On Mortonhall Golf Club

I have two claims to fame at Mortonhall. One for getting oh so nearly thrown out of the bar for being rather too inebriated and the other for holding the fastest time for the Dewar Hill Race at 3 minutes 57 seconds. I am more proud of the latter of course. Any Tom, Dick or Harry can get thrown out of a bar, but 3 minutes 57 seconds for the Dewar Hill race will take some beating.

This race which has only ever been run twice in the history of mankind is a sprint from the clubhouse up to the old 18th tee and then to play the last out. Now this is a really fun event and last took place as part of club’s Centenary celebrations. back in the days when I was a strutting lad and able to run. It drew a largish crowd and a good few competitors. It’s a shame they don’t hold this annually to be honest.

But what a rum club Mortonhall Golf Club really is. It’s an incredibly beautiful course for a start, a great test of golf and run by the very witty steward, David Henderson. I have many friends that are members and a zany lot they are too. They run a club within the club called The Mortonhall Casual Barmy Army, MCBA for short. Now in my opinion, every club should have their own Barmy Army. In fact there should be a national Barmy Army Team Tournament sponsored by the R&A to the sum of a million quid each year. This would tide the players over for light refreshments, prize money and an annual bash on the Old each year, at which each qualifying team will be put up for a week at the splendid new Rusacks and there will be free Louis Roederer Cristal champagne on tap, Cuvee of course! I’m sure that the R&A can swing a wee Cristal deal into the bargain. They’re good at that sort of thing.

You could have a kind of Barmy Army Dewar Hill Race whereby all barmies would run from the R&A into the sea at Castle Sands, swim three strokes out and back in memory of Old Tom and hit a ball back to the 18th green of the Old. What a blast that would be? Put a bit of zest back into the old game what?

Anyway you just never know. I shall be starting off by trying to resurrect the race at Mortonhall first, now that I’m a member again. Thereafter I’ll pull together all my pals at the R&A and get that one rolling.

Well, I’ll give that chap a ring!

A remarkable story and true

I often sail down the road to Edinburgh to catch up with the merry butchers at Wm Christie in Bruntsfield. Not only do I get golf tips from Angus and hear his new jokes, but I tap into the Edinburgh grapevine and give them the gossip from across the water. A vital exchange.

Now Angus is the real golfer but Bob was a caddie on the European Tour, when aged fourteen he chucked his academic studies at James Gillespie High School (I say ‘academic studies’ in the broadest and loosest sense possible) and headed for the school of life, carrying the bag of his infamous uncle, David Robertson from Dunbar, who later became renowned for getting banned from the tour for cheating.

Nevertheless, the guy could hit a golf ball and made some success in his short lived professional life. However, Bob told me the other day that he actually threw away two tournaments which he was winning, the Northern Open and the Coca Cola at North Berwick. And all because he was terrified of making the winners speech! He seemingly got to the sixteenth ahead in the last round in both and said to Bob ‘I’m going to throw it. I just can’t do the speech’ Bob remonstrated with him and said ‘just say thank you’. But he couldn’t get over that fear.

Kind of stage fright in the extreme. But rather defeating the purpose of playing professional golf what?

On a more positive note I’ve been accepted back into Mortonhall as a country member which I’m delighted about. I started playing golf there aged ten and have so many fond memories of the place. On a recent visit it was great to see my Dad’s pals still going strong. What a happy place it is for me. And indeed what a great and beautiful golf course it is too, settled next to the Braid Hills, afire with yellow furze all summer long.

Siegfried Sasoon used to escape there while convalescing during the war and there is indeed a hole, the fourth called ‘Poet’s Walk’. It is all a bit of a dream of a course to be honest, and I’m very glad to be back to it.

The Dunghill

The Dunhill is over again. The valiant attempt to bring pros and amateurs together playing in a top level tournament. But does this format work? In theory yes, but in practice I would say a resounding no.

I didn’t go down to watch this year apart from a mere five minutes when I stopped by the 18th to see if the pros were driving the last green with the strong backwind. And indeed they were, which is fairly impressive. However that was all that was impressive about the two pros, Haydn Porteous and Jacques Kruyswijk. For as I watched them stride onto the left of the 18th green I noticed that one of the pro’s amateur partner was trying to hit his second shot from just before the road. But the two pros were just not in the least bit interested. They weren’t looking. And that is shocking, no matter what stakes these guys are playing for.

However, I was not in the least bit surprised by what I saw, as I’d had my own first hand experience of this sort of behaviour as I’d caddied for David Walsh a few years ago, when he was paired with the up and coming Matt Wallace. What an eye opener that was. Mr Wallace swore under his breath at the other amateur on the fifth green of the Old after he thought he’d spoken too loudly while he was playing a shot. I say swore under his breath, he actually cursed the wee chap fairly loud and clear. Mr Wallace was also pretty ignorant in his behaviour towards his caddie at one point and indeed, when David missed a very short putt, I think in the third round at Kingsbarns on about the 12th after Matt had dropped five shots in three holes and fell off the leaderboard, he openly sighed and walked off the green making his view very clear about David’s short miss. Yuk! Friendly enjoyable golf? No.

But I suppose it’s a tough old world out there and to be honest I’m rather glad I’m not too heavily involved with it at that level. I actually heard that a caddie I know declined to take part this year as he found the whole thing too stressful. I get that. I would actually cringe at the thought of having to play in it as an amateur. No thanks.

My article on the Dunhill that year, in which I wrote about my experience with David was published by Hong Kong Golf Monthly. I was actually quite pleased with it in all honesty. I sent it to David as well as I would have loved to get some feedback from The Sunday Times Chief Sportswriter, the four-time Irish Sportswriter of the Year and the three-time UK Sportswriter of the Year.

However he didn’t respond.

Which is a shame because like that Dunhill amateur last week doing his best to pitch it alongside the major guns in the game, it would have been nice to have had my shot acknowledged too.