Royal St George’s has seen it all... lusty blows, miraculous saves, triumphs and disasters, the first televised holein-one, not to mention, the greatest golfing showdown in British fiction. Author Ian Fleming was captain elect at St George’s at the time of his sudden death in 1964 and it was here that he chose to set the scene for his encounter between James Bond and the eponymous villain in Goldfinger, published in 1959. In the film, the backdrop was Stoke Park, possibly for its more grandiose clubhouse or the fact it was nearer London, but in the book there is no mistaking the course on which ‘Royal St Marks’ is based. “Bond strolled out across the 500 yards of shaven seaside turf that led to the first tee. Goldfinger was practising on the putting green,” it read. A match between Fleming and Bond would have been an interesting encounter. Fleming would probably have won, partly because he was creating the prose, but also because, even off 13, he was known to be a fearful competitor. Sandwich pro at the time, Albert Whiting (Alfred Blacking in the book), said: “I knew Ian long before he’d become a famous author. He was a very keen golfer, but rather unorthodox.
He was a great one to gamble on his games. He used to squeeze every last stroke out of his handicap. The game would be deadly serious after the handicaps and bets had been fixed. He hated to lose. Everybody had to play like hell.”