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Opinion & Analysis

Book review: The Golf Lover’s Guide To England

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There is this notion in the British isles, completely foreign to America, that states that visitors shall have access to all but a smallish passel of private clubs. In abject contrast, the finest clubs of the USA do their level best to keep their gates closed to both the riff and the raff, neither of which is nearly as detrimental to their continuity as some fearful members might believe. In this era of the database, would it be that hard to allow a visitor access once in her/his/their lifetime to Cypress Point, or Friar’s Head, or Prairie Dunes? Into the database their GHIN number would go, and if said individual were fortunate enough to win the lottery for a coveted golden ticket, err, tee time, that would be it for all time. I digress, however, as that rant is not the purpose of this book review.

The Golf Lover’s Guide To England, written and compiled by Michael Whitehead, lists 33 elite golf clubs across that country, divided into four regions, which are further divided into nine districts. Each of these clubs would be identified as unlikely in the USA, but is certainly accessible in England. The short story is: this nearly-pocket-sized compendium should accompany any traveler of golfing purpose, as it is invaluable for understanding the ins and outs of making contact, locating courses, and learning of their nature and history. The long story goes quite a bit deeper.

Michael Whitehead has the forethought to organize his works (Scotland was his first TGLGT volume) in meticulous fashion. The volume opens with a colorful map of the targeted country, complete with numbered flags to identify each of the courses reviewed within. The entire book explodes with wondrous colors, both in page background and course photography, and heightens the sensory experience of its study.

A delightful touch is the location of the Acknowledgements section in the front of the book. Typically relegated to one of the final pages that we skip past, before closing the cover, this is not the case here. Whitehead recognizes the invaluable assistance of his supporting cast, and situates them front and center. Good for you, Mr. Whitehead.

A brief history of the game in England is followed by the first of the four (North, Midlands & East Anglia, South East, South West) regions. The most populous of these is the South East, and we will use it to break down the districts. Five courses occupy an unnamed, scattered district. Five more are situated in the Surrey/Berkshire sandbelt, and four of those sites offer 36 holes on property. A final three fit into the Kent Coast district, and one of them has 27 holes within its confines. Thus it goes throughout the other three regions, albeit at a less-frenetic pace.

Moving along, each of the 33 seminal courses is granted six pages for description and assessment. Whitehead assigns color-coded price guides to each course, ranging from the up-to-49-British-Pounds entry point to the over-200-British-Pounds stratum. He also offers seasonal stratification, identifying the High (expensive) season, the Shoulder (mid-range) seasons, and the Low (economic) season. To facilitate contact with the club, Whitehead does his level best to provide online, email, and telephone booking options for each of the clubs. He adds in area courses of interest, in case the reader/traveler is confined to a specific locale. What more could one need, in advance of the golf trip of a lifetime?

For starters, one might wish to know a bit more about the course. Mr. Whitehead goes into the distances of teeing grounds, the need (or not) for a handicap certificate, the availability of caddies and rentals (push cart, electric push cart, clubs and motorized carts), the dress code, and (if any) tee time restrictions. In other words, any botched planning falls squarely on the shoulders of the golfer. Michael Whitehead has led the horse to the trough, filled it with water, and essentially dunked the equine mouth in the aqueous substance.

I’ve a friend who hates to know anything about a course he has yet to play. Attempt to mention any facet of the course and his response is a loud and grating LA-LA-LA-LA-LA, ad infinitum or until you cease your attempt at enlightenment. For the rest of us sane travelers, a bit of back story about the property, the architect, and the laying out of the course adds to the anticipation. As an architecture aficionado, I base the majority of my trips around the works of the golden-age architects, here in the USA. If afforded the opportunity to travel to England, I would seek out the works of Harry Colt, Alister MacKenzie, Herbert Fowler, and their contemporaries. Thankfully, all of this information is listed in Whitehead’s thorough volume.

The old carpenter’s motto of measure twice and cut once can certainly be applied when considering a purchase of this volume. Abandon its opportunity and you risk a return trip to the lumber yard, at considerable expense. Take advantage of what it has to offer, and your trip’s chances at success are doubled at the very least.

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: Back from vacation! Nikon Coolshot 50i and Tour Edge C721 irons review!

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I was off last week and didn’t get a show recorded, I am sorry for that. But back this week with some club tinkering and course play talk. Then I review the new Nikon Coolshot 50i laser rangefinder. I started to really miss the red LCD display, just so easy to read. Tour Edge’s Exotics C721 irons are super forgiving and really long, but have such a soft feel and sound to them. The 4-iron has crept into my bag quietly as well.

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: The quest for removing the ego

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If Mike Tyson was more worried about what it looked like for him to get hit than actually focusing on the task at hand there is no way he would have the record he has today. The ego is the enemy of performance.

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Opinion & Analysis

A golfing memoir in monthly tokens: July

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As some might say, if you don’t take the plunge, you can’t taste the brine. Others might not say such a thing. I’m taking the plunge, because I want to taste the brine. Here you’ll find the seventh installment of “A Golfing Memoir” as we trace a year in the life of Flip Hedgebow, itinerant teacher of golf. For January, click here. For February, click here. For March, click here. For April and May, click here. For June, click here.

“What do you think of weddings?”

“How comfortable is your room?”

The first question was offered by Grace Éimí Seáin. After he escorted her and sundry to her room via golf cart, they made plans to meet in the lodge for dinner. She had taken note of the path he chose to deliver her to her lodging house, and informed him of the time of her arrival to sup. Yes, he had offered to retrieve her in the same cart, as he should, and yes, he had nodded when she told him that it would be unnecessary.

The second question was posed by cirE “Flip” Hedgebow, itinerant golf instructor and relationship tyro. In anticipation of her arrival, he had checked the status of the newly-acquired guest house on the hill overlooking the seventh hole. When he realized that it had not been rented for the first two weeks of her stay, he sped up the work order on the landscaping and outside trim, so that it would be rentable no longer. Once that part of the plot was detailed, he let the crew know that he would text them each morning of their required, on-site hours.

The reason for the questions, was to re-break the ice. The two had not seen each other since Florida, and flowers need time to transition from bud to leaf. Flip had suggested that Grace ask him a question, to place her in a position of advantage. She acquiesced, but only after securing the contractual agreement that he would ask a subsequent one of her. His nod was his signature. In the large room down the hall from their table, a nuptial reception was in full roar. Sisters danced on tables, brothers shuffled with collars loosened and ties rakishly draped around necks.

“What do you think of weddings?”

He explained that he was of two minds: professional and personal. From the standpoint of his job, wedding receptions brought in lots of money to offset unforeseen expenses at the resort. The wait staff loved them, as ebullient parents showered servers and associates with healthy tips. Only rarely did guests lose so much control that damage ensued. Those matters were resolved efficiently. Flip also confessed that the energy that flowed from a reception resembled the type emitted by a waterfall, like the natural one behind the sixth green. The optimism of new life together, the rekindling of family ties, all generated a temporary but powerful élan, a brio that courses through the entirety of the space and inhabitants.

From personal experience, he had much less to offer. He could count on two hands the number of weddings he had attended as an invited guest. Not to say that he had few friends, but proximity and responsibility had kept him from more than a handful of receptions. Flip valued the uniqueness of each ceremony, be it religious or civil, and the measured opulence of the decor. It was hoped that it would once in a lifetime, after all, so why not go all out? For himself, he offered, should he ever take that step with someone, the decisions would be mutual and planned. No knee-jerk for him.

Three public-access buildings comprised the resort. The first was the lodge, which held the pro shop and offices on the first floor, along with a seldom-used locker room in the back. On floor the second, the combined bar and dining room sat to the north, while the banquet hall was on the southerly side. Adjacent to both lodge and first tee was the hotel, made up of two wings of rooms. The older wing was less ample but wider, and held all of the smaller rooms. For families, the new wing was deeper, and allowed for greater per-room occupancy. The final building was the aforementioned and still-unnamed guest house, away from resort-center. When the house went on the market, the heirs to Klifzota, in their German and Polish logic, moved quickly. The resort needed a space for large parties who wanted a bit of separation. An opportunity to steal some cash from Airbnb, especially during the seasons when the hotel sold out all of its rooms.

Flip knew how well-appointed the interior of the guest house was. He had worked with the marketing people to select fixtures, bed frames and other furniture, and had watched in solemn reverence as PR team matched shams and sheets to wall colors and lighting. The final product was understated and comfortable; not in the least bit intimidating. He suspected that Grace would be happy there, but wanted her own confirmation, which she gave.

July was always a rambunctious month at Klifzota. Across the rural highway, a music jamboree attracted tens of thousands for a display of patriotism and calamity. The celebration was enjoyed by aficionados of country music, as well as newcomers to that brand of song. Flip had been to so many renditions of the Vale Slam, as it was called by venue veterans, that he knew what to expect and how much to imbibe. Until the first day of the festival, he had no idea that Grace had keen insight into the genre.

It’s a classic case of wild child meets wayward boy, then grandmother steps in. My mother was a classical singer as a teenager, but she had an ear for all styles. She appreciated genius, no matter the rhythm, color, or duration. She met my father, a fiddler in a bluegrass band, and they had some times together. I was the product of one of those times. My grandmother, uncertain as to whether she would ever collect her daughter, offered to take me in for a spell. That spell became forever. I know that my mother and father are out there, somewhere in the universe. I hope that they are together and happy. I don’t begrudge them most days. Now you know why I was introduced as Agnes Porter the younger. Someday, you might learn about Agnes Porter the elder.

cirE “Flip” Hedgebow stared at her, words absent. She took his hand and away they walked, through the admission gate. What’s on your mind now? she inquired. Johnny Farrell and Willie Macfarlane, he muttered.

Those names caught her by surprise, unknown and disconnected. In the August incalescence, both persons would come to understand their kinship. Catching him as much by surprise was her follow-up question, completely unrelated to Farrell and Macfarlane: Is it all right if he comes and stays a few weeks?

 

Artwork by JaeB

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