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  • Alistair Tait

A Wee Golf Howff In My Name

Not saying I’m anywhere near handing in my final scorecard, but I’m thinking of leaving a wee legacy to fellow Woburn Golf Club members when my time comes to head to that great clubhouse in the sky.

Somewhere where they can rest their weary legs and tired bodies? Perhaps a wee spot to contemplate what they're doing wrong before they try to fix the fault on the next tee shot? Or maybe be a chance to experience Walter Hagen’s famous line at the bottom of this blog.

The photo above is of the bench that sits beside the eighth tee on Woburn’s Marquess Course. I have no idea who Frank Collins was, but I’m indebted to him for providing respite to fellow Woburn members, visitors and guests.

You’ll find similar benches like Frank’s all over golf courses in Great Britain & Ireland. I’m sure it happens in other parts of the world, too, especially on courses where walking is an integral part of the round. Benches would be redundant on courses where carts reign supreme.

There’s a great Scottish word that springs to mind when I think of Frank Collins' bench: “Howff.” It actually means many things in the Scots language. My much thumbed “Concise Scots Dictionary” defines it as

“A place of resort or concourse; haunt; a much frequented tavern; an abode; residence; a stay at a place; a shelter.”

There are times on many golf courses when it sometimes pays just to sit on one of these wee benches, these wee howffs, and contemplate the beauty all around you. To stop and smell the flowers.

Like much of the South of England, Woburn is blessed with quite a few Red Kites. Not too long ago, while playing a few holes on my own in the late afternoon/early evening. I sat on Frank's bench and just watched two of these beautiful creatures circle overhead. Believe me, it was far more productive than my previous seven holes.

I remember playing the Vale of Leven Golf Club, not far from where I was born and grew up, and sitting on the 17th tee gazing in wonder at the view up Loch Lomond towards Ben Lomand, Ben Vorlich and the far hills in the distance. The sun was shimmering off the loch, and Ben Lomand stood resplendent in brilliant sunshine. The course was quiet that particular day, and I let a twosome play through while I sat contemplating the scene before me. It, too, was a far more rewarding than my first 16 holes.

I got caught in a hailstorm many years ago while playing Rosapenna in Donegal. I’d just putted out and was standing on the next tee when the hail started pelting down on me. Thankfully, someone had placed a small plank of wood in the back corner of the tee, both ends wedged into the turf of the dune behind the tee markers. I took refuge in this wee howff, umbrella over my head, and marvelled at the power of nature as the wind scattered hail over the course, and the Atlantic was whipped into a frenzy of galloping white horses.

The whole experience probably only last about 10 minutes before the hailstorm blew further up the coastline, yet it made my trip to Donegal – and there’s great golf in that part of Ireland. I remember that incident more than I do the actual golf course.

So a wee golf howff in my name somewhere on Woburn when I’ve long since took my last putt, handed in my final scorecard, would be a nice legacy to leave.

Hmmm, should it be a cedar or pine howff?

#JustSaying: “You're only here for a short visit. Don't hurry, don't worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way,” Walter Hagen


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