Course open. Buggies are not permitted on the course today. (updated 29 September at 07:00)

Chapter 6 - Suggestion Book

6.1: Suggestion Book

When Max Hastings had settled in as editor of the “Daily Telegraph”, the brilliantly wicked Bernard Levin complimented him on having managed, “with infinite tact, to bring it at least into the twentieth century.” But as one might expect from one of Fleet Street’s finest satirists, Levin went on to suggest that the appointee had a unique advantage, which was that at least one third of the Telegraph readers were dead “and indeed buried, or at least embalmed, thus being in no position to complain.”

The committee of Killiney GC could not have counted on such a benign audience, when they took the brave decision, right from the club’s inception, of introducing a “Suggestions Book.” And while effectively cutting a stick for their own back, they positively encouraged complaints by installing the book in a prominent place in the clubhouse.

Early suggestions were decidedly non-controversial. Like the one dated Christmas Day, 1904 from founder-member Fred Healey, a 25-handicapper living at Sydney Avenue, Blackrock, who advocated that “an iron boot scraper be placed in front of the club.” Shortly afterwards, a brief note from the secretary was appended, assuring him that the matter would “be attended to.”

As time passed, however, members became bolder and more demanding in their missives. And what began as a suggestions book soon developed into a vehicle for heartfelt complaints, many of them decidedly bitter.

This marked change of attitude was captured perfectly in an entry on March 9th, 1924, when a beleagured associate by the name of Lucinda, made this cri de coeur. “I should be grateful for information re the matter of engaging caddies. Frequently ladies are unable to get them to go round, though they ARE NOT ENGAGED. My last trouble in the matter was but one of many. It was as follows:

“Five caddies were in their hut and all refused to go out with me. They were all disengaged. I asked the caddie-master to get me one. He argued with all the caddies present, in vain. When I was putting on the ninth green, caddies openly jeered my bad play and said among themselves that I paid them too badly to be able to secure their services.

6.2:  Extract from the Suggestion Book. Coffee, bread and jam!

“When I left the club, they stood close to my car in the lane and made rude comments about me aloud. The names given by the caddie-master of the caddies complained of on this occasion are: (five names supplied).” Lucinda concluded: “I always pay at least 8d (3.3 cent in new pence) for nine holes and 1s 1d (5.4 pence) for 18 holes to Paddy Brown. And I pay extra for cleaning of clubs.”

The entry was officially marked “For committee’s consideration.” And there, one suspects, the matter ended, while the scamps lay in wait of another victim.

It seems that the Killiney ladies weren’t alone in suffering at the hands of unscrupulous caddies. For instance, there was the experience of Augustus W Orr of Seacroft, Killiney, who was moved to plead: “Can nothing be done to stop boys out of bounds from lifting balls. Today my caddie followed up my ball in Dowd’s Field and was just in time to see it picked up by Johnny Byrne (formerly a caddie here). I had to pay for my own ball.

No doubt there are quite a number of current club members who have had the same experience on golfing holidays in Spain, having consigned balls to water hazards, the dreaded aqua, early in a round on the Costa del Sol.

Towards the end of World War I, caddies made a concerted bid to have the club establish a competition specially for them, along with an appropriate trophy. But their case could hardly have been helped by a letter which appeared in the Suggestion Book on June 4th, 1918.

Under the heading “Caddie Boys” it read: “With reluctance, I feel compelled to draw attention to the conduct of these boys. They importune players to engage their services in the most objection- able manner. When not required, a continual shouting is kept up by them until out of hearing, such as ‘Want a caddie, sir’, ‘Carry your bag, sir’. ‘Carry your coat, sir’, ‘Carry your cap, sir’. This was the experience myself and my three visitors went through on Saturday evening last.

“When finished playing and on returning towards the pavilion the same evening, we were surrounded by several boys (some I had not seen at the club before) who made clamorous demands to clean clubs. Unfortunately, I gave my clubs to be cleaned. When brought back to me, there was a putter missing. This could not be traced and was evidently stolen.

“There appears to be a complete lack of discipline amongst these boys who, apparently, are not under the control of any member or steward of the club.” To which the secretary replied: “The committee have appointed Hughes as caddie master on Saturday afternoons and Sundays and members are asked to deal directly with him on these days and not with the caddies.”

6.3: Attentive caddies earned 8d (3.3 cent) - and a bonus for cleaning clubs.

The committee discovered that a prompt response would succeed, in most cases, in defusing a potentially contentious situation. On the other hand, they were to learn that complaints, however trivial, were ignored at their peril. Like the problem of a faulty spring.

Sharp winter winds, sweeping down from the Dublin Mountains on November 17th 1909, prompted Lieutenant J E Lynch from Longford Terrace, Monkstown to plead: “That the spring on the front door of the General Room be put in proper repair during the cold weather.” “Will be attended to”, the Lieutenant was assured.

Twelve days later, however, presumably with the weather gaining an even sharper edge, the irate officer felt obliged to write the following: “That having regard to the fact that  no notice is taken of the complaints as to the bad management of this club, as shown by the attention given to my complaint of November 17th 1909 re spring of door, that some other method than writing in this book be allowed to members for airing their grievances.”

In the best committee tradition, the matter was marked “Read.” Indications, however, are that there was no immediate springing into action, to rectify the matter.

Clearly what was required was an all-weather door. Only six months after his November notice, presumably in a May heatwave, the same Lieut. Lynch made the following suggestion: “That a hook be placed on the back of the front door of the General Room so as to keep the door open during the hot weather.” The request was “considered”.

Along with doors, the weather seemed to pose ongoing problems, whether inside or outside the environs of the clubhouse. Back in 1907, A V McCormick, an accomplished eight-handicapper living at Clonmore, Monkstown, requested: “That a local rule be made that competitors be not disqualified for taking shelter during rain or snow. A rule of this description is made at Newcastle. Card appended.”

And what of this explosive entry of 1909 from Ignatius J Rice of Rose Lawn, Ballybrack, long before the idea of shotgun starts entered the golfing lexicon: “That the person who fires a revolver in Beechwood while play is going on, be prosecuted for doing so within 30 yards of a public road, or at least requested to practice at a time that will not interfere with members’ playing in competitions here.”

6.4: Extract from the Suggestion Book. Caddie Boys!

How was a committee to deal with this? Sneak into his house and have the firing pin removed from the offending weapon?

While clearly noise-conscious, the members were also greatly concerned with personal hygiene, as one would expect from such a fine, upstanding group. So we had an entry in the book in November 1922 to the effect that: “Now that the winter is approaching, would it not be possible to restore the hot-water supply in the hand basins? The members who desire to wash their feet have been catered for: surely a much larger percentage of members wash their hands and face.” Indeed.

And it may be enlightening to discover that they were concerned with slow play even 80 years ago, though we suspect the pace would still have been quite brisk by modern standards. Anyway, a certain James Martin, was moved to request in July 1923: “That steps been to acquaint those members who are unfamiliar with the ordinary etiquette of golf, with same.”

6.5: Extract from the Suggestion Book. Good Stout.

He went on: “On Sunday the 28th inst, a fourball match held up another fourball for a considerable time, notwithstanding the fact that after they had played the third hole there was a clear green in front of them for the rest of the round and the distance between them and the two-ball in front was increasing rapidly. Unfortunately, one of the members of the fourball in front was rather upset at the mere idea of allowing the other match through. On being informed towards the finish that if he had wished to spoil the game behind, he had succeeded. To which he replied that he was very glad.

“Is this golf? Or golf as it is to be played here?” The secretary replied: “At a committee meeting on February 3rd, a resolution was passed that the etiquette of golf be posted in the club and that new members be acquainted with same as the time of their election.”

6.6: Contributors to the Suggestion Book in 1916 - Bill Thunder, his wife Jennie and his brother Harry.

Then there was the drink. The wonderfully observant Lieut. Lynch advocated in November 1909: “That the stout be supplied by a firm that will provide good stout.” To which the secretary replied: “The stout supplied is Guinness Extra Stout and the committee do not know of any better.”

6.7: Extract from the Suggestion Book. House committee.

In fact, there was a period at the club when hardly a complain went into the Suggestions Book with which Lieut. Lynch wasn’t associated. And apart from draughts and heatwaves, apparently considered himself to be something of an expert on drink. So it was that he the co-sponsor, with T P Wrenn, of a suggestion: “That the Pale Ale (Bass) be supplied by a firm who can provide something drinkable, as the Bass supplied at present is unfit for human consumption.” This met with a “has been attended to” response from the beleaguered secretary.

Then there were drinks of the shorter variety. In April 1913 it was suggested that “there is always a shortage of Powers Whiskey. The committee should increase the order or make some arrangement whereby members might be able to obtain Powers Whiskey. I may mention that there appears to be a large stock of Jameson which is but little used.” One man’s .....

Six years later, after the hostilities in Europe had come to an end, there was still considerable aggravation at the club over drinking matters. As in this terse entry which carried no fewer than 11 signatures and which suggested: “That the price of drinks in the bar be on the same scale as charged by traders outside, as it is assumed that the bar is for the convenience of members and not for unduly profiteering at the expense of those who use it.” To which was added an approving “Hurrah!”

The powers-that-be were not amused. On their behalf, the secretary wrote: “This matter is being considered by the committee, who think this suggestion should have been worded in a different manner.” As well they might.

Then there was the matter of members’ transport. And it is fascinating to note the manner in which the arrival of the motor-car changed requirements over a relatively short period. For instance, in March 1905, only two years after the club came into being, there was a request that: “Accommodation be provided for bicycles. Yesterday about a dozen bicycles were under heavy rain for a couple of hours as there was no room for them in the portion of the shed which is open.”

By September 1921, the problem had changed radically. H F Thunder was prompted to suggest that: “Suitable accommodation be provided for parking motors inside the club grounds. Practically the only convenience at present is to leave the motor outside the entrance door in the lane, which results in everything moveable on the machine being stolen. As a great many members, of necessity, have to use motors to reach the club, some consideration ought to be shown them.” Which brought the bleak reply: “The committee cannot see any alternative to the present situation.”

The railway was also a source of grief, as can be seen from an entry from J A Halpin of December 1921, which suggested: “That the new railway vouchers be made available to Glenageary and Dalkey stations, not Killiney, as it is a very inconvenient station for the links. The booking clerk refused to issue me ahead of any other station and informed me if the ticket were used to any other station other than Killiney, full single fare would be charged each way.”

A month later, R C Keeffe complained: “The booking clerk at Westland Row refused to take an altered voucher to Dalkey Station from me today. Can a definite arrangement be made with regard to the matter.”

6.8: James Martin, complained of slow play in 1923!

Incidentally, the presence of sheep on the course will be noted in Mr Thunder’s request to have more car-park space made available. By 1935, however, they seem to have departed the scene, the sheep, that is, not the cars. Which would explain the suggestion of two lady associates on June 24th that: “The sheep should be put back on the links, as we consider the mortality of golf balls in the rough hardly compensates for having a clean links.’’

The War also brought the suggestion, agreed by committee, that the club’s subscriptions to the “Tatler” and the “Sketch” be discontinued and the “London Illustrated News” and “Sphere” be substituted. Reading material can provide a considerable insight into the nature of a golf club’s membership, both socially and intellectually. So it is interesting to note that back in 1911, it was suggested that the “Bystander” be bought instead of “Motor” and “Motor News”.

Interestingly, as time went on, complaints became fewer. Perhaps the administration of the club was becoming more efficient. Or it could have been that the members had become much more interested in their golfing activities, than what went on within the clubhouse. Either way, matters con- fronting successive committees were of a more substantial nature than the purloining of a magazine.

In 1944, for instance, with almost a year of World War II still to run, they were forced to inform the membership that a request for an electric heater in the bar “could not be considered at the present time.” And in 1946, they refused to accede to a request that on the occasion of the Ladies Annual Dinner, the said ladies be permitted to use the bar.

By 1951, however, they were prepared to give “serious consideration” to the purchase of a billiards table and to the re-surfacing of the entrance drive. Still, a year later, even the signature of R M Saunders, the club’s most distinguished player, could not persuade them to purchase a television set.

Though there must have been many other occasions when the members felt their requests had fallen on deaf ears, the Suggestions Book provides ample proof that club officers were, in fact, generally prepared to listen. If that were not the case, complainants would never have retained their undoubted enthusiasm and persistence, especially during the crucial, early decades of the club’s development.

6.9: Extract from the Suggestion Book. A moderately priced wine!