| Black­balling and the Golf­ing Grapevine

Now of­fi­cially a mem­ber of The St Andrews Golf Club on the ba­sis of two writ­ten ref­er­ences from es­tab­lished mem­bers, ‘The Kilted Cad­die’ has been lucky enough to have had his name put up on the club’s main no­tice board with­out be­ing black­balled…

HK Golfer - - Contents - By The Kilted Cad­die

Now black­balling is a fea­ture of many clubs and on one level an im­por­tant check on mem­ber­ship.

This is not wholly un­re­mark­able, as I must ad­mit to hav­ing rubbed up some peo­ple the wrong way in my few years here and I sup­pose it’s just for­tu­itous that none is a prom­i­nent mem­ber of this club. Now black­balling is a fea­ture of many clubs and I sup­pose on one level is an im­por­tant check on mem­ber­ship. How­ever, I am highly sus­pi­cious of this rather ran­dom, defin­ing and un­jus­ti­fi­able ex­er­cise of power. I be­lieve Ron­nie Cor­bett was thus pre­vented from join­ing Muir­field and ‘Fred the Shred’ Good­win the no­to­ri­ous banker, from the R&A. But on a more parochial level I am sure per­sonal grudges and so­cial cliques must play a huge part. It con­jures up an im­age of a half lit Ma­sonic lodge and some­thing a bit mis­chievous and se­cre­tive go­ing on.

I do know a lovely lit­tle doc­tor in the wee vil­lage of Gul­lane who was a stal­wart of that ex­cel­lent golf club and long har­boured a de­sire to join the neigh­bour­ing Honourable Com­pany of Ed­in­burgh Golfers at Muir­field, along­side most of his friends. How­ever, he had a propen­sity to fall off his bar stool and I be­lieve this un­der­pinned his sub­se­quent black­balling, given that he man­i­festly qual­i­fied on a gen­der ba­sis.

Now I’m of the opinion that one’s gen­der nor one’s propen­sity to top­ple off a bar stool should be the de­ci­sive fac­tor in de­ter­min­ing and defin­ing mem­ber­ship of one of the great­est golf­ing es­tab­lish­ments in the world. I mean the ul­ti­mate priv­i­lege of ac­cess to the le­gendary Muir­field lunch is not a mat­ter to be treated lightly, flip­pantly or un­rea­son­ably. This is se­ri­ous stuff.

In­deed, I know a mem­ber of the Honourable Com­pany, also a doc­tor, who showed less than wor­thy so­cial grace in biff­ing an­other mem­ber in the chang­ing rooms of the said Honourable Ed­in­burgh Club and has now gained the nick­name ‘ding a ling’. Now, per­son­ally, I wouldn’t mind some wee chap oc­ca­sion­ally fall off his bar stool against the chance of get­ting a right hook on the way back from the gents for some off the cuff re­mark to the other.

The un­der­ly­ing re­al­ity is that we live in an in­cred­i­bly close-knit com­mu­nity in Scot­land. I mean St Andrews in some ways is a vil­lage-satel­lite of Ed­in­burgh, like Gul­lane and North Ber­wick. And golf is at its core. It’s the so­cial foun­da­tion of Scot­tish so­ci­ety and tran­scends ev­ery­thing.

So in­deed, one’s no­to­ri­ety and es­pe­cially of be­ing black­balled at Muir­field, a fate said to be worse than hav­ing to buy a round, will cer­tainly be­come locker room ban­ter and feed into the grapevine across the Firth to Fife and vice versa. Two of my golf friends from Ed­in­burgh now have kids here at Univer­sity and I am sure regular re­ports of my an­tics are be­ing re­layed down the road.

An il­lus­tra­tive anec­dote in­volves a rather prim QC of whom I have the ac­quain­tance. Out in Ed­in­burgh in the latish hours one night, my friends and I stum­bled across the said QC with whom my best pal got talk­ing about golf and par­tic­u­larly about the in­cum­bent pres­i­dent of the pres­ti­gious Brunts­field Links Golf­ing So­ci­ety. The rather forth­right QC de­claimed the guy as an

“I mean St Andrews in some ways is a vil­lage-satel­lite of Ed­in­burgh, like Gul­lane and North Ber­wick. And golf is at its core. It’s the so­cial foun­da­tion of Scot­tish so­ci­ety and tran­scends ev­ery­thing.”

‘ab­so­lute plonker’ and asked my good friend if he knew the man to be told ’Yes, he’s my fa­ther’.

I mean that is Churchillian in put down and in­deed the stuff that makes sound am­mu­ni­tion for black­balling and se­ri­ous club din­ner chat. Not­with­stand­ing that this QC did a re­verse black­ball so to speak, in that he in fact re­jected of­fers of mem­ber­ship from Muir­field and the R&A!

We alas have dif­fer­ing opin­ions as we have dif­fer­ing golf swings. And tra­di­tions are tra­di­tions and I dare say black­balling will carry on and be the stuff of nine­teenth hole chat­ter and in­ter­est ad in­fini­tum. It’s a very ‘old boy’ thing and boys in­deed will be boys. The an­tics down at Muir­field are a salu­tary re­minder of that.

The le­gendary Muir­field is the home of The Honourable Com­pany of Ed­in­burgh Golfers hosted The Open Cham­pi­onship

most re­cently in 2013

Spec­ta­tors at­tend the sec­ond round of the 2013 Open Cham­pi­onship at

Muir­field golf course at Gul­lane

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