Lansdown will hasten golf’s revival

THE big summer sports are fighting back.

Stephen Lansdown, the man with huge plans for La Grande Mare, showing his business acumen in a Green Finance event. (28529064)
Stephen Lansdown, the man with huge plans for La Grande Mare, showing his business acumen in a Green Finance event. (28529064)

First it was cricket, rejuvenated by the simple realisation that old-style club competition was still the best way forward, now golf, and what a turnaround that promises to be.

Just three years ago, an established golf figure said to me with a facial expression as grave as looking up at a dentist with horns: ‘Rob, what can we do to get youngsters paying golf?’

At the time, the junior scene had deteriorated to the extent that we could no longer contemplate continuing with the junior [U18] inter-insular team match, while at the Royal Guernsey there was the remarkable situation of the waiting list having disappeared and spaces now readily available to play both there and with their car-park colleagues, L’Ancresse.

La Grande Mare, too, was feeling the player pinch, so nobody was getting away with the unexpected downturn in popularity.

Yet, after all that, I sense the curve is rising steadily.

Sure, it may still be necessary for the Royal and L’Ancresse clubs to move under the same roof, but the game is moving on and you can quite clearly point to a smaller club lying off the Rohais as being the spark for the upturn.

The creation of ‘The Golf Club’ has done wonders for the game, pulling new, younger faces into a sport, bringing it into the 21st century with the yank of the best tug-of-war teams.

And given the taste of golf via the computer-supported covered ranges at St Pierre Park, dozens of new faces have arrived across the club memberships to the extent that a more cash-amenable L’Ancresse/Royal is now heading back towards what was considered normality. Post lockdown, the course has been full.

Now the golfing scene is set to get even better. The plans for La Grande Mare will lift that club and sport, as a whole, to a new level.

By 2024 the Vazon woodland layout will probably be high-grade par 69 with off-course facilities to make even the Jersey golfer jealous. Stephen Lansdown does not plan to do his golf and country club development by halves.

No longer will those top players who yearn to smash the ball long ways be able to complain that they can’t open their shoulders sufficiently enough under the shadow of the King’s Mills and Le Grantez.

The new layout will be 750 yards shorter than the championship links at L’Ancresse, but there will be a significant reduction in the par threes at Vazon – from nine to six – and three par fives.

Of those the 13th and the 17th promise to be brutes, particularly the latter when there is good old south-westerly blowing.

For sure, though, the La Grande Mare initiative, coupled with the inspiring move Matt Groves and his team made at St Pierre Park a few years back, is making golf a more attractive option to young islanders than it was.

COBO look a class above the rest in cricket’s Division One, where the sixes are flying over fences and into car parks at a rate never previously seen.

Batsmen are making hay on the hard-wicket where the ball comes onto the bat very nicely and if the bowler is a smidgen off line he is likely to get punished. But, is it the time to move that track and resite to a more central position on the square or, perhaps, even beyond that? As much as I’m loving the current season, I feel a serious injury is waiting to happen with big hits flying towards folk not paying sufficient attention to the game and the path of hardly-struck balls.

Some – those playing football on the 3G – have an excuse, some are just blissfully unaware of the dangers.

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