Captain Canuck


As a fellow member of a quiet and unassuming little group of fine gents that meets five times a year for golf and fellowship in Toronto – and has been doing so since it was founded 105 years ago – I was hoping to run into Bruce Mitchell at our first meeting of the year this past Thursday.  Alas, Bruce was MIA, but that’s quite understandable.

For those of you who missed it, or didn’t take notice of it, Bruce Mitchell was named the new Captain of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews last week… the very first Canadian to have had this honour bestowed since the R&A started appointing Captains sometime in the early 19th Century.

In other words, it’s a HUGE honour… to Bruce, and frankly, to all of Canadian golf.   The golf equivalent of the Nobel Prize.

I know Bruce personally, and I can’t think of a finer person to receive such a distinction, or, more importantly, to carry out the responsibility of Captain.  The position is largely ceremonial, a one-year term, and is just one voice at the governing body table.   But what a thrilling year it would be… traveling the world, meeting with golf organizations, playing the finest courses, attending swell banquets, enjoying complimentary beverages, dating Hollywood starlets, hobnobbing with Korean dictators, and listening to all the best excuses for poor play ever devised.

Bruce’s one year appointment will become official in late September, at the culmination of the annual R&A members’ tournament at the Old Course.   There’s a ceremonial “drive-off” the first tee to commence the term, and if ever there was a reason to wear Depends, that would surely be it.  Fortunately, Bruce is a fine player, a former club champion at Windermere in Muskoka, so I’m sure he’ll be able to get the ball airborne.

If I don’t see Bruce in person before then, then I’ll have to send him an email, because, either way, I have a few things I’d like to suggest to him to help make golf a better game.

Having “pull” with the Captain gives me a huge sense of power.

And if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to set some of these suggestions out in advance, here, and perhaps ask you for your approval, dear reader(s), as I’d like Bruce to feel that I speak on behalf of all Canadians and all golfers worldwide…

  • Can you bring back kilties for golf shoes? You know, those flaps we used to wear on top of the laces… that made a subtle slapping noise, like a barking seal, when we walked?  I always thought they were the height of class and sophistication.
  • Come to think of it, can you bring back spikes on golf shoes? Now that you’re allowed to tamp down spike marks on greens, why not bring back the varmints that caused them?  Nothing ever sounded cooler than the clack-clack-clack of spikes on concrete around the clubhouse.  It meant you belonged.
  • One fashion statement that never caught on here in North America is the tam… those beret-like hats that Young Tom Morris liked to wear, preferably plaid with the little red pom-pom on top. Could you pass an edict that tams will now be mandatory for all male golfers, under penalty of two strokes or loss of hole in match play?
  • Speaking of Young Tom, there’s a new movie out called “Tommy’s Honour”, which I haven’t seen because the distributors seemed to assume that Canadians only play hockey, and haven’t released it here. But I’d like the Captain to declare that, henceforth, any feature films made about golf will have to be good, not cringeworthy; and factual, not cheesy or BS.  I can’t think of one golf movie that has met those criteria in the past.
  • Golfers in the UK call pull (or push) carts “trolleys”, and riding carts “buggies”. That is SO much more civilized than here, where the best we can come up with is “carts” for both models.  It’s so confusing when the guy at bag drop asks me, “would like a cart today, sir, or should I put your clubs on a cart?”  One Executive Order from you, Bruce, could stop the insanity and make trolleys and buggies universal.
  • Just about everyone now owns a rangefinder or a watch that can tell pretty precise distances to the pin. I find it more than hilarious that people need to spend 15-20 seconds before every shot, to know that it’s exactly 142 yards to the flag, or 176 to the middle, before proceeding to top, shank, banana or duck-hook the ball nowhere closer to the target.  So, Captain, can you make rangefinders and watches eligible only for players with handicaps under 5, who can actually hit the shots required?  (Talk about speeding up the game!)
  • Too many courses have paved cart paths, but there’s nothing we can do about that. However, it strikes me as very unfair that, if a ball hits a cart path and does a giant leap for mankind into the bush or the water, that the player is penalized by the result.  That ain’t no “rub o’ the green”… it’s more like death by tarmac.  So can we all just drop the ball beside the path and play the next shot, no penalty?  It’s bad enough losing a $5 Pro-V, but being penalized for bad luck is like finding a cockroach in your whiskey.

That’s it for starters, Captain Bruce.   I’m sure I, and the rest of the world who read my column, will have more to propose before your term as our Reigning Monarch comes to an end.  And we wish you well at it… you’ll make us proud just by showing up, with a six-pack of Molson Canadian dangling regally from your hand.

Jim Deeks
Jim Deeks has been writing for Fairways for over a dozen years. He is a former Executive Director of the Canadian Open and Canadians Skins Game, and currently the Executive Producer of CANADA FILES on PBS.

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