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The MacHack 2012..

 The MacHack 2012... a trip to remember..

The McHack 2012 has come and gone and what a MacHack it was! There were thrills, lots of spills, a few pills and some hefty bills. A new Society within a Society was born and a spirit I had not seen among members for a long time, emerged and flourished.

  This is a fairly lengthy report, but if you want to view the tabloid version, I have attached it as a PDF. Ideally, it would be best to slog your way through this first, then you will get the sense of the more sensationalist red top take on some events...

 If pushed to sum in up in one word, you all know how I like to keep things short, I would plump for ... McTastic. What a great trip it turned out to be, better than all the hype I had given it before we went. It was a slick, clockwork business and all who were asked to play a part in the drama, stepped up to the plate and .. ate too much! 


 A few thanks in order here. To Joel Taggart ,without who this trip would never have happened. Bill Donald ( General Manager of Loch Lomond Golf Club) without whose friendship to the Society down the years, many things, including this, would not have taken place. Guy Redford (Director of Golf, Dundonald Links) who was with us a fair bit and smoothed the way round the various courses. Tuathal Breheny ( General Manager, Menzies Irvine) who gave us such a cracking deal at his four star hotel and to his staff who did all they could to see that our stay was a good one. Dave granger of Shuttle Buses, who despite the uncharismatic name, did the job well and were there, on time and when needed to shuttle us around.Last and not least, the staff of P &O who gave us the five star treatment all the way. Incidently, should you ever come across it in a quiz, P & O stands for Peninsular and Oriental ( Steam Navigation Company).

 Thanks to all who were on it, you all responded to my calls for calm,helped without being asked and conduct was excellent . The esprit de corps among the entire group was fascinating to watch, you thought I wasn't watching when you all pitched in, with those little gestures to make things better for the group. I was and I thank you for them, they as much as the anything else contributed to the great success that was the 2012 MacHack.

 We, the officers, went with the vague hope that, if all went well, the embryo of a future MacHack may be in the offing. I am glad to report to you that not only did that happen, but a son to MacHack has been born!

 During this report you will see that various things happened and in order to protect the identity of those involved, they will be referred to by pseudonym only.

 Day 1..........

 You may not realise this yet but the nights are fair drawing in. It came to me as I watched the sun start to rise, over a cool Larne Harbour last Friday, about 6am. Although not quite first there from the MacHackers, I was near the start and what a dismal place on a cold friday morning.

 All that said we were treated well by P & O with all the bags,clubs etc going into our own little wagon for transportation over the water. The boat journey was a delight, the sea calm and the food reasonably acceptable. I resisted the hamburger option and went for the six piece fry instead, very palatable.

 I almost had a delicious homemade white chocolate and raspberry scone. I say nearly, as 'Terry' offered it to me and it was to have been kept  for me, after I returned from the observation deck. This, was neither a deck or could much be observed from it, due to the large high sides round it.

  I offered 'Paul' a lift up to observe, but even that would have been a bit of a waste as there was little to observe. My original plan had been to see at close quarters 'Ailsa Craig' ( not a tomato for those keen gardeners among you) as we passed by. Alas, it was on the wrong side and all that was observed was the side of a funnel.  I hatched a plan to 'get' it on the way back as the boat would be coming the other way and hence the observation deck would be on the right ( or is that starboard?) side. Foiled again, it was dark Sunday night!

 I suspect that the observation deck was a clever ploy to placate onboard smokers, as they flocked up to blow the night or day away.

 Returning for my lovely scone and armed with hot tea, I was horrified to discover that it had been eaten by 'Terry', his fourth of the morning. What does this tell you about the character of my room mate? Three days, I was going to have to nail down my bags of Munchies!

 One other decision was made on that boat that was to have unforeseen consequences, the formation of a 'Twos club',  to run over the three days. 'Paul' was put in charge of this and was made responsible for all things connected with it. Who could have foretold, what a poor decision this was on my part!

 Troon hove into view and disembarkation swiftly followed and much to my relief, sitting on the dockside, was a huge Shuttle Bus coach. Having booked them over the phone a few days earlier and been promised a fine coach, you can never be sure, until they are there in front of you. Glad to say it turned out well and they were there throughout the trip, when needed and on time. The drivers even swung us by Sainsburys on a few occasions, for provisions and cash. Shuttle Buses worked well and would not hesitate to recommend this firm to all and use again.

 Guy Redford, our constant guide on the trip, who is Director of Golf at Dundonald Links, was waiting to meet and greet and fine company he turned out to be. Our reception and treatment wherever we went was 'Nullis Secondis',  second to none.

 Safely aboard the coach and with a head count ( this was to become a regular feature) of all present and correct, we set off for Troon Darley golf course. We were due to play nine holes on this municipal course to keep the council happy and sample what such courses were like.

 The staff were all very friendly and we were given a room to stow gear in. It'll be 'awl  right ' we were told as it had a coded lock, the code was 'push the tap button, then the bottam button and turn clackwise'. A code that even Bletchley Park would be in awe of, one that the Neds could never crack! Oh well, sometimes you got to go with the flow and take a chance.

Darley Troon Golf Course........

 The Pro did a roaring trade in push trolleys and with all kit at the ready, the first group hacked off up the first fairway of the 2012 PGS Machack. It was, for a council run course, remarkably good and the greens were in excellent condition. The second hole proved a great challenge, as one had to climb a steep bank, push the button at the traffic lights and wait for the green man to give you the go aheed, before pushing the trolley across the road! A second road had then to be crossed, this time without the assistance of the green man.

 After that it was plain sailing, as the roads disappeared to be replaced by housing estates. I do the experience an injustice here, as it really was a fine little (not so little at 6300 yards) golf course and was very well looked after, to be in the middle of such a built up area. We did at one point see a gang of hoodie Neds, but they passed by peacefully. Each had just the one club, whether for playing of protection, who knows?

 At this point the rain, which had been threatening, came on and stayed with us for the next 6 or 7 hours. We played on until hole 10, where we met Guy Redford again and with time running out to get on to the next course, Western Gailes, we boarded the bus back to the Darley clubhouse and recovery of our, non stolen still intact, gear.

Western Gailes Golf Course........

 On arrival at Western Gailes and what an arrival, with a superb clubhouse in front of us, we entered the hallowed cloisters. At this point, I did take note of the railway line that ran beside the clubhouse, but little did I know, that a legend was but hours away from being born, because of it!

 The bus departed and deposited our extra bags and cases at the Menzies Hotel, Irvine where we were due to stay for the next few days. I am glad to report that all went well and the bags etc got to our rooms and none ended up in Aberdeen, John O Groats or the like.

  We had a fine lunch of soup, sandwiches and a few beers were quaffed before the first fourballs set off to brave the combined efforts of the rain and this daunting golf course. My turn came and adorned with wet suit, companions Brian Johnston and Daz Steenson and hope in my heart, I set out on a long day.

 What a fantastic golf course, even for the less well endowed in golfing prowess such as myself. I knew I was unlikely to pull up many trees, setting aside the fact that there weren't any, but I really enjoyed the course. The rain had settled to a annoyance rather than a pain by the 9th hole and so we turned for the second nine with a little more gusto than had been present previously. The secret, as with a lot of golf, was to hit the fairways. The rough here is quite brutal and as well as balls, the rough here has been known to claim trolleys, bags and lives!

  It would not be a surprize to come across a skeleton with a pitching wedge in this kind of rough, a procedure exists for any such find and those finding, have to bury the body, but you get to keep the club! I found none, on my many trips into the roughiness.

The Birth of the Holy Srixon...... a sacred ball is reborn

 Picture the scene.. Western Gailes.. 6.49pm.. light fading..17th teebox.. railway line right. Enter left,a lone gore-tex clad, fine figure of a man, he squares up to the ball, surveys the  terrain and launches a magnificent strike that slowly starts to snake right, towards the railway line, just as the 90mph  Glasgow to Ayr flyer hurtles by the tee box. Three figures watch the ball through the gloom, as the ball strikes the side of the train and is lost.  I have made history, as the first PGS member to have hit a speeding train. Proud or what! Picture taken with speeding train in background, a classic moment in time, captured for all eternity.

 A provisional is played and the figures troop off up the 17th, looming into view on the fairway are 4 balls, can't be!! The balls are checked and one is indeed the Sacred Ball of the Western Gailes, the Holy Srixon, sent back from the dead by the great train god, Scotrail! 

 The ball is checked and the strike marks are checked, the wounds inflicted by the train are there for all to see. The hole is played out and a five recorded, the Sacred Ball is pocketed for future generations to come and see, perhaps a rub of it's wounds, to cure all those driving ills.

 If I had went round in ten under power, I could not have been more pleased. Rory is the world's best player, but could even he, hit a train in full flight and land the ball back on the fairway? I doubt it very much!

  When the story was related in the Great Hall of the Western Gailes, as we all enjoyed a post round drink or three, it was decided that the Sacred Ball would be mounted on the back of a train and this would become the annual MacHack Trophy. A name is needed for this Trophy. Best suggestion thus far is, 'The Western Rails Trophy', 'The Scotrail Sacred Srixon'    Open to suggestions??


 Controversy also reared it's ugly head, and not for the last time over the weekend, when the Secretary made an executive decision that 'Paul', who was unable to play the holes at Darley due to buggy problems, be awarded an average score of all the other players over those nine holes. This caused uproar, when it was revealed that the average was well above several of those who had played the course! 

 The ringleader and chief mischief maker was one, 'Duncan', lead on Macbeth, who summed up the view of the malcontents as, ' he never hit a ball and still scored three points more than me'! Ah.... the burdens of leadershit!!

 We all had a fine time after the round in the WG clubhouse, as we waited for the coach to return us to the hotel. A highlight was the draw for the next day's fourballs, this threw up ( throwing up being a feature of the weekend) several interesting pairings for the Rowallan Castle visit. Several rounds of drink were bought, one for the entire MacHack squad by a Hurray Henry, out on a grooming mission it seems, who took a fancy to at least two of our party! His invitation to take a tour of the locker rooms, was I am told, resisted! 

  A new brotherhood was born that night, as all those present were sworn into the new society within a society, a sort of Opus Tee, and made members of the Order of the Sacred Ball.

 Coach came, dark came and a swift return to the hotel and a glut of Lasange ( which had Joe's soup and sandwich filled mouth, drooling with envy) chicken curry and soup/sandwiches. I can report that without exception and the hour being late, that all retired to bed knackered, at a very respectable hour indeed.

 Winners on day one ( 9 hole score at Darley plus Western Gailes 18 hole score) were..First: James O'Leary.. Second: Ronan Henry and Third: Darren Steenson. 

 The 'Two's Club' produced no twos and the supremo in charge, Paul 'One Putt' Kelly  decided to 'rollover' the money to the following day..

Day 2, Rowallan Castle Golf Club.....

 Saturday dawned early for some folks, as 'Mark' made his way in search of the swimming pool. A pre breakfast swim was on his cards, as he trooped along the corridors clad only in swimming trunks, bathing cap,flip flops, googles and with towel over the shoulder at a very jaunty angle. The girl on the reception looked puzzled, as he sought directions to this nirvana, this oasis so vividly described by the Secretary in his pre trip emails praising the pool, resplendent with fake rocks and palm trees. So convinced was the Secretary, that he too had packed his trunks with the intention of visiting on Saturday evening. The lady behind the desk was very good in letting 'Mark' down gently, as she explained that the pool had shut two years previously, due to health and safety reasons! It was a long, disappointing and despondent 7am walk back, along those corridors for our own Mr Spitz.

 Breakfast came and so did the coach to take us to Rowallan Castle, a parkland course, that was to be the day two challenge.The head count on the coach came up three short and the culprits were soon identified as ( not their real names of course, as throughout this report) Brian, Deric and Des. Some 15 minutes late, having overslept due to the lack of a wake up call (allegedly) B and Des made their way onto the coach to a chorus of cat calling, jeers and derision. Not so the third party, who could not be found and the coach departed one short for the  pastures green in the South Ayrshire countryside.

  A phone call was received and it became clear that 'D' had not read his itinerary correctly and had got the coach timings wrong. He did however, make it to Rowallan in time to tee off with his group, thanks to the help of a local taxi driver,another lost soul who had no idea where to go either,but only took twenty quid off him.

  The big decision at Rowallan was whether or not the club was going to allow electric trolleys out, the ground being very, very wet underfoot. The go ahead came and a rush for these started with the Pro raking it in. I wandered in for a chat with the Alan the Pro and in the 'isn't it a small world' conversation that always comes around, he tells me that he used to travel to work with a Larne man called John Burns? 'Brother of Rabbie', I says knowingly,' could'ha been', says he without a flicker of getting it!

 This theme continued as he tells us (by now a crowd had gathered) a history of the Castle and how the estate is now looked after by Historic Scotland. He did not  take it too well, when I asked if it would not be better to 'knock the old castle down' and put up some apartments!  Ah, he just didna get the drift, as he threw me out of his shop.

 I did manage to work my way back into his good books by purchasing 2 Powerades and a ball marker. Five Quid! Who had the last laugh there? To be fair he was very helpful and the staff in general, were first class and provided us with all the answers we needed for the day ahead.

 The first hole was quite a big lash away with water on the right. That was the last thought I had, water on the right, as the ball hurtled up the fairway, straight as an arrow just before it's right turn into the pond. Another class start. The course itself was designed by no less than Monty and provided a fine challenge, the biggest challenge being to keep ones feet dry. The place has been, like a lot of other places, the victim of this summers appalling weather. Like I said to Alan earlier in the shop when the subject of weather had arisen, " we either get what you have just had, or you get what has just left us". No truer word.

  The fairways were very wet underfoot and it made for some carpet sized soggy divots, sent heavenward from time to time or more accurately hole to hole! It was very picturesque and on a good, dry sunny day I am sure would have been a whole lot more inviting. To be fair it did stay dry all day and that made the experience a lot more palatable. The one thing that amazed me was the distance between green and tee box.In places this was nearly as far as some of the holes. A fair days walk was had by all at Rowallan.

 Rowallan has an interesting feature in that it is endowed with a 19th hole, a par three. Not all of the party bothered to play this hole and this is where a lot of the problems in the Two's Club arose from, more later. I tried it, but the ball drifted right and plugged in the mother of all sodden ground and that is where I lost the will to struggle on any more, the ball was returned to the pocket, living to fight another day, well at least for a few holes at Dundonald Links the next day.

 When all were safely gathered in to the clubhouse, a few showers were had, a bite was eaten and the draw for the following days groups at Dundonald Links were made. Coach arrived and was loaded up and it was a farewell to Rowallan Castle and a fervent hope that the place drains better in future. More moss than grass growing on quite a few of  the fairways is never a good sign. I know, I have a lawn full of the wretched stuff!

Menzies again.......

 Twenty minutes brought us back to the Menzies and a mile and a half of corridor to get back to the room. It was a fine sight to see Joe, James and others, who had brought their trolleys with them, trundle their kit on these, through the hotel lobby and down the long and winding road to their rooms. Beat carrying a heavy muppet me!  Next time.

 Having settled back in the room. I noted that room mate Terry had laid out the wine, french fancies and packets of wispas, toffee crisps etc, Strange how I never got to sample any of them as he tucked into my bag of Munchies!! I set about jotting down a few notes for the speeches and running order of the dinner that we were to have that very night, courtesy of  Menzies General manager Tuathal Breheny, a native of Castleblaney. Telephone rang and Prince Albert announced that he was at the door and could someone let him in. Complete with Bacardi and coke, the enigma that is Prince Albert of the Bellsgins arrived and set up court, notes akimbo!!

 The Dinner...

   Eventually, James T's brother left after a spot of threatening behaviour from Terry and there was just time for a few scribbles before departure to meet Tuathal and Menzies Scotland Regional Sales Manager, Jim Liddell. Over a beer or two, we chatted about how poor the English were at most things and how the Irish and Scots had built the world between them. Being half Kernowish ( Cornish), this appealed to my Celtic fringe nature and together we lambasted the sassenachs a while longer.

  The arrival of the troops to meet their hosts for the night, ended this session and when all were safely gathered in, we sat down to eat what turned out to be a most splendid meal. We opened  with a melon and fruit sorbet, followed up with roast beef ( superb) potatoes and vegetables and closed with a cheese board. A fine meal from start to finish. Alas I missed out on my cup of tea as I had to take to my feet, to get the speeches under way.

 I was first to take to the floor and after a welcome and thanks to quite a few folks, a few funnies followed. Tuathal welcomed the members on behalf of the hotel and hoped he would see us back again. Try and stop us! Bill Donald related a few tales from his time at the K Club and also added a few more from his new post at Loch Lomond. Chris Moore wound up proceedings and thanked, on behalf of the members,all those who had made the trip possible.

 There was one more contribution.. Paul 'one putt' Kelly, the Executive Officer in charge of the Two's Club supervision who had been appointed on board the P & O ship the previous day. Controversy had arisen as a result of a two being scored at the 19th hole at Rowallan. There was another two recorded in normal play, during the first 18 holes. So should the two at the 19th count?? 

 As I stood on my feet to deliver the results of the Twos Club, I was still unaware of the winner or winners of the prize money. Imagine my amazement, when called upon to deliver his verdict, PK  informed the gathered throng, that there was in fact a third two recorded on the day, by himself!! He informed the enthralled crowd, that he had sought advice from the Rowallan Pro Alan, who said it should count. My advice had been that not all had played the 19th, so it should not count. What indecision!! 

 I think that the sooner he is relieved of his duties the better. He did however, redeem himself the following day when they was only one two to contend with. In the end diplomacy ruled the day and the 19th hole two scorer relinquished his claim to the throne and the money was split between Hurricane Haughey and Paul Putt himself.. I think he has learned a lot from this year's event, so I suppose, possibly, might be a natural for the position at future events.. PK.. the jury is still out!!

Blood on the streets...

 It was time for the older folks (that's me as well) to retire to the bar for a nightcap and for a few of the younger ones to venture into Irvine. Half two came about very quickly and as one of only four left standing at that stage, I witnessed the breathless, first returns of the expeditionary force that had stormed off to conquer the pubs, clubs and hearts of Irvine earlier. I heard tales of blood on the streets ( none of ours, thank heaven) and in the bars, violence seems to the main pastime of the West Coast Jock.

   Irvine on a Saturday night appears to be a rough place. Perhaps Irvine any night of the week is a rough place! Most importantly, all of ours escaped, unharmed and all were accounted for next morning. Ten to three came and with it a trudge for Terry and myself along the long and winding road, that led to a soft and spinning bed.

   En route we had been led astray by the promise of a vending machine that served drink of the non alcoholic kind. The Lorelei that was Duncan led us on this fruitless task around the corridors of the hotel and when we eventually reached El Dorado.. it only sold crisps!

  The big winners at Rowallan Castle were.... First..  John Haughey.... Second...  Albert Kirk  and  Third..  Mark Simpson.

Day 3, Dundonald Links....

 Sunday dawned late for me. Having been completely fooled by the amazing 'black out 'curtains of the hotel room into thinking it was still the middle of the night ( must have had more vino than I thought) I awoke at 9.45 with a phone call from a very slurred Treasurer, asking me what time the bus was going at. Eleven was my reply, as I realised my time for breakfast was fast running away. A quick 3 esses later, I was on my way to eat. Old army saying the three esses... shave, shower and a s**t!

 For once I was not first down, as quite a few of the members had got there before me and were reading some Sunday papers and discussing exploits of the previous night. No big tales to relate there as all seemed to have been pretty tame. Had expected trolley jousting up the corridors, but what a responsible lot, you all turned out to be..thanks. Didn't really want to go and post bail for anyone.

 Eleven was chucking out time at the hotel so we hit the road, not a very long one, down to Dundonald Links. The sun was shining, the winds were light, it was the perfect day for golf and what a sight were the Dundonald Links, immaculate! They had certainly saved the best until last. Kit was unpacked and the buggies and trolleys loaded up for one last fling of the golfing dice. In another gesture the buggies and trolleys were given to us for free! We were also informed that the starter would be taking a meal order from us for after the round, which was also gratis. Does it get any better!

Big John.......

 As we were at the course early there was plenty of time to get some putting practice in and quite a few of the members took advantage of this. I decided to make the best use of my time by drinking tea at the clubhouse. Much more sensible. While they we were treated to the sight. at the 10th tee box, of a large, brawny Scotsman,venting his spleen on some unfortunates on the 10th fairway. Later we were informed, that should we be asked, we had encountered Big John Burns!  A local 'character'.

 Those in front appeared to be Swedes , Big John had been behind their very slow play and numerous practise swings ( told this later by Guy Redford) for the first nine holes. He exploded at the 10th with a, " I did'na pay ma money to watch youse turnips practising", at an incredible volume! Such was the noise that people came out of the clubhouse to see what was going on. We were later told that the Swedes all survived after letting Big John and his party through at the 11th.

 What a superb golf course the Dundonald Links turned out to be. I never thought I would say those words in the one sentence, me being the arch enemy of all things links! I did not burn the course up, but I did enjoy myself and it was just splendid. The tee boxes, fairways and greens were all immaculate and the holes fantastically woven among the dunes.It was the perfect end to the perfect weekend, I cannot wait to return next year, fingers and toes crossed, and do it all again. 

  Dundonald served us, in the main, cheeseburger and chips and boy did they taste good. It was the perfect communal meal, to end a most excellent of weekends. The winners of the day were announced.. First...Duncan Elder... Second... Paul Kelly and Third...  Dessie Houston. Terry Smyth won the 'Twos Club' prize money with a raking putt on the par 3 fourteenth. I was a witness to this 40 foot monster as I was holding the flag at the time. He has forgiven me for lifting the ball from the hole and throwing it into a bunker, having been convinced that my three was going to get a half or even win the hole! With the putter throwing at Galgorm recently, I think I may be getting out of control!

 The Champs...

 This left only the overall winners ( those with the highest points total over the 3 and a half rounds of golf played. I can report that John Haughey came in first place with Dessie Houston hard on his heels,with just a few points between them.

 Nevada Bob vouchers were awarded to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd for each day and the overall winner and overall runner up were given two dozen and one dozen balls respectively. These latter prizes were jointly sponsored by the Secretary and the Treasurer. This obviously spurred the latter on, to win his own prize. For the former to win, would have taken an outbreak of bubonic plague among the party,even then if more than three were left standing, it would have been no voucher central for the Secretary, such was his dismal three day mid table performance. Oh yes, there were a few worse.. there was..... that would be telling!!

  Coach arrived and the driver bribed to 'sit still' to facilitate the finishing of the MacBurgers. Then it took us the short journey down to the docks, were we waited for an eternity before boarding the ferry for the two hour trip home.  The boat was swarming with Rangers fans and it can be reported that they behaved themselves ok and all was well, despite initial fears of an outbreak of communal singing. 

   At Larne, there was much shaking of hands and the sense of a special weekend shared among a group of friends.So we parted, trolleys were trundled,cases carried and car park tickets paid and then all went their separate ways in the late evening, cool but dry.

 I hope that we are able to repeat the experience next year and with a few more of you on board next time. Certainly this year has been very special and all those who sailed on the maiden voyage of the MacHack ,were also lucky enough to be indoctrinated into the Order of the Sacred Ball, an experience unlikely to be repeated in the coming years. But you never know!!