Course Guides written just for me (not!)

Don’t you just love a course guide when you are playing a new track? Anything that makes us look like a pro golfer can also make us feel like one, and peeling back the next page then gazing into the far yonder as if plotting whether to hit a gentle draw or power fade to the distant green is a strangely therapeutic thing to do… providing your reading glasses are handy!

I particularly value the introductory advice that we studiously absorb on each tee… “The long par 4 6th hole favours a high left-to-right tee shot aimed over the deep pot bunkers at 237 yards to find a small flat plateau on this split-level fairway from which a better view of the narrow undulating green protected by a sandy ridge of dunes, a dozen lakes and an armed militia group can be gained. The safe play will avoid the long border of poisonous foxglove plants on the left and the snake-infested semi-rough that cuts into the fairway on the right.” I may just play this one as a par 5!

As with most things in golf, it’s different strokes for different folks. We need to trust ourselves more. Pro course guides look like Oxbridge geometry exam papers. I just want to know if there is a hidden bunker near that patch of verdant green pasture I’m about to launch my ball in the general direction of. I can probably live without sage guidance on ball flight, approach angles or fairway contours. Just tell me where the water is. We all have a long list of ready-made excuses waiting for our errant shots but hitting a good one into a bad place through no fault of our own… now that is beyond annoying.

Professional players and their caddies use course guides in a far more detailed way than us mere mortals. They personalise them, they survey them and write in them and hold them sideways and upside down. It may be one of the reasons they take the thick end of 5 hours to get 18 holes in. Since 2006, distance-measuring devices have become permissible in all competitive golf by local ruling of the organising committee. Only the major pro tours now forbid them.

GPS and laser ‘AI’ cannot be used to chart gradients or wind speeds even at my level of the game. New R&A regulations are coming into force to limit the size and scale of green maps in a bid to highlight the skill of reading the slopes and borrows of putting surfaces with a trained eye. Here here! There is a battle of wills going on between embracing technology and preserving the value of human judgment in golf. Jack Nicklaus never needed a Bushnell.

We live in an age where we ask Siri everything. Name me the last time you pulled a book of road maps out of the glove compartment of your car? We use SatNav and Waze to get to the golf club, Bluetooth and hands-free to confirm the tee time and to check on the conditions. There is something quite quaint about then investing in the hard copy of a book full of pretty pictures, colour-coded maps and confusing diagrams. How long before we simply whisper into a caddy app… “hey Fooch, what the hell should I hit here?”… “the back of the ball would be a start!” comes Mr Fulcher’s recorded reply.

An occasional browse through the rules of our beloved game can yield hours of enlightenment and entertainment. Rule 4.3 on the use of equipment is a great read. Did you know that tossing powder into the air to determine wind direction, using physiological information recorded during a round, listening to music to help with swing tempo and taking a practice swing with a weighted headcover in place are all big no-no’s once you’ve said ‘play well’ on the first tee? Parts of the rule book are being rewritten next year. It won’t be the last revision. That app may not be too far away… although if Fooch is on the caddies’ picket line I, for one, won’t be crossing it!

Last week, I played the new West Cliffs lay-out at Praia D’el Rey in Portugal. Silly me forgot to update my Garmin wrist watch beforehand and, as I’m no big fan of Range Finders, I was suddenly playing a strange course with only a yardage book to guide me. Worse still, it was a ‘metreage’ book, so not only was I trying to work out which hollow or mound my ball was sitting on, I was also then converting the number on the chart into old money. Not surprisingly, the club in my hand was regularly the wrong club. I was rendered embarrassingly helpless.

The long hot British summer reminded us all that the yardage number should only ever be a starting point for club selection and shot execution. 400-yard-long drives were commonplace on the parched Carnoustie links at this year’s Open. Even I was hitting it 400 on some holes (in ‘net’ 1) at the height of the drought. Golf is a very different game on a hard links from a soft parkland course. The bounce of the ball, the wind velocity, the air temperature, even the previous night’s alcohol intake can all impact on our distance control.

Not even the most attentive caddy or most accurate aid can take into account all of our personal foibles. We all play golf in our own individual ways. We know the clubs we trust and the ones we don’t. On the relatively few occasions that I’ve employed a caddy, I’ve found myself taking his or her word on putt reads without thinking for myself (and falling out with them!). Losing my trusty calculator for a day in Portugal last week left me repeatedly staring at my wrist only to see bare skin looking back at me. I was in golf cold turkey.

Thinking for oneself and thinking straight are keys to good golf. Trust your judgment and you’ve only got yourself to blame. Course guides are only guides. It’s not their fault they don’t understand you like you do.




West Cliffs, Obidos, Portugal

Three days of wonderful golf just north of Lisbon, culminating in a round at the stunning West Cliffs.

We played Praia Del Rey, Royal Obidos too, but West Cliffs was definitely the icing on the cake for our three days.

We stayed at the Marriot, which ticked all the boxes for a golf break (though the bar food was not so great).  An ocean view room meant we could hear the Atlantic waves crashing on the beach, such a lovely holiday sound.

My golf was average! As always, playing a course for the first time, means you play shots you wouldn’t if only you had known….about the bunker, the rough, the slope, the water etc. But we finished our three rounds of match play with an all square on the Mr and Mrs front! Always a good thing.

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Golf is guilty of contributing to the plastic bottle moutain

I hope many of you are as shocked as me at the global crisis of plastic poulltion and the damage plastic is doing to the environment.   Only last night I was watching a documentary about the Volvo Ocean Race research that chilled me: microplastic particles have been found even in the Southern Ocean close to the Antarctic Ice Exclusion Zone. This made me think back to how many plastic bottles we golfers consume. On a holiday to Belek in Antalya last year I was horrified to see pallet upon pallet of plastic bottles stored up ready to hand out to us golfers. It seems to be the norm in golf, with no one really making a stand! We should be able to be creative and think of ways we can get our water without having new water bottles for every round. Maybe instead our club shops should sell Keep Bottles and have a filtered water station instead of offering bottled water for sale? If you want water and haven’t brought your own, you have to buy a Keep Bottle and fill it up.  Rather like plastic bags and supermarkets…once you know you can’t get them you (eventually) remember to always bring your own!

With this theme in mind,  I hail the news from Sentosa Golf Club which reached me yesterday. It will be taking the lead and moving away from bottled water – see full story below:


Singapore’s leading venue Keeps it Green by installing a number of drinks stations in move away from plastic water bottles on course

Sentosa Island, Singapore, Tuesday 26th June 2018: Sentosa Golf Club is reaffirming its commitment to the environment and its ‘Keep it Green’ agenda by announcing that it will no longer permit the use of plastic water bottles on its golf carts, instead favouring the installation of a number of water stations (see photo above) on course.

The reduction of its plastic footprint, which is expected to equate to 150,000 water bottles each year, is a continuation of the world Top 100 club’s pioneering efforts to drive environmental awareness and build upon already established eco-friendly agronomic and operational practices.

“Every little helps,” commented Andy Johnston, General Manager and Director of Agronomy. “We are continually monitoring every aspect of our agronomy programs and operations to ensure we are doing all we can to work in harmony with the environment. The decision to remove all plastic bottles from golf carts will allow us to considerably reduce our plastic usage and take another positive step in demonstrating what is possible if golf clubs commit to simple measures.”

Sentosa’s agronomic practice has long been considered at the forefront of the golf industry. Continual efforts have been made in developing the most sustainable methodologies and maintenance programmes, demonstrated best in the reconstruction of the New Tanjong course.

Over the course of an extensive redesign, Sentosa took a number of steps to reduce the environmental impact, including the creation of a temporary nursery to facilitate the relocation and replanting of more than 260 palm trees, the installation of six reservoirs-cum-water features to ensure self-sufficient irrigation and the re-use of concrete from old cart paths as the basis of all new paths.

“The future of the golf industry requires clubs, owners and managers to understand more about what can be done to neutralise and enhance the environment,” continued Johnston. “I hope that Sentosa serves as inspiration in this respect as we continue to find new ways to benefit the environment. From taking food wastage and working it back into the ecosystem to introducing bees into the community, there is a long list of small changes we are implementing and we hope other clubs can make that, when combined, can have a lasting and sustainable impact.”

Sentosa introduced its ‘Keep it Green’ campaign at the SMBC Singapore Open, where stars of world golf voiced their praise of Sentosa’s approach to sustainability. Further activity at the inaugural Women’s Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship and the LPGA Tour’s HSBC Women’s Champions provided opportunities for the club to promote its practice to a global audience and campaign messaging has so far been viewed by over 500,000 golfers.

The golf club is home to the renowned Serapong Course and the New Tanjong Course, and will host the 10th Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in October 2018; the culmination of a landmark year of major events.

Sentosa Golf Club lies at the heart of the Singapore golf and leisure community. Located on the famed Sentosa Island, which attracts millions of visitors each year, the club is home to the R&A’s Asia Pacific office and is the Official Headquarters of the Asian Tour.

For more information on Sentosa Golf Club, visit

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