Letters to my golf club: Dom Joly punctures the pomposity of Britain's fairways

Few places epitomise our nation's middle-class excesses like its golf clubs. That's why Dom Joly launched a one-man campaign to trample tradition
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The Independent Online

I once wrote that there were "three Gs" that were to be avoided as you got older – gonorrhoea, gardening and golf. Sadly, as I approached middle age I contracted a particularly nasty dose of one of the three. I became interested in golf.

It wasn't my first experience of the game. My dad was a fantastic golfer, and, as a boy in Beirut, he'd take me down for lessons at the Beirut Golf Club. It was an interesting course to play as it was next to the ill-fated Chatila PLO camp and was regularly shelled. I believe that, on average, the course gained about three new bunkers every time there was a skirmish. It soon became a very testing circuit.

My big problem is that I'm left-handed and, in the Middle East at that time, this was frowned upon. I was, therefore, forced to play right-handed. The aging Egyptian pro told me that this would be better, as my strong hand would be on top. Sadly, this antiquated theory was complete rubbish and I never played again... until recently.

My return to golf started innocently enough – a couple of rounds with friends. But soon I began to realise that I actually quite enjoyed the game. Apart from anything else, it was a great way to while away five or six hours while talking nonsense. My problem was that I was deeply uninterested in the rest of the stuff: the clubhouse, the membership, the stupid clothing regulations. They represent everything that I loathe. I just wanted to play the game and bugger off home. I didn't want it to become my whole life. I think that somewhere, deep down in my psyche, I was mentally scarred from my childhood experiences and I swore to take my revenge on the golfing community that had conspired to make me play right-handed and banned my slightly-too-long shorts. Last year, I did just that.

One day, sitting at my computer, I found myself writing a ridiculous letter of complaint to a local club. I pretended that it was from a certain Colonel Arthur Lindsay-Bird (ret). The colonel had apparently been playing a round at said club when he heard a disturbance in some bushes. When he went to investigate he discovered a group of members staging a dog fight. I wrote the fictitious letter, sent it off to a suitably stuffy golf club, and several weeks later was delighted to receive a fantastically horrified reply.

In the weeks and months that followed, I invented an entire family. There was the colonel, a keen golfer who had suffered unspecified mental anguish during the Wadi Kbir Uprising when serving in Aden. His wife, Julia, was a person of restricted growth who was convinced that the colonel is " playing away from home". Somehow they have two sons, Randy and Dave. Randy is a homosexual and runs Gloucestershire's finest gay golfing society – The Tight Hole. Dave works for Mental Productions and is always thinking of new golf-related projects.

In the series of correspondences published in my book, Letters to my Golf Club, Dave asks several clubs if he can use them as locations for his new programme: Golf on Drugs with Snoop Dogg. One Scottish club expresses an interest having seen the generous fee on offer. Dave then pushes another club to provide a location for "his potential TV Quick Award-winner": a documentary entitled Could Bruce Lee have beaten Tiger Woods at Golf?. Sadly, he proceeds to have a shattering nervous breakdown during the correspondence and converts to Islam.

The letters were a joy to write and I was only constrained by having to hang on for an answer before firing off another. Every morning I'd eagerly await the arrival of my postman, Clive, who must have assumed that I was sub-letting part of my house. On average I received one reply for every 10 letters sent out, so my postal bill became huge and I would regularly fill my little village post-box to bursting. I wrote to clubs all over the UK, some to the USA and, had a rather romantic exchange with the receptionist of a small club in Denmark.

I'm not sure what I was trying to achieve, other than to amuse myself. Maybe I was trying to have a pop at these bastions of stuffy, middle-class conservatism but, if that was the case, I was in for a surprise. Most of the letters that I received were incredibly patient with me and showed few signs of the supposed prejudices often associated with these institutions.

Legally we had to change the names of all the clubs that replied so you will never, sadly, know if your local golf club was one of the recipients whose responses are included in the book. They are, however (unlike Alan Yentob's interviews), all bona-fide letters. Maybe some people might just be able to guess which club is which...

My name is Dom Joly and I play golf... God it sounds so suburban, so Jaguar driver. Maybe this book is a subconscious attempt to have me barred from every club in the land and then I won't be able to play any more and I'll have to develop a cooler habit like smoking crack or shooting peasants (sorry, pheasants). I hope it works. I don't want to end up in the ultimate comedian's cliché of teeing off at the Celebrity Pro-Am being cheered on by Tarbie while swapping bon mots with Ronnie Corbett. Heaven forbid....

Must go now – I'm playing a four-ball with Ross Kemp, Chris Evans and Jamie Theakston. Golf, it's the new rock'n'roll...

Letters to my Golf Club by Dom Joly is published by Bantam Press at £9.99. To order a copy (free P&P) call Independent Books Direct on 08700 798 897, or visit www.independentbooksdirect.co.uk

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