Salamander Golf Society

35th Channel Cup - Defying Covid and Brexit ! 


It was in 1987 that a severe storm prevented the British team, consisting principally of James Stewart, from crossing the Channel and competing in the second Salamander cross channel event. In fact it was this episode, demonstrating the utility of their planned ‘chunnel’, that prompted the newly formed Eurotunnel company to agree to finance a real Cup, even if their subsequent financial difficulties obliged them to request us to exercise discretion.

In the ensuing years, with the Tunnel fluidifying traffic flows, and enacting a great Anglo-French rapprochement, few were those fearing that these links would be weakened by Brexit, and even fewer forecasting that in the bright new decade of 2020 Covid would  virtually break them off.

But these logistical challenges and the climate of anxiety did not daunt the enterprising spirit of Salamander golfers, and the long planned 35th Channel Cup did take place, against all odds. Or rather Cups, as in addition to the original programme in Scotland, oversubscribed as soon as it was announced, and attended perforce by UK residents only, a parallel event was staged in Le Touquet for Continentals. Sadly, hasty sanitary restrictions prevented participants from outside France crossing non-existent borders, but such is the international character of the Insead community that the 19 participants on the Channel coast were drawn from no less than seven nationalities. Even in Scotland there were five nationalities present among 23 golfers, if one disregards the 1707 Act of Union.

Scotland Preamble

Perhaps presaging secession, the team event in Montrose was in fact played as Scots against Sassenachs. The Montrose links were inaugurated in 1562 by students from St Andrews University, despite that only the fifth oldest in the world! The challenging championship course staged the team event on Saturday and the more friendly Broomfield the Sunday Scramble - which Chris, the unsuspecting but nonetheless totally assuming GO, instructed players to get round in three hours. That must have been quite a big ask, as many had previously confronted all three Carnoustie courses, especially that of Jean van der Velde fame, classified along with Winged Foot, the site of this year’s U.S. Open, as among the five most difficult in the world, as well as the Montrose championship course on the Saturday! Those not able to spare time for the three day Carnoustie marathon had nevertheless played Stonehaven on the Friday, under Patrick’s watchful eye. At least the weather remained dry, and relatively clement for the east coast of Scotland.

Wednesday warm up

A total of 23 golfers came and went during the week which began on the Wednesday with six golfers tackling the Burnside Course at Carnoustie.  Angus McIntosh had had the misfortune to collide with a lorry tyre on the M6 the previous day and was therefore unable to join the party until the next day.  The Burnside is a lovely course which, as the name suggests, makes frequent visits to the Barry Burn over its 5700 yards (playing from the yellow tees).  The par 3 5th is typical with the pin at the front of the green only a few yards beyond said burn.  The day’s winner was Peter Griffiths partnered by wife Sylvie and perennial Salamander Jeremy Davidson still traumatised by his hole in one of two years ago and the financial fallout therefrom.

Thursday –the monster!
Onto the showpiece round on the Championship course on which 14 intrepid and hopeful golfers set out including new recruits Jim and Lynn Strang who made their SGS debut on one of the finest courses in the world.  Not a bad start! There were no casualties.  The weather helped by being sunny and breezy but the course was nevertheless challenging and classic.  We had one excellent score in the early 30’s from Liz Noble who took the ladies’ prize.  The bookies’ favourite Angus came up to expected standard with a great round of 29 points and won the men’s’ shirt.

Friday Parallel rounds

Five  additional players were shepherded around Stonehaven by the Poggia dynasty prior to joining the main group later in the day at Montrose.  The winner with a great round 35 points was the sartorially accomplished Simon Piggott who has now been appointed the SGS fashion consultant.
Meanwhile back at Carnoustie the wind was beginning to get up and made the Buddon Course sufficiently ‘interesting’ to satisfy the achievement needs of the 15 players.  Best score was from Torquil McAlpine who won a Carnoustie towel to complement his new head covers and smarten up general appearance.  Henry Engelhardt set the standard here with the second of his very many Bertie Wooster plus four golfing costumes.  The day before it was glorious tartan and today he gave the art deco design an outing generating much envy in both the male and female ranks.  Kimberly Andrews made a rare but welcome appearance on the links and acquitted herself with distinction.

Saturday – Up for the Cup

On to Park Hotel Montrose having waved goodbye to Henry & Diane who had to head south to join the lockdown about to be introduced in Wales. There we were joined by the Stonehaven group as well as newcomers Ian and Genevieve McKerrow.  Ian and his sister Kirsty run the Whisky Academy in Edinburgh so anyone needing an excuse for a two day in depth sampling should look him up.  Efforts to compose two equal teams of Scots (Nicola’s Independents) to challenge the rest of the UK (Boris’s Unionists) were hampered by everyone claiming to be Scottish in one way or another.  This was settled in autocratic style by yours truly who qualified for Scottishness by being born north of Hadrian’s Wall, being married to a Scottish wife and living in the far north of Scotland for the last 14 years.  Nicola’s Independents were victorious 3 ½ to 1 ½ perhaps a touch of prescience for the future of the Union? The match was played in conditions which occasionally verged on unplayable.  The sun shone but the wind – a cold northerly – made the first seven holes played into the teeth of a gale rather a trial.  Although it was a team game, William Spurgin’s individual score of 36 points in these conditions is worthy of note.


 Sunday Scramble

Finally played on the shortish Broomfield course turned out to be a one horse race.  The team consisting of Jim Strang, Ian McKerrow, Liz Noble and (for the first nine holes only) Torquil McAlpine notched up six birdies and an eagle on the first nine holes and after departure of the last-named added a further four birdies on the back nine.  My pre-match  decision to add three shots to their score owing to the strength of the team turned out to be a gross underestimate as they came in with a gross score of 54.  It is worth mentioning that the target of a three hour round was largely met which, even given the shortness of the course, was a remarkable result for Salamander golfers.

Scottish Epilogue

Both hotels were excellent.  In the Carnoustie Golf Hotel everyone (I think) was given a room overlooking the links.  The Montrose Park Hotel was a little old-fashioned but we were given a private room for all meals which allowed Queen Nicola’s guidelines to be observed at least during the early part of the evenings after which things began to fall apart.  The fare was generally felt to be excellent and the standard of service in keeping (helped by a little financial encouragement).  The coronavirus guidelines complicated matters on occasions but did not hamper enjoyment and I think the general feeling was that a 2021 repeat would be very welcome.


In the meantime, the Continentals were gathering in Le Touquet beneath gathering clouds and occasional showers Those arriving on Friday honoured the tradition of diving directly into one of the superlative and nearby seafood restaurants- Pérard in Le Touquet, and the fishermen’s cooperative across the river in Etaples.

The remainder arrived from Paris in time for the start of real proceedings just before noon on Saturday. In an attempt to harmonise with Scotland, the matchplay competition pitted indigenous French, alluded to as Indians, against the rest, under the banner of Cowboys.

That turned out to be an accurate description as the Cowboys carried the day with convincing victories, two involving the Herrbachs (actually French, but classed as cowboys because of the Germanic resonance), Odile constituting with Suthip a too formidable pair for treasurer Olivier and rookie Frederick, and Pierre and Alec likewise dominating Jacqueline and Claude. Another Pierre with Peter put up staunch resistance before succumbing to the invincible Irina and the unassailable Aljosja. The day had however started well for the Indians with Colette prevailing over another rookie Michelle, and also ended well with the return of vice-chairman Philippe ably abetted by Bernadette battling to victory against a brave Gunther playing alone.

However the attempt to build a virtual bridge across the channel and consolidate scores from both sides proved elusive, for a variety of reasons – timing differences, technical means, and most of all the lack of compatibility between the demanding Montrose course and the relatively gentle Forêt at Le Touquet with its spacious fairways. Despite that, with ubiquitous bunkers and the strengthening wind diverting well struck shots into them, progress around La Forêt greatly exceeded 3 hours.

Sunday Scramble

By Sunday morning the wind had increased to gale force, the showers had become a constant downpour, and La Mer course proved a much greater challenge, its relative lack of trees amply compensated by the length of many holes, flags barely discernible in the humid gloom.

So discretion won over valour, with only a few hardy souls choosing to complete the round - a lunch break had been organised after nine holes, the delicious carbonade flamande the cosiness of the new and well appointed clubhouse proving a great disincentive to rush back to complete the course. On that basis, Gunther had the last laugh, as his scramble team was only two over par for the nine holes - that should not detract from the sterling performance of Odile and Jacqueline who managed to birdie between them, even if with Peter they constituted the only four. The all male three of Pierre Olivier and Claude brought up the vanguard, courageously accepting to tee off deprived of their lady by virtue of her late arrival.

The irony of a sun drenched Scotland simultaneous with a real drenching not far from Dunkirk shall perhaps be an enduring memory of this unique week and weekend.


Our heartfelt thanks once more to Henry for his generous donation of the trophies, as well as to François and Bernard Montenay for the Chanel and Reinhold Geiger for l’Occitane. Also to Open Golf Club and in particular Florence for organising the Continental Edition at short notice and for doubling up as photographer. Rediscovering the refurbished Manoir Hotel is an experience to be recommended to all.

More photos on                                                                                                                                                              01/10/2020


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