The Ganton blog post has been a long time coming - we‚??ve since traveled across three countries from the Yorkshire countryside, up to Scotland and now this is coming to you from the backseat of a land rover in Dubai.¬†¬† There are a couple of even more outdated posts to grace this blogroll in the coming weeks as our journey winds to a close ‚?? in particular a couple of famed courses, one in New Jersey and the other from a magical part of Fife.¬† But I digress‚?¶
Our invitation to Ganton came late in the piece from a gentleman farmer who lives nearby the course and goes by the name of Oliver Sutton.¬† Oliver has been a member at Ganton for some 51 years and yet is still a young chap.¬† He probably learnt to walk¬† on this famed inland links course.¬† Making up the fourball was another chap who is part of the furniture and is club historian and author of the history of the club, introducing The Dapper Mr Ian Douglas [next to JP watching on as Oliver tees off].
But first let me take you back to where the day began back in Leeds with Phil and Jen in Leeds.¬† After a great couple of nights in Leeds we reluctantly bid farewell and got on the road, for one of The Tanks final forays,¬† for a 90 minute drive through the picturesque Yorkshire coast.¬†¬†¬† The countryside was glimmering with autumn colours and some magestic country estates were dotted here and there.¬† And then, like two excited kids we arrived at Ganton GC and met Oliver, Ian and the ever-so-welcoming caddy master whose name I forget but kindness I have not.
A quick bacon roll later the locals, sporting some 90 years of local knowledge between them, split themselves up and before we knew it Ian and I were strategizing on the first tee.¬† The match ‚?? a greensomes ‚?? where you both hit from the tee, choose the best ball and then play alternate shots from there onwards.¬† We call it Canadian Foresomes and it is a format JP and I have played occasionally this year when we‚??re in need of a quick round ‚?? Royal Dublin & Piping Rock come to mind.¬†
Ian is as wily and competitive as they come and his Glaswegian droll often reminded me of days spent on my mate Ed‚??s couch listening to the commentary of Peter Allis many an Open Championship.¬†¬† JP and Oliver proved to be quite the putting duo and before long we realised we were in Trouble.
Playing a greensomes proved an excellent way to play a 2 ball match and yet see the full golf course.¬† And JP and I definitely did that as we had the worst ball striking day in the history of bad ball striking days.¬† Left, right, thin, fat everything was going on and, needless to say, we were leaning on our partners off the tee on many an occasion.¬† There may have also been the odd sideways glance as the locals fossocked around in the gorse looking for the ball we had kindly launched in that direction.¬†
Ganton GC is known as an ‚??Inland Links‚?? course and has the honour of having hosted all of The Ryder Cup, The Walker Cup, The Curtis Cup and many English Amateur championships.¬† Whilst Ganton is not a long course it is definitely one that tests the serious golfer.¬†¬† Many a great designer contributed to the layout here from MacKenzie to Colt and Simpson.¬† Yet the layout stays true to its origins with the exception of one change to the 12th hole.
There is an interesting story to the 12th formerly a par three that is now a dogleg right par four.¬† On the near corner of the dogleg is a large pine tree that both intimidates you off the tee and frames the hole.¬† A few years back this tree split down the middle and, like that, the hole was seriously in trouble of losing it‚??s charm.¬† And so the machinery was brought out and the tree winched back together with steel rods inserted to hold it together for the near future.¬†
Despite being a few miles from the ocean the soil is very firm and sandy.¬† Historic photographs show the course exhibiting ‚??duney‚?? characteristics such that it could be mistaken for pure links courses.¬† This was similar to our experience earlier this year at Royal Adelaide ‚?? another great inland links course. ¬†
Even with a great layout and fantastic conditioning the story of Ganton is about the bunkers.¬† As distinctive as they come.¬† These things are like trenches ‚?? sand pits with dark sand, square faces and some attitude.¬† This one below is being dug out to make it even gnarlier‚?¶
And then there are a couple of holes that are simply picture perfect ‚?? in particular the 4th and the 14th.¬† I found myself staring at the 4th hole at various stages during the round and even went back to make a few more pictures of it.¬† ¬†A simple hole but a truly great hole.¬† And then 14 is a drivable par four - even from the back tees it only plays 280 yards - but is set against an amazing backdrop of the hill with the local Ganton church spire in the backdrop. (I particularly enjoyed the hole as the only good shot of the day found its way out with a cheeky 2 iron hit to 15 feet)
[above - the par four 4th hole]
[above - the short par four 14th]
The match hotted up down the stretch after Ian and I had a few pep talks after finding ourselves 3 down.¬† The pressure got to JP on the 16th tee when he hit it into the infamous bunker running across the front of the fairway ‚?? to which JP gave his often shared story about how finds all the notable hazards around the world ‚?? the Loch at Loch Lomond 7, the Road Hole bunker, the wall at Prestwick etc.¬† But on the 16th at Ganton, JP also tried to be the first golfer to ever hit a three wood out of said bunker some 250 yards onto the green (for practice as team Oliver / JP took the members drive (again)).¬†¬† ¬†Suffice to say he was, on this occasion, unsuccessful.¬† A victory to the good guys later, the match was, all of a sudden, 1 up in our favour.¬†
The finish at Ganton is brutal.¬† 17th is a 250 yard long par three over the road and then 18 plays again back doglegging left over the road and between some illustrious pines.¬† In fact if you make four pars coming home here at Ganton you‚??re going to be very content. ¬†
On the 17th green things got serious as the banter on the match started flying left right and centre but the rascals held on to take it to the 18th.¬†¬† A couple of poor drives later it was all over and we were up on the famous stairs to make a picture like all the famous teams of golfers have over the years.¬†
Next to the 17th green was a tree that was stunning but had a particularly sad story behind it.¬†¬† The previous greenkeeper here was killed on the course when he was out rabbit shooting one evening.¬† His colleagues tried to drag him to the local bar to get help but he bled out and passed away on the course.¬† The tree was planted in memory of him.
The form which followed was to the back bar for a spot of lunch and some 1998 chateau courtret.¬† The paneling on the walls had been done by Olivers brother, the memorabilia on the walls largely assembled by Ian (and featuring a significant collection from Harry Vardon who was the professional at Ganton for some 7 years during the turn of the 20th century).¬† We were very fortunate for the-real-inside-knowledge-Ganton-Experience.¬†
One more quick story from the day ‚?? we were talking about visitors coming to Ganton and Oliver started sharing a story with us about hosting a couple of fun loving golf lunatics from Boston who had made quite an impression in these parts.¬† The American guests were from a course in Boston called Kittanset but our hosts couldn‚??t for the life of them remember their names.¬†¬† JP and I had got an email from Kittanset on our travels but unfortunately did not make it up that far, and in a moment of photographic memory brilliance we both, simultaneously recollected the name at the top of that email - Newcomb Cole.¬†¬† And sure enough Newcomb Cole was the same chap our host was talking about!! Small world is the world of golf.
After golf we went up to Oliver‚??s caf√© and art gallery on the hillside above Ganton.¬† You can imagine how much time we spend in golf clubhouses so a quality coffee in the peaceful and modern d√©cor of an art gallery was a fresh environment!
And then, as if the day couldn‚??t continue any longer we went up the road to stay at the Tennants Farm only 20 minutes from Ganton.¬† Si Tennant came across to Wellington last summer and along with Mr James Finch these two Yorkshiremen made quite a stir at the cricket club I was playing for.¬†¬† When I bailed on the lads mid season to play a bit of golf Tenners and Finch thought I was mad.¬† ¬†I think Tenners optimistically said to me ‚??make sure you get to Ganton and come and stay with us‚??.¬†¬† And so here we were 300+ days into the year.¬† The lads were still on the top form I remembered and we had a hearty meal a couple of beers and a good old fashioned catch up.¬† Cheers boys for having us and hope to see you gain soon.¬†
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