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Vermeulens – the alternative greats

Inside Track | Published:

WHEN you think of the great Guernsey golfing families, the Vermeulens don’t readily come to mind.

Golf in green and peaceful lands: The now retired Chris Vermeulen putts watched by John Dent, the director of golf at the course since late 2017. With the sale the latter has a key role in the future improvement of the course. (Picture by Gareth Le Prevost, 21826030)

No, it’s more likely to be Mahy, Blondel, de la Rue, Heaume, Noel, Smith and Eggo, the families who have scooped up many an island and famous club trophy.

But as the Vermeulens head into well-deserved retirement, bolstered by the proceeds of the buyout by sports-loving Steve Lansdown, it’s an appropriate time for giving the La Grande Mare family, originally headed by father Peter, credit for making Guernsey golf so much bigger and better than it might have been.

For a start, the Vermeulens might have given up on the idea even before they started.

There was great resistance from many quarters for the idea of turning a fairly useless, historically wet and ugly piece of land into a golf course. Heaven forbid, claimed the anti-golf brigade of the late 20th century who stymied projects at Icart, Pleinmont, at L’Ancresse [east] and La Ramee.

But, no, the Vermeulens had a vision for a golf and country club and they were determined to do it, despite hurdles put in their way.

There were objections from the Castel parish constables, Societe Guernesiaise and the planners were not so helpful either.

All together, it took seven years to get through the States, which included a two-year planning Inquiry.

A golf course appeared in 1994 and a quarter-of-a-century later it is an impressively matured little peach.

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Top golfers would, of course, prefer it if it were a big peach, but the Vermeulens famously did what they could with, first just 40 acres, ultimately 110 acres of land at their disposal.

But, imagine how worse off Guernsey golf and leisure would be had the family not stuck to their guns and just given up on the idea?

La Grande Mare has afforded hundreds of players who would have waited forever and a day to get into the Royal and L’Ancresse the chance to play the game.

Without LGM, the sport would have been a whole lot poorer and it did not cost the taxpayer a penny.

In my eyes, the Vermeulens are Guernsey golf greats.

Rob Batiste

By Rob Batiste
author

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