As a child, there was one activity I was occasionally allowed to do with my dad. I don’t think that my brother, Andrew, was part of this due to the time that my father started playing golf. I think someone must have suggested that an up-and-coming executive in industry should play golf as it would assist him in making connections and being seen as the ‘right sort of material’. He did have aspirations and even though they were snatched away from him later, his love of golf never waned. I have mentioned before that he had a set of Dale Carnegie Books, including How to Win Friends and Influence People, and so he was trying to advance through management.
The result was that he started to play golf with a friend he had met from work. Dad’s chum was a Canadian who lived on a big house on Wellington Hill and together they started to play. At first, they played at municipal courses and Roundhay was the nearest, but because it only had nine holes and it got busy, they started playing at Middleton. Not long after he started, I was invited to go along and be the caddy for dad. I really had no idea what this entailed, but it was a bit of an outing and so I went along. I must admit, I found it a boring long trek, pulling Dad’s clubs on the buggy, up and down hill, constantly starting and stopping. I do remember that we stopped half way round and went into an old building that was a café. Here they had cups of tea and a cake and I was allowed orange juice and a treat, before we set off again for the back nine holes.
After a few sessions, Dad cut some old clubs down and he allowed me to hit a few balls as we got away from the first hole. He was always a little nervous, but I learnt to hit balls and didn’t slow them down. He tended to get me to pick up my ball as we neared the greens, but occasionally I was allowed to play the hole out. After a few months, he and his friends moved from Middleton to Temple Newsam course. This was a longer up and down course and again he allowed me sometimes to caddy for him. I found that I started hitting the ball much better and the cut-down three-iron worked well. Sometimes, my dad would play at Roundhay if they couldn’t get a booking for one of the others and Roundhay golf course is a beautiful little nine-hole one. It is quite a short course but it has a charm and has always been well looked after.
I am pleased to announce the release in eBook, paperback and hardback, book one of my Cup of Tea Tales – The Early Years. A number of people suggested I should turn my blogs into a book and so here is volume one. I hope that you enjoy some of my tales in print form. They are available to order through Amazon in a variety of countries, UK, USA etc. If you do read it I would love you to put a review on Amazon, as it might encourage more people to read it.
My dad continued to play golf for the rest of his life and became a member of Garforth Golf Club for many years and he did win several trophies over his playing. I did start a little as a teenager at Roundhay School and a group of us would play at Roundhay course. The equipment that we had was cast-offs from our parents mostly, but we had bags, a motley collection of old woods and irons and second-hand balls. It made a big difference teeing off at the first hole whilst others waiting to play watched your style, technique and skill, or in our case, lack of. You drove off over a small quarry, down to a green that was on the left. It wasn’t challenging, but with an audience it was, and there were some shameful moments when the ball was topped and dribbled over the edge. Such a result would cause great mirth with your playing partners and despair to any group that would be following you. Once you were away, the pressure was off and you could relax and enjoy the round. The only discomfort would be caused by a good group following wanting to play through whilst you were looking for someone’s ball. If they were actually better than you it was generally OK as they got ahead and took pressure off you to hurry, but many times they were much worse than you were and you ended being kept waiting as they thrashed around.
There were a couple of spots where everyone caught up and the pressure was back on when you played, but on the whole, once you were off it was fine. I don’t think I ever bought a ball until I was about twenty as I spent a lot of time in the rough and whilst there would find lots of balls. To add to my collection, my mother used to take her dog for a walk around the woods of Roundhay Park and collect bags full of balls that had been hit out of bounds.
Whilst at Roundhay School, golf became a sport option in the sixth form, but I never chose it as I did rock climbing, but I think that they played at Roundhay. When I left school, I started to play more and we got to a reasonable level and played the same courses as my father used to. Unfortunately, teenagers became a problem on some of the courses. Sometimes, they would run onto the course, grab a ball or two and run off back into the woods. At Temple Newsam a lad on a motorbike hooned across the fairways and did doughnuts on a green or two. This did spoil what was a stroll in lovely surroundings. The birth of my first son did put an end to these outings as my wife felt that my disappearing for most of the day at the weekend was hardly fair, and she did have a point.
In 1986, we moved to Papua New Guinea for three years and whilst there I played a bit of golf. In a local ‘town’, Minj, (Yes, that is the name) there was a golf course. My school was about half an hour’s drive away and my town, Banz, was tiny, but Minj was many steps smaller. Strangely, it had a rather nice, but small hotel, a tiny school for expat families who worked on the tea and coffee plantations, or were missionaries, and except for about a dozen houses, a high school for locals and a couple of small stores that was it, apart from the golf course. The course was absolutely beautiful: nine holes and surrounded by tropical rain forests. The grass was thick Buffalo Grass, that was quite different from English grasses, but the greens were manicured. Local workers kept it maintained and at weekends people would travel from far and wide to play. Competitions would be organised and there were two shipping containers that served as the alcohol store and clubhouse. The first time I played, the competition was unusual, at least for me, as we had to play the course backwards. That meant you hit off the ninth tee, but the green was the 8th and so on. It meant all sorts of strange shots over trees, valleys and other obstacles. It was fun and like all events ended with large-scale drinking. The only issue we had was that someone had allowed their pig to forage on the course and it had dug up most of one of the greens!
I also played at the Mount Hagen Course, which is next to the airport, but that was a more serious competition and it had a history of golfers being robbed by bandits, called ‘rascals’ in Papua New Guinea. It is a lovely course, a lovely club, but definitely a more challenging atmosphere than at Roundhay, and five thousand feet above sea level, to add to the experience. The only other course I played in Papua New Guinea was whilst on a Principals’ conference in Lae on the coast. This is very tropical, very steamy and quite a dangerous place. The problem was the same as in Mount Hagen: golfers were affluent and easy pickings for robbers on the fairways. The club itself was secured behind high fences, razor wire and guards and you had to pass through a secure gate out onto the course and the same coming back. Caddies cost about 2 Kina, which was around a pound. There were snakes and it wasn’t wise to go searching through the rough. I must admit, I was quite pleased to get back into the clubhouse at the end of the round. It certainly made a change from the hazards of Yorkshire courses.
Here in Western Australia, we are very fortunate to have large numbers of beautiful courses and beautiful weather, but there is the added spice of snakes to consider. It is always worth making a noise and looking where you step as you search for your ball. Away from the major cities, courses don’t have greens, they have browns. The green area is just soil and sometimes it is oil-soaked.
Back from New Guinea, I did start to play again and teachers I worked with played at Barnsley course. On Friday afternoons, we would rush off from school to get started so we could fit in a round before it got dark. This was no easy feat in any other season but summer. I can remember that we often finished barely able to see the ball at our feet, let alone where it ended up after we had hit it. Somehow we managed and of course there were the winter greens to contend with. These frozen and rutted pieces of acquired fairway were a challenge that could see good approaching shots demolished by countless puts on the winter green. People here in Australia would find that strange, and even more so, playing with orange balls in the snow.
My memories of golf are more the camaraderie of those I have played with. We would laugh at each other’s misfortune, put the world to rights and escape the pressures of our lives, whilst we hit a ball around the countryside. Golf is a great leveller and you only need to watch Ex-President Trump hit a ball to realise that money and power don’t mean anything on a golf course.