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Editor:

Phil Nicholas

elcome to issue three of Staffordshire Golfer, extra demand has led to us adding more pages to this edition and given us the opportunity to try a few new ideas.

The credit crunch piece has many voucher offers for you to take advantage of, let’s make this open championship month of hopefully great weather a memorable and extremely busy one for all of Staffordshire’s 53 golf courses.

We have been out and about in the county the last month collecting information and opinion on a subject that none of us are unfamiliar with. The credit crunch feature focuses on just how much clubs and golfers are affected at present in Staffordshire. Without digging too deep our findings indicated these may well be troubled times for many of this regions fine golf clubs, so Staffordshire Golfer wishes to issue a call to arms.

This month also sees the launch of our instruction section, 4 pros, all from Staffordshire clubs will be regularly contributing to these pages in the future, between them they will cover all teaching aspects of the game, they introduce themselves in this issue.

To all of our counties golfers and beyond, whether you are member, pay-and-player or nomadic visitor, if the slump has left your clubs gathering dust in the garage, blow the cobwebs off, get out there and fill those fairways. In (almost) the words of the great Sir Robert Geldof, don’t go to the pub, stay in tonight and give us your -------- green fees tomorrow!

Once again we have been left humbled and heart warmed by the reception and good wishes we receive from the counties golfers and magazine readers, we intend to reward your support by providing even more in the way of news, info, reviews and reader offers both here and at Staffordshire Golfers website. Once again a big thanks to everyone out there we’ve spoken to over the last month for the positive feedback, keep it coming and have a great golfing August.

Euan Stubbs Managing Director euan@staffordshiregolfer.co.uk Jane Stubbs

Business Development Director jane@staffordshiregolfer.co.uk

Phillip Nicholas

Managing Editor editor@staffordshiregolfer.co.uk

Alexander Baras

Art Director design@staffordshiregolfer.co.uk

Bill Eagles

Competition and Marketing manager competitions@staffordshiregolfer.co.uk

Ange Cooke Photographer ange@staffordshiregolfer.co.uk Staffordshire Golfer St James House Webberley Lane Stoke-on-Trent Staffordshire ST3 1RJ t:01782597000

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August-september • 2009


Wakey's world Driver

Taylormade R7 Superquad

3 wood

Taylormade R9

Rescue clubs

Adams 2 iron & 3 iron

Irons

Taylormade R7 TP`s 4 -pw

Sand Wedge

Taylormade 52 deg

Lob Wedge

Taylormade 58 deg

Putter

Yes Donna

Balls

Taylormade Red

French Frustration It was a case of so near yet so far for Simon in the last month. Despite producing his best performances of the season costly mistakes on closing holes spoiled his chances of a couple of important French pay days. A tied 15th finish at the St Omer Open could have been so much better but for the last 3 holes in each round and at the French Open it got even more frustrating. 3 under par after 13 holes of round 2 Simon was heading for a profitable weekend. “Our group fell behind on the clock which has never happened to me before, we were on the clock for the last few holes, the distraction cost me some shots and we needed to birdie the 18th to make the cut but found some thick rough and that was that. I shouldn’t have let it happen and I was furious because id played my best golf of the year up to that point”. Simon says his work with new coach Jamie Gough is starting to pay dividends and despite the Paris disappointment is looking forward to the next few tournaments. “I feel I’m playing as well now as I’ve ever done, if I can just cut out those silly mistakes at the end of rounds and relax a bit I can turn my season around”.

Staffordshire Golfer

Simon currently stands 193rd in the Race to Dubai and as the season reaches half-way the pressure is growing to rise up the standings if he’s to comfortably retain his card. “Of course it’s a worry at present, but it’s not affected my confidence, it’s more of a frustration at playing some good golf without the results I feel I deserve”. At the time of going to press Simon is at Loch Lomond for the Scottish open, his favourite tour venue not just for the stunning location but also because he gets a chance to do some flying whilst there “The B&B we stay at has a couple of seaplanes parked outside and thanks to the proprietor I get the chance to take a flight or two in them, we just head out to deserted beaches on the Scottish coast in them, it’s something we relish doing every year at Loch Lomond”. We wish Simon well for Loch Lomond and the next few events. We will update his progress regularly on Wakey’s World on our website. www.Simonwakefieldgolf.com

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S

taffordshire Golfer turned to Pro Golf Journalism for the first time this issue when we visited South Staffordshire GC to cover the recent PTS Invitational event. The tournament formed part of the 5 event Midlands Order of Merit and thanks to generous sponsorship boasted a prize fund of £17,000 making it the richest ever Midlands tour championship.

aat theclose shave PTS Invitational

The three day event included two pro-am rounds running alongside the 54 hole pro contest, Weds and Thurs provided a closely run pro-am battle resulting in a three-way tie at the top of the leaderboard. After a countback, winners Matt Morris and Tony Harris emerged their second win at the event. Come the Friday and the final round there were only 8 shots separating the 33 remaining pros. The tight lay out of the course, lightening fast greens and tricky pin positions made birdie opportunities a tough proposition and ensured no-one would run away with it. And so it proved, two members of the final group reached the final hole as joint leaders on -7, Craig Shave (Whetstone GC) and Lee Clarke (Beeston Fields) both however let nerves get to them and each produced a bogey letting in Paul Wesselingh (Kedleston Park) to join them in a three way play -off all finishing -6. In the play-off all three found the 18th green in two but in deteriorating weather conditions it was Shave who held his nerve by holing a 20 foot birdie putt to take the title. After missing a 5 footer at the same green in regulation he was an understandably relieved golfer afterwards. “I let the pressure get to me a bit first time round, so it was a big thing for me to hole that putt in the play-off, especially against Lee and Paul.” After two events Shave,Clarke and Wesselingh sit close together at the top of the Midlands order of merit and look set for a close battle for this season’s title with three events left. Staffordshire Golfer would like to thank South Staffs for their hospitality and Sky Sports for helping us with our coverage.

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august-september • 2009


news

THE CHASE PRO-AM S

taffordshire Golfer visited The Chase GC at Penkridge at the end of June for the Midlands PGA order of merit Pro-am, many of the regions finest pros turned up for what for them was the first in a three day event series that all together made up the PGA City Order of Merit. Our presence at the event had an added twist to it, i.e we weren’t just covering it, thanks to our overexuberant marketing dept we played in it too! So after a frenetic week of non stop training we turned up nervously for our debut pro-am wondering which of the poor pros would be saddled with the task of carrying Staffs Golfers finest around the Chase. Paul Wesselingh drew the short straw, one of the Midlands most successful pros and recent joint runner up at the PTS invitational he was a golfer Staffordshire Golfer

bang in form. Paul proved to be great company and a big help to us, easing our nerves from the off, the four of us produced some steady golf without too many fireworks but were plodding on nicely till we reached the turn and the rain started. The rain soon turned into something more like a monsoon , greens became flooded , play was suspended, everyone trooped back to the clubhouse and didn’t re-emerge . The event has been re-scheduled for Sept 4th when we will return and whilst we’re quite delighted to have another crack, convinced we’ll do better next time, spare a thought for pro James Whatley who blazed his way around the Chase and reached -8 before the elements cruelly robbed him of his score. Issue 5 of Staffs Golfer will report on the re-arranged event. 7


McKnight Wins the Stag!

PRO of the Month

This month’s Pro of the Month is also, we’re pretty sure Staffordshire’s longest serving pro at the same club. Danny Scullion’s association with Ingestre Golf Club goes back as far as 1967 when he joined the then Kingswood Hill Club as a junior member. His steady progress saw him win the Staffordshire boys Championship at the age of 15 and he eventually became the county’s boys captain. Spells at Brocton, Leek and Stafford Castle followed before Danny turned pro and played on the European Tour 1975-78 recording a best finish of 28th at the B&H championship at Fulford. The call of the newly built Ingestre however

J

arred Mcknight has been a busy and rather successful amateur golfer lately. An intermediate member at Whittington Heath, Jarred won the prestigious Stag competition at Beau Desert in May with a two round score of 140 and a three shot victory. Pictured here with his trophy he then went on to win the Coventry based Finham Bowl and at Enville Golf Club he played and prevailed at the regional open qualifier. The good run ended there sadly as he narrowly failed to qualify for Turnberry at Glasgow Gailes in the final qualifier. Nevertheless Jarred’s fine achievements more than justify some column inches here.

If there is a highly regarded professional at your club you feel is deserving of the ‘pro of the month’ status please nominate him/her by emailing us at editor@staffordshiregolfer.co.uk

P

eter Baker, ex-Ryder Cup star and director of golf at South Staffs GC had a six days of golf to remember at the start of the month. He took part in the Challenge Tour’s Credit Suisse Challenge in Switzerland and come the Sunday night was celebrating victory, his 18 under par total was enough for a one shot win, 22,400 euros and elevation to 10th spot in the challenge tour rankings. Not one to rest on his laurels Baker turned up at the Gailes Links near Glasgow the very next day for two rounds of final qualifying for this years Open Championship. His great form continued and two 69’s saw him qualify comfortably in 2nd place, we look forward to seeing how he performs at Turnberry, July 16-19 as well as Robert Rock, Staffordshire’s other participant.

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saw him return as full time head pro in 1978 and there he still remains to this day. Danny plays a real handson role at the club and plays a major part in course development and maintenance. His highlights from his 31 years have been watching a young Suzanne Strudwick turn from raw junior to European tour winner under his tutelage and seeing all of his 7 assistant pros become successful full time club pros at courses all over the country. Danny is also highly influential in teaching juniors, from 1991-2000 he was Staffordshire county boys coach. Ingestre just wouldn’t be where it is today without Danny, our latest Pro of the month.

Order of Merit! T

he Third Midlands Order of Merit event held recently at Kedleston Park GC near Derby was notable for our region as it produced the first Staffs based winner this season. Steve Carter from South Staffs who a few weeks earlier had disappointed somewhat on his home course at the PTS Invitational bounced back to form at the Floresta Midlands Masters, and what a shot he produced to win it! A tight 36 hole affair came down to a three way play again between Carter, Daniel Greenwood (Forest Pines) and PTS winner Craig Shave all finishing on -7. Shave’s bogey on the first play-off hole saw him

knocked out, then on the second hole Carter produced a memorable moment to win, his 30 yard chip shot form off the final green rolled all the way into the hole for birdie and his first Midlands Pro win. Carter was stunned by the manner of his triumph. “I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was stone dead. My aim was to make a four and force another play-off hole but it rolled like a putt and when it dropped in, it was just amazing! Victory lifted Carter into the top ten in the Order of Merit, Shave now sits top of the standings with two events left. august-september • 2009


news

100 years of golf at Greenway! G

reenaway Hall GC, situated on the outskirts of Stoke-on-Trent celebrates its centenary year this year. The club started life as Stockton Brook GC with nine holes until 1924 when the acquisition of new farming land enabled it to become 18. In 1930 it was renamed Greenaway Hall. The club has survived lean times over the years and since 1996 has been owned by the Jack Barker group. Recent years have seen major course improvements,a remodelled clubhouse and a new lease of life. Centenary events are ongoing at the club throughout the remainder of this year. Staffordshire Golfer congratulates and salutes our county’s latest centurion.

Les Hancock S

unday 21st June and 104 golfers gathered at Wolstanton Golf club for a friendly match to pay tribute to a very special man. Les Hancock, 76, celebrates 40 years this year as Junior Organiser at the club. In his voluntary role Les has seen between 2000 and 3000 young golfers take up the game and helped many of them reach county and even international level standards. His contribution has also been vital in teaching the youngsters valuable life skills and respect. Les, who is still performing his role at Wolstanton and at Staffordshire Staffordshire Golfer

County Level was joined on the day by many of his protégés past and present. Some, like Gordon Kelly, on the right of the picture travelled from as far away as Cornwall to take part in the event. Les modestly stated that the golfing success of his juniors has given him the most pleasure “Many of the ex-juniors here have gone on to be single-figure handicappers and are still members here today”.

Pictured here with Les and Gordon is current Junior Captain, Kyle Fitzpatrick.

Bakers half dozen P

eter Baker, ex-Ryder Cup star and director of golf at South Staffs GC had a six days of golf to remember at the start of the month. He took part in the Challenge Tour’s Credit Suisse Challenge in Switzerland and come the Sunday night was celebrating victory, his 18 under par total was enough for a one shot win, 22,400 euros and elevation to 10th spot in the Challenge Tour rankings. Not one to rest on his laurels Baker turned up at the Gailes Links near Glasgow the very next day for two rounds of final qualifying for this years Open Championship. His great form continued and two 69’s saw him qualify comfortably in 2nd place, at the time of going to press both Peter and Robert Rock, Staffs other qualifier are at Turnberry, we hope they performed well.

9


A southern

stunner! South Staffordshire club was formed in 1892 and originated with its home at Penn Common. In 1908 the club moved to its present home at Tettenhall and has an impressive list of names associated with it. Original designer was the great Harry Vardon and in subsequent years equally esteemed designers Harry Colt, James Braid and Donald Steel have tweaked and improved it further making it a highly respected championship lay out. Ex Ryder Cup star and European Tour regular Peter Baker is director of golf at South Staffordshire.

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august-september • 2009


South Staffs course Review A classic example of the beauty and the trickery of South Staffs comes at the short par 3, 6th. Only 141 yards long but totally surrounded by trees with out of bounds on the right. The green isn’t large and is protected by four bunkers and slopes slightly downhill, pleasing to the eye but a safe landing spot is hard to find and par may come as something of a relief. Around the turn is where the majority of the long par 4s are situated, a tough stretch of holes which wont yield birdies easily, it gets a bit exposed in places, one of two blind tee shots will face you and maybe on approaches too but keeping the ball in play shouldn’t be a problem and the undulations might just add a bit of unexpected distance.

A

day after visiting one of Staffordshire’s oldest clubs, Whittington Heath, we went to another of our more senior establishments, South Staffordshire, situated in the leafy suburbs of Wolverhampton, another club rich in terms of history and high in status. Having been at the course two weeks earlier covering the PTS Invitational we knew we were in for a real test of our abilities. The winning score after three rounds in good weather that week was a mere -6 and it’s not hard to see why. When considering the facts that its 6,512 yards long, has six par fours over 400 yards in length and out of bounds features at no fewer than 16 holes this is certainly no challenge for faint hearts. The course was still in great tournament condition when we played featuring manicured fast running fairways, well formed bunkers and smooth putting surfaces. The very first tee shot is indicative of what is to follow. A long dog leg par five with trees on the left and out of bounds to the right will demand some early driver precision; the right side will open up an attractive approach shot to a sand trap guarded long green. The tree lined fairways are a permanent feature at South Staffs and although it’s never advisable to be offline the penalty shouldn’t be too severe if you find yourself in amongst them, a lack of thick rough should ensure a comfortable enough escape. The lush undulating fast running surfaces and a bit of width in places will give straight hitters encouragement and confidence to set up good birdie opportunities. However, there are many fairway bunkers out there, strategically placed to catch you out, especially on the shorter par fours.

Late opportunities for scoring look possible on the last three holes, the 16th especially, a short par 5 reachable in two looks promising but the 353 yard 17th is a different proposition, a very tight tree lined hole with narrow fairway and you must leave your approach on the low side of the two-tiered green or the dreaded three putt awaits, it’s another scenic gem of a hole with a nasty surprise or two. The 18th gives you a short finishing hole to an undulating green in front of the tree and shrub surrounded clubhouse, a really nice finish to a highly enjoyable test at a track where you’ll take great satisfaction if you shoot somewhere near your handicap.

FACILITIES South Staffs has one of the finer looking clubhouses in the region, lounge, spike bar and patio all overlooking practise putting area and 18th green, an attractive place for drinks and bar snacks. It also has a restaurant and function room with seating for over 100, A La Carte menus and extensive wine list. With good practice facilities including a driving range it’s an excellent venue for societies and corporate golf and in addition to the recent tournament South Staffs regularly hosts other competitions. The club is currently offering a four ball deal for just £99, a great offer for visitors to try this course for the first time, it is more than likely that you will want to return to a fine establishment and a great looking layout which will prove a stiff examination for golfers of even the finest abilities.

South Staffs however reserves its main defences for the business end of its holes. Your short game needs to be in prime condition to score well, plentiful sand, tightly packed rough, some raised greens and banking around the putting surfaces ensure a testing time around the greens which can be fast undulating affairs, some two tiered. Important to get the right angle in with approach shots or you can find yourself running through the back or in serious three putt territory.

Staffordshire Golfer

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credit crunch reader survey How Much have you spent on golf equipment this year? More

Same

Less

32%

39%

29%

Have you considered changing your home club for a cheaper alternative? Already changed

Thinking about it

No

0% 14%

86%

Where do you shop for golf equipment at present? Club shop American Golf/ Nevada Bobs Direct Golf/Catalogue Ebay

12% 15%

33%

Staffordshire Golfer

40%

The global recession has dominated news headlines worldwide, profoundly affecting many peoples lives for over a year and shows no signs of abating. The meltdown in the money markets, company liquidations and thousands of job losses have inevitably led to a knock on effect for leisure industries. Staffordshire’s golf clubs and establishments are far from immune from the current difficulties so in this, our first major feature we take a look at how Staffordshire golf as a whole is faring through these troubled times. From the point of view of both the clubs themselves and of the visitors and members who play there this is what we discovered about the present plight of the game in our county. A big thanks for all who contributed, especially those patient golfers on car parks far and wide who we collared for our survey. We have included some reader offers for discounted green fees and society offers with this article, we hope they will help fill a few fairways in the coming months. There’s no doubt that many of our fine clubs are facing a crucial midsummer for their golfing futures, it could be make or break time for some, we wish all well, pray for sunshine and encourage you all to support even further your local clubs.

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I

t is clear from our findings that members of Staffordshire’s golf clubs are an incredibly loyal bunch. Despite the fact that over half of those questioned stated that their clubs hadn’t changed anything when it came to changing their pricing structures to reflect the current slump, a whopping 86% refused to even consider ever changing their golfing home bases. That sort of dedication is impressive and when we questioned them virtually every club we talked to placed the highest emphasis on maintaining member satisfaction above anything else. But with subscriber numbers on the wane and waiting lists seemingly a thing of the past many clubs are facing a major dilemma. To survive they must increase turnover in other areas meaning a potential rise in visitor numbers and societies is inevitable, not a particularly awkward problem on the face of it. But with a large number of nomadic golfers out there looking for cheap deals, when two- for-one voucher deals and group booking discounts come into the equation then we can well imagine full-fee paying members might have one or two concerns, not many we spoke to wants their club dumbing down in any way, some would rather pay higher membership fees than accept more visitors. How to boost the balance books and keep the life blood of the establishment happy at the same time is quite a balancing act for committees, the English Golf Union has produced an initiative aimed at providing advice for clubs struggling with predicaments such as these. The Recruitment and Retention toolkit has proved to be a hit with golf clubs with over 500 establishments buying or viewing it online since its launch earlier this year. The toolkit is a flexible guide containing examples and ideas that can easily be adapted to suit the needs of individual golf clubs who are concerned about both recruiting and retaining members. Designed to support clubs through today’s commercially difficult times, the Toolkit offers advice and experiences from other clubs to help maintain healthy memberships. Richard Flint, EGU/EGWA Golf Development manager told us “ The toolkit provides golf clubs with real, practical examples that have been successfully used at other facilities. It provides a wealth of ideas for club secretaries, managers and professionals to pick and choose from. With additional funding available through the EGU Club Coaching Grant i would really encourage clubs to take advantage of this initiative.”

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What would you do to increase turnover if you managed your club? Introduce 2-fore-1 voucher schemes

Try pay as you play member packages Lower green fees Encourage more corporate/society packages

Scrap the joining fee

19%

19%

28%

6% 28%

What has your club done to combat the credit crunch? Discounts in Club Shop

Lowered Membership Introduced new membership packages Lowered green fees

Not changed 0%

17%

14%

52% 17%

www.englishgolfunion.org is the site to visit for more information on the toolkit.

august-september • 2009


credit crunch reader survey

Barlaston Golf Club Barlaston Golf Club is set in an attractive riverside rural location close to the canal town of Stone. In the midst of a quite dense population of golf clubs in the surrounding countryside the committee of Barlaston work hard to maintain the clubs status in the area. The club has around 600 members and although numbers have dropped slightly during the recession there has been a rise in juniors. Barlaston has no joining fee and has recently added an extra new member incentive by introducing its own standing order system for payments. Visitor numbers are steady, largely helped by Green fee two-for-one vouchers and societies find the course a favourite to play on, many returning year after year. The club is currently renovating an old building attached to it which will become an extra member’s room in addition to the current bar; varied social events play a vital part in Barlaston’s calendar. Club administrator Jamie Brown said “we seem to be faring well at present but in conjunction with our members are always striving for new ideas to take the club forward” In difficult times Barlaston has bucked the trend somewhat, a good course, easy going atmosphere and member loyalty have gone a long way to ensure that stable times lie ahead.

Wolstanton Golf Club Wolstanton Golf Club, established 1904 is situated on the outskirts of Newcastle-under-Lyme, in the heart of the Potteries. One of the industries that have suffered most during the economic downturn, the plight of the pottery firms has seen many job losses in the area inevitably leading to a knock on effect for the regions courses. Wolstanton has a healthy and loyal membership of 800 of which 90 are ladies and 90 are juniors. However, the current climate has led to a few losses in that department and the committee are looking at ways to increase turnover in other areas. They have already slashed visitor green fees for those playing with a member and introduced a payment plan to spread the cost of signing on fees. But it’s in visitor numbers, corporate events and societies that Wolstanton is looking to pick up on. Despite the inclusion of the ‘two-fore-one’ voucher scheme, visitors here account for only 5% of total income; Club Director Alan Read told us “We are currently looking at ways of marketing and advertising the club to give us more exposure and hopefully extra visitor and society income”. Wolstantons’ management remain committed to making course improvements through the recession to maintain the quality of its prized asset. Thanks to its prudent leadership and a real sense we got of club team spirit this friendly establishment may well be better placed than most to survive these difficult times.

Credit Crunch Analysis To a certain extent the answer to the question at the start of the feature is a clear yes. We found a few indications out there that the slump is impacting on our clubs economies. What is also clear is that the more traditional and well-established institutions are finding it harder than most to adapt and implement change. Their previously ever-present security of having waiting lists seems now to be a thing of the past which is forcing them to adopt a more pro-active approach in attracting both new members and visitors.

Staffordshire Golfer

On the flip side this is a great time for societies and unattached visitors to play even more golf at previously off the radar clubs. Maybe an opportunity too to take advantage of easier membership terms that some clubs are offering and join that local club you’ve always aspired to. Just like every retail based walk of life at present golf prices are down and discounts of all varieties are on the rise, we’ve included many examples of these on the following pages and hope they go some way to easing the worries of our regions outstanding Golf Clubs.

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S

ituated a couple of miles outside Lichfield, Whittington Heath is one of Staffordshire’s oldest Golf Clubs, if not the oldest, rich in history and reputation and presents as true a test of all round golfing skill as we’ve found in the county so far.

Whittington is a real jewel in our golfing crown

Whittington Heath started sporting life as a renowned Midlands horse racing track in the early 18th century. When the races went into decline, the land was purchased by the military and Whittington barracks was built next to the ex race course. In 1886, 9 holes were constructed on the heath solely for military use. In 1927 esteemed designer Harry Colt added a further nine and despite the course largely being used for military purposes during the war it recovered, prospered and was eventually taken over by civilian membership. In 1994 the members bought the club from the Ministry of Defence.

The imperious ivy-clad clubhouse has even more history stretching back to the late 18th century when it was constructed as a grandstand for Lichfield races. When the barracks were built it was taken over as a soldiers home before becoming Whittington’s golf headquarters in 1957. Its history and looks makes it one of the more recognisable clubhouses in the county.

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august-september • 2009


Whittington Heath Golf Club Review

Difficult to describe which category the course fits into, features reflect elements of Heathland and Inland Links, which has produced an expertly designed mixture of the two. This is not an overly long challenge but one that truly tests every shot played and doesn’t leave much margin for error. From the 1st hole, a straight ahead short par 5 with narrow fairway and bunkers dotted all around. Whittington is a true test for golfers of all levels, play well and you will be rewarded but if you are wayward, like all great golf courses Whittington will punish you. All sorts of hazards are in place here to test your straight hitting, a high emphasis must be placed on accuracy from the tee to avoid the long grasses and heather that garnish the fairways and make recovery shots difficult in true links style. If you venture even further wider there are rows of mature oaks on many of the holes, not a good idea to get amongst them but they do provide valuable shelter from the wind. The bunkers too are an ever present and placed well to add further peril.

Staffordshire Golfer

Whittington has an emphasis on accuracy more than length; the tight, narrow fairways are also slick, fast running affairs and will add yards of run to drives. Good fortune is essential though, there are plenty of undulations and humps and bumps out there too. The par 3’s here are a great collection of holes, two of them feature in our favourite stretch of the course. The 4th hole is a par 3 featuring many greenside bunkers, a bank on the right-hand side and a long two-tiered green. The 5th is a short dog leg par 4 where caution off the tee is advisable but long straight hitters may fancy trying for the green by cutting off the dog leg over tall oaks. The 6th is a tree lined par 4 with a charming collection of six mounds placed in front of the downhill facing green. Chip and runs here a very links like feel to them, getting it close to the flag will be quite a feat! But for us the 7th is the highlight, another par 3 and a stunning sight from the raised tee. Bushes and heather at the front and trees at the back of the green which is guarded by 5 bunkers, steep banked ones too; a contoured putting surface makes this hole a real classic.

The course has three par 4’s to finish, all fairly lengthy ones and still featuring very narrow but fast fairways, the Whittington challenge genuinely doesn’t end until that last putt drops. To score well, here you’ll need brains, patience, some creativeness and a bit of luck, there’s not a dull moment out there, it’s a good old course with a lot of character and a true pleasure to play. As befits its status in the county, Whittington also has a busy social calender, the course attracts golfers from far and wide and is a popular socitey destination. In addition to medals and club matches the course plays host to many amateur events and pro-ams. It’s a popular venue too for societies and off course facilities are impressive, large club room; modern locker rooms and a well stocked pro shop serve to give the club all round appeal. With a friendly atmosphere, great history and a testing course in fine condition, Whittington Heath is a racing certainty to remain one of Staffordshire Golf’s leading lights.

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Tuition Since we launched the Staffordshire Golfer magazine we have been bombarded with golfers asking when are we going to give instruction tips. So here you go folks this is our all new tuition section in which we aim to give valuable advice and tips in order to help you and your game. In this issue we introduce our expert panel of coaches all from Staffordshire clubs who over the coming months will guide you through the basics as well as all the tricky shots. So keep reading and together we can lower those scores! We are also keen to get you the golfers involved so if you have any golfing woes you need help with then email us at editorial@staffordshiregolfer.co.uk and you could win a free lesson with one of our coaches!


Driving Name: Matthew Southwell Age: 28 Club: The Chase Golf Club, Penkridge, Stafford Career: Academy Manager/Head PGA Coach Favourite Player: Nick Faldo as I was growing up but now, Sergio!

Before moving to the Staffordshire area nearly six years ago Matthew started his Pro career in Leicestershire. He held an assistants position at Kilworth Springs Premier Golf Club for 5 years where he turned his talent to coaching and was soon helping all levels of player from England, junior and senior representatives to complete beginners. On moving to Stafford with his fiancée Fiona a keen 12 handicapper herself, he took on the Head Teaching Professionals role at Brocton Hall Golf Club where he ran a very successful Academy for 4 years building an excellent reputation as a coach throughout the Staffordshire district. Matthew has a reputation of giving clear easy to follow instruction and has now set up a new Coaching Academy at The Chase Golf Club where he has been since November 2008. Having already set up a county wide schools coaching initiative, the junior Academy is thriving. With a team of four professionals, an excellent indoor video studio and an 18 bay driving range Matthew believes The Chase Golf Academy to be an ideal venue for all levels of golfer.

Chipping & Bunkers Name: Greg Rogula Age: 24 Club: Westwood Golf Club, Leek Career: First year as head pro, has spent 7 years at Westwood, previously as assistant Pro Favourite Player: Tiger Woods

Despite his youth Greg has already established himself as one of the most promising young coaches in Staffordshire. As well as regular lessons for the members at Westwood, Greg holds YMG (Young Master Golfer) sessions for juniors every Saturday morning and currently has 5 groups of 5 kids under his tutorage. Over the coming months Greg will use these pages to offer tips and advice and explain why in his opinion chipping and bunker play is so vital for golfing success.

Greg’s Mission Statement “A good short game counts for over 50% of your golf game, chipping especially is an area that is often overlooked in most golfers practise routine. No good hitting it 300 yards if you haven’t got the game to get up and down from a greenside bunker. I feel very strongly that a strong short game will distinguish a great player from a good one”. Follow Greg’s tips here at Staffordshire Golfer over the coming months. You can email Greg at grogula1@talktalk.net

As for Matthew’s tips on driving he will be focusing on helping you achieve the perfect blend of distance and accuracy from the tee “The driver tends to be the most unpredictable club in the average golfers bag but good balance and timing can make the driver your most valuable asset out on the golf course”

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august-september • 2009


tuition Irons

Putting

Name: Jeremy Harrold

Name: Fred Fearn

Age: 37

Age: 42

Club: Perton Park, Wolverhampton.

Club: Leek – 4 years as head Pro.

Career: Head Pro since 1995

Career: Originally from Leicestershire, Full time Golf Pro for 9 years

Favourite Player: Seve Ballesteros

Jeremy has been a Midlands Tour Pro regular for over 15 years and has amongst his highlights set two course records at Chesterton Valley, and most notably at Patshull Park shooting a 64 in 2001. A round that included just 28 shots on the back nine. He also won the Staffordshire/Shropshire/ Herefordshire Matchplay in 2002. Jeremy has an uncomplicated style of coaching and likes to also advise on the mental side of the game. As for his iron tips he will concentrate on getting you out of trouble and pinging those approaches close. “It’s vital to have a sound technique to rescue you from a bad tee shot and also I will be focusing on accuracy in approach shots to hopefully take the pressure off long putts” . Check out Jeremy’s first column next month.

Staffordshire Golfer

Favourite Player: Jack Nicklaus

Fred has a healthy coaching programme going on at present with approximately 175 golf pupils on his books, many of them juniors. Despite his all-round knowledge it’s the putting that Fred counts as his forte. In 2001 he set a personal best by going round Whittington Heath in a mere 22 putts using a Rife putter which he was testing for the day. Needless to say that very same putter is still in Fred’s bag! Fred custom fits Rife and Ping putters on site at Leek, As well as teaching he advises also on the right putter for the player’s style. As for his mission statement Fred makes a strong case for his chosen area. “You can get away with a slight lack of accuracy on other shots but on a putting green you can ill afford to be offline, missing too many 5 footers can ruin a good round, the correct putting technique is absolutely vital for golfing success.”

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A Course Fit

for a

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King

august-september • 2009


Stafford Castle course Review

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he golfing public of Stafford are a fortunate bunch. Having already visited and thoroughly enjoyed Ingestre and Brocton in issue Two it was just left to Stafford Castle to complete the set. And pleasing too it was to discover that this mature parkland town centre course didn’t let the side down, far from it, in fact it went further in enhancing the variety and quality of our capitals courses, full of surprise and charm, Stafford Castle is a great place to play golf, if up until lately a little bit of a secret. The course has a warm and friendly atmosphere and encourages visitors with 2 fore 1 vouchers and society offers.

both times its not short of thrills and spills. The locals fondly call it Jaws, a huge narrow bunker that stretches widthways covering the whole fairway about 200 yards from the tee making it one of those exciting risk and reward tee shots with your driver on the front nine.

The surprise element can be put down to some false pre-conceptions, not much we knew about Stafford Castle before getting there, it has no web site, (although that will soon be rectified) internet details were sketchy with hardly a photo on view so more or less all we knew was that it was in the City centre and has only 9 holes. Any doubts though were soon put to rest the moment we arrived, it looks a very appealing course immediately, lush, tree –lined fairways stretching out into the distance and an attractive if tricky looking 9th green promises some fun for later.

Even if the 5th/14th is many a players highlight the rest of the course can’t be too far behind, hard to believe you’re in the heart of a city, only the odd tower block, peeking over the top of the trees occasionally is a reminder. The castle pops into view from time to time, most attractively by the side of the par 5, 6th/15th green. Throughout its journey the course features undulating fairways and super soft sand in the bunkers. It will give opportunities for birdies and good scoring but it does have out of bounds in places and a fair few trees. Try to be too cute and cut a few corners and there are plenty of tall conifers and bushes only too happy to collect your wayward shots.

The 9 hole bit proves a bit of a myth too. It may possess just nine greens for now but thanks to some imaginative design and clever placing of an extra nine tees Stafford makes use well of its wide open spaces, producing 18 holes that will challenge and test players without ever threatening to be even slightly repetitive. Take for instance the par 4, 273 yard, 5th hole, front nine, an attractive prospect for long hitters but on the back nine its shortened to a 180 yard par 3 (14th) and

Extra bunkers around the green add to the fun and the green itself is two-tiered and must be a good 50 yards in length with a steep bank running around it which potentially may come to the aid of an overclubbed selection. As either par 4 or 3 this has to be one of the best holes we’ve come across so far in Staffordshire.

Whilst an 18 hole course can probably afford to get away with one or two dodgy putting surfaces Stafford Castle cannot, and doesn’t either. The greens are large often epic affairs boasting smooth running surfaces, undulations and more than the odd subtle borrow or two. They are very pleasant to putt on but you’ll need your ‘A’ game to succeed and make those birdies.

Facilities The facilities at Stafford Castle appear to look a little basic at first glance but it does have a warm friendly environment and the food and service is lovely. However, all this is set to change; a brand new clubhouse and pro shop are just parts of a major revamp of club and course. The club has been acquired by the Luddington Golf group who purchased the lease from Lord Stafford and with extra land nearby, aim to make it a true 18 holer that will take it around three sides of the castle. A new junior academy is to be developed with a three hole training course. Exciting times seem to lie ahead for this course, although the members may be sad

Staffordshire Golfer

to see some of thier excisting favourite holes dissapear they are generally looking forward to the fresh challenges that lie ahead. We here at Staffordshire Golfer would urge golfers who have not visited the course to come and play the current layout before the remodelling of the course takes place. If Stafford Castle is to prosper and move forward in these difficult times the improvements are necessary and do look really good on paper. We’re sure that if the extra holes can match the quality of what’s already in place, then not only will the members be satisfied, this in all probability will become one very special place to play golf.

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Spotlight

on the 3 Hammers Golf Complex

Situated in Coven, a rural village on the outskirts of Wolverhampton, the Three Hammers Golf Complex is rapidly establishing itself as one of the most popular and important golf venues in the Midlands. This modern forward thinking establishment attracts over 200,000 visitors a year despite its 18 hole championship course measuring a mere 1,410 yards in length. The 3 Hammers is much more than a golf course as we soon found out, many contemporary facilities reside here, large shop, bistro, 23-bay floodlit driving range and both indoor and outdoor teaching zones, it’s difficult to know where to start.

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august-september • 2009


3 hammers golf complex review

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he course is ideal for learning the game and for short game practice. Designed in 1964 by Sir Henry Cotton the 18 holes vary in length from 46 yards to 123 yards and all feature soft astro turf tees and silky smooth true running greens. With strategically placed bunkers and trees and shrubs in abundance this beautifully landscaped layout is a true pleasure to play and demands some pinpoint accuracy with your lob wedge at times too. It’s quality makes it ideal short game training, no need to book tee times either, just turn up and play, with play all day tickets from just £4.95. The driving range features heating, automated tees and yardage charts. Regular users can purchase discount cards for cut-price baskets of balls. The 4,000sqft golf shop is the UK’s number 1 regional fitting centre for Mizuno and authorised fitting centre for Ping and offers a bespoke club fitting service, the on-site practice facilities compliment the store and give free opportunities to try clubs out for size meaning anyone purchasing new blades from The 3 Hammers is unlikely to be permitted to leave until he/ she has the perfect tools for his/her game. Yet if these facilities aren’t impressive enough a major investment in the complex a year ago has seen a stateof-the-art golf performance studio added, a indoor putting green and outside, a 10,000 square feet Learn 2 Play golf academy zone. The centre has 3 full time pros and in the airconditioned studio they use all the latest technology to put golfers through their paces. It boasts a fitness area to analyse student capabilities before testing their swings out in the most detailed way possible. Staffordshire Golfer

The K-Vest uses 3 wireless sensors on a vest worn by the golfer to collect 360 degree data from the golf swing including an alignment of hips, shoulders, arms and posture. Present on the video screen will be a 3D animation of your golf swing in slow motion detail and key swing data. The vest will pinpoint any; even tiny error in your game and the teaching staff will soon set you on the road to doing something about it. The outdoor Learn 2 Play zone is fully synthetic, turfed throughout, surrounded by tall netting it caters for all shots in a golfer’s game and is especially popular with juniors and beginners. Group lessons take place at the facility, there’s even a covered pavilion for parents and spouses to sit. The 3 Hammers runs both YMG-Junior courses and a new Mighty Masters Golf Programme for 4-6 year olds. An estimated 200 children pass through the complex doors every week, in the YMG stats the 3 Hammers is ranked 6th best in the UK and No 1 in the Midlands. It’s hard not to feel anything less than highly impressed when visiting here. A comprehensive and unique experience is what you’ll get, a golfing version of an MOT, a great place to hone your short game and much more. Friendly and knowledgeable staff aid the enjoyment of world class all weather facilities that will keep The 3 Hammers a market leader amongst modern Midlands golf venues.

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Stay on course with great golf tips from Stokeon-Trent Chiropractor Andrew Knibbs

...people underestimate how much stress and strain playing golf can cause.

...it is the ‘less athletic’ amateur players who are more at risk.

A healthy back will improve your swing.

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Take the pain out of your game! It is thought that at least 80% of all amateur golfers suffer with back pain or injury at some point in their playing days. But why is this? And what can be done? Stoke-on-Trent Chiropractor, Andrew Knibbs, has some useful advice. Golf seems the most accessible sport for people who want fresh air and gentle exercise. But, at the same time, people underestimate how much stress and strain playing golf can cause. If we analyse the basic mechanics of the golf swing it is easy to appreciate that swinging a 3 foot long implement (club) at up to 120mph while at the same time torquing, pulling and hitting a golf ball, is not a natural movement. The one-sided nature of the swing transmits forces of compression and rotation into the vertebrae of the lumbar spine. If you are in pain and the movement is repeated (approximately 70-100 times per round) it can make 18 holes seem more like 118!

• The pressure points – The lower back, shoulders and wrists are the most obvious joints at risk for golfers through the repetitive nature of the golf swing. Also, carrying a heavy golf bag can place an enormous strain on the spine. Take advantage of the latest golf accessories especially designed to help, such as lighter bags and dual harness straps which distribute weight evenly over the shoulders. • Warm up – Golfers often don’t warm up properly before playing – if muscles are not prepared by a good stretching routine, this can lead to a lack of flexibility and injury. Spend two or three minutes warming up before teeing off. Stretch hamstring, quads, chest muscles and shoulders. • Drive – make the most of your swing. Warm up on the driving range. Start with high irons and wedges before moving onto the driver. • Don’t forget that, like any sport, a good post-event stretch is also recommended. • When picking up golf balls and bags, bend carefully from the knees and keep your back straight. • Contrary to popular belief, trolleys are not the best way to caddy clubs as this builds unnecessary pressure from pulling and bending in the wrong positions. A power or electric caddy is the safest way to get around. • Wear proper shoes for stability and to help avoid twisting the back and hips. • Pain is a warning sign – do not ignore it. If you do injure yourself, use ice rather than heat and if the pain persists, seek help from your chiropractor. A healthy back will improve your swing. Golfers suffering pain during or after their game should not ignore it. Following careful analysis and examination, chiropractic treatment focuses on bringing joints back into line and encouraging stability of the supporting musculature. By simply aligning the body optimally, you can play a better game of golf, with less effort, and have more fun at the same time!

High profile professional golfers such as Tiger Woods and Padraig Harrington regularly consult chiropractors to keep themselves balanced and injury free, but it is the ‘less athletic’ amateur players who are more at risk. Poor technique, inadequate stretching pre- and post-game and incorrectly carrying heavy golf bags are the main causes. By following a few of Andrew’s simple tips you can help to ease the pain and prevent future problems. august-september • 2009


T

he thing about golf that makes it so special is that average or even less than average golfers get the chance to play on the same hallowed turf as their heroes. Where Nick, Seve and Tiger trod, you can too, there’s no other sport like it. You’ve got to be pretty special at football to play at Wembley, a pro cricketer to go out to bat at Lords, and be seriously world-ranked to serve on the Centre Court. But golf has no such skill barriers; you can tee it up anywhere and in the centre of England there is no course like The Brabazon. The venue for 4 previous Ryder Cups and endless memorable TV moments mostly involving American mishaps and patriotic glory. Designed by Peter Alliss and Dave Thomas The Brabazon was opened for play in June 1977 and only a year later was hosting European tour events. But its early years weren’t short of a few teething troubles, it took a few re-lays and various re-constructions before it was ready for

the tournament it was made for. The 1985 Ryder Cup not only proved a turning point for European golf but defined The Brabazon as a major championship course. 4 Ryder Cups and many other tournaments later it has history now as well as stature and attracts players from all over the world to have a go. But how would 4 average quality nomadic players from Staffordshire Golfer fare at this supreme challenge?

give no room for error and place a high premium on accuracy. Then there’s the water hazards. 13 holes feature them, there’s not one lake, pond or stream that isn’t aesthetically beautiful in looks, they are what The Brabazon is all about and provide a haven for many wildfowl species.

An early tee time looked on paper a distinct advantage but even with more early bird rabbits around than spectators it was difficult to avoid nerves standing on the first tee. A reasonably easy start too and soon, stood on the opening green judging the putting surface for the first time you can imagine the monster putt Monty holed that turned the tide of the 2002 Ryder Cup.

However, if you’re not on your game or those nerves haven’t eased yet they’ll provide a haven for your golf balls too! Long before you reach the holes for which this course is famous there’s some stunning challenges waiting. The 3rd hole, just over 500 yards par 5 has trees to the left to threaten tee shots and water narrowing the angle of the approach to the green which you must reach the higher of the two tiers or approach shots can slip back off the front of the putting surface.

It’s not long though before The Brabazon bears its teeth and unleashes its formidable set of defences, tall trees, large bunkers cleverly placed around the fairways and tightly packed rough

Re-designed in 2007 the 6th takes a lot of plaudits these days and no wonder. Not overly long at 385 yards but you must be super accurate to avoid the encroaching lake on the

Thethe Brabazon spiritual home of golf

Undoubtedly this has to be one of the most famous sights in golf. The 18th of The Brabazon is world renowned thanks to its dramatic Ryder Cup moments. The tee shot is challenging and you will take great pride from reaching the safety of the fairway, however it’s the approach shot over this famous lake that defines this hole and maybe your entire visit if you can reach the green keeping your ball dry. The green is 65 yards long and 3 tiered so the challenge does not end until your ball drops. It’s an amazing hole, historic, scary and memorable all rolled into one.

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august-september • 2009


The belfry left, and trees with a cruelly placed bunker tucked in on the right. To reach the safety of the green you’ll have to take the water on again and watch club selection too, the green is surrounded by trees at the back and its slippery fast surface ensures that up and downs will be tough propositions. Come off here with a dry ball and a bogey and you’re not going to be too disappointed, a fabulous golf hole. The par three, 7th has a large spectacularly shaped bunker in front and an upturned saucer shaped green that threatens to cause havoc with your short game, and the 9th too is a treat, a curvy shortish par 4 with the lake narrowing the approach again and a three-tiered green. Chances are you’ll have had a fair bit of adventure already before reaching the 10th which should need no introduction. It’s just the ultimate risk and reward hole and no matter how your driving game is, you’ve come here for the highlight of going for this green in one,

Staffordshire Golfer

it just demands to be attempted. To achieve the unlikely feat you must hit a high fade over tall trees and stream and try to stop the ball somewhere on or around the green. A highly difficult task yes, but looking on the bright side the green is quite receptive. The alternative strategy is to take an iron and lay up which allows you to take on one of the best pitch shots in golf. The green is well protected by the brook and features some Augusta like undulations. The rest of the back nine is probably the place where you’ll get the best chance to make a decent score. Never easy of course but the water hazards largely take a back seat for a while although there’s a couple of tricky par 3s and the ever present cunningly placed bunkers and fast greens could still cause a headache or two. The Brabazon was in fabulous condition when we played, the greens especially were silky smooth, very quick, undulating and will for

sure test your skill and patience. On busy days there’s likely to be a marshal in a buggy keeping the pace of play reasonable but nothing too annoying, course staff are plentiful, very friendly and respectful. Surprisingly when researching player reviews we found The Brabazon not to everyone’s cup of tea. Maybe it proves to be too hard and outside some golfers comfort zone. It was a bit difficult for us too if the truth be told but we here at Staffordshire Golfer love our golf on the adventurous side and The Brabazon ticks all our boxes, its a great experience at a layout that has developed into more than just two famous par 4s. The Belfry refuses to rest on its laurels with The Brabazon. Course improvements are always ongoing that may make it even more tricky but the history of the place will make how you did on your first try a side issue, its all about treading those famous footsteps and taking on the challenges that faced the Ryder Cup legends, an experience that only golf can provide.

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PGA National is a class

act

T

he PGA National course at the Belfry probably has the unenviable reputation of being the worst located course in England, i.e. its parked right next to The Brabazon! But any thoughts you might have about it being a poor relation will soon be dispelled, for many differing reasons the PGA National more than holds its own and plays a vital role in the whole Belfry play-and-stay experience. A Dave Thomas design, the PGA National opened for play in 1997 and was the first course in England and still is the only one to be PGA branded. It’s a course that is set up to be a total contrast to its illustrious neighbour, an inland links with a distinctly American feel to it, huge mounds giving it a stadium feel in places, large cavernous sculptured bunkers and raised greens. It’s already hosted two European tour events, unsurprising, considering the design has made it a very spectator friendly lay out.

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august-september • 2009


The belfry Golf Club Review

The PGA National takes a little while to reveal its true identity as the first 4 holes aren’t too dissimilar to its neighbour. A gentle first is followed by 3 holes where water is heavily featured especially at the 4th, a quite superb but very difficult challenge featuring a lake on the left from the tee and a pond on the right hand side to threaten approach shots. Fairway bunkers may play a part too, there is no margin for error and mid to high handicappers may consider this hole to be a little too tricky to try to reach in two, hope instead for a three shot strategy and just the one putt for par. After that adventure the water hazards take a back seat for much of the remainder of the round and the further you walk away from the complex the more the links features become apparent. Holes 5 through to 16 sit exposed and without much of a defence to a stiff breeze. Luckily we were there on a warm calm day but can imagine a windy one would test the skills somewhat! Humps and hollows on the fairways will add an element of lottery for tee shots and may well punish a good shot or reward a bad one depending on how your luck is on the day. Long wispy grass that’s allowed to flourish and blow in the breeze will gobble up an ill-directed ball. The huge bunkers are always a threat too, many carved out expertly clover shaped into the mounds. The soft sand though doesn’t make it too difficult to escape from them; the problem may well be the distance you have to carry to reach the grass again! Staffordshire Golfer

The greens are in great nick at the moment, fast, smooth running and receptive to a high spinning approach shot. The raised design of many of them may demand an extra club at times. In true Belfry style though the putting surfaces feature many undulations, some are two or three tiered and a bit of knowledge and thinking is required to find the right areas to land on for putting success. Eye-catching holes on the back nine for us included the par 5 12th, big on bunkering and design too, mounds on either side giving it an amphitheatre feel, if you can keep out of sand, which is no mean feat birdies are possible but hit an approach short to a highly elevated green and the ball will roll back towards you. The 14th is a dog leg par 4 with the challenge of cutting the corner over a tall mound with a typically sized bunker placed on top of it, long hitters will relish this one. The PGA National generously doesn’t give you too much of a challenging finish. 17 & 18 are pretty much straight ahead par 4s back to the clubhouse although the 17th green is as slippery and fast as any on the course. The PGA National is a thought provoking varied challenge of a golf course. You will have to plot your way carefully around it, get a bit of luck along the way and putt at your best to score well. First timers at The Belfry may be a bit star struck at The Brabazon but here it’s just all about the golf at a layout that is still to mature fully but already compliments its famous neighbour very impressively. With twofore-one vouchers availability Monday – Thursday it’s an excellent value for money visitor experience for golfers of all abilities.

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Technology vs. Uncle Eric Recent Staffordshire golfer trips to The Belfry, St Thomas Priory and Direct Golf to check out the latest golf technologies on offer got me thinking of times past when golf was uncomplicated, EGPIs, vector analysis machines, swing-o-meters and such like were unheard of in the early 1980s when I started out. Now we’re big fans of the new stuff, anything out there that can potentially knock a shot or two off the old handicap has got to be a good thing. But I digress, and rewind to 1984. Uncle Eric owned a hotel and was my first employer, un-related but we affectionately called him Uncle. A tall, imposing and often intimidating man with cigar in mouth and booming voice we stood to attention when Uncle Eric was around. But he took a shine to me and my fellow waiter friend and when he heard we were trying to be golfers he kindly took us along to his club, Wilmslow to give us a game or two. The fact that Wilmslow Golf Club seemed a little posh and a rather too difficult for our hopeless standards early in our golf careers mattered little to Eric. He had a heart of gold but was more than a little

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eccentric and as we were comically to discover, despite being a member of one of Cheshire’s finest establishments he seemed to always treat golf with more than a little contempt. To Uncle Eric our glorious game was nothing more than a 3 1/2 hour break between double scotches! It often baffled us why he wanted us there; two gangly 17 year olds hacking around behind him were only going to hinder the breakneck speed of Eric’s round. Looking for lost balls was taboo too and a source of great irritation, no sooner were we searching away knee deep in long grass and heather, a ball would invariably hit us on the back of the legs and “hurry up, play that one instead” would ring in our ears. Eric certainly wasn’t your ideal golf mentor; he didn’t give us tips, advice or impart us with his Wilmslow course knowledge. And his etiquette can only be described as atrocious, anyone ahead of us who dared to play a bit slowly could expect a verbal broadside, some less than polite hand signals and if that didn’t work Eric should reach for the heavy artillery i.e. pull out the big club and fire away even if the unfortunate group ahead were well in driver range. How he never got sued or seriously injured anybody let alone staying

a member for so long was a mystery in itself, maybe his big overpowering personality and an ability to tell stories in the bar afterwards that left the members in stitches had something to do with it. For us, playing with Uncle Eric was just a bit of an unforgettable laugh, the fleeting times we spent with him there didn’t do much to improve our golf games but we did get chance to play one of Cheshire’s finest layouts for free, ruffle a few feathers and hang out with the worlds original grip-it and rip-it merchant (never mind Wild Thing, Eric was doing it back in 1984!) Sadly, Eric is no longer with us; I imagine he’s still causing havoc on a far flung fairway in the heavens somewhere. But going back to the start of this piece I have to wonder what he would make of the latest advances in golfing technology, vectors, swing-o-meters et al. The answer I expect wouldn’t be too hard to predict. “What a load of bloody rubbish” Eric would most likely exclaim, push his glasses up in indignation and impatiently dash up the fairway, in a puff of cigar smoke, even closer to that Double Scotch. You see, golf, like life itself was very uncomplicated in those days. august-september • 2009



SGM