Spring Meeting 2016 – April 1st, 2nd, 3rd
It’s April so it must be time for the WCAGS 2016 Championship meeting. After a six-year break, (how time flies), we returned to Hawkstone Park.
The weather did its worst with a cold wind on day 1 and rain on day 2 (not the sunshine we have become used to at recent meets). I checked the report for our previous visit in 2010 and it appears that the weather was pretty much the same then i.e. challenging to bloody awful!! However, that will all soon be forgotten and as the years go by this meet will probably be remembered as “the one where Sue lost her car keys”.
Several committee members were missing but professional as ever all their work had been prepared in advance – many thanks to them all. Mary Petit and Sue Town (IC Venues) were recovering from injuries. Ellie and Clarkie (IC Prizes) had a long term prior engagement – however, Clarkie still appeared for the first day to deliver the prizes. The Thornber-Tafts (IC Competitions) were apparently running a pub! Josie (IC Accounts) appeared for 48hrs before leaving to party elsewhere. Lesley Smith (IC on course toilet locations) had forsaken us for a trip to New Zealand. Many thanks to Sue Redfern and Shirley Taylor who stepped up and took over the day to day organisation of the competitions.
Although the weather was not kind to us (British Understatement) I got the impression that everyone still seemed to enjoy themselves – a lot! It just goes to show that it is the company that matters – playing good golf is a bonus.
Sadly – a week after the meet we learned that Ruth Prideaux had died.Embed from Getty Images
Ruth was a faithful supporter of the WCAGS and was still playing with us only a few years back. We celebrated her 80th birthday at Hawkstone in 2010. She played against the MCC ‘chaps’ at Lansdown a few times and twice went to South Africa on golf tours!! Ruth, with husband Roger, have the claim to fame of being the only husband and wife to represent their country at Test Match level! Her prowess as a coach goes without saying having coached England to success in the World Cup back in 1993. She was a brilliant wicket keeper and bat who toured S.A. with the 1960/61 team.
I first encountered Ruth at a WCAGS meet when she was retelling a story about being trapped by a warthog in the toilets – I assumed in South Africa! I played with her only the once – it was fun. Silly as it might seem but when she said to me “you’ll do” – I was chuffed to bits.
Day 1 – Friday April 1st
Official Blurb – “There are three courses situated in 400 acres of undulating parkland surrounding the ruins of a medieval castle with the cliffs of the world-famous 18th Century Follies providing a spectacular backdrop” – inserted here just in case anyone didn’t notice!!
The Hawkstone hotel is a rambling affair with rooms and bars leading into more rooms and bars leading into corridors that finally (if lucky) lead into bedrooms.
The front entrance (or is it the back?) throws you out almost directly onto the Hawkstone Course. The clubhouse is set about 100yds away from the hotel with views onto both 18th fairways. We congregated in one of the lounges of the hotel – this just to aggravate any late arrivals who wasted more time dashing into an empty clubhouse because last time we had met in there!
During this meet we were to play on the two 18 hole courses – The Hawkstone and The Championship. The Hawkstone steers you through the famous Hawkstone follies and the Championship steers you through a mud-bath and round a lake.
After everyone had finished screaming with excitement at each other the Teams were announced. The course to be played was The Hawkstone and the format a three ball (some four) with two scores counting. Nearest the Pin on the 12th hole and Longest Drive in bronze and silver categories on the 18th. Although the Thornber-Tafts were not with us all teams had been selected in advance. These preparations did depend somewhat on everyone turning up on time (Ruth Bailey was missing) and any last minute decisions on using a buggy.
Good news! We were to be allowed to start earlier than our original tee time (good as we were actually a tee time short for the numbers we had) but we were only ahead of schedule for as long as it took Joey Morris to stroll back from the Pro Shop with a hired trolley before we were back to the original schedule. Standing around waiting on the first tee the biting cold wind made its presence felt.
The Hawkstone golf course (6497yds – Par72) is in a wonderful setting with some interesting holes. None more so than the 4th – The Ravine. This is to golf what Beechers Brook is to the Grand National. A brave second / third shot is required across this ravine up to a raised green. Then you abandon your trolley and with several clubs in hand climb the steps up the side of the bank to the green, usually forgetting your driver which is needed for the adjacent 5th tee. Good exercise for us all and extras available if you manage to lodge your ball half way up the steep bank. Playing up the second hole you get a good view of the “mountain goats” trying to balance ready to play a shot. It really is surprising that no one has broken their necks and gawd knows what “Elf and Safety” would make of it all.
The 3rd hole was called the Cricket Pitch – not sure why. Clarkie’s group incurred the wrath of the little man in the little hut (aka The Starter) as they left the “Cricket Pitch”” and dragged their trollies across the front of the fourth tee box. Pip compounded things by actually driving her buggy across this sacred turf despite much arm waving and shouting from everyone – maybe she just thought we were pleased to see her!
There were some very long holes (Par 4’s that only needed a few extra yards to become a Par 5), raised greens, and bunkers, bunkers and more bunkers. I think it was here in 2010 that Shirley Moore introduced the cry of “Bucking Funkers” only to get it disastrously wrong down in the follies where all shouts echo round for everyone (including non-golfers) to hear!
The 12th (Nearest the Pin) had an elevated tee with water surrounding the front of the green. Many (too many to name) landed in the water, took a drop in the difficult rough only to either thin their ball into the bushes at the back of the green or donk it straight back into the water. An added bonus was that if you mishit your tee shot chances were you could scatter the group crossing below you.
By the time you arrived at the 18th and the longest drive generally you were too knackered to care. Some managed decent strikes whilst others only just got the ball off the tee. Actually, to put it politely this was – a bloody long hole for a Par 4, at least 5 miles long – and with plenty of bunkers to boot. The course really is quite stunning with many interesting sights (not the golfers) dotted around all over the place including hidden sculptures cut into stone or wood. There was according to Coral “an old man watching us” on the 16th green which turned out to be a carving of Neptune.
Once Ruth B arrived she attached herself to Dot Furby’s group (not the one she had been assigned to) and helped them (Dot, Kate, Joey) to finish third. At one point Ruth (who was having one of those days – correction one of those weekends) swung at her ball and scooped up a rather large divot which flew through the air and landed on a surprised Shirley Hodges. N.B. Shirley was not the 5th member of Dot’s group – she had just waddled out for a chat!! Not being rude but she was wrapped up so warmly she was likened to a penguin.
During the course of the round the cold weather affected the composition of some of the other groups as most of those in buggies threw in the towel and headed back to the warmth of the clubhouse. Claire M, Patsy, Pip and Chris W finished minus Patsy but with the addition of Gill C., whose group had broken down at various stages. Freda N. retired after 5 holes insisting her team had red carded her and Pam and her buggy companion (Pyl I think) gave up after nine. Pip and Chris were probably the only buggy finishers but this was not surprising as they were fortified by Pip’s alcohol fuelled concoction – aka coffee. Two groups merged to become one and promptly finished second in the competition!
Please note the team that actually won the competition played with the same players for all 18 holes.
The course seemed longer than when we last played it. Chris Watmough measured 5.5 miles on her measuring device – and was suitably knackered – lucky she was in a buggy.
After comparing notes Ruth B and Anne realised they were probably less than 1 mile apart on the M54 at about 9:15 that morning. Anne arrived at Hawkstone at 9:40 am and Ruth arrived approx. 1.5 hours later having made an unscheduled visit to the historic market town of Leominster and environs.
At the start of the morning non-playing Sue Redfern (rather complicated knee operation) requisitioned a buggy and set off like the Queen rehearsing for her 90th birthday parade waving to the troops as she headed out to place the Nearest the Pin and Longest Drive markers. Unfortunately, within minutes of returning she realised she had lost her car keys. Sue spent the rest of the day searching – but to no avail. All groups were asked to look out for these keys on the course, and all bags – golf bags, hand bags, and colostomy bags were checked. Search parties were despatched including a Coral led post prandial moonlit search which uncovered only rabbits and badgers.
Sue and Claire must be congratulated on keeping their “sang-froid” (in public at least) – especially as every few minutes they were being asked if they had found them. Finally, the hotel came to the rescue and first thing in the morning (9:30) – two green-keepers with Sue hobbling along behind set off with a metal detector. The keys were found almost immediately in longish grass at the base of one of the first trees on the course. That will teach Sue to do handbrake turns in a buggy!
As per usual after the golf it was a drink in the clubhouse then off to unpack and bathe those aching limbs before dinner. Reports were received of some people needing help to get out of the bath.
Dinner was good, good food and good service and this was followed by the presentations.
The evening’s entertainment revolved around fines. Shirley Moore told a new joke – all about the Nigerian Border! At one point fines were interrupted by a couple who had to fight their way through our private dining area to get to their bedroom –- I’m sure there must have been another way round. I think Coral fined them. They looked suitably embarrassed then but even more so when they had to do the same again to get to breakfast the next morning. (Kept an eye out for them the next evening but I believe they decided to check out a day early!)
As I returned to my room via the labyrinth of corridors (not so easy after a few drinks), I discovered a burglar, ear to the lock, trying to get into one of the bedrooms. On closer inspection it turned out to be Dot trying to unlock the door quietly to avoid waking up Shirley Hodges. (Shirley had retired at her normal bed time – about 6pm). This kind gesture was not helped by me shouting “You look like a burglar” and Dot shush shushing me. However, all was well – our Shirl was already awake.
Day 2 – Saturday April 2- Championship Day
This was to be played on the Hawkstone Course again. Format Strokeplay – in three balls in handicap order – lowest handicaps out first. Gill, Claire and Stocky set off to fight for “The Championship” and the rest of us straggled out to dispute the minor prizes. It was raining hard but Apps indicated that the rain might stop round about 1pm. Unfortunately, buggies were banned – so some players could not even start. No Nearest the Pins or Longest Drives today.
The course was very wet with some greens flooded from the start and it was still raining. Knowing that we could “convert” our scores from strokeplay to stableford was one crumb of comfort. As it happened this year there were more “conversions” than at a Billy Graham convention – some as soon as the first hole. The Ravine hole snared a few more – no one in their right mind was going to climb up that bank in these slippery conditions (so obviously some did) – and wet bunkers took care of the rest. It was a matter of last man standing until the rain stopped (which it did after approx. 2 hours) and then the sun came out – life became much easier and lo and behold the golf actually became really enjoyable!! – anyone remember the fifties song by Alan Sherman – “Hello Mother, Hello Father, Here I am in Camp Grenada”.
The rain definitely affected people’s behaviour on the course. Ruth B was spotted hammering her club (from above her head) into the ground in frustration. Afterwards she said she hadn’t had a temper tantrum like that since she started playing golf. Taff had come to people’s attention for taking up a stance as a teapot after every shot she took. First one arm, then the other, then finally much to everyone’s amusement, after hauling herself out of a bunker, both arms.
The fairway bunker on the right hand side of the 8th attracted many players and like Noah’s Ark they entered it two by two.
Michelle’s Irish Grandfather Wilfred O’Birch actually scored a two on the Par 5 8th – most of us were ecstatic with a seven. This plaque is situated at the back of the 8th green to commemorate this feat. (Mr Birch was a founder member of the Hawkstone Golf Club).
We finished in a more upbeat mood than we started and as ever adjourned to the clubhouse for a spot of lunch and a few drinks. War stories were swapped and smart phones were at the ready to monitor the football scores.
We were requested to meet in the dining room at 6:30 for “The Meeting”. The new committee are working hard on our behalves. Apparently they even have conference calls! New systems are in place including an online bank account for deposits and memberships fees to be paid into. (Contact Jo Osbourne if you still need this information).
There was a discussion about whether the society should take out third party golf liability insurance. Someone asked if this would cover the society if somehow we were to “trash the hotel” and if, however unlikely, keys were lost. It has been proposed that we pay two instalments of £15 at each meet to cover prizes and membership fees to make it fairer to those that don’t make both meets each year. How this would work for non-players still needs to be decided.
Discussions are also taking place regarding matches between the WCAGS and the MCC and Lady Taverners to see if they can be spread more geographically. Pip is on the case. The amount of any subsidy that may be available for the players also needs to be resolved. The possibility of discontinuing “The Championship” had been informally discussed by many on Day 1 and this will be discussed fully at the AGM in October – bring your thoughts.
Onto dinner (menu rather similar to yesterday) and prize giving. A common theme at the presentations was the shocked faces on the majority of those who won. Other than Gill and Claire some extraordinarily high gross scores had been returned. There were many prizes covering different categories. Dot on receiving her prize argued that she had been given the wrong trophy and that she had been “given that one last time”. For Facebook users there is a slow mo video of Dot taking a swing.
Only a few fines were collected as these were being replaced by a different entertainment. In a sketch narrated and written by Taff (thanks Taff) Barrack Obrown (Kate Brown) phoned our President Val following reports that there was a golden glow coming from the golf course area in Hawkstone. Sniffer hens were sent in (June and Sandy) overseen by Coral’s pet hen. Basically you had to be there to believe it but the climax included the hen doing what hens do (quite painfully) and laying an egg and unexpectedly Sue’s Car Keys. (Sue at this point had realised that her keys had gone missing again but was still to traumatised to mention this to anyone).
A few arose and told jokes and June (a little the worse for wear) read the bathing costume monologue – without spectacles – so that we were treated to wonderful misreads including among others “a designer trump”.
The dining room was very hot for those ladies of a certain age but cold for those for whom “hot flushes” are only a distant memory. A battle to open or shut the windows followed (the radiators were fully on). Battle lines were drawn but eventually the “ladies of a certain age” prevailed – probably because there are so many of them!!
Day 3 – Sunday April 3
For those with any energy left we were to play a waltz on the Championship Course, a 6763 yard Par 72. First tee at 9:00. Stocky was pleased as she believes she is always out first when there is an early start involved. This time she was out last – at 9:40. At least the early start meant we would be able to finish in time for the start of the Mens T20 Cricket final. It was all a bit of a rush first thing what with packing, paying bills and finding the shortest way out to the carpark with suitcases. Those that thought it would be a good idea to check out at 11pm the night before had been politely refused. Not a criticism of the hotel staff as they had been very helpful and friendly throughout our stay. I suppose they had to go to bed at some stage!
Debbie declared that her team was the “Dream Team”. Claire believed hers to be the “Prettiest Team” (picture on Facebook that I refuse on principle to put in here) and I believed mine to be “Dark Horses”. Unfortunately, to say that this course was “very boggy” is a slight understatement. The rain from the previous 24hrs was the cause of the problem. Picking and placing did not improve matters much and a good drive down the middle of the fairway was generally rewarded with a plugged ball. The first few holes were OK but then the difficult conditions just ground you down. Things improved a bit on the holes closest to the lake but not for long. There really was nothing enjoyable about this round other than the lovely company and the fact that we could still retain a sense of humour. The lucky players were those injured and in the clubhouse watching the Woman’s T20 final.
Despite all the water on the fairways, the water in the lakes was as magnetic as ever, attracting many a ball. The imaginatively named hole called Swan Lake had swans by it – one of them was the biggest I have ever seen. It was safety in numbers as we closed ranks and delicately tip-toed past them. As a loo had been provided on the Hawkstone course it was hoped that a similar facility would be available – but no. Alas the trees and bushes had not developed sufficiently for too much discretion and without Lesley we were lost. All of those with “outdoor relief paranoia” were in for an uncomfortable round and the hole called the “Wee Burn” was aptly named. Finally, a porta-loo was found tucked away as you approached the 17th tee. With the benefit of hind-sight this was also accessible from behind the 8th/9th – oh how our scores could have been so different. Actually that is rubbish – the inability to hit more than 70yds in the mud was the problem.
Finally, up the 18th and alongside the clubhouse. Sue R hung over the balcony asking if anyone wanted to know the Ladies cricket score and there was much rejoicing that the West Indies had won! Sue said she had never seen so many players look so miserable – I think she was referring to the golfers not the Australians. The TV, courtesy of Sue, was set up in the clubhouse – one for the football and one for the men’s cricket T20 final. Leicester were winning and England were losing wickets.
Prizes were awarded to third place with scores well below Par for the format. The Dream team actually came second. Unfortunately for Dot, Michelle and Anne there was a set of prizes over and these were awarded to the team who had come last – Us – from Dark Horses to Blackpool Donkeys. It wasn’t as if we hadn’t tried! As per Eric Morecambe playing Grieg’s piano concerto, we could score points but not necessarily in the right order.
As England’s 4th wicket went down most of us took it as our cue to leave. With fond farewells, and a “see you at Cricket Week“, or a “see you at Staverton” it was all over.
|Fri 1st April: Tri am|
|1st:||75 pts||Debbie Stock, Claire Jenkins, Liz Whelan|
|2nd||66pts||Clare Mulvaney, Gill Clayton, Pip Vyvyan, Chris Watmough, Susie Garner|
|3rd||65pts||Kate Brown, Dot Furby, Jo Morris|
|Nearest The Pin||Val Castle|
|Longest Drive||Bronze||Shirley Taylor|
|Longest Drive||Silver||Gill Clayton|
|Sat 2nd April: Championship|
|Champion and Silver Gross Winner||91||Gill Clayton|
|Runner up||92||Clare Mulvaney|
|Bronze Champion||102 c/b||Liz Whelan|
|Runner up||102 c/b||Sue Thornley|
|Silver division best nett||87 c/b||Anne Crawley|
|Bronze division best nett||76||Coral Handley|
|Over 70’s Champion Gross||106||Val Castle|
|Over 70’s best nett||87||Dot Furby|
|Stableford Winner||Ruth Bailey|
|Sun 3rd April: Waltzing through muddy treacle|
|1st||62pts||Kate Brown, Gill Clayton, Coral Handley|
|2nd||57pts||Claire Jenkins, Debbie Stock, Liz Whelan|
|3rd||54pts||Shirley Taylor, Ruth Bailey, Sue Thornley|
|Nearest the Pin||Clare Mulvaney|
|Longest Drive||Bronze||Coral Handley|
|Longest Drive||Silver||Gill Clayton|
Maria Bagust, Chris Bailey, Ruth Bailey, Michelle Birch, Kate Brown, Val Castle, Sarah Clarke (one day), Pam Craine, Gill Clayton, Anne Crawley, June Edney, Mary Evans, Dorothy Furby, Susan Garner, Sandy Gristwood, Nan Haggerty (NP), Shirley Hodges (NP), Coral Handley, Norma Izard (NP), Claire Jenkins, Taff Martin, Shirley Moore, Jo Morris, Clare Mulvaney, Frieda Northcott, Jo Osborne (two days), Frieda Simpkin, Debbie Stock, Shirley Taylor, Sue Thornley, Pip Vyvyan, Chris Watmough, Liz Whelan
A successful and happy meet despite the best efforts of the weather. Once again, from everyone who attended, thanks to all the committee members and helpful others who have invested their time and hard work into making this event as enjoyable as ever.