When conjuring a title for this post, it was tempting to use the pun ‚??PanPure‚?Ě. ¬†That however would‚??ve been contrived, so I didn‚??t, favouring Plain English instead. ¬†Anyway the sentiment: the greens at Panmure are really the best we‚??ve had the pleasure of putting on in this links wonderland (just a shade purer than North Berwick and Royal Troon, which were also quite magnificent). ¬†I usually try to shy away from lists and rankings and the like ‚?? because they are polarising and I of course (as those of you who know me will no doubt know) avoid controversy at all costs... ¬†But on this occasion I‚??m making an exception because I feel so strongly on the matter. ¬†And putting is a subject dear to my heart.
Panmure‚??s the 20th oldest golf club in the world, and sits on the outskirts of the wee town of Barry (good Scottish name that it is), just down the road from Carnoustie (an equally good Scottish name). ¬†It‚??s a qualifying course for Opens and Senior Opens (like last week‚??s) held at Van de Velde‚??s favourite track. ¬†¬†¬†
My mum‚??s cousin Harvey has been a member there since 1959, which makes him part of the furniture. ¬†He‚??s had the same locker the whole time, No. 15. ¬†I wonder whether Nos. 1 to 14 have changed hands during his tenure or whether those old boys are still there too? ¬†I dropped Harvey ‚?? whom I hadn‚??t seen for 13 years ‚?? a line on Monday to let him know we were playing Panmure on Wednesday at noon, and to ask whether he‚??d like to join us for a game. ¬†Now retired from his family company in Dundee and from his duties with the Scottish Rugby Union (which he used to head up a few years ago), Harvey has a bit of time on his hands (most of which is spent fishing) and was only too happy to join us. ¬†Super.
Harvey‚??s one of life‚??s lovely folk: an affable, laid back character who seems to know everyone and doesn‚??t have a bad word to say about any of them. ¬†I think the reason he didn‚??t play (he just walked round with us) was because he thought we were gun golfers and he didn‚??t want to hold us up if he wasn‚??t on form. ¬†A very modest fellow. ¬†Given the way I struggled around he would‚??ve likely beaten me in any event! ¬†Although being so modest he would‚??ve kept it to himself...
Like Royal Troon, the first few holes are gentle and lull you almost into a false sense of security. ¬†Today however the wind was gusting strongly into us, making them (in fact, the first 10) a pretty testing affair. ¬†On the glassy greens though you always had a chance at your par putt if you‚??d been so careless so as not to be on in regulation. ¬†Around the course are a plethora of rustic features, giving it a very aged feel. ¬†Take the greenkeeper‚??s hut adjacent to the 1st green, or his house adjacent to the 2nd. ¬†They look like they‚??ve been there since Moses Struck The Rock (a nice lick of paint gives the appearance of mutton dressed up as lamb ‚?? a Kiwi phrase that I haven‚??t as yet heard over here). ¬†There‚??s an army base by the 16th too; I imagine it‚??s there because the links terrain ‚?? with its dunes, tussock, gorse and heather ‚?? probably looks just like Afghanistan. ¬†Certainly my own experiences of linksland warfare (Cowboys and Indians) as a youngster remain vividly etched in my grey matter. ¬†As a fervent Indian I‚??d always find the best vantage points among the gorse from which to fire my bow and arrow at my Cowboy brother. ¬†Of course he‚??d tell you otherwise ‚?? but those Cowboys aren‚??t to be trusted.
The course starts to blossom as you reach Hogan‚??s Hole, the 6th. ¬†(Apparently it was Benjamin‚??s favourite hole in Scotland). ¬†It‚??s a beauty. ¬†A blind tee shot is played to a fairway that for the shorter hitters is a double one (with the 7th), then up through a few moguls to a raised green surrounded by heather and gorse and general mischief. ¬†On the 6th we played through a group of American chaps that had been playing at a leisurely pace. ¬†I hit a low draw from the tee leaving only a wee punch 6 iron up to the dance floor ‚?? but standing over the approach felt a little rushed and blocked it into the bundai. ¬†With our American friends waiting back on the fairway we didn‚??t want to look for it for more than a minute or two, so I declared it lost, took a triple and moved on to the next tee. ¬†The beginning of the end after an acceptable start. ¬†Shame ‚?? but that‚??s golf.
Harvey provided invaluable local knowledge and was full of good stories. ¬†I particularly liked one he told about Tarum Airlines (anyone heard of them?), who he and the Scottish team flew with some years ago (once and once only) - apparently they had to tape one of the exit doors shut because it was coming loose! ¬†And the big burly forwards were asked to move down to the back to balance the plane for landing! ¬†It‚??s not like it used to be... ¬†
Below are a couple of photos of the 8th hole, which is a wee cracker. ¬†Blind tee shot and - unless you're on the right hand side of the fairway - a blind approach.
The sun poured over the links for the most part, and the wind blew enough to make life very interesting. ¬†Perfect golfing conditions. ¬†Over the past couple of weeks I‚??ve grown to love (or rather, rediscovered my love) for the way the sun shines between the clouds here. ¬†Not like NZ or Aussie, or even the US, where the sun sits alone in a piercing blue sky. ¬†Here the contrast is greater; invariably the sun dances between dark clouds, creating a greater appreciation for that warmth-on-the-back-of-your-neck feeling. ¬†It‚??s like Christmas: if you had it every week it wouldn‚??t be the same!
In the clubhouse Harvey treated us to lunch and a refreshing beverage ‚?? not in the very impressive wood panelled lounge (which requires a jacket and tie), but in the amusingly named ‚??Dirty Bar‚?Ě. ¬†A steak pie and chips taste quite wonderful when you‚??ve been sluggling it slowly around the links. ¬†A few of Harvey‚??s pals, who‚??d been playing behind us, came up to offer kind words and a few quid each for The First Tee. ¬†Harvey also threw a fiver in, God Bless Him. ¬†A very generous and gracious bunch; Michael and I were humbled.
Before we left we got a quick tour of the Big Boys‚?? Bar and the Dining Room, the walls of which are lined with paintings of the club‚??s early captains (the Earl of....the Duke of...etc etc) - they looked androgynous and English in their full regalia, and would get beaten up if they walked around downtown Dundee these days. ¬†In their day I‚??m sure they were distinguished and revered. ¬†And probably beaten up at school too.
Thanks Harvey ‚?? great to see you and to catch up on 13 years of news! ¬†Don't know how you managed to escape without having your portrait taken, but I'll source a photo from somewhere...
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