Active Girton: Girton Golf Club
'I wish to goodness I knew the man who invented this infernal game. I'd strangle him. But I suppose he's been dead for ages. Still, I could go and jump on his grave.' So P.G. Wodehouse on golf. Girtonians who have an inkling of an interest in this notoriously addictive, famously annoying, yet wonderfully democratic activity should take a walk down Dodford Lane. At the very end lies the green and pleasant haven of Girton Golf Club. There you will find a warm welcome.
Girton Golf Club boasts a pleasant, 18-hole course dating from the 1930s set in mature parkland, and has a well-appointed modern clubhouse with restaurant and bar. There are no barriers to membership: currently there are around 550 men and 100 women from all walks of life who belong to the club, and their ages range from 9 to 93. On the damp and cheerless morning I visited, the car park was busy with people, undeterred by the weather, setting off to take their exercise in each others' company. For golf can be a very sociable activity. You play in company, or on your own if you prefer, and the '19th hole' provides a social centre for both players and their non-golfing partners.
What if you have never put ball to tee, but would like to try? Girton Golf Club's resident PGA Professional, Scott Thomson, can offer you a course of lessons if you are an absolute beginner, and provide tips and tuition if you have some golfing experience. And if you are new to golf, you don't have to spend a fortune up-front on equipment, unlike some other sporting activities: you can borrow a set of clubs for your first lessons, until you feel confident enough to buy your own (there is a pro-shop on-site), or you can hire a set at a very modest cost (around £13) if you are returning to the sport after a long absence and want to try out your rusty skills on the course.
As is evident from the age range of the current members, Girton Golf Club welcomes people of all ages. There is a wide variety of membership packages available to suit all pockets, levels of enthusiasm, and lifestyles. For the keen golfer with a busy schedule who wants to go out every weekend, there is a 7-Day Full Membership available at £700 p.a., which (as the name implies) gives access at any time of day for 7 days a week. If you are free to play mainly during the week, a Five-Day Membership at £500 provides unlimited play from Monday to Friday. At the other end of the scale, a Weekday Off-Peak Membership, at only £300, offers play on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (this is only available to new members and for a maximum of two years). Young golfers (between 21 and 30) can buy an Intermediate membership at a reduced rate, which gives full membership privileges.
An additional bonus for 7- and 5-Day Members is that they are automatically included in the 'Smart Golfer Network', which provides Monday-Friday access to 20 other courses within a roughly 50-mile radius, including the lovely courses at Pavenham Park, near Bedford, Chalgrove Manor, near Dunstable, and Epping, near where the M11 crosses the M25. And a splendid scheme that offers maximum flexibility for those who wish to play only occasionally is a Cambridge Associate Membership. £200 buys 190 credits, which can be used at any time, on any day. Playing Monday-Friday between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. costs the least number of credits per game (13), and Saturday and Sunday mornings the most (19). Top-ups can be purchased for £95.
In keeping with its inclusive ethos, Girton Golf Club will be offering a special deal this year to local youngsters aged between 6 and 12, starting in the Easter holidays and running through to the October half-term. For £25, youngsters will receive regular lessons in golfing basics in small groups of around 6-8. All golfing equipment will be provided and participants will just have to turn up in their ordinary jeans and trainers. This initiative is funded by the English Golf Union to encourage younger people to take up golf.
Suppose you just want to try out the course? Non-members can play at any time from Monday to Friday, or at weekends during the afternoon, on payment of a modest green fee, which ranges from £16 Monday-Friday in winter, to £25 in summer (fees at weekends are slightly higher).
Non-golfers are also welcome to Girton Golf Club. For £28 p.a. you can become a Social Member, and participate in all the social activities of the club. These include quiz nights, a Sunday carvery lunch, and other events, and of course full access to the restaurant and bar, which are open during normal hours through the week (the restaurant is closed on Mondays). It's not only spouses of golfing members who become Social Members; there are about 50 such members at present, and many are just people from the village who like the atmosphere an enjoy the facilities of the Golf Club. Social Members, like any other member, are welcome to bring guests to the club, for coffee, lunch, tea or dinner.
If you are one of the competitive types, Girton Golf Club has four regular teams. Mainly in the finer weather, the Seniors play in around 30 competitions each year, the Men's and Ladies' teams around 15, and the Juniors about 10. The teams aren't selective; if you want to join a team, you just say so! In keeping with the 'all welcome' spirit, many of the matches are friendlies, but the better golfers also get a chance to take part in County League games. There are also internal club competitions to keep you on your mettle.
Golfers are, in the word of Vanda Webb, the club's Secretary, 'creatures of habit', and won't be put off their game by minor inconveniences like weather. So the course is open from dawn to dusk, 365 days a year, including Christmas Day. Only severe conditions such as hard frost, snow on the course or lying water will prevent play.
Garrison Keillor, tongue in cheek, said: 'The socially redeeming aspect of golf lies in the vast number of lawyers and bankers and managers who play it, and when you think of the damage they would do if they were at the job instead, you can see why golf courses are a wise investment for any municipality.' Golf does have something of a reputation for being a rich man's sport, played by heads of state and wealthy American businessmen as a way of oiling deals with important contacts. Like any other activity, if you want to spend a fortune on equipment and membership of exclusive clubs, you can, but this is not the way of Girton Golf Club. Nor do you have to aim for the skill level of a Rory McIlroy or a Tiger Woods. You can play at any level and still have a very enjoyable time; you can play the full 18 holes, or stop at 9; you can play every day, every week, once a month, or just whenever you can fit it in. Your partner doesn't have to be a 'golf widow' or widower, as there are many social activities available that are more about (social) clubs, (cream) teas and (fancy dress) balls than the other sort of clubs, tees and balls. So - get out there and Be Active!
Contact: Vanda Webb
Girton Golf Club