O for Old Tom Morris

O for Old Tom Morris

⛳Birth name Thomas Mitchell Morris born to a weaver in Fife, Scotland.  Known Internationally as the father of the game or the grand old man of golf, he started working in the golf industry at just 18 years of age as an apprentice to Allan Morris.  Tom learned how to make clubs as well as the feather stuffed golf balls played at the time.  Allan and Tom played golf together and were reputed to be an unbeatable as a pair.  Leaving his birth town of St. Andrews he moved to take up a new position as ‘keeper of the greens’ at the recently opened Prestwick.  The 1860 Open golf championship was held at Prestwick with Old Tom Morris coming in second place behind Willie Park.  This didn’t deter him, with tenacity and a competitive spirit he later won the Open championship four times.

⛳Mastering the art of green keeping he is reputed to be the first to manage hazards and top dress greens – some say he accidentally dropped a barrow full of sand on the green, but whatever the cause the practice of top dressing remains to this day.   By increasing the greens and doing some clearing, he created a new front nine for the Old Course and changed the direction of play to anti-clockwise.  His knowledge and depth of golf has lead to the standardisation of the length of a golf course to 18 holes, with the Old Course once comprising of 23 holes. 

Other things you might not credit Old Tom for are: yardage markers, drainage and irrigation systems and tee boxes – before then golfers just used to tee off from where they finished putting on the previous hole.  He was also the first to use a lawn mower on a putting green.  It is also possible he designed the first mini links golf of nine holes with the Himalayas in St. Andrews for the St. Andrews ladies

⛳In 1865 he retuned to St Andrews as greenskeeper of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club and established a shop for club making overlooking the 18th green of the Old Course.  Fittingly this hole now bears his name.

⛳Old Tom played in every Open Championship until he was 74 years old and holds the record as the oldest winner at age 46.  His son, Tom Morris junior was the youngest winner at just 17 years old in 1868.  Together with his son, they are the only father son pair to both win and become runners up.  Sadly Tom Morris junior died on Christmas day aged just 24.

⛳Becoming a great golf course designer of approx 100 golf courses, with big names such as Royal Dornoch, Carnoustie, Prestwick and Cruden Bay.  My home course, Cleeve Hill even has his world renowned stamp upon it- some say the green for hole 13 is a capital T for Tom – or it could be the original fortification he cleverly fitted the golf hole around?

⛳Interestingly the only surviving hole of his design at Carnoustie is the 6th, now called Hogans Alley it was originally called ‘Long’ – having played it, I know why!

⛳Born and died in his home town a wealthy yet humble man in 1908 aged 87.  St. Andrews not only embraces him but revere’s him.

⛳Some Old Tom Morris courses I’ve played are Alyth, Carnoustie, Crieff, Montrose, Nairn, Panmure, Royal Dornoch, Royal North Devon, Scotscraig, St Andrews Old, Cleeve Hill, Kettering, Rosapenna and Wallasey.

⁉️ Which Old Tom Morris course have you played, or would like to play?

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P for Putting

P for Putting

⛳ Well its got to be really with the putting lessons I’m having with Oli Leett @puttinghub

⛳ I am always astounded how few people invest in a decent putter, sure they chuck their money at a driver, the latest and greatest driver, but a putter seems to be the poor mans relation in the bag of tricks – but it shouldn’t be.

⛳ On a typical golf course, you’d play 4 par 3’s, 4 par 5’s and 10 par 4’s – if you take away the par 3’s, you probably only need the driver for up to 14 holes.  Yet you will need the putter on all 18 holes. Unless of course you chip in!   Furthermore, you only hit the driver once on a hole, yet putting is one or more putts, with 36 being the standard number of putts per round!

⛳ I did a review on YouTube for a great, but simple devise called the Putting Arc @theputtingarc last year.  I had fun with this too.  Simulating holes, producing fly-overs and challenging hubby – which he usually won, so I’m leaving him behind the camera next time!

⛳ Up until this series of lessons with Oli, I’d never had a one to one putting lesson, but chatting and taking advise from a putting expert has helped me.  In fact on Saturday I drained a 35 plus foot, slightly uphill off the right.  I’ve had a few little tweaks and a shed load of drills to help me and I’m still learning.  I guess for me having bit more confidence also helps, he can give me the technique, but I need to do it!  It wasn’t too technical either, which also helps, as I told Oli to give me bite size chunks.  It helps me having the Spider Putt app @spidergolfapp when recording rounds too.   Obviously my idiosyncrasies in putting might not be yours, so get your own lessons?

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For me putting takes concentration, sometimes I’m lacking in that if I’m honest, but Im much more comfortable with the process now and know when I get it right or wrong.

⁉️ Who would take putting lessons with an expert?

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Q for Quotes

Q for quotes

Nice easy one today.  

⛳ When I started in the golf  industry it was brilliant.  My business focus was new and I was making waves, people were starting to get on board with my ideas and it was a huge success.  The business was growing and I needed help, so I enlisted a third party to help me with overseas bookings, and to cut a long story short, they went bust – with some of my money.  They say friendships shouldn’t mix with business and I guess now, with the benefit of hindsight, that was true in this case.

?It wasn’t easy, permanent headache, sleepless nights, the odd tear and not much in the way of positivity for the industry.  We had even decided that if we didn’t get our money back, we would refund our clients out of our own pockets.  Such is our business ethics.  Fortunately, it didn’t come to that, but this series of events was the catalyst.

Reading an article one day, it read: 

‘If you’re not excited by the future, make a new one’

?That was it, there was my answer.  So we evaluated and made a fundamental change to our lives.  We closed the tour operating business and focussed on the things I enjoyed doing: media and marketing.

I still enjoy these things today and have had the good fortune to write for a number of big named magazines, blogs and e-zines.  This change wasn’t easy, but when you want something badly enough, it often isn’t.

? I’m happier, more fulfilled and have a lot to look forward to.

⁉️ What is your favourite quote or one that inspired you to do something?

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R for Royal Golf Clubs

R for Royal Golf Clubs

⛳ I can’t believe I cut my teeth in golf on a fledgling Royal!!  Royal Papua New Guinea Golf Club gained its Royal status in 2012 – naturally we were not living there then, but it did bring a smile to my face with my aspirations of grandeur even back in the 80’s!

? But what is a Royal Golf Club?  Put simply it is a golf club that has gained royal status from the reigning monarch.  Usually a member of the Royal family would become patron of that golf club.  When I think Royal family I think QEII but Royal golf club status pre-dates her reign and can be traced as far back as William IV reign.  The first club being bestowed royal status was Royal Perth Golfing Society & Country Club, Scotland in 1833.  Quickly followed by Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews in 1834.

Interestingly, Royal status isn’t necessarily associated with a golf course being owned by the golf club.  A classic example being the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews plays on the St Andrews links and The Royal Perth Golfing Society plays on North Inch golf course.

?Don’t be fooled by the wolf in sheep’s clothing.  Some golf clubs have adopted the name Royal just as part of their name.  It could be these wannabe golf clubs have taken the local area name or something historical.  Royal Tara in Ireland takes it name from the former residence of Kings at the Hill of Tara.  Similarly in India, Royal Springs gleans its name from the four natural water springs used by Mughal emperors.  Another Royal that isn’t a Royal is The Royal Links course in Navada which doesn’t have any connection to royalty at all.

⛳ Whilst I’ve only mentioned the British Royal family, the Spanish, Dutch, Belgian, Nepalese, Iraqi, Swazi and Swedish royal families are equally entitled to name a golf club a royal.  Some of the overseas royals I’ve played are Royal Club de Golf El Prat, just outside Barcelona and a great place to stay and play.  I particularly enjoyed the Pink course with its gathering fairways and tough greens.  With my knowledge of golf in Belgium, Swaziland, Iraq, Nepal, Sweden, Australia and the Netherlands sadly lacking, I can’t offer any top tips here , but I can tell you about Royal Bled in Slovenia.  What a place!!! Near Lake Bled and set in a beautiful haven this smallish golf resort is worth the visit.  It is dubbed heaven on earth for a reason.  The on site lodge is simply stunning and the golf course is one you must add to your bucket list for its views alone – not to mention it is simply a great course, tough but great.  Playing Royal Meknes in Morocco, just nine holes set in the walls of the city in the heart of the imperial city of the Sultan Moulay Ismail, if those walls could tell stories with their bullet holes and imposing height this article would be much longer!

? Some other Royals I’ve played are; Royal St Andrews, Royal Montrose, Royal North Devon, Royal Liverpool, Royal Wimbledon, Royal Ascot, Royal Dornoch, Royal St Davids, Royal Porthcawl, Royal Cinque Ports in the UK plus Royal Johannesburg & Kensington, South Africa.

⛳ So despite my first foray into golf starting on good royal ground, I need to do a lot of catching up to play some more of the others!

⁉️ How many Royals have you played and where, or which is on your bucket list of Royal courses?

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S for Solheim Cup

S for Solheim Cup

Unsurprisingly the Solheim Cup is my chosen subject for the letter S!

Some snippets to get your head around:

⛳The most caps for Solheim Cup Captaincy was Micky Walker who lead team Europe four times.

⛳The Captains aren’t alone.  Talking to Alison Nicholas recently, she told me of the vast team and organisation behind making the Solheim Cup successful every other year

⛳ The next Solheim Cup is to be played at Finca Cortesin, Costa del Sol.  It is the first time it will be played on Spanish soil

⛳ Arguably one of the driving forces behind the rise in popularity of watching women’s sport on television

⛳ Team USA have won the cup ten times as opposed to Team Europe’s 7 wins. 

⛳ Team Europe go into the 2023 Solheim Cup in Costa del Sol defending their title

⛳ The Solheim Cup is played every other year on odd years.  However, it started as an even year competition switching to odd years after play in 2002 at the Interlachen Club, Minnesota.  The following year, in 2003, it was held at Barsebãck Golf and Country Club in Sweden

⛳ This move was made as the Ryder Cup switched from odd to even years after the 2001 terrorist attacks.  The Ryder Cup competition moved to 2002, and thereafter played on even years

⛳ Scotland have hosted the Solheim Cup three times, Ireland once, Wales once, England never!

⛳ Ohio have hosted it twice at both the most recent event at the Inverness Club last year and at Muirfield Village in 1998

⛳85,000 course visits are predicted to visit the luxury site at Finca Cortesin, Costa del Sol next year

⛳ 75 hotels have been blocked out for the event, 30 official tour operators appointed, over 200 direct suppliers and with over 150 companies involved in hospitality, it is sure to be another great event under the Spanish sunshine in Andalusia

⛳ Don’t forget to book your tickets, or your favourite safe in front of the TV 18 to 24th September 2023

⁉️ Are you going?

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T for Tapas

T for Tapas

??Whilst visiting Cadiz I was served tapas – this wasn’t the first time I’d eaten such mouthwatering delicacies, but learning its story of evolution it’s one I’d like to share with you now.

?Cadiz is known for its sherry production in Spain.  The sweet syrupy liquid is served in bars up and down this region of Andalusia.  Being so sweet it attracted those annoying little fruit flies – the type that bug you but you can never seem to swipe!

The bartenders were getting a bit fed up with the flies spoiling their customers experience of the sherry so decided to put a piece of bread over the top of the glass, as a lid. 

?The word tapas comes from the Spanish word to cover – tapar

The thoughtful, maybe even entrepreneurial bartenders started to add salty ham, such as jamón ibérico or cheese to the bread which the clients willingly ate.  This salty food made them thirsty and so they would order more sherry.  A win win for the client and the bartenders – but a lose for the fruit flies!

Today tapas has evolved into a culinary art and can be found all around the world.

?Whilst visiting a pincho restaurant in Barcelona I was amazed by its selection.  Similar to tapas but you’d choose a skewer full of food or in some cases a bowl of food and took them to your table to enjoy.  At the end the waitress would count up the wooden skewers and charge you per skewer of food regardless of what was on it.  I loved that concept as you could choose exactly what you wanted.  The pincho restaurants are more common place in the North of Spain.

?Tapas can be hot or cold with favourites being Gambas al Ajillo (garlic shrimp), chorizo (hot or cold), hams and cheeses.  I’ve had frittata with tapas – an egg based dish finished off under the grill – not to be confused with a spanish tortilla which is similar to an omelette as it is flipped over and finished off on the stove top.

⁉️Whats the difference between tapas and Mezze? 

Tapas is usually served with a drink, whereas mezze is served as a course, maybe a starter or a pre-dinner course

?Tapas treats for us include olives, fresh bread, dipping olive oil and balsamic vinegar and a good selection of meat and cheese – we tend to do a cold tapas, but do sneak in some warm chorizo if feeling indulgent

⁉️What is your favourite tapas?

Most mages courtesy of @cadizturismo

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U for USA

U for USA

??With the USA offering over 40% of the worlds golf courses, its a mega golf destination.  So vast in its land mass that it is easier to break it down by state.  

⛳Unsurprisingly, Florida has the most golf courses racking up over 1300 public and private ones.  I’ve been to Florida  a few times, I’ve visited and played some golf in the beautiful Naples in the South and the historic St Augustine and Jacksonville in the North.  Also lots in between: Daytona and of the course the LPGA duo of courses.  Mid Florida for Streamsong, then towards Miami for the PGA National, famed for the Bear Trap, then Turnburry Isle and three of the courses at Doral, home of the Blue Monster. I’ve also played a few around Orlando, Reunion and Isleworth stand out.

There is little wonder that people gravitate to this state with its promise of sunshine and golf, who wouldn’t!  From what I’ve seen and played, Floridian golf does have its own genre of golf courses.  Generally the courses are pristine, white sands and the greenest of fairways immaculately manicured and tweaked within an inch of their life striving for perfection.  Not that I’m complaining about that!  Whilst I feel as though I’ve played a lot in Florida, there is more that I haven’t played, so watch this space! 

⛳I’ve also played golf in North and South Carolina, with the latter being home to Myrtle Beach with its 90 golf courses and of course also home to Kiawah Island.  

⛳Playing Alabama with the Robert Trent Jones (RTJ) Trail of 26 golf courses dotted around Alabama enables you to explore this southern state and enjoy their overriding hospitality and homely cooking. 

⛳Hawaii is an interesting place, have I played golf there? – nearly… We’d just flown in from Australia and had crossed the international date line.  We had no idea whether breakfast was dinner or whether day was night.  A few days settling into the time zone gave us time to explore.  I’d had a few hits of a golf ball but wasn’t into golf that much.  Arriving at a golf club we enquired about a game to be put off by its high prices – bearing in mind, I wasn’t really a golfer then, just dabbling.  Not to be deterred, we enquired about range balls – hum that was even out of our price range then too – so we had good intentions of playing golf in Hawaii, one day!  

⛳I’ve also played golf in Arkansas, again an interesting experience as not a state one would probably travel to from the UK, but a good honest offering was great and again a wonderful opportunity to explore another state.

⛳Do you have a state (or states) you want to explore for golf?

V for Verulam

V for Verulam

I’m not sure how many of you have played this neat 18 hole golf course, but when you do, go with an open mind – not just for the great parkland course, but for the history associated with the club itself.

⛳In 1905 this James Braid designed course opened it doors.  Located on the outskirts of St. Albans, Hertfordshire and within spitting distance of central London makes it a real find.  It was here that, on the pristine practice putting surface in front of the club house, someone told me I reverse putt, I didn’t even know what that meant, it was just the natural way for me – and I haven’t changed it since.  Sometimes you just have to go with what’s natural, albeit not always conventional!

⛳With the River Ver menacing in play for a few holes, water on others, nicely undulating often testing unseen greens make this, albeit relatively short off the back tees (6429 yards) a good all round course.  The forward tees measure 5689 yards.

One hole that stands out as quirky and one unusually you can see the green is the Road Hole, no.17.  Only measuring 127/90yards, this SI16/18 hole is a real test of nerve as you flip it over a wire fence, over the road then ask, no plead, the ball to stop and not roll forward on this big back to front green. 

‼️Never before than now has the health benefits of golf become more apparent.  However in the early nineteen hundreds, a now well known 50 year old man after struggling with a breakdown and more so its slow progress to recover, was handed the ‘pill of hope’.  The game of golf.  With little enthusiasm he took up the sport joining Verulam in 1909.  Two years later he was appointed Club Captain, and again in 1926 and 1927.

That man was Samuel Ryder.

?In 1926, played on the newly open East course at Wentworth, was a match between British and American professionals.  This was the forerunner to the Ryder Cup, not the inaugural Ryder Cup, as it became known later that five of the US team were not American born, four were British and one Australian.

Discussion in the clubhouse afterward with Ryder, Duncan, Mitchell and Hagen spurred the Ryder Cup as we know it today, the biennial competition.  The famous gold trophy was first aired at Verulam when Ryder entertained the 1927 UK team.  The first official Ryder Cup.

⛳Playing Verulam is like playing in the footsteps of one of the greatest and original golf influencers. 

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W for Wales

W for Wales

Probably the most understated golfing country in the UK.  With around 180 golf course, 23 of them are links.  National Parks and areas of outstanding beauty are an added attraction.  We only live an hour from South Wales, but even before we moved to this area, we were enjoying golf in Wales with our fist trip to Pyle and Kenfig and Royal Porthcawl.  Both lovely course in their own right.  Pyle and Kenfig is a nice combination course and Royal Porthcawl is as good as any links in Scotland or Ireland.  When I was golf tour operating, I often put clients into Wales, staying in Swansea and travelling to the various local courses of Pennard or Langland Bay both with stunning views over the Gower peninsular or slightly further afield to Southerndown a good hill top downland course which plays like a links and with sheep grazing and views across Ogmore by Sea.  Ogmore was a childhood haunt for me.  It was a great place for sand sledging with my boisterous older brothers and fraught mother chasing us naughty children as we jumped on board the sledge (or each other) bombing down the dunes.  At that time we lived in a pub, so we used to steal (sorry borrow) the metal trays for our sledges.  With legs and arms flaying and heaps of laughter we came crashing to a halt at the bottom of the dunes, eager to do it all again.

In South Wales we also have the renowned Celtic Manor with its three golf courses including the Twenty Ten home of the 2021 Ryder Cup and various levels of accommodation.  Other course I’ve played in South Wales are Newport, an established tree lined course of note, St Pierre, a 4* Marriott Resort hotel with two golf courses on site, Rolls of Monmouth, once owned by the Rolls Royce family, a wonderfully hilly course to play and The Vale another stay and play 4* hotel also with two good golf courses on site.

The other Royal golf course of Wales is Royal St Davids.  With Harlech Castle on one side and the ocean the other its sure to satisfy the links junkie.  Porthmadog is another great place to play with sand dunes and surprisingly great holes with far reaching views.  Further inland we have the Vale of Llangollen, set in the vale between the hills a very pleasing and friendly course.  Welshpool might be a bit of a love it or hate it course.  I loved it with its blind shots and quirky holes, make it an interesting place to visit.

And a little further North we have Conwy, another stunning links with Llandudno (Maesdu) and North Wales across the road from each other make this trip a great little trio of challenges.  Heading east, towards Liverpool we have Abergele, one not to be missed and easily tagged on into or out of England to this part of Wales.

This quick scoot around Wales does have gaps – maybe this year we can plug those gaps and share even more great experiences with you?

W is also for weekend, and as it is Saturday, unlike last years A to Z, I plan to take Sundays off.  So join me again on Monday for Letter V – one you won’t be disappointed with.  For those of you playing this weekend, play well and enjoy.

This article is part of the golf plus series we are running to celebrate our newly renamed instagram account TLG.golfplus

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Sarah & Steve

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