Well, this is a first for the blog: it’s being written in the car as I hurtle – at a legal speed, natch – along the A55 in North Wales towards the Conwy (Caernarvonshire) Golf Club or, in Welsh, Clwb Golff Conwy (Sir Gaernarfon). It’s where we’ll be heading for the Curtis Cup in 2020, a treat in store.
You’ll be glad to know that I’m not driving and being able to clack away on the keyboard while someone else attends to the important task of getting us to the do on time and in one piece just confirms my view that having a chauffeur is one of life’s great luxuries. If I had unlimited funds that were not quite so unlimited that they rose to a helicopter of my own, I’d have a chauffeur. Bliss. Perhaps that underlying lack of commitment and enthusiasm explains why I’m still in the remedial class (the longest-serving and sole member) at the Lichfield group of IAM, the Institute of Advanced Motorists.
Don’t tell Mo but my latest observer (the brave soul who cowers in the passenger seat and assesses your competence), to whom I confessed my chauffeur fantasy, is also a biker and he and his pal, dressed in their leathers and brimming with joie de vivre, gave a very entertaining and hair-raising talk to the motoring group on the joys and perils of taking to the road on two wheels. Perhaps I’ll ditch the car and get a motorbike, not so much a mid-life more an end-of-life crisis.There’s a lot of talk about golf being in crisis, hence initiatives like GolfSixes, a speedy two-person team matchplay competition over the short sprint of six holes. This year the men were kept on their toes by two women’s teams – the England pair of Georgia Hall and Charley Hull and Mel Reid, another Englishwoman, who was playing with Spain’s Carlota Ciganda – and a mixed team featuring Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew and Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn. The weather was great, from what I saw on the telly everyone at the Centurion Club, just west of St Albans, was having a lot of fun and the competition was fierce.
The captains looked a little rusty but Hall and Hull and Reid and Ciganda made it through the group stages before losing in the quarter-finals. Hall and Hull lost to Ireland’s Gavin Moynihan and Paul Dunne, who went on to win the whole thing, while Reid and Ciganda were beaten by the Australians Wade Ormsby and Sam Brazel.“We got a lot of exposure and that’s what we need,” Reid said. “We don’t get that. So it’s been really, really good for women’s golf, which hopefully helps it because it needs help….
“We’ve hopefully opened a few more eyes to women’s golf and that we can compete and that we are pretty good at what we do…..Hopefully, it’s inspired not just a few more young girls but young guys and men, women, all over to take up the game. That’s ultimately what we want to do.”
It’s not so much getting people into the game that’s the problem, it’s keeping them there. And what’s the point of getting loads of kids and adults interested if there’s nowhere for them to play, if, when push comes to shove or pull comes to slice, it’s just too hard for them to get a game? That’s a conundrum that remains to be solved – and remaining solvent is also a big part of the problem. The game has to be accessible in every sense of the word.
By most measures, the Centurion Club is an exclusive, high end joint – that’s how it promotes itself in the stuff I’ve read – and in my naive way I always thought it was a bit of an odd choice for a swinging, allegedly populist shindig like GolfSixes. There’s still something jarring about that match but I don’t suppose there was a local muni or 9-holer that fitted the bill.
Instead of closing local munis we should be nurturing them and enhancing them but that takes money, time, effort and will. It’s not a cheap option but at its best golf is a game for a lifetime, with health and social benefits that have been widely touted. We’re testament to that but how lucky were we to grow up within (short) walking distance of one of the best courses in the world and have easy access to many more at affordable prices? I read somewhere recently that everything in life comes down to luck and looking around it’s hard to argue.
Talking of luck, I took part in a flashmob singalong in amongst the market stalls on the Parade in Sutton Coldfield last Saturday – not a sentence I ever thought I’d write and not something the friends who know me as a tone deaf standing at the back and miming will believe. It was great fun in the sun and was enjoyed by young and old. Roll on the next one.