A Noughties Birthday Special

Royal Ashdown Forest Golf ClubIn my experience heterosexual males are lousy at remembering birthdays. Facebook and Twitter has helped occasionally attract their attention to your really big day and nothing can beat persistent vocal reminders along the lines of, ‘I really can’t believe that next month I shall actually be 40.’

The combination of these three prompted one of my male colleagues to come up with a surprisingly bright idea, although I strongly suspect that he was really angling to celebrate his birthday which also ended in a nought, only in his case the big six-oh.

‘Let’s get a noughties four-ball up’ he chirped. I left it to three guys, one 50 this year, the one coming up 60 and another 70 in September. I was the baby of the group and only had to show up which is where things got complicated.

After more on-line discussion amongst the men than it took to prepare for the D-Day invasion of Normandy they finally had it sorted and we made our way down to Royal Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, some 30 minutes spin away from Gatwick Airport in leafy and affluent Forest Row.

Hayley Barlow (40), Ian Woods (50), Stephen Killick (60) & Chester Stern (70)

Hayley Barlow (40), Ian Woods (50), Stephen Killick (60) & Chester Stern (70)

Ashdown usually welcomes summer three-balls in the same manner the Ku Klux Klan 4th of July barbecue welcomes a reggae band, as it is a determinedly traditional and two-ball club. But because there was a big corporate society day of four-balls going out we could set out after them, and the ‘old’ guy who was 60 is also a member.

The clubhouse at Ashdown is like a big rambling old house one more normally associates with Norman Bates or a long dead Transylvanian who simply won’t lay down, but the atmosphere is friendly and the three of us had a great lunch sitting out on the terrace pre-golf, which did not do a heap for laser like accuracy on the golf course but was a damn fine way of having a joint birthday party.

A couple of bottles of Chablis to help down the chicken Caesar salad and then the men insisted on kummel, that caraway liqueur that is sold at all the proper golf clubs, and we were ready to bring the course to its knees.

Now the Old Course at Ashdown may have no bunkers but it is not some sweet old pussycat that lets you tickle its tummy; far from it. There are streams, ditches, thick heather, firm greens with slippery borrows and run-offs and, just as taxing, some pretty stiff climbs.

The views over the forest when you reach the summit at 11 are stunning but there are still some more climbs having come down so we were thrilled to see the drinks cart bring us a refreshing, ice-cold beer on 13.

We finally got back to the clubhouse a rather weary noughties’ birthday trio. Having one last celebratory Pimms back on the terrace the Ashdown member told us the club’s West Course is shorter and flatter and positively welcomes three and four-balls.

So in 10 years time we are planning to get all four of us out, but most likely in buggies, and do it again. Here’s hoping.

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