Archive for the ‘Golf History’ Category

Thomas Bjorn made Honorary Captain of The Shire…

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

Thomas Bjorn - The Shire

Thomas Bjorn accepts invitation to be Honorary Captain at Seve Ballesteros course – The Shire…

Denmark’s most successful golfer, Thomas Bjorn’s stellar career has included 15 wins and 94 top ten finishes to date on the European Tour.

Twice runner-up in The Open Championship, and a three-time Ryder Cup player – always on the winning side – he was appointed Chairman of the European Tour’s Tournament Committee in 2007.

He is a four-time Vice-Captain to the European Ryder Cup team, picked for the role by winning captains Bernhard Langer (2004), Colin Montgomerie (2010) and José-María Olazábal (2012), as well as by great friend Darren Clarke for the 2016 match at Hazeltine, Minnesota.

Thomas Bjorn – What he said…

The 46-year old Dane will represent the golf club, which is located near Barnet in Hertfordshire, as momentum builds towards the 2018 Ryder Cup, due to be held from 28-30 September 2018 at Le Golf National close to Paris, France.

Speaking at The Shire London, Thomas Bjorn said:I am very honoured to have been appointed Honorary Captain and to become an ambassador for The Shire London.

“It is the perfect golfing base for me in the UK with great practice facilities and the fantastic Ballesteros Masters Course. “

“The Club has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, and the Menai-Davis family are not only great hosts, but they are also passionate supporters of growing the game of golf.”

During his two-year Honorary Captaincy at The Shire London, Thomas Bjorn will each year host a new event, The Thomas Bjorn Trophy, the first of which will take place in September 2017.

He will also use the club’s practice facilities and gym, as well as playing at the club’s spectacular 7,028 yard Ballesteros Masters Course, the UK’s only golf course fully designed by Severiano Ballesteros.

The Shire London, which has no traditional committees or club captains, has become one of the capital city’s most popular golfing venues in the ten years since it opened.

We could not be more proud that Thomas Bjorn is joining us here at The Shire London to make it his home club” said The Shire London’s Tony Menai-Davis.

“It is a huge thrill for all of us connected with the club that such a successful and influential figure from world golf will be representing us for the next two years, and we look forward to seeing him around the club.

“To have the European Ryder Cup Captain based at The Shire London will be incredibly exciting, and like all golf fans we will be backing Thomas all the way as he builds his team in preparation for Paris in 2018. Go Team Europe!

Thomas Bjorn – Ryder Cup Captain 2018…

In 2018 Thomas Bjorn will become the first Dane, and the first Scandinavian to lead Europe when it returns to mainland Europe for the second time at Le Golf National.

The Ryder Cup’s first appearance in mainland Europe also marked Bjørn’s debut as a player in the event, at Valderrama in Spain in 1997, where he went unbeaten for the weekend as Europe secured a thrilling victory.

His Team Captain that year was the charismatic Severiano Ballesteros, designer of the Ballesteros Masters Course at The Shire London. “It means a lot to me that my hero Seve designed the golf course at The Shire London” he said.

“His legacy is everywhere in the world of golf, and with this year being the 20th anniversary of the European victory at Valderrama, which was also my Rookie appearance, the timing could not be more fitting. Being based at Seve’s course will inspire me in the build-up to my own captaincy.”

The Shire London will shortly announce details of The Thomas Bjorn Trophy 2017, which the Dane will personally host, and which will be open to all golfers.

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Discover more about The Shire London at www.theshirelondon.com, and about its sister venue The West London Golf Centre at www.westlondongolfcentre.com.

 

The Majors Pt2 – The US Masters…

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

the US Masters In the second in our series of articles on golf’s Major events, this time we turn our attention to the second oldest event in the golfing diary – The US Masters!

Every year we get excited about the upcoming golfing calendar with some enthusiasm.

Each year there are different players in contention and no one golf tournament is ever the same!

The ‘Grand Slam’ events in golf include:

– The US Masters (Augusta National) April

– The US Open (Various) June

– The OPEN (Various) July

– The PGA Championship (Various) August

This is then now complemented but The Olympics every four years (from 2106) with the host city supplying the venue.


The US Masters…

the US Masters Universally seen as the curtain opener to the golfing season, The US Masters began in 1934 and is the only Major that is always at the same venue each year – the glorious Augusta National in the US southern state of Georgia.

The idea for Augusta National was the brainchild of Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones. Jones wanted to build a golf course after his retirement from the game. He sought advice from Roberts, who went on to become the Chairman of the club.

He sought advice from Roberts, who went on to become the Chairman of the club.

They found a piece of land in Augusta of which Jones is reported to have said: “Perfect! And to think this ground has been lying here all these years waiting for someone to come along and lay a golf course upon it!”

The land had been an indigo plantation in the early nineteenth century and a plant nursery since 1857. Jones hired Alister MacKenzie to help design the course, and work began in 1931.

The course formally opened in 1933, but sadly MacKenzie died before the first Masters Tournament was played.

However, MacKenzie was also the architect of other famous courses such as; Cypress Point and Royal Melbourne. (see South Moor GC)

The Championship is full of history and abides by some long-standing traditions….

Since 1949, a green jacket has been awarded to the champion, who must return it to the clubhouse one year after his victory.

Although it remains his personal property and is stored with other champions’ jackets in a specially designated cloakroom.

In most instances, only a first-time and currently reigning champion may remove his jacket from the club grounds.

A golfer who wins the event multiple times uses the same green jacket awarded upon his initial win (unless he needs to be re-fitted with a new jacket).the US Masters

The Champions Dinner, inaugurated by Ben Hogan in 1952, is held on the Tuesday before each tournament and is open only to past champions and certain board members of the Augusta National Golf Club.

Beginning in 1963, legendary golfers, usually past champions, have hit an honorary tee shot on the morning of the first round to commence play.

However, this honour was given up to the BIG three in Arnie, Jack and Gary but sadly this is no longer possible following the death of Mr.Palmer in 2016.

Other that have had the privilege of this honour include Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead and Byron Nelson.

Finally, the newest event at The US Masters is probably the best loved – The Par 3 Championship started in 1960, but it’s no indication of who will win the main event…. the winner of this Par 3 contest has never won the main event!

The US Masters – Qualifying…

The Masters has the smallest field of the major championships with around 100 players.

Unlike other majors, there are no alternates or qualifying tournaments.

It is an invitational event, with invitations largely issued on an automatic basis to players who meet published criteria.

The top 50 players in the Official World Golf Ranking are all invited.

Past champions are always eligible, but since 2002 the Augusta National Golf Club has discouraged them from continuing to participate at an advanced age….

Who is eligible for that all important invitation…

– Masters Tournament Champions (lifetime)

– US. Open champions(five years)

– The Open champions(five years)

– PGA champions(five years)

– Winners of the Players Championship (three years)

– The Current US Amateur champion and runner-up

– Current British Amateur champion

– Current Asia-Pacific Amateur champion

– Current US Mid-Amateur champion

– Current Latin America Amateur champion

– The first 12 players, including ties, in the previous year’s Masters Tournament

– The first 4 players, including ties, in the previous year’s U.S. Open

– The first 4 players, including ties, in the previous year’s Open Championship

– The first 4 players, including ties, in the previous year’s PGA Championship

– Winners of PGA Tour & playoff events that award a full-point allocation for the FedEx Cup

– Those qualifying for the previous year’s Tour Championship(top 30 in FedEx Cup)

– The 50 leaders on the Final Official World Golf Ranking for the previous calendar year

– The 50 leaders on the Official World Golf Ranking published a week prior to the Tournament

– Most of the top current players will meet the criteria of multiple categories for an invitation.

– The US Masters Committee, at its discretion, can also invite any golfer not otherwise qualified.

The US Masters – Previous Winners…

the US Masters The first winner of the Masters Tournament was Horton Smith in 1934. He repeated his win in 1936.

The player with the most Masters victories is Jack Nicklaus, who won six times between 1963 and 1986.

Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods have each won four, and Jimmy Demaret, Gary Player, Sam Snead, Nick Faldo and Phil Mickelson have three titles to their name.

Player also became the tournament’s first overseas winner with his first victory in 1961.

Other notable winners include Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Tom Watson, Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, Ben Crenshaw, José María Olazábal and Bubba Watson, who have all won the Masters twice

The US Masters – Who’s our tip for 2017…

It’s very difficult to predict the outcome of these events.

We all remember Jordan Speith’s now infamous collapse in 2016 allowing Brit Danny Willett to come up on the inside and steal the day.

As with many sports, modern technology now allows us to make a bet on our favourite players, even once the tournament has started.

However, if you are thinking of getting in on the action this year be sure you are using as respected and established company….

You can also now gamble on who finishes last, who takes the most putts across the week and even on who’s scores the most birdies but one of the recent innovations in picking the winner of The Major Championship is LIVE betting. E.g.  Betting on Live Golf Events*

* Bet responsibly (like the ad says, When The Fun Stops, STOP!)

There’s are plenty of reputable betting companies available on which to place a bet but ensure you are only using a recognised bookmaker who is also regulated by the UK Gambling Commission.

The US Masters – Our favourites…

US Masters GolfAs we write this article we are still some weeks away from the US Masters, so its probably too early to predict our winner but this year could be a vintage year.

Tiger is back, Rory wants to add this Major to his portfolio, Henrik Stenson is hungry for more Majors but as last year showed it could be anyone.

Maybe we should look to Official World Golf Ranking for inspiration….

1 1 Jason Day AUS 10.60
2 2 Rory McIlroy NIR 9.59
3 3 Dustin Johnson USA 9.19
4 4 Henrik Stenson SWE 8.42
5 5 Jordan Spieth USA 8.19
6 6 Hideki Matsuyama JPN 7.95
7 7 Adam Scott AUS 6.34
8 12 Justin Thomas USA 5.78
9 8 Patrick Reed USA 5.40
10 9 Alex Noren SWE 5.24

But, that’s about it for our tips!

The US Masters – And finally…

With the US Masters no longer just one of Golf’s big events but also one of Sport’s great annual spectacles, and as such we will again be parked in front of the TV come 6th April….and we can’t wait!


By Ian Mullins

 

Whos tipped for success in The Majors in 2017?

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

the majors golf trophies 2

Every year we look forward to the start of the new golfing season, which is traditionally marked by the first of the Major’s, with tee shot being hit at The US Masters…..and 2017 will be no exception!

This event is quickly followed by the remaining ‘Grand Slam’ events including:

  • The US Masters (Augusta National) April
  • The US Open (Various) June
  • The Open (Various) July
  • The PGA Championship (Various) August

This is then now complemented but The Olympics every four years (from 2106) with the host city supplying the venue.

However, most of the discussion around these events in dominated each January by the talk of the pundits and on who will build on the success of the previous season and who is expected to break though into the top 50 and even the Top 10 and even win one of the above.

Predicting who the glory and trophies will go to isn’t as easy as you think!

In a series of article regarding The Majors in golf, we start with the first official event….


The-Open-Championship-The MajorsThe Majors – The Open Championship…

Golf’s Majors began with the introduction of The OPEN (only played in the UK) in 1860.

The Open was first played on 17 October 1860 at Prestwick Golf Club in Scotland.

The Open Championship is the only major hosted in the UK (Great Britain & Northern Ireland) and not at a course in the United States.

The oldest and arguably the most prestigious of all the Majors, players compete for the now famous Claret Jug – first presented in 1873 – is one of the most iconic trophies in all of sport, but originally they players competed for the Challenge Belt.

The inaugural tournament was restricted to professionals and attracted a field of eight golfers who played three rounds of Prestwick’s twelve-hole course in a single day.

The event was won with a score of 174 by Willie Park Sr. who beat one of golf’s original luminaries in the game.

The following year the tournament was opened to amateurs; eight of them joined ten professionals in the field.

However, when Old Tom Morris won this for the third time in 1864, he was allowed to keep The Challenge Belt and thus the Claret Jug was commissioned!

In 1871, it agreed to organise it jointly with The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers.

In 1892 the event was doubled in length from 36 to 72 holes, four rounds of what was by then the standard complement of 18 holes.

The 1894 Open was the first held outside Scotland, at the Royal St George’s Golf Club in England.

Other key dates include:

  • 1898 – Cut introduced after 36 holes. Those 20 or more strokes behind the leader were excluded
  • 1904 – Extended to a third day with 18 holes on each of the first two days. Cut rule unchanged
  • 1905 – Cut rule changed to exclude those 15 or more strokes behind the leader
  • 1907 – Qualifying introduced, replacing the 36-hole cut and the contest reduced again to two days
  • 1910 – Cut reintroduced instead of qualifying, play extended to 3 days again. Top 60 and ties made the cut.
  • 1911 – An increase in the no. of entries, the first 2 rounds were spread over 3 days, with 36 holes on 4th day
  • 1912 – Qualifying reintroduced to replace the cut. Contest reduced again to two days
  • 1926 – Cut reintroduced. First Open with both qualifying and a cut. Extended again to a third day with 18 holes on the first two days. Those 15 or more strokes behind the leader were excluded from the final day. Days standardised as Wednesday to Friday
  • 1929 – Cut rule changed to ensure that at least 60 made the cut even if 15 or more strokes behind the leader
  • 1937 – Cut rule changed to top 40 and ties
  • 1946 – Cut rule changed to be a maximum of 40 players. Ties for 40th place did not make the cut
  • 1951 – Cut rule changed to be a maximum of 50 players. Ties for 50th place did not make the cut
  • 1957 – Leaders after 36 holes go off last, replacing the random draw
  • 1963 – Cut rule changed to top 45 and ties
  • 1964 – Playoff reduced from 36 holes to 18, followed by sudden-death if still level
  • 1966 – Play extended to four days, 18 holes per day from Wed to Sat. Cut rule changed to top 55 and ties
  • 1971 – Cut rule changed to top 80 and ties after 36 holes and then top 60 and ties after 54 holes
  • 1973 – Play in groups of three introduced for the first two rounds
  • 1974 – Use of “bigger ball” (1.68 in, 42.67 mm) made compulsory
  • 1978 – 10-shot rule introduced so that players within 10 shots of the leader make the cut even if outside the top 80/60
  • 1980 – Play changed to Thursday to Sunday
  • 1986 – 54-hole cut discontinued. Cut rule changed to top 70 and ties after 36 holes. 4 hole playoff introduced
  • 1996 – 10-shot rule dropped

 


Royal Birkdale 2017 - The MajorsThe Majors – Present Day…

Since the inaugural championship, the tournament has gone from strength to strength and journeyed to numerous locations in the UK but surprisingly has still only been hosted by ONLY 14 venues.

However, whilst the R&A look to add new venues to the list, in 2019, the event returns to Northern Ireland at Royal Portrush Golf Club. Not part of the roster since 1951.

In 2017, The OPEN Championship will be held on the Royal Birkdale course that is located in the town of Southport, just north of Liverpool.

This is the 146th Open Championship and the 10th time it will be hosted at the Royal Birkdale.

It has hosted the men’s championship nine times, first in 1954 and most recently in July 2008.

It is scheduled to host the 2017 Open Championship.

Previous winners of the Open at Royal Birkdale ionclude: Pádraig Harrington, Mark O’Meara, Ian Baker-Finch, Tom Watson, Johnny Miller, Lee Trevino, Arnold Palmer and Peter Thomson (twice).

It hosted the women’s tournament for the sixth time in 2014, and was the site of the Senior Open Championship in 2013. Royal Birkdale has also hosted the

Royal Birkdale has also hosted the Ryder Cup (19651969), the Walker Cup (1951), and the Curtis Cup (1948).


The Majors – Making your own predictions…

With golf’s Majors generating a huge audience from around the globe (even when Tiger isn’t playing!) it creates a lot of column inches and conjecture.

So, choosing your winner is going to be difficult…I picked Danny Willet last year but didn’t place a bet!!

If you are thinking of getting in on the action this year here is some of what you need to know The Open and how best to place a bet.

Interestingly, as of November 2016, the Commission announced that online betting had overtaken localised betting in shops and casinos.

There are plenty of high street options but with smart phones now allowing us to predict winners from our armchair, it can only add to the viewing experience knowing you may get lucky.

However, before taking advantage of some of the advertised TV offers, check out the many great offers available online available e.g. Ladbrokes £50 free bet offer.

Something to consider given the additional value you can get from some of offers online gambling sites give, even providing you with the chance to bet heavier on your favourites.

Of course, like the Grand National, this may be your only bet of the year…. but who should you register with?


The Majors – How Best to Place a Bet…

Firstly, there’s never been an easier time than to place a bet but ensure you are only using a recognised bookmaker who is also regulated by the UK Gambling Commission.

Secondly, study the form…. many a bet has been wasted by not checking the recent form of the field.

A schoolboy error some would say, so also ways look for advice and help before committing to your bet.

There are plenty of pundits available via national press and on social media but we would also recommend you do your own research.


The Majors – Our favourites…

The Claret Jug - The Majors

One of the most difficult things for new betters to wrap their heads around is the fact that there will be few if any, new faces on the course because, most qualified for being previous 10 years of winners of the Open Championship and 30 from the European and PGA tours.

Then there are another 50 who are considered to be global greats who are not included in that number above so that only leaves a little over 60 golfers, many of whom are just making it to the limelight.

Some of the names we are tipping for honours for the first time or those looking to add a second or third major to their portfolio (15th in Tiger’s case!):

– Mark Fitzpatrick (New kid on the block with a win at Wentworth and Dubai in 2016

– Andrew ‘BEEF’ Johnstone (Won Spanish Open in 2016 and a crowd favourite)

– Alex Noren (Winner at British Masters & Nedbank Challenge)

– Rory McIlroy (Tipped to be a multiple Major winner, he’s now in his prime!)

– Lee Westwood (Could he finally break his duck after numerous Top 3 finishes)

– Tiger (Yes, we still rate him and he’s got some people to prove wrong!)

But, that’s about it for our tips!


The Majors – And finally…

It’s probably now easier to bet online than ever before, so if you want to step into the world of gambling on your favourite sporting events, begin watching possible entrants as early as possible.

By the time July rolls around, you’ll be ready to place your bet and then just sit back and watch the fun.

Lastly, we always recommend betting responsibly (like the ad says, When The Fun Stops, STOP!) but equally, when played properly, there’s a real incentive to bet online, for sure!

#havefun


By Ian Mullins

Golfing in Sicily …

Monday, November 7th, 2016

golfing-in-sicily-verdura-resortFirst thing that gets mentioned when people think of Sicily is the Mafia, quickly followed by the movie The Godfather, aka Al Pacino and Marlon Brando… however, when it comes to golfing in Sicily, all the talk is about the Verdura Resort!

And for those that have visited this ancient Mediterranean island, the discussion refers to beautiful coastlines, a temperate climate and the passionate locals – who’s love of fresh food and excellent wines are second to none.

Golfing in Sicily – The Location…

The infamous island of Sicily is found just off the South West coast of Italy’s mainland.

At its closest point it is less than 10 miles, however, the locals see themselves as very different from their mainland cousins.

Famous for its volcano (Etna), the rock that stands tall in the heart of the Mediterranean. The resort is located on the southern coast of Sicily between Agrigento and the fishing city of Sciacca, a 80-minute drive from Trapani and Palermo airports.

Golfing in Sicily – The Resort‎

Since opening in 2009, Verdura Resort, a Rocco Forte hotel has quickly established itself amongst Europe’s premier contemporary luxury golf and lifestyle destinations.

The resort is set in 230 hectares of stunning landscape with 1.8km of private coastline, and offers golfing guests and families a very modern five-star experience.

golfing-in-sicily-verdura-resort-7Verdura features 203 rooms and suites, all with sea view, and is built with the golfer in mind.

Golfers can enjoy the two 18-hole championship courses and a nine-hole par-three course, all designed by world-renowned golf architect Kyle Phillips and playable all-year-round.

Verdura was the host venue for the European Tour’s 2012 Sicilian Open and its three links-style layouts have been built to the highest specifications.

The resort’s Par 72 East Course is ranked as one of the finest in continental Europe.

While the West Course (also Par 72) provides the ideal complement and features one of the most memorable finishes anywhere in the world, with the final four holes set alongside the Mediterranean.

The courses are also supported by an on resort golf academy.

There is even a Par 3 course which is more than a good test, even for the seasoned Pro.

Verdura’s other sports facilities include six tennis courts; a 60m two-tiered infinity pool; numerous watersports, one football pitch,  fully-equipped gym and a collection of running trails through olive and lemon groves.

golfing-in-sicily-verdura-resortThe resort’s award-winning 4,000sqm SPA complex includes 11 treatment rooms, gym, yoga studio, a 25-metre indoor lap pool, four outdoor Thalassotherapy pools, a double-height steam room, male and female saunas and a SPA bar for healthy alternatives.

Guests can sample an authentic taste of traditional Sicily with an array of dishes at one of the resort’s four restaurants and five bars – with  fresh, organic produce sourced straight from Verdura’s own garden.

I enjoyed beautifully cooked steaks and marinated Tuna salads, all with the lashings of Olive Oil made on site.

You can even have Sicilian cooking lessons, which I did and managed to surprise my playing partners and even myself with a fine attempt at the local pasta dish – Pasta Alla Norma!

Verdura Resort has received widespread international recognition and won numerous awards since opening.

Among its most recent honours, it was ranked fourth in Golf World’s inaugural list of the ‘Top 100 Golf Resorts in Continental Europe’ and named by Golf Digest as a recipient of an ‘Editors’ Choice Award’ for Best International Resorts 2016.

Golfing in Sicily – The Accommodation…

Verdura Resort fuses strong, modernist, environmentally-sensitive architecture with design that is firmly rooted in Sicilian culture and inspired by this superb setting.

In keeping with the raw, rugged scenery beyond the property, the architect, Flavio Albanese of Vicenza and Palermo, applied minimalist, contemporary lines to the construction of Verdura‟s accommodation, spa, restaurants and outdoor entertainment arena.

In fact, one of the things you first notice is how low rise everything is.

Rooms are generous and simply designed and each room is self-contained in such a way that you would be forgiven if you thought you were the only people staying.

On numerous occasions we remarked on the peace and quiet to be found around the resort. This is complimented by the common use of bgolfing-in-sicily-verdura-resortikes by all the visitors, thus keeping down noise.

Each room has a private terrace with views of both the sea and the golf courses, the orange, lemon and olive groves, to the mountains in the distance.

In addition, Verdura Resort has green credentials at the heart of its design.

In 2014, in collaboration with the Botany Department of Palermo University, they committed to the creation and naturalization of wetlands, which are a stopping point for migratory birds and nestling waterfowl.

The project entailed the re-naturalization of the land by restoring over 70,000 native Sicilian plants and scrubs species

The East Course – 6200yards – Par 72…

The first tee on the East course is a 360 yard dog-legged Par 4 right with bunkers positioned on either side of the fairway at the turn.

By all means take on the pin with a high fade leaving you a short iron in to the raised green but over cook it and you’ll find yourself heading back to the tee. This hole sets the tone for the rest of your round.

golfing-in-sicily-verdura-resortThe front nine is mostly flat‎ but their are many undulations and protected greens that mean accuracy (not length) and  patience is required to score well.

The signature holes going out are the challenging 450 yard Par 4 with a tee required to clear water and your second needing to avoid the 30 yard turfed gully protecting the raised green  over looking the sea.

This quickly followed by the Par 3 6th, a 110 yard hole with the green surround by the pebbled beach of the ‎south Sicily coastline.

A flat circular green rewards the brave but you will find this a tough if a sea breeze is prevailing.

Finally, I’ll tip my cap to the Par 4 7th but only as a piece of unashamed self-indulgence, as this hole produced the greatest golf shot of my golf life.

A 175-yard end shot into a protected green, one bounce and in the cup for my maiden Eagle! (sorry Ed.)

The beginning of the back nine almost  mirrors the starting hole only this time it’s a dog-leg par 4 and your turning left. Following this, the course opens up.

Expansive fairways, soft sand filled bunkers,  a challenging Par 3’s (200+ yards uphill) but more chances to get a few pars on your card.

Holes 13, 14 and 15 lined by orange trees and sumptuous fairways all test the mid handicapper but once again it’s the 125 yard Par 3‎ where a Mediterranean sea backdrop stays in the memory.

The 17th and 18th also fail to disappoint. The penultimate,  a 400 yard Par 4, framed by roughly terrained hilltop shadowing the green.

The last, a 430 yard Par 4 that suggests a low fade but don’t cut it or you’ll be in the deep blue. The course finishes back at the rusty orange fort like clubhouse with a wide a sloping green that is asking to be birdied.

A comfortable and relaxed four hour round, a beautiful sunset, followed by some excellent local pasta. Bellissimo!

The West course – 6750 yards – Par 72…

Here you start your round by heading away from the shore inland.

The 1st hole is a 495 yard Par 5 that slowly bears left for your approach shot.

The green has a gentle incline moving from front to back meaning you can’t leave it short or you’ll be making bogey.

The stand out holes on this course are evenly spread but the 4th hole (also a Par 5) is a delight.

golfing-in-sicily-verdura-resortFairway bunkers to the right suggest staying on the left is the sensible option and a well placed second shot (again left) should leave you with a simple putt up the apron of the green to an immense green.

However, if you’re at the front, and the pin is at the back, you could find yourself with a 40ft putt, this course clearly needs some strategy.

Quickly followed by the 5th, a very challenging Par 4 with a 30ft drop in the middle of the fairway and up again, to the raised green.

‎As you head back south, the superb 424 yard Par 4 8th will invite you take on the green but be prepared to lay up and putt your way up to the elevated green the accept the bogey, as a wayward shot will leave you in the left side bunker with 8ft face to overcome.

Go long and you could find yourself on the beach earlier in the day than you’d planned.

As the heat of the day builds and given this course can be attacked by some strong winds (it is a links course after all) it’s important to keep abreast with speed of the greens.

They can vary in pace greatly‎.

As you pass the turn‎ hole 11 offers you a chance to open your shoulders and crack your best drive down a 511 yard fairway downhill.

The right side is a wall of reeds for the first 250 yards so stay left.

Two good shots are then needed as the green stand guarded by mogul like mounds. If you make Par, you’ve done well.

As you reach the end of your round, you are then met by arguably three of the best placed finishing holes in Europe.

15, 16, 17 and 18, are all flanked by the rocky coastline, you are challenged by a two shortest Par 3’s and two longish Par 4’s – the last finishing right underneath the clubhouse terrace where many enjoying a chilled beer or more likely a cocktail will clap you in.

Verdura Resort – Other things in the area‎

golfing-in-sicily-verdura-resortGolfing in Sicily is not the only pastime and on any golfing holiday, it’s important to go beyond the fairways and in this instance there is plenty to see and do locally.

Whether it’s visiting the ancient caves (Greek Temples dating back to 12,000 BC) in Syracuse or the regional wineries, which is a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon, tasting and appreciating the local vine culture.

We visited the much awarded Planeta winery in nearby Menfi, less than an hour from Verdura.

Golfing in Sicily – The Verdict…

This is truly fantastic place to visit and perfect for golfers of all levels.

If you are considering golfing in Sicily, this is a superb destination for those seeking Autumn and Winter golf (it would be wise to avoid the hot summer months as it can reach as high as 45C in July) as this is a place I would happily return to, and not just for the golf…

If someone offers to take you to the  golfing in Sicily at the Verdura Resort, to paraphrase Mr.Pacino and Mr.Brando …. it’s an offer you can’t refuse!!!!

TSG Verdict: 5 out of 5


By Ian Mullins

The History of the Golf Ball…

Monday, October 10th, 2016

Royal and Ancient Golf Club

Which came first – the golf club or the golf ball?

The History of the Golf Ball – Where it began…

In the first four hundred years of golf, there were only four types of golf ball – the Hairy, the Feathery, the Gutty and the Haskell.

The ‘feathery’ or ‘featherie’, which dominated golf for over 200 years, was the making of golf on the links.

However, before the feathery, came the ‘hairy’, inexplicably written out of golf history, due partly to the romance of the feathery, though it was arguably the reason why golf initially developed in Scotland, when many other similar games died out.

The History of the Golf Ball – The Wooden

The use of wooden balls in golf in Scotland is an assumption, but without any definite evidence.

Wooden balls were used extensively in northern continental games such as Colf, Crosse and Mail which share some characteristics of golf.

Examples of these balls have been found and descriptions of wooden balls in golf and the types of wood used are derived from these sources and not from any examples or accounts in Scotland.

The spherical wood balls were smooth and thus not did not have good handling properties. Although they were more hard-wearing, the distance they could be hit was only about 75 metres.

It is unlikely links golfers used these in preference to the hairy colf/golf balls which were available in Scotland from the time golf is first recorded.

Wooden balls may well have been used in the above-ground, target game in Scotland, also termed golf, but this is not golf proper and it is more likely than not that the ‘hairy’ colf ball was the first ball used for golf on the links in Scotland.

The History of the Golf Ball – The Hairy…

The Romans had a small, leather stitched handball filled with hair, called the harpastum, though there is no known connection to colf or golf and it is not believed that they used this ball in any stick and ball game.

The hairy ball was almost certainly one of the balls imported between 1486-1618 from The Netherlands, where it was manufactured in large quantities as a by-product of the Dutch agricultural revolution.

It came into its own on the Scottish Links.

This type of golf ball was being made in Scotland from at least 1554, when there is a reference to a dispute between the cordiners (leather workers/cobblers) of the Cannongate in Edinburgh and the ‘cordiners and gouff ball makers of North Leith’.

Hairy Ball Amersfoort

A Hairy Colf Ball from 16th Century was found in 1984 in Amersfoort, courtesy of Archeologish Centrum Amersfoort, The Netherlands.

The hairy was originally used in colf, particularly in the version played on ice, where it had better handling characteristics than wood.

It is estimated that the ball could be hit 135-150 meters and it was more controllable than wooden colf balls, although it was prone to water damage.

As the weather in the east of Scotland is comparatively drier in the winter and, as the links land dries quickly, ball damage would be mitigated.

The manufacturing technique would have been broadly the same as that outlined below for the ‘feathery’, and other materials such as cow hair or straw were used.

These balls apparently continued in use for decades, referred to as ‘common’ balls at 2 shillings, half the price of the best golf balls, from late 16th century until early 18th century.

There is a record of a dozen ‘goiff balls’ being purchased for £3 for the young Earl of Montrose in the early 17th century, which would be 5 shillings per ball and no small expense.

In 1618, James VI/I granted a 21 year patent to James Melville and William Berwick to make golf balls in Scotland, as the cost of imported balls was becoming exorbitant, but this licence was later successfully challenged and became unenforceable.

The History of the Golf Ball – The Feathery…

The feathery or featherie is the most famous of all golf balls, though it is not definitively known when or where it was developed.

There is a reference in the Edinburgh Testaments (vol xlvii 123b) to ‘fyve scoir twell flok goiff ballis’ (112 flok golf balls) in a will in 1612.

Flok, from the Latin for ‘floccus’ meaning wool, is also used to refer to ‘the down of unfledged birds’ as well ‘a tuft of feathers on the head of young birds’ (OED) and is thus probably an early reference to feathery balls and may explain their origin. The cordiners began by using the sweepings out of bird coops.

The first reference in the Netherlands is in a poem in 1657 (a pennebal) with a Scottish ‘cleek’, so it is possible that it was developed in Scotland and the concept re-exported to the Netherlands.

No written reference to the feathery per se has been found in Scotland before 1724, when Alan Ramsay refers to it in an unpublished draft of a poem, cited in The Chronicles of Golf.

The most famous mention of the feathery in ‘The Goff’ by Thomas Mathison in 1743 – “the feathers harden and the leather swells”.

“..the work of Bobson, who with matchless art, Shapes the firm hide, connecting every part,
Then in a socket sets the well-stiched void. And thro’ the eyelet drives the downy tide;
Crowds urging crowds the forceful brogue impels, The feathers harden and the leather swells.”

Thomas Mathison 1743

Feathers are keratin, a hydrocarbon plastic, found in most animals, forming hair and nails in man.

The ball’s manufacturing process began as three pieces of leather stitched together and turned inside out leaving a ¼ inch slit through which the feathers were pushed with the ‘brogue’ using the chest.

The feathers and leather were wet and, as they dried, the feathers expanded and the leather shrank, creating a two way pressure and a tight ball with characteristics only recently matched by modern balls.

Opinion is divided as to whether the feathers or leather were boiled and there was more than a ‘hat’ full of feathers in each ball.

Afterwards, the balls were painted white for protection and so that they could be found.

Early reports say a ball maker would make 2 to 3 balls per day. The New Statistical Account of Scotland 1838 estimated

The New Statistical Account of Scotland 1838 estimated a expert ball maker could make 50 to 60 balls in a week.

With Tom Morris as his apprentice, Allan Robertson made 1,021 featherie golf balls in 1840, 1,392 in 1841 and 2,456 in 1844.

The work was hard, as shown recently by a review of autopsy reports of golf ball makers. Allan Robertson died at 44. Many of the Gourlay golf ball-makers at Bruntsfield also died young.

Feathery J Goulay

John Gourlay, 18th-century ball maker from Edinburgh with an example of his feathery which sold at Bonhams for £5,000

Top quality featheries could sell for 5/- (5 shillings, called a crown), though there were lesser quality balls costing half that price.

These were known as ‘common’ balls and were probably hairy balls or leather balls with cheaper materials or with course stitching and may have included recycled balls.

Today, featheries from named makers such as Tom Morris, Allan Robertson or his father command thousands of pounds at auction.

Featheries could be packed harder than ‘hairies’ and would thus travel further.

In 1786, a controlled test in Glasgow recorded an average distance of 193 yards and 1 foot from 5 drives by John Gibson, ranging from 182 to 201 yards.

The ‘official’ feathery record was set in 1836 at 361 yards by Samuel Messieux from Hole O’Cross green into Hell Bunker at St Andrews, wind assisted.

The History of the Golf Ball – The Gutty…

From 1848, golf balls made of gutta-percha gum, called ‘gutties’ began to replace featheries. Several claims are made about the origin of the gutty.

The traditional story of their creation, relates that in 1843 Robert Adams Paterson a divinity student at St Andrews, received a package from Singapore of the God Vishnu packed in gutta-percha, which is  dried gum resin from guttiferous trees especially of the Malaysian sapodilla tree.

It was not uncommon to make things from this gutta-percha packaging and Paterson tried heating and molding it to make golf balls.

His early experiments were not successful.

After he graduated and emigrated to America, where he died in 1904, his brother worked on to create an acceptable prototype, which he stamped “Paterson’s Composite – Patented” golf ball.

The patent existed only in his imagination, as none was ever granted.

Gutty Christies 2006

Gutty Golf Ball which sold at Christie’s for £180 in 2006.

Rev John Kerr writing in 1896 does not mention this story but provides three other tales ascribing the origin of gutties to Dr Montgomery in 1842, Campbell of Saddell in North Berwick in 1848, and Mr H T Peter at Innerleven in 1848.

These merely claimed to have discovered gutties, not invented them.

The first gutties were smooth, but it was soon noticed that the ball performed better after it had nicks and blemishes.

It is said that a saddle maker in St Andrews used tools to create regular grooves, which was better than random cutting.

Initial reception to the gutty was mixed, as gutties were not demonstrably better than featheries, merely cheaper and more robust.

In 1848 Admiral W H Maitland Dougall at Blackheath adopted it, while Alan Robertson who saw them at Innerleven initially did not.

John Gourlay at Musselburgh is said to have disposed of all of his featheries to Sir David Baird and then gone into the production of gutties.

However, by 1860, they were good enough and popular enough to replace the feathery and a new era of golf was born.

In 1871, Willie Dunn at Musselburgh created a mould to make gutties, which was a quicker and more consistent method of production.

Gutties were painted white or red for winter play, for the same reason as featheries, as protection and to be able to find them.

The cost of gutties was 1/- one shilling, much cheaper than featheries, and a main factor in bringing golf to the masses. The gutty lasted until 1900.

The History of the Golf Ball – The Haskell…

Haskell Golf Ball, unsold at Mullocks in Jan 2014

Coburn Haskell, an American, developed a wound core ball in 1898.

In 1899, he and Bertram Work, an employee of the Goodrich rubber company in Ohio, patented the Haskell ball, as it came to be known, in 1899 – a solid core wrapped tightly with rubber threads covered with a layer of gutta-percha.

The ball arrived in Britain in 1900, but in 1905 Haskell’s patent in UK was refused onHaskell Mullocks 2014 the grounds of prior existence from 1870.

This means that, for different reasons, none of the golf balls which were the making of golf were patented in the UK.

The hand winding of the rubber threads was soon mechanized.

The outside covering was initially a Bramble pattern, and it would be a dozen years before superior dimples patterns that we know today were developed.

Bobby Jones described this as the most important development in golf, and it certainly was of his lifetime.

Within a few years, the Haskell was outperforming the gutty and superseded it.

In 500 Years of Golf Balls, Chick Evans relates how, when he was a caddy, he witnessed the first use, and loss, and finding of a Haskell golf ball.

Though the first 2-piece ball with solid core and cover, was developed in 1902, it would be decades before the Haskell ball was replaced.

In 1967, Spalding re-devised this construction using Suralyn as cover. Since then, there has been a never-ending explosion of 1, 2 and 3 piece developments of cores with variations of covers and dimples.

The result is golf balls than spin slower off the driver, and hence slice less, but still allow control in short game.

This enables high handicap golfers to play like pros, as we all know!

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The History of the Golf Ball By Scott Phillips at Premier Lake Balls

Stoke Park renovations…

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

Stoke Park renovationsBACK-NINE BOOST FOR STOKE PARK’S HISTORIC COURSE!

Stoke Park renovations…

Following a widely acclaimed renovation of its first nine holes last winter, Stoke Park Country Club, Spa & Hotel, in Buckinghamshire, is to follow suit on holes 10 to 18 from November.

In keeping with the work undertaken on the Colt course last winter, the scheduled refurbishment of the Alison course, comprising holes 10 to 18, will see every bunker fully renovated.

In addition, there will be new tees and an extensive reworking of the water features on holes 12 and 17, plus some cosmetic tweaks to the water hazard on 16.

The Alison will, consequently, be closed until the spring, but 18 holes will remain open throughout as members and visitors can combine the nines of the Colt (holes one to nine) and Lane Jackson (holes 19-27) courses.

Stoke Park renovations – What they said…

Stoke Park renovationsStoke Park’s director of golf, Stuart Collier, explained: “When we began the renovation last year it was always a three-year plan, with one of each of the nine holes being refurbished each winter.”

“The work on the Colt course has been a spectacular success and we’re now looking to bring the second nine holes in line with the first, both in terms of design consistency and playability.”

Additionally, we’re looking to create a truly world-class finish on holes 16 to 18, without losing the feel and aesthetic that Harry Colt was kind enough to leave us. And, in doing that, we need to also ensure the course can be played and enjoyed by golfers of all levels.

He went on to say, “We achieved that aim on the Colt nine and firmly believe we will, ultimately, attain the same high level of design aesthetic and playability on the Alison, to ensure the course is at peak condition for the 21st century golfer.”

Stoke Park renovations – What about the ‘James Bond’ hole…

Included in the Stoke Park renovations are the holes famously recorded for posterity in the 1964 James Bond classic Goldfinger – the 17th and 18th – when the eponymous ‘baddie’ was beaten by Sean Connery’s 007, in front of the clubhouse. So the legend remains!

The stunning course is laid out across 300 acres of parkland created by the celebrated Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown – the 300th anniversary of whose birth is currently being celebrated nationwide – and was designed by the equally revered golf architect Harry Colt, 1908.

Stoke Park renovations – How much is it costing…

This winter’s Stoke Park renovations, the middle section of a three-part project, is the latest instalment of a seven-figure investment in a facelift of the whole course by owners the King family.

The work begins on November 1 and the Alison course will be reopened to members on April 21, 2017.

Stoke Park Country Club, Spa & Hotel is one of just two five-AA Red Star golf clubs in England and the historic land on which it stands is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086.

It was awarded the accolade of ‘Ultimate Members Club’ at the fifth annual 59Club Service Excellence Awards, held earlier this year.

The historic course played host to the PGA Matchplay in 1910 and has a thriving golf club with around 800 active members.

For more information go to www.stokepark.com

By Dave Bowers

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Golf returns to the 2016 Olympics…

Monday, August 8th, 2016

Golf returns to the 2016 OlympicsIs it really 1461 days ago since the great British public were all sitting on our sofa’s preparing for the greatest show on earth to descend upon London?

Good as it was, there was always one thing missing for the London 2012 Olympic games?

But what? Fast forward four years and we have the answer – golf returns to the 2016 Olympics!

Forget the Zika virus, forget those players not travelling to Rio, forget  the problems that have plagued the course forget the debates about whether the format should be individual or team based…

…GOLF is back on terrestrial TV and that can only be a good thing for the game!

Golf returns to the 2016 Olympics – The Dates…

It’s been over 100 years since golf last appeared in the Olympics and it was St. Louis, USA, that hosted the event that year.

This year the tournament will take place at the ‘The Rio’ course purpose built for the event in the Barra da Tijuca neighbourhood in western Rio.

The Men’s quest for gold will begin on Thu 11th and run through to the Sun 14th, much the same as all PGA/European tournaments. The Ladies quest will begin on Wed 17th and finish on Sat 20th – check TV listings for more details.

Golf returns to the 2016 Olympics – The Venue… 

Olympic golf course, Reserva de Marapendi, Barra da Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The new Olympic golf course was built by Hanse Golf Course Design, who was chosen from eight contenders to build the course.

The President of the Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Rio 2016 Carlos Arthur Nuzman said: “As the 2016 Games marks the return of golf to the Olympic Games after over a century of absence, this course represents the beginning of a new chapter in the history of the sport.”

He went on to say…“It will enable Rio to host important events in the international calendar and it will be an example of sustainability and preservation of an environmentally protected area.

“This course will be an excellent facility for the practice and development of golf and will inspire millions of youth across Brazil and the globe. We look forward to welcoming the athletes and spectators to the course in 2016.”

After the games, the course will become a public facility and will be used to enhance golf’s profile within Brazil and, according to the organising committee, this would represent “one of the most important Olympic Games legacies for sport development in the country.”

Golf returns to the 2016 Olympics – Qualification…

Qualification to Rio is based on world ranking as of 11 July 2016, with a total of 60 players qualifying in each of the men’s and women’s events.

The top 15 players of each event (Men’s and Ladies) will qualify, with a maximum of four golfers allowed to enter.

Once all countries have selected their players any remaining spots will go the highest-ranked players from countries that do not already have two golfers qualified.

Furthermore, at least one golfer from the host nation and each geographical region (Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, and Oceania) will play.

Golf returns to the 2016 Olympics – The favourites…

Unfortunately, many of the world’s best golfers are sitting out the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio due to the threat of the Zika virus, there will be a limited field for those who like a flutter  when the games get underway.

As always we have visited a number of betting sites to gauge the market, this time we have taken our lead from 888sport

Among the biggest names competing for the gold medal in men’s golf for the first time in the Olympics since 1904 is favourite Henrik Stenson of Sweden.

Stenson won the 2016 British Open at Royal Troon in Scotland last month, it was his first major victory of his career, and he now hopes to repeat the feat at the new Olympic Golf Course in Barra da Tijuca.

Stenson placed seventh at the PGA Championship last weekend and is expected to battle Sergio Garcia of Spain for the gold. Garcia is the second choice on the Rio Olympics odds and missed the cut at the PGA Championship following fifth-place in each of the previous events: the British Open and U.S. Open.

The other contenders for gold include Justin Rose of England, Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed, Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar of the United States, along with Martin Kaymer of Germany.

Of those golfers, Rose, Watson and Kaymer have won majors while Reed, Fowler and Kuchar have all yet to prove themselves on major events, although maybe the Olympics will change that.

To be considered as well, reigning Masters winner Danny Willett of England.

The Olympic format will be a 72-hole individual stroke play tournament in accordance with PGA rules. A three-hole playoff will then take place if there are any ties for the first three places in order to award gold, silver and bronze medals.

Golf returns to the 2016 Olympics – TSG Prediction…

OK, we may be a tad bias, but  as golf returns to the 2016 Olympics, we think it’s going to be Justin Rose’s year – remember where you heard it first!

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By Ian Mullins

 

Ashdown West Golf Club – TSG Review…

Monday, July 4th, 2016

Ashdown West Golf ClubIt’s always a pleasure to review new golf courses, so I felt very excited about visiting  Ashdown West Golf Club at Forest Row, East Grinstead to give it the once over.

Previously known as the West Course at  Royal Ashdown Forest Golf Club, there’s a lot enjoy…

Ashdown West Golf Club – The Clubhouse/Shop…

Situated only 20 minutes from the M25, the club is very accessible from all directions and is well worth visiting!

Newer than its sister course, on paper you could be forgiven for assuming Ashdown West Golf Club is the “poor relation” to  the “Old Course” but then you would be very much mistaken.

We arrived at lunchtime and met at the West Course clubhouse, a 2004 extension to the main clubhouse, but by no means overshadowed.

A short walk upstairs led to a bar area that was pleasant and very welcoming with two  outside terraces that overlooked the 1st tee & 18th green and the range.

We ordered sandwiches from the lady at the bar (who was very nice indeed); the sandwiches were plentiful, attractive to the eye and, most important, very tasty.

If the rest of the menu reached these standards, which I’m sure they do, then, no one will be disappointed with their choices.

A quick visit to the well-stocked pro shop to collect our cards from the young Pro (they’re all younger than me these days!) a quick practice on the driving range and at the chipping area, and we were on our way.

Ashdown West Golf Club – The History…

Ashdown West Golf ClubFounded in 1888, the Old Clubhouse was built five years later and parts of it still remain remarkably unchanged today. The bestowal of the title “Royal” came in 1893 after a visit from the then Duke of Cambridge.

Very few golf clubs boast two 18-hole courses, both over 100 years old, especially those that differ as much as the Ashdown West and the Old Course.

Ashdown West snakes its way through the heart of the Ashdown Forest that spreads for over 20 square miles in this most beautiful part of Sussex. The ‘West’ was once the longest ladies’ golf club in England.

It was originally founded as the Ashdown Forest & Tunbridge Wells Ladies Golf Club in 1889, barely six months after the formation of the main club and was only the second of its type to be formed in Great Britain, after Sunningdale Ladies.

In 1932 the course was lengthened to 18 holes, the same year that the ladies’ club was awarded Royal status in own right.

Since then it has gone through a number of alterations and now welcomes players of both sexes yet still remains of sufficient quality to be awarded Golf World magazine’s prestigious accolade as the UK’s best course under 6,000 yards.

Ashdown West Golf Club – The Course…

The 1st was a straight, tight, par 4, but a great opening hole to look at.

The fairway and green were in great condition (all them are at West Ashdown Golf Club), even though the previous day had seen torrential downpours; you wouldn’t even have known there had been any rain here.

The first six holes include the only Par 5 on the course which crosses a road mainly used walkers and some cars.

However, as there were not many golfers out this afternoon, I guess that the dog walkers know this and take advantage of the fact.  Whilst unusual and slightly distracting, it is public land so don’t let it  put you off your game.

If you can accept you will see others as you make your way, then you’re in for a real treat for the rest of the round.

The next six holes were tough, even though you are hitting only short irons.

There are no run-up areas to the raised greens from the fairways, meaning no pitch and runs allowed here but instead having to land directly onto the greens.

This was because of having very bumpy, rough, natural raised areas just in front of the greens which compensated for not having a single bunker on the course.

Yes, I’ll say it again – NOT A SINGLE BUNKER ON THE COURSE!

Strange, you may think, but it made the play no less challenging at all.

Included in this six was the 240 yard par 3 eleventh hole. I defy any mid to high handicapper to get down in three shots, What A Hole!!

The last six holes are a real joy, beautiful views, sweeping tree lined fairways and wonderfully true but tricky greens, there was even some water to avoid.

My most memorable shot of the day came at the 14th (index 1), a 450-yard par 4 right to left dogleg. Now, I can’t draw the ball, but I can certainly fade it (some say Slice), with great regularity…

I took on the trees to the left, with my driver and managed to clear them with that familiar shape on the shot.

Only problem was, I couldn’t see the end result; a ramble down the fairway allayed all my fears as, there it was, in the middle of the fairway, oh happy days!

There’s a beautiful downhill par 3 at the 16th which is only 122 yards, but still very tricky. It’s a dream hole to have a hole in one, you look down on the green with a brook just short, and giant oaks and pines for a backdrop.

It’s a dream hole to have a hole in one, you look down on the green with a brook just short, and giant oaks and pines for a backdrop.

You finish on the par 4, 435 yard 18th which has two streams running across the second half of the fairway, even if you have a great drive, take these on at your peril.

You may end up in them, AS I DID!!

Ashdown West Golf ClubAshdown West Golf Club – The Verdict…

This is a fantastic short course in great condition that will test your game to the max…

However, why should this game always be easy?

The beautiful scenery at West Ashdown Golf Club alone is enough just to pay the green fee and, if you play at the right time, you could be going round for just £20 on a lovely Summer’s afternoon with hardly anyone out there to spoil your game.

I will be back many more times in the very near future!

TSG Verdict: 4 out of 5


By Mark Crane

Golfing in the Algarve turns 50…

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

golfing in the algarveThe Algarve – Europe’s number one golf destination – has reported a record-breaking start to its golden year of golf, marking 50 years of golfing in the Algarve, since the birth of the game in the sunshine region.

Golfing in the Algarve turns 50 – Europe’s number 1 Golf Destination…

It’s hard to imagine the Algarve without thinking of golf, yet golf wasn’t born on this sunshine coastal area until 1966 when Henry Cotton first laid out the Championship course at Penina.

Fast-forward half a century and our alluring region has not only become one of Europe’s premier holiday spots, but also an award-winning golf destination.

With a staggering 40+ courses/layouts that can be played all-year-round, it’s no wonder the Algarve draws hundreds of thousands of golfers to its fairways each year.

The Algarve is the southernmost region of mainland Portugal, and more than half of its courses decorate the 150-mile coastline, which also boasts spectacular beaches, picturesque rocky coves, quaint fishing villages and a rich cultural heritage.

Golfing in the Algarve turns 50 – The stats…

The southern Portuguese coastline boasts 43 fabulous courses and fresh from celebrating its record year in 2015 when more than 1.2m rounds were played.

However, there was more good news with the release of results for the first four months of 2016 showing a huge increase of 17 per cent.

Figures for January to April showed more than 458,000 rounds of golf played – a staggering 68,000 more than the same period last year.

In real terms, that is more than 563 extra rounds played per day, as golfers flocked to the fairways.

Golf in Portugals' Algarve turns 50

Golf in the Algarve turns 50 – what they said…

Maria Manuel Delgado e Silva, ATA golf product manager, said: “What an amazing start to our landmark year for golf! As they say with a good wine or cheese – one gets better with age – and these results give us confidence that the Algarve continues to grow in popularity, attracting golfers from around the world”

“It has been a fantastic team effort from the thousands of people who work so hard and have shown such dedication throughout the Algarve’s golf industry.

“We believe we provide the best blend of golf, accommodation and hospitality, combined with climate, access and value for everyone.”

He added, “We would like to thank all golfers who have already visited and we are ready to extend a warm welcome to many more guests as our golden year continues.”

It’s a significant milestone for the region and it’s also fitting that the cream of European golf will be welcomed in October for the 10th edition of the Portugal Masters.

Thinking of golfing in the Algarve? Portugal is the perfect destination for golfers of all ages and abilities, with something to suit every taste and budget.

For more information visit: www.visitgolfalgarve.com or www.visitgolfalgarve50years.com

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Associação Turismo do Algarve (Algarve Tourism Association) is the official entity, appointed by the Portuguese Tourism Board, responsible for defining strategies and to promote golfing in the Algarve abroad.

ATA is a non-profitable association, a joint-venture between the public and private sector.

South Moor Golf Club – Augusta of the North…

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

South Moor Golf ClubThere have been many famous golf course designers who have made a name for themselves around the world but are there any more celebrated than South Moor Golf Club designer, Dr Alister MacKenzie?

He is probably most well known for being the designer of Augusta (home of the US Masters), Cypress Point and Royal Melbourne.

However, not so much is known of South Moor Golf Club in County Durham, England.

South Moor Golf Club – The Architect…

Nicknamed “The Course Doctor“, Alister MacKenzie was born in Yorkshire to Scottish parents in 1870.

He studied at Cambridge and Leeds Universities with degrees in Chemistry, Medicine and Science, joining his father’s medical practice in Leeds.

Away from work, he was an active member of the Leeds Golf Club. He went on to serve in the Boer War 1900-01.

After WWI he joined the Royal Engineers as Second Lieutenant in order to teach camouflage techniques at the Army Camouflage School in London.

Dr Alister MacKenzieHe later took up medicine again but then abandoned his medical practice in favour of golf course architecture.

His decision to do this was in part down to his strong conviction that golf had very real benefits for patients, and he was quoted as saying…

How frequently have I, with great difficulty, persuaded patients who were never off my doorstep to take up golf, and how rarely, if ever, have I seen them in my consulting rooms again!

He then emigrated to the United States and nine years after his work in County Durham, his fabulous Augusta creation staged its first Masters.

He died in January 1934 in California, the year the US Masters was inaugurated.

South Moor Golf Club – The Club…

Over the years the club has always been extremely well supported but in 2015, the club decided is was time to promote this little known gem to a wider audience.

The club originally started life as a miners only National Coal Board golf club in 1923.

MacKenzie was a friend of Basil Sadler, managing director of Holmside & South Moor Collieries and MacKenzie started work on the course two years after its opening to redesign its layout and his work is the bedrock of the course today.

Following the redesign, the club adopted the club motto ‘nil nisi optimum‘, roughly translated from the Latin meaning Nothing but the Best!”.

In 2011 The Daily Express portrayed the “Made by MacKenzie” stamp on our course when South Moor hosted the England Boys Open, the McGregor Trophy.

South Moor Golf Club – The Course…

South Moor Golf ClubThe layout of the course is as good as any the TSG team have played in recently. Each and every hole is different and you can certainly see where some of the Augusta layout was born.

The course starts with a simple Par 3, but don’t assume it’s an easy start. The green has more breaks and borrows than you can see.

Once away, the course meanders through parkland and undulating fairways but none of the inclines will leave you gasping for breath.

However, you will get to enjoy some great views across the Durham countryside.

All of the fairways are beautifully cut and the remains of the originally ploughed fields the fairways were built on just add to the attraction of the course.

Credit should go to the greenkeepers, who clearly love the course. All the tee boxes were immaculate and the yellow gorse (in full bloom on our visit) make the place a delight to walk around.

So, to the stand-out holes. The 4th is a challenging Par 4, dog-leg left finishing to a tiny green protected by bunkers – a real treat to play. The 7th is a perfectly straight downhill Par 4,  but you will need a measured shot to ensure you hold the green.

South Moor Golf Club

The 10th is again a testing downhill hole which requires a conservative drive (in fact most holes do), allowing you top plan your second and third shots to the green, over a ditch and a bunker protected green.

However, could there be a better finishing hole?

A 450 yards right to left terrain, your second shot to the green in front of the clubhouse will either win you the match or have you heading for the bar to drown your sorrows.

Finally, we mention the Par 3’s, as everyone requires a different club! Ranging between 140 yards and 180 yards, you will enjoy every one.

Did we like the course? No, we LOVED it!

In addition, all the staff were incredibly welcoming and all the members we met were very keen to know what we thought of the course.

Which tells you, just how much they do!

TSG Verdict: 5 out of 5

South Moor Golf Club

South Moor Golf Club

South Moor Golf Club – Where to stay…

If you require accommodation in the area, look no further than  Hill Top View Guest House in Meadowfield.

As good as any 5-star hotel we’ve stayed in and very reasonably priced rooms from £55 per night.

South Moor Golf Club – And finally…

Not many of us will ever get the chance to play at The Augusta National but if you want to get a flavour of what it’s like, you could do a lot worse than heading to County Durham.

Visit South Moor Golf Club, you will not be disappointed!

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For more information on South Moor Golf Club, the history and green fees information, visit the club website or contact the club direct on 01207 283 525.

By Ian Mullins