In this illuminating Q&A Denis Dale talks to Victoria’s Gordon Claney, one of the best senior amateur golfers currently in Australia.
Claney is a winner of both the Australian Senior Strokeplay and the Australian Senior Matchplay Championships and for several years has been a mainstay of senior amateur representative teams. He is currently number two just behind fellow Victorian Greg Rhodes in the national senior rankings. Below Claney answers 18 questions on golf.
By Denis Dale
- Tell us about Gordon Claney before age 55. Work, golf, other sports etc.
I was born in Kyabram [rural area 200 kms north of Melbourne] and was brought up on an irrigation farm at Merrigum. I learnt to play on Merrigum’s sand green course.
All of the family played golf. My sister is 15 time club champion at Kingston Heath. I attended school locally before completing a Science Degree (majoring in Chemistry) and teacher qualification at Monash University in Melbourne during which time I joined Kingston Heath.
I taught in suburban and country secondary schools completing my teaching career in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne as an Assistant Principal. I completed IT qualifications in the mid 80’s and spent subsequent years teaching and consulting in IT and managing IT systems in schools.
Like most country people, I played many sports while growing up, but I was only any good at cricket and golf. After bouts of extreme fear while facing very fast bowlers, I decided that golf was my game.
I am married with 3 children. My son is a low handicapper at Avondale. My daughters hate golf passionately. My wife has started to play golf after retiring from work.
- Best golfer you have played with?
- Best golfer you have seen?
- Your best moment in senior golf?
Australian Senior Amateur, Mandurah, 2014
- What are your golfing aims for 2017 and beyond
Try to maintain my Australian Senior ranking to be selected in the Sanctuary Cove event and the Asia Pacific Senior Amateur at Royal Adelaide. Improve my chipping.
Beyond. I will play some senior events next year, but my priority is to join the “grey nomads” travelling up north and down the west coast of Australia through the winter months. After that, I will be kicking 65 yo which means attempting to beat my age. I had better find some short courses with very flat greens!
- Your dream fourball?
Seve, Peter Thomson, Jason Day
- Do you have one key swing thought?
Hit the back of the ball with a square clubface.
- Favourite course and the hardest course in Australia?
Kingston Heath because at the end of a round every club in the bag has been used, it is fair, severely punishes poor play and is playable in all weather.
Of the member’s courses that I have played I rank the Ocean course at the National GC as the hardest, although I have not played the Australian from anywhere near the back. It looks hard.
- The length young players hit the ball – your thoughts.
It is a combination of the equipment (club, balls), course conditions (when did you last get a bad lie?), athleticism and technique.
The length of courses is making the game too slow and too hard to walk.
The length that players hit the ball is devaluing the design strengths of some of the classic courses. The only way of reducing length is to change equipment specifications to force reduced carry.
One of the immediate things that I would like to see done is to change ball construction so that balls hook and cut more much like an old B51 did. Eliminating self-correction in direction would make it harder to hit straight so players would have to ease off the power to gain accuracy.
- Best golfing tip you have been given.
It is the next shot that is important.
- How often do you practice? Do you follow a set routine?
I practise a couple of times a week and play at least 2 rounds a week. I have no set routine. I decide when I enter the car park.
I hit about 50 full shots in a session. Over my life, I have spent relatively too much time on the long game, which is fun to practise, at the expenses of the short game and putting, which I find boring to practise.
- What is your favourite club?
7 iron. What can’t you do with a 7 iron?
- Your thoughts on the new Rules of Golf.
The new rules will help speed up play and reduce confusion. I had hoped that OOB would be a stroke not stroke and distance penalty and that a putter would have to be the shortest club in a set, but I am quibbling.
- Best course you have played overseas?
Royal County Down, Ireland. Natural construction, stunning views and seriously challenging. Some think there are too many blind holes.
- Your opinion on course setup for seniors.
I am generally happy with how most courses are setup.
I thought the set up by Trevor Herden at Kooyonga last year for the Australian Senior was excellent. It was a brilliant course in fantastic condition allowing good scoring from good play.
I do have issues with the speed of greens presented for all levels of competition. In my view, greens should be firm so that an approach shot has to be hit properly to stop within 4m. On firm greens, speeds of above 12 feet are excessive and make the game too slow.
People will tell you that certain greens in certain areas are historically fast and that modern green speeds are nothing special. Have a look at a match between Peter Thomson and Gary Player at Royal Melbourne pre 1966 on Youtube and look at how hard they have to hit their putts to get to the hole.
The RM greens were firm and they were about 9 feet on the stimp. Many courses have their greens too fast. Cut back to speeds of 9 feet, reduce maintenance costs by not having to cut and roll as often, improve speed of play and use the many more pin positions that will become available.
- How many holes in one?
Three and I value them all.
- You seem to be getting better with age. Any secrets?
I am not getting better with age. It has just taken me a lifetime to marry my technique and mental approach into a vaguely workable method. I have learnt that there are some things that you cannot do, so don’t try them during a round.
- Have you been to the Masters or the British Open?
I went to the Open at St Andrews in 2015. I stayed in a house in the middle of the town and had a season’s pass to the Open.
I wandered down to the course each morning, went home for lunch and went back in the afternoon. The Open was extended into a 5th day due to horrendously bad weather. You needed thermal gear to survive the driving rain and cold wind.
St Andrews is not a good course for viewing as the course is out and back. You would have to walk many kilometres to follow a group. I sat in stands and spent plenty of time on the range where there were always top players hitting balls.
It was a great experience, especially seeing players around town. One night I was in an Indian restaurant with Brandt Snedeker and other players at adjacent tables. The next night, Dustin Johnson was standing outside my front door. He accepted my recommendation and guidance to the same Indian restaurant, but he decided to eat in a burger place that we passed on the way. I forgot to ask for an autograph.