Donald Steel, Golf Architect and Past President EGU
As the Old Course at St Andrews is known as the Old Lady, it is my assumption that golf courses are feminine rather than masculine. Nothing, therefore, in this light seems more appropriate than J M Barrie’s definition of charm in a woman. ‘If you have it, you don’t need anything else and, if you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter what else you have’.
That Parkstone ‘has it’, there is no doubt. It is an acknowledged masterpiece that entices golfers, keeps them coming back, woos them, cajoles them, makes them happy and keeps them all young. It is the common denominator between generations of members and visitors whose lives have been enriched by its magic.
Its combination of challenge and beauty, peace and solitude, gives it the ‘away from it all’ feeling that golfers rate so highly. When so much argument rages over golf’s integration with the countryside, Parkstone is the perfect example of how golf and nature can blend in harmony. Parkstone was one hundred years old in 2009. A hundred years is a long time in the story of golf, which dates back centuries. It is an immense span in the affairs of the game in England.
Parkstone’s founders were undoubtedly men of vision and it is at them that the first salute must be directed. A hundred years ago, no planning permission was necessary to build a course and establish a Club but funds still had to be raised and members gathered. A great deal is owed to their pioneering efforts and, above all, for locating a tract of land that is so very special.
And what makes it special? Undoubtedly, its heathland character and the contouring of the land that is so much more revealing when gloriously open than when it was camouflaged by trees and scrub. In 2007, the US Open returned to Oakmont where 5000 trees had been removed in the previous few years. It was the founder’s intention that the course should resemble a great Scottish links but management decreed that trees would be a better substitute until the folly of their ways dawned on them.
Every course should have its own identity but twenty five years ago it was hard to distinguish Oakmont from fifty other courses in America. The example is given because there is a parallel with Parkstone where the penny dropped around twenty years ago that the real Parkstone should be restored. Strenuous efforts were made to engage in clearance that has ensured that the appearance of the Course is now recognisably the same as when played with hickories.
It is the course, after all, that gives Clubs their reputations – rather than the other way round - and there is a responsibility, therefore, for members to preserve their most precious asset in order that future generations can derive the same pleasure from it as they have. If, at Parkstone’s two hundredth anniversary, these same sentiments are being echoed, your successors will have done their job well.
Parkstone exists entirely for golf and an insistence that it is played in the true spirit- keenly, fairly and chivalrously. Measured in that context, the Club has been hugely successful with the wish of everyone being that you will hand on the baton simply and securely. If you do, your future will be as glorious as your past and present.