• Alistair Tait

The 12 Golfers of Christmas – The Captain


Welcome to another Christmas series highlighting characterisations of golfers we’ve all played with over the years. The series proved so popular last year I’ve decided to repeat the exercise this Christmas, too.


Once again, I obviously pre-wrote these so I don’t have to write my daily blog over the holidays. Still no flies on me. In other words, I’m currently incommunicado enjoying time with my family; eating and drinking too much; and taking long walks, sadly without Izzy in tow.


Oh, Izzy. Merry Christmas my big lassie. Still miss you big time.


5. The Captain


To paraphrase Groucho Marx, I wouldn’t want to belong to any golf club that would have me as captain. That was my response to one fellow member many years ago who asked if I ever saw myself pulling into the parking spot designed for the club skipper.


I’ll probably run a mile if anyone makes such a ludicrous suggestion ever again. Golf club Captain? Not on yer nelly!


I divide golf club captains into two categories: those who genuinely want to do what’s best for the golf club and the membership, and those who want to boost their ego or create their own lasting legacy.


Thankfully, the majority of captains I’ve come across fall into the former category. How they do it is beyond me. All those matches, often with people you don't even like; all those meetings; all those prize presentations; all those complaints.


Jamie Spence said his golf suffered when he became chairman of the European Tour’s tournament committee, a 15-strong body that represents members' interests. Jamie found it hard to compartmentalise his time, and to comprehend the myriad of complaints that came his way. He’d be all set to tee off in, say, 15 minutes only to receive complaints about the locker room, the sandwiches in the players lounge, the schedule, transportation, etc. You name it, Jamie heard about it.


Golf club captains must feel the same way. They are often the first point of contact for the membership to air grievances. Imagine being told something needed to be done about the quality of the sausages in the halfway hut, or the napkins in the restaurant, the club wine list, the practice range balls...just before you're about to tee off for a relaxing game of golf.


I remember overhearing one member ranting to the captain that the club's main problem was the restaurant didn’t offer a premier cru on the wine list!


Seriously, some golf club members really do have weird ideas about what matters.


I’m in awe of the diplomacy many captains display in handling complaints. My approach might be a two-word dismissal Billy Connelly favours. How those words are never said is beyond me. I have nothing but admiration for those golf club skippers who fight the good cause to ensure the members’ desires are met.


I salute all of you with the obvious lines from Walt Whitman’s eponymous ode:

“O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up – for you the flag is flung– for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths…”

Then there are those who should never captain any club, golf or otherwise. I’m talking of course about that minority who see club captaincy as way to leave a lasting legacy. It’s a chance to influence how they feel the course should be presented, even if that means ripping out an ancient tree because it's interfered with their approach shots too many times over the years, or they fancy a pond in front of the 11th green even if it’s not in keeping with the course’s character, or a new fairway bunker on the seventh despite it being the hardest hole on the course, or change the way tee times are allocated when the vast majority of members are in favour of the existing system, or… well you get the picture.


Hopefully greens committees, secretaries/general managers, head greenkeepers are strong enough to dispel the whacky notions of this type of captain, but it’s amazing how one individual can sometimes have such a deleterious effect on a golf club.


Then there’s the egotist. Becoming club captain is the highlight of this person’s entire life and will be flaunted during the tenure of the captaincy, and perhaps forever more. Amazing how a minority of golf club captains continue to act as if they're still captain years after their captaincy has ended.


Don’t scoff, I heard of an individual at one golf club who had shirts made up with the words “Club Captain” below the golf club logo. Said individual later added the actual year he was captain... after his captaincy was over.


It’s a funny old game.


#JustSaying: "Dear Mr Secretary: Don't think I am an interfering old humbug, but I do honestly feel the new bunker the Green Committee has made at the fourth hole is a mistake. ... I understand on very good authority that General Forcursue has been in it every day this week. P.S. I saw him myself take seven to get out on Monday." Letter from 1934 Roughover Golf Club Captain Ralph Viney.

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