Archive for the ‘Golf’ Category

Menage a Trois

Friday, December 28th, 2018

Thanks to the overwhelming response to my previous post “Partnerships,” (I received one comment which was from my son) I am continuing a similar theme. Only this time I’m concentrating on trios that were linked in some macabre way. Let’s begin with a comedy act from America, “The Three Stooges,” Moe, Curly and Larry. They didn’t appeal to British audiences, but were very successful in America.

Shell Petrol sponsored “World of Golf” featuring Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player and they became to be known as “The Big Three.” I mentioned in my previous post that Best, Law and Charlton dominated the stage at Manchester United in the 1960s. There’s a  statue of the three of them forever linked in bronze to commemorate their achievements. I also can’t leave out the midfield trio from Tottenham Hotspur: Blanchflower, Mackay and White, who were instrumental in Spurs being the first club to achieve the Double (Championship and FA Cup) in the 20th Century. John White was tragically killed by lightning sheltering under a tree on a golf course in 1965, and was never really replaced.

Turning to politics, Hugh Gaitskell, leader of the Labour Party died suddenly in 1963, and there were three contenders to replace him: Harold Wilson, George Brown, and James Callaghan. Wilson eventually won the leadership contest and became Prime Minister in 1964. Brown served as Foreign Secretary while Callaghan lived next door to 10 Downing Street as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Brown gained notoriety by appearing on television several times in an intoxicated state, and arguably made more sense when he was drunk.

Show business inevitably is littered with trios: The Bachelors, The Beverly Sisters, The Andrew Sisters, The Supremes, The Crystals, The Springfields. Dusty Springfield achieved  greater fame as a solo artist. Eric Clapton comprised for a short time one third of the rock band Cream, but he too achieved greater success as a solo artist. Emerson, Lake and Palmer deserve a mention as one of the first super groups. I could have included Crosby, Stills and Nash but Neil Young made them into a quartet.

Rugby has natural trios in the form of front rows, none more famous than Faulkner, Windsor and Price, They were Wales’s first ever one-club front row, and immortalized in a song by Max Boyce as the Viet Gwent. Comments on a postcard please if you believe I have misconstrued that phrase. Wales had a tremendous back row in the seventies in the shape of Merv the Swerve, Basil Brush Taylor, and Dai Morris, The Shadow.

Finally it would be remiss of me not to mention the “Three Tenors,” Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, and Jose Carreras. The 1990 World Cup brought them into prominence with the general public when the BBC used “Nessa Dorme,” beautifully sung by Pavarotti, as their theme song for televising the month long tournament. The Three Tenors gave a memorable concert towards the end of the tournament which propelled their careers to greater heights.

I could write a sequel on quartets where rock bands like the Beatles, Stones and The Who would be rich pickings. But I’m becoming rather bored with this theme, so goodness knows what it’s doing to my reader. So there you are. It only remains for me to wish y’all a Happy and Healthy New Year.

Thoughts from Afar on the Ryder Cup

Monday, October 29th, 2018

I love the Ryder Cup, one corrupt empire battling another corrupt empire. But enough about politics. I’ve lived in America for over 22 years and became a US Citizen in 2008. However, my heart remains in Wales and my economic head resides in the USA. Therefore I always want Europe to defeat America, not just beat them by a couple of points but annihilate them. There’s no question that the US PGA Tour is far richer than the European  Tour, and naturally the best players in the world, including the top Europeans, gravitate towards America.

The American media, public and players expect to win the Ryder Cup. Most of the public don’t know half the players in the European Cup Team. Brooks Koepka won the US Open and PGA Championship this year while Patrick (liar, liar, pants on fire) Reed won the Masters. Europe’s only Major winner this year was Franco Molinari who won The OPEN in July. There’s an arrogance around the US Ryder Cup Team which really grates on my senses. The US PGA knew several years ago that the 2018 Ryder Cup was to be played  in France, but the only American to play the course prior to the competition was Justin Thomas who ironically went 4-1. The others were too busy polishing their egos and making millions playing target golf on the American PGA  Tour.

I am not so naïve to assume that European players don’t have egos. Golf is an individual sport with millions of prize money at stake, and you have to be self absorbed to be successful. But the Europeans have the ability to put away their egos and come together as a team. One for all and all for one etc.

Take for example the rumor that best of friends Dustin Johnson (ranked No1 in the world ) and three times major winner Brooks Koepka almost came to blows on the flight over; allegedly caused by Johnson’s fiancée Pauline Gretsky who appears to wear as little as possible.

Then there was the controversy of Spieth opting to pair with his pal Justin Thomas when he had been so successful in previous Ryder Cups paired with Patrick (liar, liar, pants on fire)Reed. Reed said in the press conference that Spieth didn’t want to play with him, but in reality Reed pleaded  with Captain Furyk to be paired with Tiger Woods.

There’s another story: Tiger Woods and Phil “The Cheat” Mickelson were picked as wild cards. Tiger justified his selection having had a stellar season culminating in winning The Tour Championship at East Lake. However, nobody knew, least of all Tiger, that he was exhausted and in no shape to play the Ryder Cup. Mickelson was also a shadow of his former self and should have been put out to pasture.

Statistics can sometimes tell only half a story, but the results of the corresponding wild cards makes for interesting reading. Europe’s wild cards (Poulter, Casey, Garcia and Stenson) accumulated 9-4-1 points. In comparison USA’s wild cards (Woods, Mickelson, De Chambreau and Finu)  mustered a measly 2-10-0 points. Future hall of famers, Woods and Mickelson didn’t score a single point between them. Woods had no excuses, but Mickelson claimed he doesn’t like narrow fairways and extreme rough. Bite me!!!

Every European player secured at least a point while Francesco Molinari became the first European player to register a maximum 5 points. In contrast, three of the Americans did not score a point which included Tiger and Phil “the cheat” Mickelson.

On paper there should have been only team in the contest, but golf is not played on paper. Neither is it played on reputations. It is played on tees, fairways and greens with a little “hwyl” thrown in the mix. Britain may be leaving the European Union, but the European Ryder Cup will go from strength to strength providing there’s an evil empire waiting to be beaten into submission.



Unanswered Questions

Friday, April 14th, 2017
  • Why do some people smother their steaks with ketchup?
  • Why do some Atlanta drivers refuse to use headlights when the visibility is almost zero?
  • Why do some Atlanta drivers feel that using blinkers is an affront to their masculinity?
  • Can you define the  word “schism” and use it in a sentence?
  • Why does hair sprout from unusual places but ceases to grow on your head when you are older?
  • Why didn’t my parents warn me to take better care of my body to offset the wreckage of old age?
  • What is the difference between refugees, asylum seekers and migrants?
  • Do Germans and Greeks really dislike each other?
  • Why do I regard myself as Welsh first, British second, and European a distant third?
  • Who is John Ossoff and why has he been foisted on people living in the Sixth District of Georgia when he doesn’t even live here?
  • Why are spectators referred to as Patrons at the Masters?
  • Why does CBS’s Jim Nantz assume everyone is his friend?
  • Would I rather be ugly and rich, or poor and good-looking?
  • Would you rather always lose or never play?
  • Would you rather be forgotten or hatefully remembered?
  • Would you rather get even or get over it?
  • Would you rather kiss a horse or lick a cow?
  •  Why did it take a homeless person to do what transit planners, engineers, and consultant could not do…..get the attention of politicians to start looking at transportations options in Metro Atlanta.
  • Why aren’t Americans familiar with the phrase “curate’s egg?”
  • Why do Swansea City’s American owners remind me of Steptoe and Son?
  • Why did the Atlanta Braves win only one world series  when they had three Hall of Fame pitchers in Smoltz, Glavine and Maddux?
  • Does 14 successive Division (which only comprises 5 teams) Titles  achieved by the Atlanta Braves define success, mediocrity, or missed opportunities?
  • Why is Easter, the most important event in the Christian Calendar, no longer a public holiday in America?
  • What is more important to the average sports fan, a winning team or a “state of the art” ultra modern stadium?
  • Why don’t we have a colony on the moon bearing in mind Neil Armstrong landed there in 1969?
  • Why are my compatible with certain individuals, but not others?
  • What is the criteria for defining a good friend?
  • Which of these three songs has been covered the most by other artists: George Harrison’s “Something,” Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday,’ or John Lennon’s “Imagine?”
  • Which is most likely to happen in my twilight years: Swansea City returning to the Premiership, or the Atlanta Falcons winning the Super Bowl?
  • Why is my neighborhood in Atlanta beginning to resemble Puerto Rico?
  • In an attempt to avoid the dreaded drop, will the Swans go gently into the good night, or fight the good fight?
  • With apologies to “The Clash,” should I stay (in America) or should I go (to Wales?)

Asheville, Hush Puppies and Meltdown

Monday, July 4th, 2016


We spent a pleasant weekend in early April in Asheville, South Carolina which coincided with the weekend of the Masters, but more of that later. We reserved a two night stay at the Engardine Inn situated on the outskirts of Asheville. The owners had done a terrific job in restoration. Built in 1885, it was oozing in charm and nostalgia from a bygone age, accompanied by creaking doors, creaking floors and a creaking bed. Well, my joints have a tendency to creak these days so I fitted right in.

We arrived a day early in Asheville and we booked into the Downtown Inn situated at the heart of Asheville. What do they say about valuable property? Location, location, location………. and it was convenient for the bars and restaurants that Asheville had to offer. But why did I come away with the inert impression I had spent the night at an army barracks complete with a drill sergeant on reception?

Members of our family and well intentioned friends had recommended we visit the Biltmore House and Estate and the Grove Park Inn during our visit. Biltmore Estate is a large (8,000 acre) private estate and tourist attraction in Asheville. Biltmore House, the main house on the estate, is a Chateauesque-styled mansion built by George Vanderbilt between 1889 and 1895 and is the largest privately owned house in the United States, at 178,926 square feet  of floor space (135,280 square feet  of living area). Still owned by one of Vanderbilt’s descendants, it stands today as one of the most prominent remaining examples of the Gilded Age.

Admission was $65 each which I thought was rather pricey. The audio tour is an extra $20 and a “behind the scenes tour” is another $20 which is extortionate. We breezed through the house and headed for the extensive landscaped gardens. This was far from the madding crowds and much more relaxing.

Darwin Hybrid Tulip varieties were blooming in the Walled Garden and Estate Entry. Other blooms at this time of the year included early flowering shrubs and trees, forsythia, spirea, magnolia, and flowering cherries. We ended the day with some wine tasting and purchased a few bottles to take home.

We were also advised not to miss out on the Grove Park Inn, which is an historic resort hotel built in 1913 on the western-facing slope of Sunset Mountain within the Blue Ridge Mountains. The hotel is an example of the Arts and Crafts style of architecture. I have never heard of that type of architecture before, but no matter.

The hotel was built of rough granite stones and the expansive lobby is noted for its enormous granite fireplaces and expansive porch with its scenic overlook. It was advertised as having “walls five feet thick of granite boulders.” Unfortunately, two monolithic rear wings were added in  1958 and 1963 (the wonderful era of architecture) respectively which destroy the scale and character of the original building. But hey, money is money.

It was Sunday, the last day of the Masters, and we had returned from a long but enjoyable day of sighseeing, eating and drinking. I switched on the TV and Jordan Spieth was leading the tournament by 5 shots entering the 12th tee. In the blink of an eye he managed to score a 7 on the  Par 3 hole, and the tournament slipped through his fingers and won by a little known Englishman, Danny Willett who commendably shot a 67 in the last round. So much for the much vaunted new “Big Three,” Spieth, Day and McIlroy.

We didn’t feel like driving back into Asheville for dinner, so we found a “hole-in-the-wall” barbecue joint, called Frankie’s, bought a takeaway, and returned to the guest house where we feasted on ribs, pulled pork and grilled chicken washed down with a bottle of Malbec; serenely  sitting outside on the balcony of the guest house watching the world go by in the cool of the evening. As we pulled out of Frankie’s 10 minutes earlier, the cashier came tearing out the front door screaming: “Hey stop; y’all forgotten your hush puppies!!!!”

On the way home, we made a detour to Dupont Falls. I’ve seen more dramatic waterfalls, but these have gained notoriety as they were used as a location in the “Hunger Games” movies. I haven’t seen them either, but my wife is a great fan.



A Brief Return to the Masters

Friday, April 17th, 2015

Congratulations to 21 year old Jordan Speith for winning the Master equaling the lowest aggregate score of Tiger Woods in 1997, and achieving more birdies in four rounds than any of his predecessors. I just hope he is aware that the American media has been looking for a poster child since the gradual decline of Tiger Woods. Believe me Jordan, those media whores will build you up, invading your privacy layer by layer, and then attempt to  destroy you for a cheap headline or two.

I trust his high school sweetheart is prepared for a roller coaster ride because she will be ideal bait for some of the disingenuous  media hacks scraping the bottom of the barrel for a hint of scandal or skeletons lurking in the cupboard.

I wish we could arrange a firing squad for the pompous Chairman, Billy Payne, whispering sycophant Jim Nantz, and Sir Nick Faldo, current owner of the biggest ego in the golf world. Didn’t anyone ever tell him there’s no “I” in “team?”

Can we stop treating the Masters other than a golf tournament. I was about to put my remote through my TV screen if I heard another moron referring to Augusta as this “special place.” Why do the American commentators need to whisper as if their commentary booth was overlookin a shrine?

Sixty three year old and two time Masters Champion Ben Crenshaw was playing in his last Masters before hanging up his clubs. I guess old champions like to say goodbye to the “patrons” and milk the applause and adoration before riding off into the sunset, but it was embarrassing. The man had completed two rounds 29 shots over par for goodness sake, but he walked down the 18th fairway with the air of a golfer whose name was on the top of the leaderboard. I was hoping the ground would swallow him up and he would disappear with an iota of dignity.


Apart from the grinder, Nick Faldo, why do Englishmen love to finish second? Justin Rose was in contention at four shots behind Speith at the end of the 3rd round, and managed to reduce the arrears to two shots early in the final round. Unfortunately he dropped shots when Jordan Speith occasionally faltered, and he appeared  content to finish joint runner up with Phil Mickelson. Mickelson would probably have put more pressure on Speith if he had been paired with him  in the final group.

Spare a thought for Tiger Woods. He hadn’t played competitive golf since February, and like many other cynics, I didn’t believe he could make the cut after two rounds. He finished the tournament at a credible 5 under par despite having to pop a ligament back into his wrist during the final round. I didn’t realize ligaments were so flexible, but then Tiger is capable of regaling a tall story or two.

What do the following golfers have in common: Ricky Fowler, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, and Steve Stricker? Jordan Speith has one more major than these guys have put together.

CBS Network has covered the Masters for many years, but one of its regular golf commentators is conspicuous by his absence. During the network’s coverage 21 years ago in 1994, Gary McCord remarked that the 17th green was so fast that it appeared to be “bikini-waxed,” and that “body bags” were located behind that green for players who missed their approach shots.

Mr. Payne climb down off that high horse of yours for once, and allow CBS to reinstate the old blow hard in its commentary team for next year’s Masters. After all, it’s only a game and Augusta is just another golf course, isn’t it?



The Biggest Turkeys for Thanksgiving

Friday, November 28th, 2014

It’s the day after Thanksgiving and thanks to my Big Green Egg we enjoyed a succulent, juicy turkey for dinner. On the subject on turkeys listed below are some of the biggest ones for 2014:

  1. Barak Obama. I’m not going to validate this bozo by giving him his official title. How many other presidents would have sat back and allowed Americans to be beheaded by a terrorist organization? Answer; only one: HIM. This is the man who allowed Putin to bully him and Ukraine without any meaningful recourse.This is a man who should be impeached for overriding Congress and abusing his Executive Powers. This is the man who claimed that France are America’s greatest allies.
  2. Alex Salmond. The Scottish Independence vote had no chance with this used car salesman at the helm. He did not have an answer when UK Government informed him Scotland could not retain the Pound Sterling as a currency should they gain independence. The Bank of Scotland pulled the rug up from him when they announced they would move to London should Scotland win independence.
  3. Frank Wren. the general manager of the Atlanta Braves threw millions of dollars at mediocre players not fit enough to lace the cleats of former greats Chipper Jones, John Smoltz and Greg Maddux. Malcontent BJ Upton was given $75 million to behave like a clown in center field. Dan (Mr Magoo) Uggla was mercifully released but is still owed $19 million. Frank Wren was eventually shown the door, but not before he ensured  $65 million is tied up with the remaining years of Upton and Uggla’s contracts.
  4. Mayor of Atlanta and his Chief of Transportation. In January, heavy snow and frozen ice conditions were forecast well in advance of the anointed time. These two gentlemen chose to ignore the impending storm and the City of Atlanta was brought to its knees leaving thousands of motorists stranded.
  5. Head Coach Mike Smith of the Atlanta Falcons. Clearly Mr. Smith missed the seminar on time management. Two games were blown this season due to his  incompetence at controlling the clock when his team were minutes from victory. The game staged in London against the Detroit Lions was more embarrassing since it was played out on a global stage.
  6. Luis Suarez. The little man chose to audition for the new Dracula movie by biting a chunk out of an Italian defender in the middle of  a World Cup football match.
  7. Brendan Rodgers. Tasked with replacing Dracula wannabe, Luis Suarez, Liverpool spent $190 million on a bunch of “garden shed” players. After a winless November, Liverpool are languishing in 12th place in the Premiership and struggling to remain in the Champions League. Meanwhile Rodgers is adamant that he is the greatest manager in Europe.
  8. Tom Watson. Eight time major champion and former winning Ryder Cup captain was plucked from the knacker’s yard to right the floundering American ship. Unfortunately he was completely adrift from his players who could not relate to a “legend;” some young and immature enough to call him granddad.
  9. Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return. Hollywood’s animated movie has not fared very well; Box Office: $19 million, Budget: $70 million, Return: 27%. The only thing that will be “Frozen” on this movie will be its assets.
  10. The Welsh rugby team. Wales have not beaten the All Blacks since 1953 when Bleddyn Williams was captain and the late Cliff Morgan was fly half. It’s not a mental thing dummy. They are quite simply better than us.
  11. Everyone who left Southampton FC in the summer.

Speaking of New Zealand, bring on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.


Friday, October 17th, 2014

This particular post has rumbled around in my head for a few weeks, so some of my reference may appear to be outdated. Nevertheless, I must stop procrastinating and put pen to paper.

The recent result in the Scottish Referendum made me realize that we all make choices in life; some life changing, others regrettable while many are mundane decisions that we are required to make out of necessity in our daily routines.

Scotland had the opportunity to free themselves of the English yoke, but The First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond chose to confirm the mantra that former First Minister of Wales, Rhodri Morgan, placed upon him as resembling a used car salesman. He continued to assure Scottish voters that they would retain pound sterling as their currency when they had achieved independence. British Government representatives were equally adamant that an independent Scotland would be required to adopt another currency. Equally damaging was the Bank of Scotland’s statement that they would move to London should Scottish independence be achieved.

These two factors were sufficient to dowse the flames of a Scottish revolt, and normal service  resumed almost immediately. It’s a shame the vote was lost. The next ten years could have changed the face of politics in Britain never mind its culture and intricate history. Many of the Labor Members of Parliament represent Scottish Constituencies and without their numbers it is unlikely that Labor could achieve a majority to form a Government.

I believe most citizens of the USA would agree that Obama has achieved immortality by becoming the worst President in history. Therefore it was somewhat  of a surprise that he was re-elected for a second term, and even more of a mystery how he was re-elected when nobody will now admit voting for him. Democracy gives the people the opportunity to elect candidates of their choosing which is tantamount to placing a loaded gun into a child’s hand.

Several years ago I made the choice to emigrate to America. It was the right thing to do on a personal and emotional level, but it proved disastrous in terms of my career. America was lauded as the place to make one’s fortune, a place to re-invent oneself where age was not a barrier. Believe me reality can bite you in the butt.

Europe retained the Ryder Cup yet again by comprehensively defeating their illustrious opponents the good old US of A. The Americans were so miffed that Phil Mickelson savaged his captain Tom Watson in the post match press conference. Tom Watson is a legend of the game and appeared to be an excellent choice to captain his team to victory. He was captain when they won in 1993 on British soil, but unfortunately appeared to be out of touch with his players. Watson was old enough to be Jordan Speith’s grandfather for example.

Watson couldn’t win  matches for his players, but he chose the pairings for the four balls and foursomes. Some of his pairings proved to be bizarre, but ironically his decision to pair two young rookies, Speith and Reed, was a bold and successful decision. However, some of his other choices led to  his downfall.

Reeling from only two wins from the last ten meetings in the Ryder Cup, the USPGA decided to form a “Task Force” to examine ways of creating a team capable of winning the Ryder Cup in two years time. The task force includes former players, current stars and former captains all of whom have a habit of losing. Conspicuous by their absence are the two winning captains for USA in recent times, Ben Crenshaw and Paul Azzinger.

One could argue that it is wrong to look back on your choices in life. To a certain extent I agree. However it pays to return once in a while and learn from them. The secret is not to dwell on the negatives, but move onward and upward with no regrets.

My last concluding thought on choices; this blog is approaching one million visitors and I have submitted 160 posts over the last four years. I’m seriously calling it a day when I hit the two milestones of one million visitors and 200 posts unless I receive some positive feedback. But don’t discount me emulating Frank Sinatra.

The King is Dead; Long Live the King

Monday, August 11th, 2014

Rory McIlroy’s second major of the season may finally put the Tiger era to rest, but don’t count on it. The American sports media continues its irrational obsession with Tiger being the face of golf. They lament the fact that the number of people taking up the game is on the decline because of the waning powers of Woods. Realistically, the attraction of the sport for black people probably coincides with the demise of their champion.

Local talking heads on the sports channel in Atlanta were whining that the PGA Championship would not be good viewing on the weekend because their poster boy had missed the cut. How many other golfers receive intense TV coverage when they are six over with the completion of two rounds?

The obsession with Tiger Woods continued this morning (Monday 11th August) at Tom Watson’s press conference where the agenda was the forthcoming Ryder Cup. Tiger can only be in the team if he is one of Captain Watson three picks. Journalists peppered Watson with questions on whether he would select an unfit and out of form Tiger Woods for the Ryder Cup. Watson sensibly replied that he would pick him if he was healthy, but avoided the issue of his lack of form. Tiger does not intend playing competitive  golf between now and the Ryder Cup in six weeks.

One journalist had the temerity to ask Watson if he trusted Tiger Woods.  Watson hesitated for a moment and eventually replied: “Yes of course I do! (but thinking not with my daughter.)

Returning to the final round of the PGA Championship, it turned out to be compelling viewing. At the beginning of the round several players were in contention of Rory McIlroy who led by one shot from an Austrian not named Arnie or Adolph. By the turn, there were four players with a realistic chance of winning the tournament; the No 1 player in the world (Rory,) the young pretender Ricki Fowler, the middle aged Scandinavian with oodles of talent Henrik Stenson, and the old magician Phil Mickelson.

Approaching the 10th tee, McIlroy was 3 shots behind Fowler. Rory’s second shot following a perfect drive down the fairway was an exocet missile that curved from left to right landing approximately 10 feet from the pin. McIlroy took his time and knocked the putt in the hole for an eagle on the Par 5. This proved to be the pivotal hole as his rivals proceeded to drop shots coming home. McIlroy made a birdie on the 12th hole and the championship was back in his clutches winning eventually by one shot from Phil Mickelson.

McIlroy has won his last three tournaments; The Open, the Bridgestone and the PGA Championship. He gets the job done on the back nine which separates him from his fellow competitors. Can he win as many majors as Tiger Woods (14) let alone Jack Nicklaus who holds the record at 18? Rory admitted that he has been totally  focused on golf since his public break up with Caroline Whatever, and this has  proved to be the reason for his current rich vein of form. Whether he can retain that type of focus for X number of years is anyone’s guess, but it will be fun watching the best player in golf attempting to transform the record books.



A Trip for the Ages when Bunny Foo Foo went AWOL

Monday, April 14th, 2014

I thought this was a good topic for a blog, but I’m not sure whether I should it present is as a travel log or reminiscences from times gone by. I’ve decided to ramble and see where it takes me.

I recently spent a delightful two weeks back home in the UK and for once the weather gods were very kind to me. I often tell my American friends that you rarely witness a cloudless blue sky in the British Isles, but those weather gods were determined to make me a liar. Pennard Golf Club had never looked more spectacular. The fairways were shimmering under an early spring radiant blue sky with not a breath of wind to disturb the circling seagulls or meandering sheep. I can’t imagine another golf hole like the seventh where you tee off facing the ocean 200 feet below a magnificent cliff top. On the right hand side of the fairway lays the ruins of Pennard Castle which dates back to the 12th Century and is sufficient to blow the mind of an American golfer seeking to play true links golf.

Meanwhile I popped into the Gower Golf Club a few miles down the road. When I was town planner I had a hand in recommending that a local farmer convert his dairy farm into a golf course. The gruff but affable owner Mr. Jenkins came to see me in the planning department, and told me in no uncertain terms that “the bottom had dropped out” of dairy farming and the Ministry of Agriculture had advised him to contact his local planning department for ideas on alternative uses for his land.

He initially scoffed at my idea of a golf course, but within a week he returned to the office and admitted it had possibilities, and lo and behold within eighteen months the concept was a reality. I never thought for one moment that a dairy farmer with no experience of golf would obtain planning permission, hire a respected golf architect, Donald Steel, to design a golf layout from his cow pastures, and make a success of it. Sadly Mr. Jenkins passed away a few years ago, but the golf club continues to thrive in the hands of his son and daughter.

Food played a prominent part in my trip. I stayed at my brother’s in Cardiff for two nights and he kindly prepared two delightful Welsh breakfasts of lava bread, cockles, bacon and eggs. Superb cuisine! A few days later I had dinner with some old friends of mine in the King Arthur Hotel, Reynoldston, Gower. I was determined to continue the Welsh theme and ordered trout in a cockle sauce. It was truly exquisite ably supported by a roaring log fire in a convivial pub atmosphere and washed down with a pint of Reverend James.

In the second week of my journey I left the friendly confines of Wales and traveled over the border into England to visit with my son, daughter, their respective partners, and my dear grandchildren. My son lives near to a couple restaurants, Italian and Indian, and the Italian is particularly good. I have visited the Indian a couple of times now, but the jury is still out. Having dined out on the plethora of Indian restaurants in my home town of Swansea since the age of 23, I can be highly critical of Indian restaurants.

When in Rome do as the Romans do; when in Britain eat fish and chips. The Rockfish in Dartmouth is a tad more than a fish and chips shop. It can justifiably be called a seafood restaurant. We ordered monkfish, lemon sole and the traditional cod; all of which were delicious. We had the choice of breaded or batter on our fish and everyone was delighted with their meal. Oh, and the chips were crispy and dry. My favorite chip and shop was Covelli’s in Mumbles, but I received the shocking news that they had closed their doors. The Rockfish is now firmly ensconced as my number one location for fish and chips.

There were other culinary moments along the way. Rossi’s opposite the Liberty Stadium in Swansea has a good reputation for fish and chips and I chose plaice which I found to be a little greasy. I popped into the King’s Head in Treboeth the previous day for lunch which was and old stamping ground of my dad’s, and chose the bangers and mash which unfortunately was served with congealed gravy. Enough said! I had dinner with my brother and niece (who I hadn’t seen in 16 years) in the Traveller’s Rest on Caerphilly Mountain. I can’t remember what I ordered, but it tasted good.

Another fine tradition peculiar to the British is the Sunday roast lunch and carvery served in countless establishments around the country. My daughter took us to Ye Olde Smokey House, a 17th Century pub just outside Paignton and the roast beef, rich gravy and wine were exquisite. My American wife has grown accustomed over the years to a carvery and was a little disappointed with her Yorkshire pudding. Well there’s no pleasing some people.

Another goal of my trip was to reconnect with friends I hadn’t seen for many years. I stayed a couple of nights with Rob and Anne and I don’t believe I have been so well looked after since my mum passed away. Rob was supposed to join my friend Paul and I for a round of golf at Royal Porthcawl but pulled out with car trouble. My brother also declined the invitation but generously loaned me his clubs. Royal Porthcawl is one of the best link courses in the British Isles and looked idyllic bathed in sunshine early in March. The Senior British Open is being held there in July which confirms its status as one of the prestigious golf courses in the country.

Following a couple pints and a sandwich in the quaint clubhouse, Paul and I made a mad dash for the Blue Anchor in Aberthaw which is a thatched roof 14th Century hostelry in the Vale of Glamorgan. The building suffered a serious fire nearly 10 years but they did an excellent job in remodeling it losing nothing of its original ambience. My last port of call on the old friend’s front was reuniting with Sam who I hadn’t seen since I emigrated in 1996. We met in the New Inn in Penllargaer and he gave me a great big bear hug. He hadn’t changed a bit which is more than can be said for me!




Confessions of a Weekend Hacker

Saturday, August 24th, 2013

I have had a love-hate relationship with the game of golf for going on forty years. I’ve probably quit more times than Sinatra retired from show business or Brett Favre retired from the NFL. I began playing on a nine hole pitch and putt course at Ashleigh Road with my dad in Swansea, and entered putting contests held on the Promenade near the Guildhall where I worked for 28 years. My dad had great hand/eye co-ordination but never took the game seriously. Pity really because I believe he would have been a very good golfer. He could hit a ball a country mile with a five iron, but had no interest in putting pleasantries.

I’ve received a few lessons over the years, studied instructional videos and watched the Golf Channel religiously since its inception several years ago. I’ve learnt the basics of grip, alignment and stance and so forth, but it’s such a technical game and any subconscious change in your mechanics can completely change your swing detrimentally. Just think of the coaches, trainers, psychologists and gurus that professional golfers include in their touring entourage.

Take for example my round of golf yesterday which prompted me to write this blog. Recently I have the tendency to slice the ball when using my driver and I’m possibly losing 40-60 yards of distance. Something prompted me to stand closer to the ball on the tee when I was about to drive. It had the desired affect because for a few holes I was hitting the ball straight down the fairway. I thought I had cracked the formula, but began slicing my drives while standing nearer to the ball. Go figure.

In theory the game of golf should be quite simple to play. You are attempting to hit a stationary ball with a myriad of clubs. It shouldn’t be too difficult. The ball is not moving while you are addressing the ball, but it comes down to your damn mechanics again. I don’t care what coaches preach but woods and irons require completely different mechanics. You use a sweeping motion when hitting the woods and you hit down and through when striking the irons. Chipping and putting also require specific skills.

I used to be a good iron player but lately I’m hitting them either fat or thin. I’m more comfortable using a 3, 5 and 7 wood these days, so I’m really tempted to buy some hybrids to replace my irons. Unfortunately they haven’t yet designed a hybrid to replace the pitching or sand wedge.

I popped in to Dick’s Sporting Goods in the afternoon to look at some Adams hybrids. The assistant asked whether I had been measured for the correct length of clubs which he claimed made a big difference. However he was less convincing when trying to explain the merits of graphite or stainless steel shafts.

I often wonder why we spend hundreds dollars on drivers, woods and irons when half of our shots are made with the putter on the greens. If I had applied logic to this game I wouldn’t get out of bed in the wee small hours to make the early tee time.

I can’t remember the last time I broke 90, and you may be wondering what enjoyment I derive from playing the game banally. Well I sometimes achieve a good drive, hit a fairway wood fairly well, or occasionally sink a 60 foot putt. It’s the intermittent good shot which gives the hacker hope of better things to come. The hacker keeps telling himself that it is possible to string a series of good shots together which encourages him to come back next weekend.

I have played some beautiful courses: Royal Porthcawl, Pennard, Chateau Elan, St. Elmo and St Pierre to name a few and probably haven’t done them justice. But along the way I have experienced breathtaking sun rises and serene sun sets across fairways sparkling in the morning dew or bathed in shadows as the light fades away. I have enjoyed the company of several friends who play the game the same way with humor and rancor. There’s always to-morrow.