The days of the old club­house

Inside Golf - - 19th Hole - Michael Green @AussieGolfer

AFRIEND of mine thinks you can­not write a good novel with­out hav­ing read the clas­sics. Roger Fed­erer thinks you can’t re­ally love a sport un­less you un­der­stand its his­tory and how it has evolved, and I know sev­eral golf writ­ers who think all trainee golf pro­fes­sion­als should know the his­tory of the game.

I’m not sure I agree with any of th­ese com­ments and am usu­ally skep­ti­cal when some­one is of­fer­ing up the past as an ex­am­ple of a bet­ter way of do­ing things. Peo­ple of­ten con­fuse nos­tal­gia for qual­ity.

Vinyl records con­jure warm, al­beit scratchy, mem­o­ries in the minds of old-time mu­sic lovers. An old FJ Holden is still the car of choice for a few car lovers. And I’ve heard some peo­ple talk about hav­ing a cold pie and sauce at the footy like it’s some sort of heav­enly rit­ual. But are th­ese mem­o­ries re­ally any bet­ter than what we have now?

Golf is full of this sort of nos­tal­gia and I’m the first to ad­mit, the game is bet­ter for it. But I’m still not con­vinced car­ry­ing an old leather bag is bet­ter than pulling one along on a trol­ley. I’m not con­vinced hit­ting a gut­tie with a mashie was any more en­joy­able than hit­ting a balata with a per­sim­mon. Or whether ei­ther of them was more fun than hit­ting a mod­ern golf ball out of sight with a 460cc metal driver.

But among my skep­ti­cism and con­fu­sion comes my own nos­tal­gia each time I walk past a golf club­house. I con­cede that it’s sen­ti­men­tal­ity for a time long gone, but one I miss dearly.

The time I’m talk­ing about was when club­houses were the epi­cen­tre for the mem­bers of the golf club. The place would be over­flow­ing many nights of the week with tired golfers scoff­ing down Pringles, drink­ing beers, and em­bel­lish­ing mo­ments from their te­dious round.

Much of my time as a ju­nior golfer was di­vided equally be­tween the golf course, the prac­tice range and the club­house. My mem­o­ries of af­ter­noons and evenings fol­low­ing the Thurs­day or Satur­day com­pe­ti­tion rounds are the fond­est.

Af­ter spend­ing a round with three other mem­bers who were happy to see one of the ju­niors join them for a game, I’d get shouted a coke or two while they’d go over the high­lights from the day. Of­ten in­clud­ing a few of my bet­ter shots in the dis­cus­sion. I’d be chuffed.

The club cap­tain would an­nounce the win­ners for the day to plenty of ban­ter. Balls were handed or launched at golfers depend­ing on how liked (or lucky) that par­tic­u­lar golfer was con­sid­ered to be.

My un­der­stand­ing of the term ‘course man­age­ment’ was still many years away, but the seed was sown in the club­house when I learned of type of golfer who was of­ten aged over 60, didn’t hit the ball very far and who seemed to place among the ball win­ners ev­ery week.

I learned that if you didn’t go on to be­come a pro­fes­sional golfer - as I was go­ing to be - you could still come off the golf course with a smile on your face, even if you had a bad round.

I learned some jokes and other stuff too, that’s not fit to put into writ­ing.

And so the sight of an empty, life­less and of­ten closed club­house af­ter the end of

an af­ter­noon round of golf does make me nos­tal­gic. While I’m aware of golf clubs where the 19th hole is still a buzzing place to be af­ter a round, they’re rare as hen’s teeth th­ese days.

Were the days of busy, so­cial, merry club­houses bet­ter for golf than they are to­day? Prob­a­bly. But to­day most peo­ple have lit­tle time to play golf, let alone spend time at the golf club. Not to men­tion the in­dis­putable case for hav­ing fewer drunks on the road, quite pos­si­bly the big­gest (and smartest) rea­son for the change in club­house habits.

It doesn’t make it any eas­ier head­ing straight to the car af­ter a round though. I’ll of­ten sign the card and pack the clubs in the boot in a state of melan­choly. Re­count­ing all your great shots to your­self isn’t quite the same some­how. It’s al­most enough to make me go out and buy an old FJ, put on some vinyl and read Dick­ens.

Per­haps I might even buy a mashie.

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