TWENTY eight years ago Sherwood Forest Golf Club professional Ken Hall took up his place at the club, and on Monday he brought down the curtain on his tenure, writes Roger Grayson. He arrived at Sherwood from Cuddington Golf Club in Surrey, oddly enough the club was founded in 1895 the same as Sherwood Forest. He said: “Sherwood has changed a lot over the 28 years that I have been here.
“When this course was set up there were hardly any trees on it, but with self sets and some planting in the 1970s it had far too many. “Since I have been here, we have been trying to remove some of the trees in conjunction with English Nature.
“We have tried to take away trees that shouldn’t have been there and try to give the course a more open aspect to provide an environment that the heather will regenerate, and over the years the amount of heather has increased. “Over that time the club has returned the course to its original heathland and part of the course has become a SSI as it is it is the largest tract of lowland health in Nottinghamshire.”
Over the years the course has not changed much from the original Harry Colt layout which was redesigned by James Braid in the 1920s. “The club is always trying to make the course the best that it can be, rather than let it stagnate,” he said.
“We introduced some new championship tees some years ago that lengthened the course quite significantly.
“With the improvement of golf balls and equipment it was becoming quite short, not for the majority of players, but from a championship point of view. “But with the green tees its back to a championship length of 6,861yard, par 70, and that is a tough, tough test and in the future it could be stretched to 7,000 yards.” A new scheme to improve and update the bunkering, in conjunction with Ken Brown and Ken Moody, has transformed the look and quality of the holes with work on the eighth, ninth and 10th holes coming to an end this year.
The rapid development of golf equipment over the last 20 to 15 years has transformed the game for many golfers Said Ken: “When I first came here I was still using wooded woods, probably until the early 90s.
“There are no bad golf balls now, just different ones, and that’s made a big difference.
“Players can play different shots just by using the right equipment,.
“The average golfer can hit a driver far more easily than the old wooden small headed driver. The big titanium headed drivers are very forgiving and can be adjusted to compensate for a player’s natural faults and the modern balls don’t spin off line as much. It’s improved the player’s enjoyment of the game.”
It all started for Ken in Northern Ireland. After leaving school at left school at 16 he decided to be a golf professional, having worked hard at his game, although never getting an official handicap (in those days you didn’t have to) he was taken on as an assistant at The Knock Golf Club in Belfast and went through the normal PGA training. “The best player in Northern Ireland was Hugh Jackson, a great friend of Tony Jacklin, and he got the job at Holme Hall GC in Scunthorpe and he asked me to be his assistant,” recalled Ken.
“I was there for a couple of years. My first professional job was at Thonock Park in Gainsborough.
“From there I went back to Scunthorpe, to Ashby Decoy Golf Club. While I was their I holed in one at the 329 yard 18th hole in 1978, there is a plaque at the back of the 18th green.
“From there I went to the Cannons Brook G C in Essex and then to Cuddington and then to here. “When I arrived here, my eldest son had started his educationand I didn’t want to keep moving around.” After a few years as ,professional at Sherwood Forest the club secretary passed away and Ken became, probablity the first secretary/professional in the country. “When I became secreatary my playing time was reduced,I had to keep on top of the secretary ‘s work and keep my desk as clear as possible,” he said. “During that time I was heavily involved in all aspects of the club. There was a big renovation project to the club house in 1994 in time for the Centenary.
“The club also held several big event during that time - The Open Championship RegionalQualifying for six years, English Amateur Seniors Open, the Carris Trophy and the British Amatuer Seniors Open, which was a fantastic event which people from all over the world.” Having done both jobs for 16 plus years he decided to play a few tournaments on the Seniors Tour and revented back to the role as club professional. “I played a few tournements, the ones I was eligible to enter, and having made a few cuts qualified to play in the British Seniors Open at Royal Aberdeen, which was a great experience,” he said.
“I was greatly honoured when the club gave me honourary membership in 2009 so it means I will be able to play golf whenever I want on favourite golf course.
“Also the Notts PGA have offered me honourary membership. They have only given it to four other professionals in its history, to be given it by your peers in fantastic.” James Thompson from Rufford Park will be taking up were Ken leaves off and Ken has wished him well.
And to the future, he said: “The thing I enjoy most is travelling to Africa.
“I have been out there as often as possible for the last 16 or 17 years. I love the wildlife and I am a keen wildlife photographer. “And I’d like to do that more often and also like to offer my services to take people out there and organise trips for golfing safaris or photographic safaris, or even four by four trips to the more remote areas of Botswana and Namibia.” And to play golf at his beloved Sherwood Forest.