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Shirts are out at traditional club after extraordinary vote

Dave BowersBy Dave Bowers,

A Somerset golf club has relaxed decades of tradition to allow members to 'untuck' their shirts at the 19th hole.

The move at Wells Golf Club in Somerset follows a vote in which younger members defeated traditionalists by 40 votes to 20.

Club chairman Richard Birch said some men were annoyed they had to tuck their "modern" tailored shirts into their trousers when they were designed to be worn outside.

A motion was proposed and an extraordinary vote was called on the issue. Birch welcomed the progressive reforms but said some members of the £500-a-year club feared lounge bar fashion could become "scruffy."

"Some people against the motion felt standards would slip if members were allowed to untuck their shirts," he explained.

The new ruling applies only to players in the club's bar. Players will still be required to tuck in their shirts on the course.

Developers go batty

Work at a new golf course at Loch Lomond, Scotland, has ground to a halt because of concerns over local wildlife.

Hundreds of roosting pipistrelle bats are in the roof space of an empty property right at the heart of the new site and because they are a protected species work cannot go ahead until they have finished rearing their young.

Dr Angus Laing, of Scottish Natural Heritage, said: "The developers are intending to erect a number of bat boxes in the woodlands which are adjacent to the newly constructed building, and the hope is that the bats, when they return, will either use the bat boxes or will move straight into the reconstructed building."

Doug Carrick, the course architect, added: "It's really a matter of sort of standing up for what you feel is important in terms of the golf design and trying to work along with the environmental concerns and some of the planning concerns as well, and sometimes you have to compromise."

Your life in your hands ... possibly

Do you want proof that money can't buy you happiness?

A millionaire golf fan has been branded a public danger after he built his own course beside a busy walkway near Edinburgh, Scotland.

Neighbours claim stray balls from Johnny Connor's DIY "pitching range" could injure a passerby.

Wastepaper magnate Connor has installed two holes of 90 and 120 yards, complete with tees, flags and bunkers, behind his luxury home.

A 6 foot-6 inch-high wooden fence has been added to shield the mini-course from the path.

But ramblers, dog walkers and cyclists who use the walkway claim the barrier blocks views of Edinburgh's Water of Leith.

And they are concerned about the danger of wayward golf balls.

Local councillor Alastair Paisley, who cycles along the path, said: "A horse would certainly be spooked if it was hit by a golf ball and that could endanger riders and pedestrians."

Neither the course nor the fence has planning permission. Connor, 60, whose handicap is 11, insists his practice range posed no danger.

And he said he was within his rights to build it on his own land.

He said, "I have seven grandchildren. The oldest is 14, and it is for them rather than myself. At the moment, they don't hit the ball far enough to cause problems for anyone on the path. But these two holes will help them learn their short game.

"People are stirring it up and it is pure jealousy."

But one un-named dog walker added, "You often hear balls rocketing against the fence. Most people probably don't know they are taking their life in their hands when they walk along this stretch of the Water of Leith."


Thomas hails a masterpiece

Dave Thomas claims the new golf course he is designing and masterminding at Aviemore, Scotland - scheduled to open in June 2005 - is "something special."

The 69-year-old former Ryder Cup player claims it is "definitely one of my best if not THE best" and believes it is destined for a "top-five ranking."

Thomas, at the last count, had 110 layouts under his belt worldwide and another eight, including the one at Dalfaber in the Cairngorm mountains at Aviemore, either under construction or at an advanced stage of planning.

The Thomas family company - son Paul has now joined Dave - designed the Cardrona course near Peebles for the MacDonald Hotel Group a couple of years ago.

The clients were so impressed that when they acquired a magnificent 220-acre site of mountains, water, heather and part of the ancient Caledonian forests on the Seafield Estate at Aviemore for a new golf course, there was no question that Dave Thomas would be given the job of creating what could well be his finest masterpiece.

"These days, golf course designers don't get beautiful pristine, uncorrupted settings like this to work with," said Thomas as he surveyed the scene at Aviemore.

"It really is something special. The very first day I walked over the site with Paul we could see natural golf holes there, waiting to be brought to life out of the countryside.

"This really has been a unique opportunity and I say that after having designed more than 100 golf courses. I would never have forgiven myself if we had reduced the attractiveness of the area in any way. But we haven't. It's a picture postcard golf course of Highland beauty."

Fees leave 'em wailing

Membership fees at a new Jack Nicklaus golf course in Wales have angered some players in the town of Llanelli.

The links at Machynys is set to become one of the top courses in the country and a big draw for tourists.

But locals say the £780 membership is too costly, especially as more than £1m of public money is being used.

Town council leader Carl Lucas has met with the developers to raise concerns and has been promised cheaper packages will be available.

The par-72 course cost £3.5m to construct and is seen as key to boosting golf in the build up to the 2010 Ryder Cup being held in Wales.

Already more than 100 people have joined even though the course is yet to open.

Membership is more expensive than some other renowned courses in south Wales such as Ashburnham in, Burry Port, which charges a £615 joining fee and £505 annual subscription.

However, it is less than half the cost of playing at the Celtic Manor at Newport which will host the Ryder Cup.

Managing director of the company behind the venture, Jim Anderson, has defended the prices.

He said: "A course of this calibre can attract anything up to a £10,000 joining fee and £2,000 annual subscription. When you consider the significant facilities we've got here apart from the Nicklaus course, then £780, I would say, is extremely affordable.

"We had the Ryder Cup director here and he thought the course was better than he could possibly imagine. When Nicklaus is designing a course you know it's going to be of a certain standard but it's exceeded everybody's expectations."

Yorkshire boasts new course

After five years in development, Flaxby Park, Yorkshire's newest golf club, has opened for business.

The opening of the course marks the completion of the first phase of a £20m project to create one of the premier golf and leisure venues in the north of England.

Ideally located, close to the A1 between York and Harrogate, Flaxby Park Golf and Country Club, will ultimately incorporate a nine-hole Academy course, luxury clubhouse, 24-bay driving range and an associated four-star deluxe spa hotel.

The project is a joint venture between three local farm owners.

Designed by David Hemstock, the club's two courses feature more than 15,000 newly-planted trees, 10 lakes and nearly 100 bunkers.

The par 72, 18-hole Park course is almost 7,000 yards long from the men's championship tees, and 5,595 yards from the ladies' tees.

Such has been the interest in the club that it posted 'membership full' notices several weeks ago.

However, visitors and societies will be very welcome. Visitors' green fees have been set at £25 per round, £35 per day, during the week and £35 per round, £47 per day, at weekends. Tee times must be pre-booked.

Life-saving development refused

A proposal to build a £15m housing and golf course development near West Linton, Scotland, has been refused.

Scottish Borders Council Development and Building Control Committee voted against giving the go-ahead to the plans to redesign and upgrade the loss-making Rutherford Castle Golf Club.

Councillor for West Linton and District, Neil Calvert, told fellow-councillors that the golf course was on its "last legs" and warned that if something wasn't done it would have to close.

"Without housing, this golf course will die," he said.

Get off our land!

Members at a Glasgow club are celebrating after sending developers packing.

Nine-hole Cambuslang Golf Club had been the subject of a bid from developers, who wanted to buy the club for housing.

But members voted overwhelmingly to reject the offer, showing the strength of feeling within the club to ensure their proud history continues.

A club member who asked not to be named told the local newspaper: "I'm as chuffed as can be. It's great that it's all over and done with, and we're still staying on our own course.

"Our course is in the best condition it's ever been in - it's like a bowling green at the moment, and now that the burn has been worked on, the whole place is looking great.

"It's a homely wee club - I don't know if there would be any real benefits from having a bigger course, as we'd need a bigger membership to keep it running.

"The other thing to bare in mind is, with maybe the exception of the treasurer and the secretary, is that everyone else is a volunteer. Sometimes it can be hard enough for a club to find volunteers to help look after the nine holes - so what would it have been like with a bigger course?"

Green committee resigns over teenage talent

An entire committee at a Scottish club has walked out amid fears that a talented teenager might win their tournament.

Barry Lewis, 16, who plays off a 3 handicap, has already represented Scotland and is reigning junior champion at Bridgend Golf Club in West Lothian.

But he was devastated when, just two months before he was due to play in the senior championship, the committee banned him from winning.

Members of the committee erected a sign at the West Lothian club saying that, while junior players would still be allowed to play, it was only for handicap reasons and under-18s could not take home the trophy.

Barry's father James, a former club captain, called a general meeting and members voted 43-13 to let the young player compete for the title.

But furious committee members stormed out of the meeting and have not returned to the club since.

Now James Lewis is filling in as club treasurer and plans to hold a general meeting as soon as possible to elect a new committee.

A club insider said: "It was suspected that there were some who might be embarrassed if this boy beat them - and he is capable of winning the club championship."

But former committee members said that under-18s had been barred from the competition for technical reasons.

Fraser Falconer, 52, the former treasurer, said: "We didn't want junior members competing because they have a different membership.

"They do not pay as much as senior members and their competition is different. Also, if we let all the youngsters compete in the senior championship then nobody will want to play in the junior competition. It would devalue the junior championship and we were keen to promote that."

Rare flower stolen from course

A rare flower believed to be worth up to £2,000 has been stolen from a golf club in Lancashire.

The Lady's Slipper orchid was reported missing from Silverdale Golf Club.

A Lancashire Police spokesman said it is thought the flower might have been stolen to order.

Specialist plant collectors are being urged to keep a look out for the orchid, which is yellow in colour with maroon petals.

It is believed the theft took place after the flower's summer flowering period, when it is protected by a warden.

Montgomerie to host Irish Open

Carton House Golf Club, Co. Kildare, will host the 2005 Nissan Irish Open. "The Montgomerie", a spectacular inland links, has been chosen as the course to host the championship next year.

The transformation of the estate into a first-class golf resort began in 1999 with the development of the O'Meara course. "The Montgomerie" opened in June 2003.

The course is Colin Montgomerie's second design - his first in Ireland and the UK. It encourages strategic play to make golf more fascinating. At full stretch - 7,300 yards - the course will provide a stern test for even the very best Tour players.

Daly full of Blarney

John Daly was in Ireland in July to finalise plans for the new Blarney Golf Resort Championship course designed in conjunction with Mel Flanagan of Irish Golf Design.

The Co. Cork course, which has been designed to championship standards, will be situated in the wooded Shournagh Valley in Tower, less than three miles from Blarney.

It will measure more than 7,000 yards from the championship tees - although Daly is quick to emphasise that a selection of different tees will ensure its playability for golfers of all standards.

Work on the course began at the beginning of July. The opening is planned for late 2005.

The Daly signature course will form the centrepiece of the Blarney Golf Resort which will also contain a 63-bedroom leisure hotel, business centre and 56 two-bedroom apartments.

The entire complex is situated on 164 acres in the beautiful Shournagh Valley, a location that features 40 acres of protected forest and a series of Standing Stones which enhance the Celtic atmosphere of the area.

The course consists of two, nine-hole loops, with water coming into play on both the ninth and the 18th thus creating spectacular views from the clubhouse. The greens are of a classic design featuring support mounding and heavy bunkering.

Ironically Daly's favourite is the short par-3 13th hole. Here the tee is set deep into the habitat. It plays across the natural wetland to a raised green surrounded by mature gorse.

The Blarney course is Daly's first venture into golf design in Europe. Previously he had co-designed Wicked Stick in South Carolina.

Dave lives on the south coast of England with partner Jackie and their three children. Originally a football writer in his homeland, he even rose to the giddy heights of public relations manager for an English professional Premiership side. But he'd been bitten by the golf bug and returned to his roots in journalism as executive editor for Golf Management Europe magazine and as a sports sub-editor/golf writer on one of the country's largest regional daily papers. Like all of us, he plays golf whenever he can - which isn't as often as he would like - and has even performed stand-up comedy in a top comedy club.

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