By Dave Bruce
AS I have said before we have a lot of interesting characters at Axe Cliff Golf Club and I would like to introduce to you a relatively new member, Kyle Phillips, who joined us in 2018.
Since he joined he has been a great help to the club and our manager Simon Wellington, not only helping to apply for grants where possible but also in organising special open days for potential new members interested in taking up this wonderful game which has brought us some welcome new members.
At my request he has written the attached article himself about the importance of the majors and particularly the British Open and its link with Axe Cliff.
He wanted to write something that people who perhaps might want to take up golf might find interesting so he has concentrated on background rather just about his experiences.
This one is all about the open and the type of golf course its played on and its link with our architect James Braid.
Kyle was lucky enough to have worked for the PGA based at the Belfry from 1999 to 2017 and was the Executive Director for Education and Global Development. The latter part of his title meant he spent a lot of time overseas and experienced golf and golf courses all over the world.
He took early retirement from the PGA in 2017 and moved to Devon. We are delighted that Axe Cliff became his home club in 2018 and he is also a member of two other clubs, one in Birmingham and the other in St Andrews.
MY OPEN EXPERIENCES
by Kyle Phillips
Most golfers are also collectors of golf experiences. This generally means, the venues they have played, the people they have met and the tournaments they have attended and to remind them of the experience, they will often pick up a memento such as a cap, shirt, jumper, pitchfork or ball markers usually with the venue’s logo and name of event.
As with any collection, some items have more value than others. This is not about cost, but about the rarity value or the prestige of the course, venue or tournament. There is a well-established hierarchy for golfers that will raise their perceived esteem with their fellow players.
With the tournaments it is all about the competition first, then the venue, so that is the majors (Open, US Open, PGA Championship, Masters) plus selected international team events (Ryder Cup, Solheim Cup, Walker Cup, Curtis Cup).
One of the great things about playing golf, is that you can actually play on the same course as the top players, play the venues of these great tournaments and sample the challenges of them yourself. While you can watch tennis at Wimbledon, soccer at Wembley or rugby at Twickenham, pitch up and for the vast, vast majority of players, playing on that hallowed turf is no more than a pipe dream.
Golf is different, if you have the money and/or in some cases the connection, as some of these are strictly for members and their guests only, you can play golf on a championship course.
As three of the Mmajors are played in the USA, for most British golfers, it is the Open that is the most easily accessible. ‘Open’ refers to the fact that this championship is open to both professional and amateur players, although only one amateur has ever won it, Bobby Jones from America in 1926 and 1927.
While other such competitions are required to use their country name as well, as in US Open and Australian Open, being the first (1860) this championship just needs the one name. The Open is always played on a links course, from the word ‘hlink’, meaning rising ground and it is played on coastal sand dunes. This is considered to be the purest form of golf on land shaped by nature rather than by a designer and therefore is one that everyone wants to win.
There are currently 10 courses on the Open rota, meaning that they are eligible to host the championship and the course most synonymous with the Open, the Old Course at St Andrews is generally the venue every five years.
There are five courses in Scotland, three in the north west of England, one in Kent and one in Northern Ireland. They are great events to attend and while it is undoubtedly easier to see the action on TV, being there is really special. You can ether get to a spot and watch the golfers go through or follow your favourite… and get to almost touching distance of the players, all that separates the crowd from the players is a length of rope.
Golf crowds generally are friendly and courteous with all walks of life well represented. Tickets are fairly easy to get, you don’t have to be a member of a club, just apply through the R&A event. They are not cheap, although you do get well over 12 hours of play and children go free.
I was fortunate to attend almost all the Opens this century up to 2019. This is mostly because they provided an excellent meeting point for not only the British and Irish golf organisations, but also the PGAs and Federations from around the world who generally attended.
While I spent most of my time in meetings and, on some days would not see a shot played, I did get out and watch as often as I could, particularly when the true legends were playing. So I did see Tiger Woods, Seve Ballesteros , Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tom Watson, as well as the greats and the very, very goods. Fantastic experience and one I would thoroughly recommend.
At the turn of the 20th century, the legends of golf were known the Great Triumvirate, three British players, Harry Varden, JH Taylor and James Braid who dominated golf and who won the Open 16 times between them. Scotsman James Braid won it five times and it was Braid who came down to the South West Coast of England in 1926 and created the layout of Axe Cliff that still exists today.
While not considered a links course, Axe Cliff is certainly one that has been shaped by nature. It is one of the reasons that I love playing the course. Each day is a little difference, with the wind, the bounce and run of the ball meaning that you are required to think your way round rather than just the target golf sometimes favoured by the more man-made courses.
Another great advantage of this course is that it drains so well in the wet winter months, meaning that almost all of the time you are driving off the normal tees and putting on the normal greens. No more trudging through the mud as I had to do at my club in the midlands. There are various types of membership available as well as a day ticket to try Axe Cliff and there will be more Open days with coaching coming soon.
Golf is a great sport, pastime and hobby and opens up a whole world of new friends and great experiences.