Annual Golf Day & Dinner - Slaley Hall 2009
Golf as a form of torture
If you read my welcome to the golf day you will know that the game of golf and I share a strange sort of relationship. I love golf… it treats me with utter contempt.
This year’s GCA tournament was going to be different though, new venue and for me new countryside. My previous visits were mostly through, rather than to, Northumberland, so as the trusty Sat Nav took us ever further into the landscape we were immediately struck by the breadth and beauty surrounding us, reminiscent of Yorkshire but uniquely different.
Slaley Hall is set amongst this grand scenery and the two championship courses wind in and amongst the rolling hills and hedgerows. The Hotel provided us with very comfortable accommodation and I was lucky enough to get an upgraded room which was so big I got lost twice on the way to the bathroom.
There was distinct contrast of old and new at Slaley, together with a good spread of facilities; one possible improvement may be the provision of buggies to get you from one end of the place to the other, or possibly provide clubs and a few holes in the corridors to keep you amused as you go.
A convivial pre-event dinner was enjoyed by us long distance travellers (and those who hate early starts) and a few relaxing tinctures. I relaxed my way to bed relatively early as I had forgotten where I had last seen the bed, (I found it on Friday). If anyone has lurid details of any events taking place after I left, we can publish at a later date.
The day arrived, excitement was at fever pitch. Some appeared to be under the weather, possibly a dodgy prawn from the night before. Despite all sorts of dire weather warnings the day was set fair and to get an idea of how fortunate we were; bunkers were declared GUR due to the amount of standing water on the course from the day before.
I was very sad to note that Ken Stroud and Paul Neale were not present. Ken has been at the heart of the GCA Golf day since it began and I cannot help feeling something had changed. Paul helped develop the day from a loose association of members to the well organised event you see today. My abiding memories are of the wine trust with Keith and Paul careering around a course to see if a particular vintage “travelled”. Keith was devastated, we will all miss him.
Frustrated with my inability to show any sign of improvement I had hatched a cunning plan to overcome a lack of form by upping the handicap and invoking sod’s law which simply states that I would come home with an embarrassment of points. Unfortunately the best of Baldric’s plans were undone by Mr Blackadder who stepped in with a maximum handicap allowance of 18.
Once more the less able were doomed to an afternoon of nil point al la stableford. I am running for election again and will make a stand on this one, Championship course means full handicap, period. I am also indebted to Phil who came up with some additional ideas for the next golf day so the longest drive will include a test of accuracy as well, opening the competition to others.
Speaking of the less able I would like to thank myself for accompanying Mark, Andrew, Neil and the ever vigilant spotter, Trevor around the 18 holes. First up, Andrew Thurlbourn, now I know he is a good golfer, he knows it too but he could not find a decent shot all afternoon and yet finished the round with a smile (possibly grimace). I know that given that sort of bad luck and poor form someone would have been wearing one of my clubs before long but Andrew can rest happy in the knowledge that Ken Stroud missed the round he had so long been waiting for.
Mark, Neil and Trevor formed their own little three- ball which made its way through the course leaving no blade of grass untouched. To set out on a championship course for the first time is a daunting experience for any novice Golfer, to do so never having held a club before must be a first. Neil did it and with Trevor offering advice and most importantly finding stray balls they made decent progress around a beautifully contoured course with some excellent holes and even better views. Mark as ever, offered encouragement and advice to Neil (and himself) with a running commentary that included the classic “See Neil, even Max can muck it up big time”. This was my duffed tee shot on the par 3 fourth, and me running at 6 points for the first 3 holes, naturally my confidence soared.
We completed our round with some relish as Mark and Neil had grabbed a goodly number of points, Andrew just knew it wasn’t his day and I, perhaps rueful of what might have been, did have a decent card. Mark and Neil’s day got a whole lot better when Mark Kelly revealed his score. I enjoyed the round and would like to thank them for putting up with me!
Having enjoyed a couple of drinks we moved to a most enjoyable dinner and again some great company. Having dealt with the small matter of prizes and announcements the evening was rounded off with great conviviality although I was still unsure where I had left the bed.
To reflect on the day and what it is all about.
I really enjoyed visiting Slaley Hall, both the hotel and golf were excellent. Numbers were down on last year which is a disappointment but was this the recession or perhaps the distance for more southerly members?
Thinking of what makes me want to go, the golf obviously, but actually I enjoy the event because of the people who make it what it is. Good crack, good company and good friends. We seem to create a good atmosphere within the event that I believe is welcoming to newcomers and comfortably pleasing to those who repeat the prescription.
PS - Golf is a game littered with technical terms to describe shots such as slice, hook and shank and with these go a special vocabulary such as “oh dear”, “oops” and “bother “. I am adding another….
Technical Term: “The croc” - where a playing partner’s trolley develops a distinct and regular click while in motion. Once aware of this then you can hear nothing else; Vis the crocodile chasing Captain Hook!