An enjoyable round of golf on Smithfield’s delightful 9-hole course turned dramatically into crisis last week, causing every player and caddy within shouting-distance to drop whatever they were doing and rush madly to help prevent a major catastrophe.
Club stalwart, Marco Heymans’ indifferent drive from the tee on the sixth hole landed his ball in the rough - normally, no big deal for a keen golfer. This time was different. As his club smacked the ball in appropriate fashion there was an odd sound of contact. Unusually, there was a metallic “ping” to it. Within seconds smoke billowed around Marco’s legs. Before he could move away flames fanned by a strong wind had removed all the hair from his legs. The Smithfield Golf Course was in the process of experiencing its second fire within months.
It took massive effort by everyone to put out the fire, but not before it had destroyed about 40sq metres of grass, but at least the remainder of the course had been saved. The game of golf then continued – although perhaps in a somewhat less energetic manner than usual. Unsurprisingly, that evening the club’s bar was more popular than ever.
Unknown to Marco at the time, lying in the grass in the rough, his ball had come to rest on a small stone. The metal head of the club had hit the stone as well as the ball. The resulting spark was enough to ignite the parched grass and damage both golfer and golf course – as well as providing great material for the conversation that evening in the busiest evening the club bar had experienced for a long time.
Many golf courses throughout the world have attracted widespread criticism for being profligate users of water. Smithfield Golf Course, which was created more than 100 years ago, is kept in good shape using only rain water. What a good example to all those others.