE 291 201 379 149 536 402 338 166 435 2897 6007
HANDICAP 12 10 4 18 8 2 14 16 6
PAR 4 3 4 3 5 4 4 3 4 34 69
SCORE 4 4 6 4 4 4 4 3 6 39 81
ROUND SCORE +3 +4 +5 +6 +5 +4 +4 +4 +5 +5 +5
NET SCORE 4 4 5 4 4 3 4 3 5 36 74
TEE CLUB 1W 6i 1W 6i 1W 1W 1W 6i
FAIRWAYS x ⇒ x x ⇒ ⇒ 50% 38%
GIR x x x x x 56% 50%
PUTTS 2 1 2 1 1 2 2 2 2 15 1.8/32
SAND SHOTS 2 2 4 6
PENALTIES 1 1 1

It was just a bit rubbish.  I started OK, but then played rubbish through the middle holes and struggled with my bunker play  With the exception of the 18th I finished quite strongly.  And, I’ve just found out that a gross 81 was plenty good enough to make the cut and have a 10:30 tee time for Sunday.

I need to play well tomorrow to stop myself going from 7.3 -> 7.4 -> 7.5 in one weekend…..I like being a 7 handicap golfer!!

The Lodge at Prince’s (Kent)

Prince's Golf Club logoFor the fifth year in the row I had the pleasure of playing in the Boys & Maughan Solicitors annual charity golf day. This year was a bit different as I stayed at the brand new The Lodge at Princes. I’ve driven past this place for the last four years that I’ve been coming down to play in my client’s charity golf day. Each time I’ve kind of thought what a great place it would be to stay rather than staying in Sandwich.

The Lodge is the refurbished old Prince’s clubhouse which is located on the boundary between Royal St. George’s and Prince’s. The place had only been open 18 days so I’m going to completely forgive any teething problems. I’m not sure how long it’s been closed, but it

On the outside it clearly looks like the place has just opened. There are still a few works going on, but nothing that particularly detracts from the experience.

On the inside, the finish of everything was fabulous. Clearly everything smelled very “new” but that was just a bonus. The reception staff were all clued up and a few minutes after arriving I was in my room. Room 23, a room with a balcony overlooking the 5th green of the Shore course. A balcony where once upon a time Gene Sarazen was presented with The Claret Jug when in the 1932 he won The Open Championship. To say that the place has history is an understatement.

So back to 2012. The rooms are fabulous. Modern furnishings, beautiful white ben linen, hot showers.

I had a fantastic burger & chips in the bar on the first night and breakfast in the Brasserie which was cooked to order and was VERY good. Oh, and if you like a chocolate croissant, make sure you get them as soon as they bring them out as they are still warm.

If you are looking for a “stay & play package” then I can thoroughly recommend The Lodge at Prince’s for all around GREAT golf accommodation in Kent.

Attribution

1) The photo of the old clubhouse is © Nick Smith.

2) The photo of the burned down clubhouse is © John Baker

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