Recent news from General Manager, Rod Gordon of the Russley Golf Club confirms that, thankfully, golfing is great at Russley following the recent quakes.
Known to have hosted many major tournaments over the years Russley is proud that several members have held their own against some of the world’s best golfers — Australia’s Peter Thomson and Ken Nagle, Kiwi Sir Bob Charles and Americans, Tom Watson and Corey Pavin to name just a few who’ve received a good challenge from the locals. Rod shares some information about Russley’s early days from their anniversary book, Russley Golf Club, The First 75 years, 1928-2003.
To develop a golf course from what was once bare riverbed country took some doing. For a very long time, members made it a practice to pick up stones and place them in heaps before playing a round. A labour of love?
Junior programme breakthrough…
Junior development was a long, slow process, too for in the early days, young boys and girls were tolerated only if they kept well away from adult members. But finally, in 1955, 15-year-old Ray Atkinson was invited to play in the Saturday field, although complaints were many. Mark Holdsworth reports:
“By the following year (Ray) was on a 7-handicap and set a new course record, for that time — 72 off the stick: out in 30, home in 42, nett 65.
Now there are over 100 boys and girls in Russley’s junior programme with a waiting list for the boys.
The women didn’t have it easy either, especially during the 1800′s. For a long time at most Clubs, they were restricted from entering men’s inner sanctum on the nineteenth. And those were the days when ladies wore hats that, to me, looked like tragically collapsed souffles. From what I read, the neck-to-ankles attire did not deter the fairer sex from big hits. And part of the equipment, a length of elastic to prevent the hemline of the lady golfer’s skirt from fluttering up on a breezy day, is so far removed the styles of today. If a bit of ankle was unseemly and off-putting for serious and sensitive male partners in the olden days, what would they think of today’s poster gals in short shorts and low-cut shirts! My how things have changed.
Russley’s Helen Shirlaw recalls the days when those hemlines were shortened a bit but well before trousers were in fashion and acceptable attire:
“…hats or berets were worn to complement the tweed skirts. As we all carried our clubs, none with full sets of matched clubs, we were very happy with the leather attached to a belt which hung over the hip to protect our woollen skirt from the wetness of the golf bag.”
I’d imagine the pongy, unpleasant smell of leather did nothing to attract admirers on their bus ride back home.
A weird burial…
And who could forget this particularly unusual incident? Greenskeeper of the time, Bill Warwick remembers:
“…two strange women were digging a hole in the bunker in front of the 16th green…to bury my husband’s ashes one, of them explained. It appears her husband was from Canada on sabbatical at the university and (when he died), that was his wish! At the request of the (then) Secretary/Manager, I dug them up and (we held) a short service under a shrub behind the 10th tee.”
I’m especially pleased they moved the ashes because northwest winds are known to blow bunker sand all over the place. This dear man’s ashes could have been scattered across the green, attached themselves to my ball, and ended up returning to Canada in my golf bag — certainly not the pleasant resting place he’d planned.
With so much history and tales to be told, nothing could be more interesting than to stop by the 19th hole to eavesdrop or even join in a conversation with the locals. Perhaps you’d hear the one about the time Russley had an illegal bar. Ben Mair recalls:
“It was operated with care to avoid complaints to the police, but for some years we had the advantage of a member being one of the Force. He had an arrangement to give us the nod to shut up shop when things hotted up at the police station over liquor at some clubs. Then after two weeks or so he would give us the all clear. The extension of liquor licences to sports clubs was a relief.”
Nowadays, this respectable, law-abiding par 72, 6074-metre 18-hole course is one of the finest in the country. It’s easy walking through park-like settings, but difficult water hazards tend to alter an otherwise good golf score. Only five minutes from Christchurch airport and what a great and convenience place to play a round.
Photo contributed by General Manager, Rod Gordon of the Russley Golf Club
Mr. Gordon also confirmed that following the recent quakes, Russley’s neighbours: Clearwater, Coringa, Harewood, McLeans Island, Templeton and Weedons are all OK for golfing.