Sunday, January 20, 2008

I wonder if you were allowed to move the ball for a cow pat

I learned today that Australias first golf course was in a cow paddock in Adelaide. Having grown up in and around St Andrews, the home of golf it is nice to know that I have an Antipodean parallel.

On opening day twenty foundation members "of status and wealth", all of whom sported traditional red coats, joined a varied assortment of Adelaide citizenry who had turned up "to see the fun". In those long-gone days anything out of the ordinary, which was participated in by so-called "Swells", was considered amusing by thr lower strata of society.

"The first games were played in the presence of a highly amused gallery. If a player missed the ball the crowd roared. If he hit it, they laughed just the same - on principle it seemed. But the crowd soon tired of the novelty and the golfers were left in peace as far as the gallery went." A further hazard was the presence of young boys who, despite the engagement of fore-caddies by the players, stole many of the expensive "feathery" balls...

A greater handicap was the presence of cows; in those days the parklands were an unfenced commonage and many families in the city owned a cow which was turned loose on them. It is left to the reader's imagination as to some of the natural hazards confronted by the intrepid golfers. The mind boggles regarding the pitfalls of a "lift and clean" local rule!

After the governor left the colony interest waned; the harsh Australian summers cracked the glue in the expensive clubs with their beechwood heads and ash shafts, while breakages and other damage were most annoying as the clubs had to be sent back to Scotland for either repairs or replacement.

Although the cattle links have long gone, other animals make sport with horse race meetings held at Victoria Park intermittently. Unfortunately Victoria Park is very run down and the SA Jockey Club have turned off the sprinklers to save water. There is a good chance that racing may be finished there also. The good people of that part of town would like to have it maintained as a private dog paddock rather than have the area developed. But that is another story.

Thanks Jayne from Our Great Southern Land

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