Fairway and tarmac …

There are no signs.  The implication is that if you don’t know where to go then you shouldn’t be here.  It will be different when the Open arrives along these shores but at all other times, Muirfield is discreet, understated, almost forbidding.

It starts in the car park.  Should I really be here.  Is this row of covered stalls really intended for guests.  The pewter grey Elise looks perfectly at home, more at ease in its surroundings than me.  The walk to the course and clubhouse is no less a pilgrimage than first steps along Magnolia Drive.  Still there are no signs but the imposing P Johnson & Co Iron Gates is the obvious direction – if Bates Motel had boasted a golf course, this is how the entrance might have looked.  To the right is the pedestrian gate and this alone solemnly announces that you have arrived at The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers.

Inside the clubhouse my generous host for the day gives me a tour of the inner sanctum: the wood panelling and changing room reminiscent of a boys grammar; the polished trophies, some of the earliest ever played for; the tall red-coated portraits; the maps portraying the evolution of the course; the dark bust of the 1950s Captain, C J Y Dallmeyer; the scorecards from past Opens and a replica of the Claret Jug, complete with up-to-date engravings – 2017 Open Winner, Jordan Spieth.  Quiet as a library, this place is special.  In the hall I meet the Recorder, various members and later the Captain – all welcoming, polite, men of standing.  This is not the stuffy, jurassic establishment portrayed by the social and print media, this is the polar opposite.

The seventh, Muirfield

We play foursomes, the traditional Muirfield game – my playing partner takes the odd tees and I take the evens such that I will take the final drive up the eighteenth. I had no preconceived agenda about setting a score so assistance and a joint responsibility suits me fine.  More than that, it is a thoroughly enjoyable team game and we rise to the occasion, hitting fairways and sinking putts – a birdie at the par 5 ninth puts us five up.  At the turn, we head to the clubhouse for lunch. This is how all golf should be played. ‘And, if it be retorted that a player plays twice as many shots in a fourball game as in a Foursome, the Muirfield man would reply – “Play 36 holes in 4 ½ hours and you will get the same number of shots, twice the exercise, far more fun, and you won’t have to wait between shots.  Furthermore you will learn to play better golf.” ‘ – Foreward to G Pottinger’s Muirfield and the Honourable Company.

The thirteenth – unlucky for some, we made par 😉

Lunch is taken in the lounge, jacket and tie being mandatory.  I have brought a tie from the funerals drawer for the occasion – I am a guest and I must honour club traditions, no matter that such attire is at complete odds with my late hippy demeanour.  A generous tray of sandwiches is accompanied by a gunner (ginger beer, ginger ale, dash of lime and a measure of angostura bitters), followed by coffee and the traditional Muirfield and Prestwick liqueur – kümmel, a sweet, colourless drink flavoured with caraway seed, cumin, and fennel.  First impressions are mixed but I warm to it as the glass empties. I am unsure of the effect it may have on the back nine.

Sure enough, post lunch, our partners make a comeback.  We are playing to Colonel Dallmeyer’s rules.  Individual handicaps are ignored – each team plays level until one pair goes three-up and your opponents receive strokes until the leading pair are back to one-up.  After the sixteenth we are playing level again – we lead by one with two holes to play.  All of the Muirfield holes have witnessed high drama and historic occasions, none more so than the 17th at the 1972 Open.  Trevino has hacked his way into rough at the back of the green in four, Jacklin is sitting comfortably on the green in three:

On the same hole we are lying three in the semi-rough to the right of the green having avoided some monstrous bunkers – our opponents have been in several:

… Hew extracting himself from a bunker on the 17th – not for the first time.

I chip within a distance short enough to be given the hole – we have won 2&1 – what Jacklin would have given for five at the 17th in 1972.  That year I was oblivious to the high drama being acted out at Muirfield.  On the same day and around the same time I know exactly where I was – at Brands Hatch for the 1972 British Grand Prix, watching Emerson Fittipaldi take the flag for Lotus.  In those far-off days, major sporting events were concluded on Saturdays, not Sundays.  The modern migration to the Sabbath has less to do with the slackening of religious observance and more to do with maximising TV exposure.  This fuzzy clip from Brands was filmed by BBC Eurovison and the commentary is in Austrian:

This youthful obsession explains the Lotus in the Muirfield car park – it is not about prestige or one-upmanship, it is about history, teenage dreams and the joy of driving – as Andrew Frankel recently observed in Motor Sport – ‘The secret is not to go lobbing it around – the pleasure comes not from power and slides but feel and finesse’ – it has ‘a level of feel that makes all other sports cars seem like you’re driving them wearing oven mitts … the car is simply fabulous’.

However, I confess, given the choice now, I would be at the Open – modern day F1 is a pale shadow of its former self.  It has been a convoluted journey from Kentish tarmac to the fairways of East Lothian.

The eighteenth – as a consolation, our opponents win the hole with par.

With sincerest thanks to David S-S for organising my visit and to Hew and Mark for their excellent company. A very memorable day.

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At last …

… credit where it is due, Nikon have finally done the decent thing.  Earlier this week I took delivery of a brand new Nikon D610 to replace the three year old, and seriously flawed, D600.  A few days later the invoice arrived – total cost £0.  I am of course delighted and the last few nights I have been re-studying the many-paged manual in earnest.  Not that there is any difference between the two models (at least none that I can remember) but I had grown seriously disaffected with the camera and the brand.  Sitting on the shelf, the subtleties of its dials, buttons and menus are soon forgotten.

It remains to be seen just how much I will use it.  The Fuji X100s is still my weapon of choice not just because it is small, easy to carry about, beautifully retro and produces such wonderful results but because it is so intuitive – yes, it too comes with a many-paged manual but I rarely look at it.  The dials are entirely consistent with a ‘proper’ camera and the menus easy to navigate, which prompts the question, will I be able to resist the rumoured 24MP X100F.

Enough of the hardware – the skies above Northumberland have been putting on a show this last week and here they are.  The stills are captured with the Fuji and the videos with the even more diminutive GoPro Hero 4.  The first two are time lapse recordings across the neighbouring fields and the last, a ten minute edited drive in the Elise from Hexham to Warkworth Golf Club (across country via Corbridge for fuel, Fenwick, Whalton and Morpeth):

Hexham sunset ... Hexham by night ... Hexham skyline...

A week of change …

This is a collection of images from a week of change.  Down the Birkey Burn there are signs of leaf fall and the woodman has been wielding his axe.  In expectation of some autumnal rides, the Scrambler has been fitted with a new FEK (fender eliminator kit) and front indicators to replace the ugly chrome originals.  The sun has emerged but the temperature has dropped so the Elise has got its hat on and walks down the Tyne and Derwent have been illuminated by a bright low sun.  The competitive golf season is near an end for another year – change is in the air.

Messin' about ... Walk along ... FEK installed today ... Woodman spare that tree ... The Birkey Burn ... Perfect morning ... So much neater ...

Photo Challenge: Blur

This is a lethal combination: 135bhp in a car weighing just 740kg in the hands of my middle son, Matt. He spent too much of his upbringing in the company of a madman behind the wheel (:-)) to be trusted with such exotica. More relevant and nearer the truth, my bank balance would not stand the premiums if he were added to the insurance.

Consequently, in this image, both man and machine were stationary and the blur added retrospectively – a much cheaper, virtual solution:

Matt and Elise...

(click on the image to enlarge)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside

Following on from an earlier post, these are a couple of photographs of the Beloved’s innards.  The weather has been dire these last few days so anything that keeps me occupied inside is welcome:

Elise 135 Series 1 Elise 135 Series 1

Continuing broadly along the same theme, the movie Rush has just been released in the UK, the story of the 1976 F1 Championship fought out between James Hunt and Niki Lauda. There was a time when getting ‘inside the ropes’ at F1 was open to everyone prepared to fork out a few shillings for a paddock pass. This provided the opportunity to photograph cars and drivers ‘up close and personal’, limited only by my ability to afford the necessary rolls of Tri-X Pan. This is Niki Lauda as I prefer to remember him, before the ravages of time and fire took hold – still a young lad finding his way:

Niki Lauda(click on images to enlarge)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Curves

I can think of only one thing when curves are mentioned – she is all curves, there is not a straight line on her body.  My wife calls her The Beloved because she gets more attention – not true, they get the same.  It is the masterpiece of Richard Rackham and Julian Thomson, the Series 1 Lotus Elise which echoes my teenage passions – the Lola T70, the Ginetta G12, the Chevron B8 and the Ferrari Dino, every one a curvaceous two seater, mid-engined, rear wheel drive, engineering marvel.

She spends much of her life under wraps on trickle charge and never goes out in the rain – Pam might have a point:

Lotus Elise

Lotus Elise Lotus Elise Lotus EliseThe Series II Elise is a fine machine too but its harsher lines betray Rackham and Thomson’s original intentions.  Click on the images to enlarge.