Last Tango in Paris


There is something of the unreal about Le Golf National in Paris. The course is host to the 2018 Ryder Cup, annual French Open and now the unfolding epic of the  Wryter Cup.

This week it was time for the golfer in us all to step up as my great and worthy Press Golfing Society teammates battled it out against our mighty French APG rivals. Read More

Wryter Cup Paris Match

PGS Wryter Cup

Seve wasn’t the only golfer to blast his way round uncharted territory in search of a historic win.

What began as a bold experiment in 1991 to foster good relations between the French and British media has developed into the backbone of two societies. The annual epic golf battle of the Wryter Cup is the journalist’s equivalent of the Ryder Cup between the Press Golfing Society (PGS) and Association de la Presse et du Golf (APG). Read More

The spirit of Seve conjured up the 39th Ryder Cup. A fighter to the end, he once said: “Thinking doesn’t cost much so if you have a chance to think, think positive.” And that’s just what Captain Ole’s troops did producing pure theatre, glorious unpredictability and the greatest comeback in sporting history.

For the Americans, Sunday’s defeat was unpalatable. The crowds were raucous, hostile and heavy on the European bashing. But by dusk the full-throated boos and inescapable morons yelling ‘get in da treeeees’ had given way to chants of “Ole, Ole, Ole” echoing across the course. Read More

Top Ten Golf Tweeters

I’ve been watching some amusing interaction on Twitter tonight between the genteel @TweeterAllis and golf legend @GaryPlayer. That’s when it dawned on me, this is what Twitter should be about. Witty, pithy and erudite banter that informs and entertains, making you laugh and shudder in equal measures. Forget about those other self-important Tweeters with their flash titles and zillion followers. Instead, here’s my handpicked top ten list of self-deprecating, friendly and gritty Tweeters from around the globe.   Read More

Paradise for Lady Golfers

Most lady golfers will relate. You walk into a pro shop in search of golfing happiness and end up sleepwalking your way through the never-ending isles, rows and shelves of shoes, clothes and clubs … for men.

Finally, weary from the journey, you reach the ladies section, a cubbyhole if you will. Stocked to the rafters with two pairs of nasty daisy-embroidered shoes, a handful of lycra hugging size zero tops, a ghastly rainbow pastel peak and that is it. The proverbial Emperor had a more stimulating wardrobe.

Well the battle is over, especially if you live in the south east of England. Tucked away in the heart of the Kent countryside is West Malling Golf Club and home to Duncan Lambert’s golf shop.

Two thousand square feet of golfing heaven. One of the best-stocked pro shops I’ve discovered carrying all the major brands and with a excellent reputation for custom club fittings. I should know having spent ninety fascinating minutes getting measured up to within an inch of my life during the recent purchase of my new Callaway Razr X irons.

Stocked by the Lady Golf Store, this little shop of delights has an impressive selection of irons, drivers, fairway woods, rescue clubs and putters all available to try before you buy. Their extensive clothing in funky colours and designs from Lyle & Scott, Green Lamb, Glenmuir, Galvin Green and Nike range from 8 to 18 in size ensuring style and importantly, comfort.

A final word of praise for the vast choice of ladies golf shoes. As someone who spends a ridiculous amount of time crisscrossing the hallowed green fairways, I’m well versed in the painful consequences of ill-fitting impulsive purchases. Trust me, Duncan Lambert’s ladies golf shoes are guaranteed to have even that lover of fine footwear Imelda Marcos grasping for her Mastercard. And not an embroidered daisy in sight.

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New Clubs, New Game?

The call came in 9.43am. “They’ve arrived,” said the man with a gravel voice. And indeed they had. The packaging left little to the imagination. No bells, buckles or bows. Just 100% recyclable cardboard wrapped securely with industrial strength masking tape. My fingers tingled with excitable anticipation as I tore gently at the tape to little effect. It took kitchen scissors, three subtle moves and less than sixty seconds for the packaging to resemble birthday wrapping in tatters. And there they were … my shiny new golf irons, Callaway Razr X. Guaranteed distance, forgiveness and feel with tighter shots, shorter putts and lower scores …how can this possibly go wrong? Reach for the stars, that’s what I say.

Home Sweet London

You’re flying back from your summer hols, that last leg of a tedious long-haul flight, bored, restless and generally yearning for solid ground beneath your feet. Suddenly the clouds part and you catch a first glimpse of Blighty. It’s only been two weeks, but how you’ve missed it …

You strain your eyes through the fingerprint-smeared window. Hello, is that London in the distance? Yes, I believe it is. A warm feeling of familiarly sweeps over you identify homely landmarks …Canary Wharf, the O2, Greenwich …

… the Gerkin, Tower Bridge, Bojo’s crib …

… Waterloo Bridge, London Eye, Centre Point …

… Her Maj’s Buckingham Palace …

… Hyde Park …

And it’s wheels down … welcome to Heathrow.

Yes, I’m home.

Gorkana meets Hayley Barlow


Gorkana caught up recently with News of the World’s former head of PR Hayley Barlow to find out what her 12 year long reign entailed, what she did next after the paper closed, and her part in the attempted rescue of ‘Wally’ the Thames whale in January 2006.

Firstly Prince Harry, would the News of the World have published those pictures?

Undoubtedly yes, if the story had broken in our time.

So how did you find yourself head of PR at News of the World?

Back in 1999 I was working for the PR department of Forte Hotels. A friend from the News of the World called to say the newspaper was looking to recruit a PR manager following a series of high profile world exclusives which had not gone down particularly well with the public. Five interviews later I was appointed the first PR manager for a national newspaper – a somewhat daunting task without a predecessor or rulebook to turn to.

What did the role entail?

The brief was largely two-fold: proactively publicising the NoW brand across news, politics, features, sport and showbiz. This involved creatively promoting the newspaper, editorial content, spokespeople, managing campaigns and co-ordinating stunts across the newspaper, online, broadcast and social media platforms.

At the NoW exclusive video footage became as important as words and pictures and in the early years I would often find myself thrust into a situation and expected to interview a subject on film without a clue as to how to even turn the camera on. I almost miss watching that shaky NoW branded footage on Sundays – but at least I don’t get those calls from angry TV execs berating me for my oversized onscreen logo.

I also wore the crisis management hat. Ironically, it was this hat which remained firmly in place for several years during the phone-hacking scandal until the day the NoW was no more.

So it kept you busy?

From the outset the pressure was relentless. This was no nine ‘til five gig – and with the introduction of smartphones and tablets, communication became more instant and the role more demanding to the point that I was never off duty. I’ve issued statements to the world’s media from beaches in Mauritius and golf courses in Africa. When you sign up to the NoW, you sign away part of your life. I’ve lost count of the friends’ weddings I missed and relationships I’ve wrecked over the years because the NoW always came first.

With hindsight I wish I had taken a step back and questioned that level of loyalty. But at the time, there was no such thing as a grey area – it was all or nothing, black or white, yes or no, in or out – and quite literally in some cases. I’m fairly confident I would have dealt with the closure of the newspaper much better had I adopted a healthier attitude to the work life balance.

That said, for the most part, it was an enormously good fun place to work. An incredible platform to learn from a mix of colourful, eccentric and feisty characters who ensured the office buzzed with dynamism and at times, questionable humour.

Most mornings I would wake with a sense of anxiety not knowing what challenges that day would bring. But after Newsnight, I would look back on my day spent facing the media at the High Court, at a police station or up a cherry picker, laugh and tick it off my ‘never again’ list.

And regardless of events, NoW journalists are amongst the best in the business, what was it like working for them?

I worked with four very different editors throughout my 12 years – all with their contrasting styles and personalities – but above all, I worked with the most talented team of journalists.

Great writers worked alongside gifted photographers and when they came together it made for a fantastic newspaper and one I was very proud of. A rare combination of extremely passionate staff and this cascading effect from the editors that each team member intrinsically knew what the reader wanted.

Since it launched in 1843 the NoW became a phenomenal campaigning machine. Managing campaigns was a hugely gratifying part of my job, but nothing could have prepared me for the furore surrounding some of our high profile and contentious crusades as the media frequently whipped themselves into a frenzy. The newspaper didn’t do things by half measures, but it was because the NoW genuinely cared for its readers that it campaigned tirelessly for causes they believed in and importantly achieved great results.

Are there any now infamous stories you can regale us with?

One of my favourite stories was a Saturday in January 2006 when a whale found itself lodged under Royal Albert Bridge. You know it’s a big story when Sky News cuts all adverts and at that moment was broadcasting footage of a reporter from rival newspaper in the Thames splashing water on this whale. After witnessing this, my editor stormed out his office incensed and yelled at me across the newsroom: “Barlow, we are being scooped by the f*****g Sunday Mirror, get out there and make sure the News of the World saves that whale now!”

I dashed across the office, grabbed a reporter, a photographer and an armful of NoW signage. We hired a boat, bought a dry suit from a bemused fisherman and motored down to the bridge. With the Skycopter overhead, I nudged my reluctant reporter into the water in his dry suit, which turned out to be not so dry, and had him splashing Wally the Whale on live television. We got the picture, but the editor wanted more. Deadline was nearing and the front page was made up and ready to go: “NoW Saves Wally”.

After being threatened with arrest, we kept a discreet distance as the whale was raised onto a barge. Then as Wally made his way down the Thames, our little boat joined the flotilla. Farcical scenes followed as I clutched a NoW banner in one hand, gripped the side of the boat with the other whilst taking instructions from a screeching executive down the phone: “We can’t see the NOW flag on TV, straighten the flag.”

Our photographers were poised on every bridge capturing the scenes but just past Tower Bridge the editor was back on the phone: “We’re getting word the whale’s not going to make it, get off the boat, get rid of that flag and get back to the office. Now!”

There was never a dull moment. One day I was dealing with wedged whales, but the next could involve winding up the Germans during the World Cup or rescuing lions from Romania.

What was the last week of the NoW like?

Quite possibly up there with the worst week of my life. An enormous rollercoaster of emotions which ranged from shock, disbelief to outrage and a whole lot of tears.

But the fact that I wasn’t dealing with this alone helped ease the pain a little. There were almost three hundred of us who found ourselves in this horrendous situation and as a result, an already close-knit team forged an instantly unbreakable bond.

So you left NoW and set up Jubilee Communication, can you tell us more about this venture?

After the newspaper closed, I spent six months job hunting, a period of my life I would rather forget. One headhunter advised that I remove all traces of the NoW from my CV. It was madness. When prospective employers ask what I’ve been up to for the past twelve years, what do you suggest I say: ‘Travelling, but on the plus side I’ve found myself.’ I didn’t take her advice, but make no mistake the stigma attached to those four little words on my CV proved very damaging.

Having spent a decade heading up the PR department for world’s largest selling and controversial Sunday newspaper, working with a team of 150 journalists amid unprecedented media interest and scrutiny, I eventually I decided to go it alone.

I set up Jubilee Communication in January this year, a PR consultancy specialising in crisis management, media relations and media training and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Nine months on I have a steady client base implementing traditional and digital media strategies for companies in the media, sport and business sectors plus several high profile individuals who have made headlines of their own. It’s reassuring to know, given the fragility of the economy, that there is still a demand for public relations and that can only be good for our industry.

Jubilee Communication is growing steadily as a business and I have plans to recruit a PR executive to help build on its success. It’s a tough market, hard work and long hours, but immensely satisfying seeing a client’s name in lights … for all the right reasons.

And are there any lingering thoughts on the News International empire you’d care to share?

No, I have put my News International days firmly behind me. To use that well-worn cliché, it’s onwards and upwards…

Hayley was interviewed by Doug Keighley

Hayley’s website: Twitter at: @Hayley_Barlow

Sunday nights don’t come much better than this … an extravaganza of flames in London’s Olympic Stadium bringing down the curtain on a month of thrilling competition. From my seat up in the Gods with 80,000 grateful fans, a positively mind-blowing experience watching Coldplay and Rihanna rocking to a sensational summer of sport alongside Mad Max characters and a colourful parade of nations. What a fitting end to an extraordinary Games, a combination of the surreal and the spectacular. Great Britain passed with distinction.

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As you may be aware I’m on the hunt for a new set of irons. And while the search is in er, full swing, it is proving a somewhat challenging task. On the plus side, am taking full advantage of all generous offers from golfing chums keen to promote their gear guaranteed to produce higher, longer and straighter results. The latest offering courtesy of Molly Mcilgorm (aged 4 ¾).

The Paradox of Choice

So the big question is … with so much choice out there, where does one even begin the process of purchasing a new set of irons?

It struck me during a recent round of golf, my cherished Titleist irons are nearing 13 years old. And whilst they still produce rare moments of brilliance, the time has finally come, albeit reluctantly, to put them out to pasture and splash out on a shiny new set.

I guess it’s like clinging to your Rolodex until the moment you get a smartphone and then wondering how you ever lived without it.

Callaway, Nike, Mizuno, Taylormade, tour preferred, hybrid, forged, graphite, stainless steel, regular or firm flex … the list goes on. How do I know what is right for me? Is the answer in custom fitting, radar technology and shot analysis?

Put simply, I’m a 8 handicap golfer based in South East London in search of men’s irons that will make me hit higher, longer and straighter.

Any suggestions welcome please.

Dear Membership Secretary,


Like the rest of the female swinging population you can imagine my delight on learning that after 80 years of exclusion, gals are finally welcome on golf’s most hallowed turf.

Admittedly, it’s only two of America’s finest afforded membership thus far, but I get that some exclusive clubs are in no rush to embrace the 21st century.

It occurred to me on hearing this ‘joyous’ news, particularly at a time when women represent the fastest growing segment in golf, that I should make a personal bid for the third green ladies jacket.

It’s not that I’m hitching my wagon to Condoleezza’s horse you’ll understand, but with a strong nerve, delicate manner and regular folk spirit, I would suggest that I too am qualified for membership at Augusta National.

Now I don’t know much about Darla Moore, but if the delightful Condi’s focus on democracy in the Middle East was anything to go by, I bet she’s also a smoking gun around the greens.

I may not possess the nuclear capabilities of her CV or the velvet-gloved diplomacy required of a ‘Warrior Princess’, but make no mistake, I am unflappable in the face of a Salman Rushdie*.

Admittedly my CV bears the stain of Murdoch and bank balance the strain of annual subs, but put me head to head on the first tee with Hootie or any of those relics from the old boys’ network and watch for cracks in the grass ceiling.

In conclusion, have you ever been somewhere so mind-blowingly beautiful that you’d happily chuck it all in just to be able to say: “If anyone needs me, I’ll be at my golf club … Augusta National.”

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours in anticipation,

Hayley x

* Putt that is impossible to read.

Team Zimbabwe touch down at Gatwick today in anticipation of “the greatest show on earth” in twelve days time. Led by swimming sensation Kirsty Coventry as she spearheads the nation’s Olympics medal hunt with a small contingent of seven fine athletes including marathon runners, rowers and a triathlete.

But as the excitement mounts, a misguided crackdown to protect sponsors’ exclusive rights has sparked a feverous debate and the branding police are taking no prisoners.

I’ve compiled a handy crib sheet of common mistakes Team Kirsty and our Zim ensemble of flag flying supporters should avoid. The ‘I’ll be with you just now’ excuse will not leave the starting blocks on this occasion. First off, get your cameras at the ready during those “There may be delays on the Jubilee line” moments, as it’s the last time you’ll need them.

On entering the magnificent Olympic village athletes may not tweet photos of themselves with products that aren’t official sponsors. You may not upload any videos for family and fans back home taken inside Olympic venues. You may however tweet what you eat, just as long as your updates don’t get anywhere near the organisation’s intellectual property rights.

If McDonald’s is not to your taste, tough luck. Firing up the braai trackside with piri-piri ‘jongwe’ and mouth-watering ‘boeres’ may be deemed more than a tad culturally insensitive to sponsors. Brazen security guards will be under orders to confiscate restricted items in breach of Olympic rules.

Breaking big-brother rules will be a criminal offence. This is to protect the interests of official sponsors who have paid upwards of £60 million to determine what we should eat and whether it should be served up with chips. These rules are in addition to the rigid media and digital restrictions on using the Olympic logo and various associated words that imply endorsement or affiliation.

It is also worth noting, athletes may not marry while on British soil during the Games. However, LOCOG is providing 150,000 condoms in the Olympic village. A word to the wise for any Bata “takkie” wearing Olympian, the advertising police have the right to use “reasonable force” to remove potential unauthorised advertising. Violators can be arrested and fined up to £20,000.

It doesn’t stop with athletes either. Fans should be aware, you are not permitted to bring floppy hats, vuvuzelas, strobe lights or gawd forbid, bottled water into the sports grounds.

Some might say these stringent restrictions are the work of a heartless Medusa that has shunted London 2012 off to the icy depths of smiling corporate fascism. The Olympic flame that reaches the tax haven of Jersey today was initially a way of glorifying Hitler’s regime. You don’t say!

But the boo-hurrah ratio is firmly in favour of those who see the Olympics as a once in a lifetime opportunity over those who protest it is a monumental waste of taxpayer’s money. Whatever your view, I’ll be skipping in tune to the beat down Olympic Street.

And a final word to my fellow Zimbabweans as I wish you every success for a victorious Olympics. You may all be ‘faster, higher, stronger’ than me, but I am buoyant. And available if required.

Enough has been written about the demise of the News of the World to fill several volumes of War and Peace many times over.

It is one year ago today a brilliant News of the World team put our beloved newspaper to bed for one last historic time after 168 years, 8674 editions, bidding a final goodbye to 7.5 million loyal readers.

The footage below gives an insight into those final moments of that dark and momentous day which terminated News of the World careers, as the doors of the newspaper were slammed shut forever.

I won’t deny I’ve had better years in my life. There are moments I question is it the News of the World I am grieving for or my own loss I am mourning. You end up with nothing until hope comes along. And it does, eventually.

As I experienced, it has been an almighty struggle for some former colleagues while others are thriving. Few have become top columnists, one editing a prominent newspaper and others reporting for rival papers. A colleague has turned to astronomy while another is selling fire extinguishers.

Only last month, a friend and colleague was turned down for voluntary work giving free advice to the elderly. The stigma attached to our lives, our past and our CVs cannot be overlooked. But where there was once despair, there is hope. Where there was once shame, there is freedom.

In January, I founded my own PR agency Jubilee Communication. The colleague who was turned away, now works in the PR industry. Jubilee Communication has doubled its workforce.

I believe the measure of our success is how we deal with our disappointment. And it is perhaps a mark of the extraordinary men and women that I was so privileged to work with for over a decade, and whose lives have changed irrevocably, that they continue to prosper through strength and resolve.

And for that I thank Rupert Murdoch for his moment of ‘panic’.

Hearty congratulations to my golfing chum Paul Trow … or Gwyneth as he’s fondly known. Paul is editor of the brilliant new glossy magazine ‘Arnold Palmer’s Guide to the 2012 Majors’.

Majors celebrate and honour what the four special championships have become. Their origins, great players past and present whose careers have been shaped by them, and the marvelous courses that provide the stages for these most theatrical of contests.

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Caption This

A severe snap hook is a thing of awesome power and beauty. Just ask my foresomes partner! Share your best captions below or tweet to @Golfmadchick using the hashtag #CaptionThis to send your submission. Check back to see if you’ve won a sleeve of Press Golfing Society Srixon golf balls.

Picture by Hayley Barlow

Round 1 : Walton Heath Golf Club

One of the world’s most famous and prestigious heathland courses. The history of the club is exceptional. The weather was not! Our very British drought met monsoon conditions and record rainfall as I waded through heather waste deep in denial. My foursomes partner standing beside this green-side bunker spoke for us all when he said: “Time to end the hosepipe ban chaps. Please.”

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The whole country has gone positively Lady Gaga for our enigmatic monarch. Strolling home from the office with my camera, one could sense a palpable building of anticipation and excitement in the air. This weekend’s bumper Jubilee festivities are a showcase of events that reflect the public mood, a national fervour that fits all tastes and budgets, if you will.

The flag-waving jollity, bunting strewn skyline and streets ablaze with colour, chart Britons shared life and common purpose as the nation comes together to celebrate 60 years of Her Majesty’s glorious reign.

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I worked at the News of the World for over a decade and lost my job with almost 300 others when Rupert Murdoch closed down the newspaper at the height of the phone-hacking scandal in July 2011. Since that fateful day I have maintained my silence, but chose to speak out this week following an appearance by the News Corporation chairman at the Royal Courts of Justice. This is an opinion commentary piece I wrote for The Independent newspaper.

By Hayley Barlow

Watching Rupert Murdoch giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry, the enormity of the past year hit me square on – for a second time. This unfolding epic is the direct result of a handful of wrongdoers whose actions have touched, damaged and, in some cases, shattered people’s lives.

But just as Mr Murdoch “felt that blast” of outrage following the Milly Dowler phone-hacking revelations last summer, I too felt it yesterday watching him give evidence to Lord Justice Leveson.

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Shooters Hill Golf Club

I was playing golf in southeast London last weekend with a former lady captain when conversation turned to the history of our course, Shooter’s Hill Golf Club and the local area.  Dick Turpin, Hitler’s doodlebugs and Bobby Locke, in no particular order, but it turns out Shooters Hill is positively steeped in history. I was captivated and immediately consulted Google on my return home.

The name ‘Shooters Hill’ was first recorded in 1226 and reputedly takes its name from the practice of archery there during the Middle Ages. The name is also commonly linked to its reputation as a haunt for highwaymen and was infamous for its gibbets of the executed ones as referred to in 1661 in Samuel Pepys diary.

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