First published on the Golf Monthly website on Monday 27th August 2007
The Golf Monthly team travels to Royal North Devon to play in the Kashmir Cup. Fergus finishes on top but still loses.
As predicted last week, I am now penniless. After a weekend spent at Royal North Devon (RND) in the company of the Golf Monthly team I returned to Scotland with a heavy heart. I was wracked with guilt on the flight home knowing I would have to explain to Jessie that we’d need to sell the house and give away the baby in order to settle my debts. OK, it’s not quite that bad, though I am paying Neil Tappin (Tappers) his winnings by bank transfer.
The GM crew travelled to RND last Friday morning. The first competition on the agenda was the Bideford Town Trophy. It’s an Open event running concurrently with the club’s Silver Medal – the oldest medal event in the country. Playing with Jeremy Ellwood (Jezz) and Paul O’Hagan (Hulk) I was knocking it round reasonably steadily until reaching the par three 16th.
I was four over so needed a couple of birdies to make it back to the buffer zone. I blocked my tee shot into some of RND’s famous rushes and could only just see the ball nestled deep beneath their spiky points. Foolishly I attempted to extricate it by force. It moved approximately two inches. Then I had to take a penalty drop. I played what looked like a nice pitch towards the flag. It trickled past the cup, trickled towards the edge of the green, trickled down the slope and trickled into a bunker. I caught too much ball in the trap and it flew back across the green into another bunker. At this point I was getting a bit sweaty from a combination of pent up rage and walking about 300 yards on a hole measuring just 160. I then had a Hitler (two shots in the bunker) and two putted for a gutsy nine. A sextuple bogey, even I had to laugh. I finished with a ten over 82. Jezz played very nicely for a 77 (nett 72) and took the cash.
Saturday was a new day and, fuelled by a chicken dupiaza and a number of pints of lager on Friday night, I was ready to do battle in the Kashmir Cup. It’s a scratch event with some top county players participating. Both my rounds were relatively uneventful – a five over 77 and a three over 75. Not good but not too bad, I finished tied 12th. I was a full six shots clear of Tappers so you might find it confusing to hear he won all the money on offer. Unfortunately I was giving Tappers four shots a round. No, you did read correctly earlier, this was a scratch competition.
So Tappers’ score of 81 in round one (a nett 76), beat my 77 (also a nett 76 but Tappers had a better back nine.) In the afternoon Tappers improved with a 77 (nett 72) that beat my 75 (nett 74). The only other GM golfer to complete the 36 holes was Luke Norman.
Royal North Devon is a fabulous and unique golf course. It’s so unlike any other track I’ve played. There are some holes where you can hit it pretty much anywhere from the tee but it’s still possible to rack up big numbers as the greens and their surrounds are unbelievably tricky. The course is built on common land and you share the fairways with dog walkers, sheep and wild horses. I’ve never played anywhere pedestrians are so oblivious to the threat of being hit by a golf ball. On the 17th you play your approach over the road to the beach. In the second round I had to wait about five minutes before I could play my shot as firstly two young girls with buckets and spades sauntered across, then came a man with a surfboard talking on his mobile phone, then 75 Minis participating in a rally drove past in convoy. It’s quite bizarre but it only adds to the character of the place.
The fact we had stunning weather was the icing on the cake. With views out to sea and across to Saunton it was a fantastic place to spend a couple of days. Well worth the financial losses.