The older I get, the more I realise how lucky I am, how lucky I’ve been, for reasons that have absolutely nothing at all to do with me (parents; place of birth; proximity to world-class golf courses; playing those world-class golf courses). I’ve touched on this subject before but it was brought home to me again this week when I heard that the R&A had unveiled “a new Women in Golf Charter as part of the organisation’s drive to increase the number of women and girls participating in golf and to encourage more opportunities for women to work within the golf industry”.
The event, which took place in London at The View from the Shard (standard scratch?), included representatives of the myriad golf organisations who have signed the Charter so far: the European Tour, Ladies’ European Tour, European Golf Association, Professional Golfers’ Association, European Disability Golf Association, Golf Australia, Golf Canada, Golfing Union of Ireland, England Golf, Irish Ladies Golf Union and Scottish Golf. That’s a good start and I wish them well, bearing in mind that where all these initiatives to get people, women or not, into golf tend to falter is when it comes to keeping those people involved. Golf has to make itself accessible, affordable and enjoyable as well as inclusive.I played the New Course at Walton Heath on Saturday – no scoring involved, thank goodness, because the heather and rough are tough and the greens take a bit of knowing – and there was scarcely a tree in sight. Dad, who grew up on the links at Rosses Point and played most of his adult golf at Portstewart, where trees have to be tough, stubborn and resilient to root, would have been in heaven (apart from the hell of carries that test the shorter hitters to their limits). Playing at home at Whittington Heath on Tuesday, I looked at our trees – the oaks in particular, bitter enemies of heathland – with renewed malevolence. Sadly, hard though I concentrated, I lacked the Potterish wizardry to vaporise them on the spot. That’ll take a lot of hard work and persuasion but heathland is increasingly rare and it’s worth persevering to preserve it.
I’ve also, not to put too fine a point on it, taken a scunner agin rough in almost all its forms. Just what is it for? It’s probably responsible for more slow play than the slowest of slowcoaches and causes the sort of frustration and despair that make people give up the game when, really, they should still be pottering happily around the course with their friends, getting their fresh air and exercise and the occasional par, even the odd birdie. Contrary to popular opinion, rough is not required to make a course a good test of golf and wasp-waisted fairways should be even rarer on a day-to-day members’ course than a wasp-waisted member. You want people to play golf and keep playing? Make the golf courses playable. And the golf clubs welcoming.Anyway, that’s enough fulminating for one blog. What’s going on this week? Lots, is the answer. There’s the Jabra Ladies Open at the Evian Resort Golf Course in Evian-les-Bains, where the rewards include two places in the Evian Championship, the 5th major of the women’s season and a place in the Ricoh Women’s British Open; the Brabazon Trophy, more formally known as the English Men’s Open Amateur Strokeplay Championship, at Frilford Heath, near Oxford; the Memorial, at Muirfield Village, Jack’s place in Columbus, Ohio, where Maureen and I had the golfing experience of our lives, not least because we spent the week in the room next to Tiger Woods and hobnobbed with Barbara and Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Padraig Harrington and David Feherty, among others; the Maguire twins, Lisa and Leona, are gearing up for their professional debut at the ShopRite LPGA Classic Presented by Acer in New Jersey next week; and there’s the US Women’s Open Championship at Shoal Creek in an Alabama made super soggy by Tropical Storm Alberto (5 or 6 inches of rain in a night anyone?)
Back in Europe, in Denmark, Laura Davies, the first Dame of golf, continues her trailblazing career by becoming the first woman to compete against the men on an over-50s tour. She’s playing in the Staysure Tour’s ShipcoMasters promoted by Simon’s Golf Club in Kvistgard (there should be two little dots over the ‘a’ but not sure where to find them on my keyboard). It’s a bit of a stellar field, featuring former Ryder Cup captains Ian Woosnam, Jose Maria Olazabal, Paul McGinley and Colin Montgomerie. They’ve all won the Ryder Cup – as captains and players – but they’ll be terrified of finishing behind LD in the 3-round event that starts today.
Chances are if any of them finish ahead of Paul Broadhurst, they’ll win the title. The Atherstone man won the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship in Michigan last Sunday by four shots, his second senior major, to add to The Senior Open Presented by Rolex that he won at Carnoustie in 2016. He said, wryly, “I just wish I was playing like this on the main tour 20 years ago!” Better late than never Paul. Many congrats.