I’m a member of one of the better Auckland golf clubs. I go there to play golf (funny that) and that is about it. I drive to the club in my golf attire, change my shoes into golf shoes at the boot of my car, pick up my clubs, collect a card from the pro’s shop and saunter onto the first tee after a bit of a warm up and five minutes on the practice green to try and gauge the pace of the greens for the day. After the round I occasionally stop for a quick drink still wearing my golf apparel if I’m thirsty, but generally I hand in my scorecard and, well, drive home. I think most members of my club do much the same and most NZ clubs are run along similar lines. The level of social hierarchy surrounding a NZ golf club is approaching zero.
Not so in my brief acquaintance with the British arm of the family. I have recently spent some time in three golf clubs in the UK and they can be divided into two tiers; the ordinary and the Royal – literally. Both are totally unlike anything I am used to and I’m not sure I really like either.
We’ll start with the proletariat of British golf clubs. But I’m not sure even this is the case as I think I am referring to the middle class of golf clubs. The proles are surely the municipal courses - the Perivales of the world. This is the clubhouse at the Blackpool North Shore Golf Club.
Looks 1930’s to me. But it is what happens inside that is a bit strange. There are codes of practice for pretty much everything. Dress codes are the most obvious. When I arrived in the UK for the golfing extravaganza I was immediately asked by one of my fellow golfists if I had a jacket and tie in my luggage. Now why would I? I’ve travelled half way around the world to play golf and not ponce around in a bloody tie. However this was seen to be such a grave error in my packing technique that I was lent a jacket and tie and, even worse, I had to use them - repeatedly. The dress codes in these places is arcane at best. Smart casual in the upstairs bar including shorts and socks of any length that are white but only before 8.00pm. Why? What is wrong with a pair of smart checked socks? Well quite a lot as they look awful but is that sufficient reason to refuse a beer. And what happens at 8.00pm that suddenly makes a naked and revealed knee an appalling site? At 8.00pm the infamous jacket and tie are one’s only passport to a bag of crisps let alone a meal or libation.
Another very odd characteristic of the middle of the road golf club is that a few of the members seem to lose their names. We were sitting in the dining room clad in our damned after 8.00pm attire when a woman walked through the room. From a distance I would put her as a Dorothy, a Jean or perhaps a Susan. There was a bloke sitting at a table eating his dinner who was almost certainly a Doug. The bloke obviously knew the woman so he greeted her with a cheery ‘Good evening, Lady Captain’. What the hell is that bollocks all about? She’s got a name for Pete’s sake. You don’t call your mates Mr Blindside Flanker or Miss Pastry Cook do you?
I really don’t think I would enjoy my golf if I had to walk of the eighteenth green into all that nonsense. It really is so unnecessary. A few standards are, of course, essential. We don’t want golfers lounging around in Speedos swilling super strength lager and picking their noses, but ‘Good evening, Lady Captain’ - give me a break.
We move onto Royalty and here I expected a new level of bullshit. I was not disappointed but in a way I found it all more acceptable.
Good Edwardian brick - it is not going to fall down tomorrow. As visitors we had to change in the Visitors Locker Room so as not to mingle with the members in their swipe card protected inner sanctum. This after having gained access to the foyer of the club through a set of revolving doors for heavens sake. Have you tried walking through a set of revolving doors carrying a set of golf clubs? But I suppose if you are a member of a golf club with a Royal warrant you don’t carry your own clubs into the Club or anywhere else for that matter.
The dress code stuff is pretty much the same except that you don’t get out of the locker room at all clad in a pair of shorts. Longs and ordinary shoes with the Cutter & Buck polo shirt if you want a pint of shandy and a bag of dry roasted nuts.
The clubhouse has many other things that are really jolly nice. Heaps of seriously classy memorabilia - Bob Charles’ sand wedge, Seve’s 9 iron, Tom Lehman’s driver (persimmon surprisingly) - and a very good snooker room. Lunch is not a sandwich but haddock and chips and mushy peas (well we are in Lancashire). The jolly good snooker room was not good enough, however, to raise my level of play above abysmal.
Lytham also had the Dormey House which is a rather upmarket dormitory where we stayed for two nights.
Really like being at public school. There was the House Master (Dormey manager) dishing out keys and although we had single rooms there were shared bathrooms. But on the upside they had some of the best showers in the Northern hemisphere. And they had free Wifi. I like an outfit that is not so stuck in the past it is prepared to embrace the real world circa 2009.
I went to Royal Lytham & St Annes wanting to hate the place having been primed by the middle class pretenders. I can’t stand all this totally unnecessary artificial dressing up of something with things that don’t matter. However, paradoxically, I infinitely preferred the full Monty to the half way stuff.
But the bottom line is that in front of both those options I think I’ll stick with changing my shoes in the car park, using the golf course to play golf on and then having my shower and lunch at home.