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Castletown Golf Club

FAIRWAY TO SEVEN - A NEW NORMAL

One of the casualties of Covid-19 related course closures was the captain’s drive-in at Castletown Golf Club. However, now that social golf has resumed, it was decided to rearrange this event to coincide with the opening of the new 18th fairway and green on Friday 29th May.

Our captain, Graham Harris, was presented with a plaque by club president Sam Skelton. The socially distanced onlookers also politely applauded as our honorary secretary, Robert Gardner, and the lady captain Maryann Dunn made up the first fourball setting off from new tee boxes.

All four drives ended up in the rough near the dreaded fairway bunkers, but Skelton striped his 7 iron into the heart of the green and two putts produced a perfect par. Gardner’s approach shot found the greenside bunker and, although he splashed it out with style, his par putt petered out.

Dunn’s approach shot found the ‘valley of sin’ from where the lady captain chipped to the back of the green, which proved to be three putt territory. Mr. Captain had the worst lie from his tee shot but bravely went for the green only to go in the gorge. After a penalty drop, he also signed for a sinful seven. Harris gave a short speech and there was a ceremonial cutting of a tape signifying that the new green was officially open.

The four players also took on the gorge bunker challenge and amazingly all got on the green. A bottle of port had been put up as one of the competition prizes as an inducement for the following groups to support both captains’ chosen charity, which is the Manx Stroke Foundation.

The new fairway, designed by former pro golfer Johnny Evans who is the course owner Philip Vermeulen’s son-in-law, runs parallel to the old fairway and hugs the coastline. Well struck drives, which avoid the strategically placed bunkers, will be rewarded with a magnificent elevated view of the elongated green with Fort Island in the background.

It is well known that the Castletown Links were laid out by Old Tom Morris in 1891 and that further work was undertaken by Philip Mackenzie Ross after the First World War. However, according to a recently discovered article by Anthony Spalding in the Manchester Guardian - dated 3 November 1913 - Dr. Alister Mackenzie, who designed Augusta National and many other famous courses, was also engaged to improve and modernize our course.

Writing again in the Guardian of 2 March 1914, Spalding indicated that the course had been “…reconstructed entirely on modern principles” and lengthened to 6,150 yards. Much of the old course he ruthlessly condemned, not even sparing bunkers and landmarks which are regarded locally with superstitious awe, and one congratulates the club on accepting the expert’s view of their cherished idols. Features which were weak have been strengthened, and as Dr. Mackenzie selected slopes as sites for some of the new greens, there has been a considerable amount of artificial constructional work… Photographs of every feature he planned were taken in their varying stages of completion and forwarded to him each week, with the result that much of the artificial work is indistinguishable from nature itself.”

Evans’ new fairway will set up what will be become one of the most challenging and talked about final approach shots that you could ever wish to play. Those protecting their score could chip it forward and hope that their ball does not trundle down into the above-mentioned bunker guarding the gorge. Whilst the old 18th may well have been regarded with ‘superstitious awe’, to borrow a topical phrase being bandied about, we will all have to get used to a new normal.

MALCOLM LAMBERT


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