Happy New Year everybody. Here’s to an exciting 2019.
But first a quick look ahead to 2020 and the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. Congratulations to Padraig Harrington, the pride of Stackstown, on being appointed Europe’s captain. [Photo by Getty Images.] We’ll be hearing millions of words from the Dubliner, a man of singular mind if ever there was one, so for the time being we’re just saying well done and we’re really looking forward to the next couple of years in your company.
New year, new Ryder Cup captain, new Rules of Golf. Yes, they’re here and in play at last and we’ve all got our about-to-be-well-thumbed wee books, our crib sheets and our questions. And on the greens, there’s at least one extra question: Pin attended? Out? Or just in? After a whole 22 holes under the new regime, I think that most of the time I’ll be going with in, unattended. If it’s good enough for Bryson James Aldrich DeChambeau, who’s well up there with Harrington in the Bundesliga of meticulousness, it’s good enough for me.
DeC is a student of physics, among other things and reckons that leaving the pin in will be a help most of the time. Of course, the fact that golf is played outdoors in conditions that are not always consistent or controllable often does the young Californian’s head in. Seeing his bewilderment and mystification when something goes awry, scuppering his best laid plans, the disbelieving rechecking of his double-double-checked data, is one of the delights of modern tournament golf. His expressions are priceless. In Kapalua in Hawaii the other week, it was very, very windy and that had to be factored in to the putting equation in an unexpected way: if the flag was left in and unattended, it made a hell of a noise, whipping to and fro and disturbing the equilibrium. How nice to know that even physics buffs can be discombobulated.
Apparently Jordan Spieth – remember him, young lad, going to be winning everything for ever before a season as a relative mortal? – is not a fan of the new drop from knee height. And neither am I, though not, I suspect, for the same reason. It’s just a bend too far for those of us coming to terms with varying degrees of decrepitude as a fact of daily life. If I’d paid closer attention during the prolonged consultation period, perhaps I’d have realised that a more sensible option would have been to be less prescriptive and allow a bit of leeway between shoulder and knee. Surprising really because it’s not as though the R&A and the USGA are bodies stocked with lissom youngsters – or supple Sam Sneads (look up what he could do to a door lintel well into his 70s) – without a creak between them.
Perhaps it’s just my dropping technique that needs work, a loose arm, a modest lean and a slight flex of the knees might do the job without making my genius osteopath Kay work harder than she already has to. It’s early days after all.
It’s also an exciting time at Whittington Heath GC for another reason: the diggers have arrived, the heavy plant is crossing and our transformation is under way. We have to check the board outside the pro’s shop for the course du jour and someone suggested that the flag should be at half mast, to mark the end of an era, that we should be in mourning.
On the contrary, since being optimistic always beats the alternative (are you with me, Padraig?), I think we should be rejoicing and looking forward to a new era, whatever the inconveniences. There have been a lot of changes in the club’s 133 years (founded 1886) and a golf course is a living thing, always a work in progress. We’re blessed with a rare bit of Staffordshire heathland, ideal for golf and playable all year, not mud up to the eyeballs or flooded and we benefitted from a bit of Harry Colt magic in the 1920s. Our job now is not to stuff that up!
Finally, good luck to our new ladies’ captain, Suzanne, Zany Zanny, Rundle. She was welcomed into office at the ladies’ AGM on Tuesday and, barring the unexpected, will be confirmed at the club AGM tonight. There’s quite a year ahead and if her brilliant (I exaggerate not a jot – Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn would have listened and wept, even Boris would have recognised a rival of substance) call to arms is anything to go by, we’re in for quite a ride. Let’s hope we can do her justice. My road to hell is usually littered with good intentions but I’m doing my bit by getting an early night….