Friday, June 30, 2006
Bond. James Bond. The famous golf match between James Bond and Auric Goldfinger is set at the fictional stand in for the Royal St. George's Golf Club (ranked #33 in the world) - Royal St. Mark's in the book. Ian Fleming served as captain of the club.
Well, the pro and caddie master were right. It was a very difficult days golf. Never-the-less, the greatness of the course came through and it was a very enjoyable day indeed. We enjoyed lunch in the members dining room with the requisite jacket and tie. We had a drink served in their signature silver tankard and lunch was a very classy affair. Muirfield has a deserved reputation for a good lunch and a lot of history but Royal St. Georges's gives it a run for the money on both fronts.
The English have a great sense of tradition and respect for rules and authority, especially among the upper crust. After lunch as we were changing out of our jacket and tie into our four layers of clothing that would be necessary to keep warm, I noticed the accents in the locker room were more polished that those I have heard throughout Scotland and England. No cockney accents at Royal St. George's. Think Prince Charles. The smoking room has a wooden board up above the fireplace listing previous club Presidents and it confirms Royal St. George's place among the connected in English society. Among the Presidents there were four Right Honourables, A Most Honourable, two Sirs and a Lord. The abbreviations after the names includes Knights, members of the Orders of Chivalry and military decorations: K.G. (Knight of the Garter), C.B.E. (Commander of the Order of the British Empire), K.T. (Knight of the Thistle), M.C. (Military Cross), D.S.O. (Distinguished Service Order), K.C.M.G. (Knight Commander of St. Michael and St. George), T.D. (Territorial Decoration), D.L. (Deputy Lieutenant) and a K.B.E. (Knight Commander of the British Empire).
I can't say enough about how grateful I am to clubs like Royal St. George's for being so accommodating for visitors. Luckily the tradition of being open and accessible to visitors is greatly appreciated and they make you truly feel welcomed (Royal Troon take note).
I found three holes at Royal St. George's to be particularly good. The par five 14th hole, "Suez Canal" (pictured below) has out of bounds down the entire right side and a burn/swale in play off the tee. You can't just wail at your second shot, since short of the green there are bunkers on the left side of the fairway and the fairway narrows to about 25 yards. Yet, if you can thread the needle and land in that area you will likely be rewarded with a birdie; otherwise you will pay the price. The fairway bunkers 80 yards short of the green will penalize you if you try to get the ball to the green. Even this close to the hole, you have to just get the ball out as your first priority. It is a hole you really have to use your head to play well.
The #1 handicap hole, the eighth, is a dogleg right and has a very interesting and challenging green complex that is artfully bunkered. Your second shot to the green plays downhill and usually downwind. Very tricky.
The fourth hole, Sahara, has an enormously large bunker on the right side of the hole. You hit from an elevated tee to a fairway that is wildly undulating and the green is even wilder. If you hit long past the green you are in the backyard of a local resident. Definitely a unique hole.
The normal solitude and peacefulness of a golf course is turned into your enemy and not your friend. As you may have guessed, someone who is crazy enough to take on this journey might be a bit compulsive and obsessive. So you extrapolate your bad game infinitely into the future. You'll never be able to hit the ball again. I walked four holes with my head down and my chin on my chest and lost a disproportionate amount of balls in a short period of time.
One of the things I love about this great game is what it teaches you about yourself and about life. Never give up; keep persevering; forge ahead. I didn't walk in. I didn't give up, I played on and got my swing back. Like life, golf forces you to keep reinventing yourself. The swing you had two years ago it probably not the swing you have today. Mine changes often but thanks to the pro at my course, we always seem to be able to cobble something together again no matter how bad the wheels fall off. Life, like golf, is not easy. It is a constant struggle. Just when you think you have it figured out, it reaches up and bites you.