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“I’m Passionate About Golf” – Guy Steuart III

Ectomorphs, endomorphs and mesomorphs of any age and gender speaking a myriad of languages across more than 200 countries follow a passion conceived around a simple objective:  Hit a ball into a hole in as few attempts as possible, with tools ill-suited for the purpose (to borrow a phrase attributed to Winston Churchill).   First played over five centuries ago, golf forms a bond amongst the highly competent and shy beginners, marking memories along ocean shores, parkland rambles and mountain vistas.    Subject only to vagaries and anomalies of nature’s moment, score is immune to societal biases and judgements.  For of this I’m certain: the ball has no idea when it will be struck, nor by whom, and counting every stroke until the ball is holed is a commitment to character, whether played before millions or in solitude.

And though it’s played along the ground and through the air, golf is consequentially more vexing executed between the ears.  Irrespective of the distracting splendor of natural surroundings, a golfer is well-served to focus on rhythm and the tasks at hand while also ignoring the inner voices of self-doubt.   Easier stated than practiced, I assure you.  But, in the end your score is your own production, with penciled numbers on a card displaying the day’s sum measured against yesteryears and the future.  Yet, score is not a description of the journey:  golf is played in the wind, rain, cold and comfort and sometimes all within the same round.  No two venues nor games are the same, though scores coincidentally may be identical.  It’s a lesson in humility, self-control, etiquette, dignity and integrity.  It’s a game played at a conversational pace with personal bests hung fading in a frame aside pictures of people and memories embedded, nonetheless, timelessly.

In the early 1950’s Robert Trent Jones Sr. became interested in designing and building a golf course on the north coast of Jamaica.   Mr. Jones’ interest in Jamaica likely was spawned by Stanley Thompson, who is regarded as one of the most influential golf architects of golf’s golden era and deserving of more recognition for his influence on the development of Jamaica’s golf courses.   Stanley Thompson not only designed Constant Spring Golf Course (Kingston, 1920) but also mentored Howard Watson (Caymanas Golf Club, Spanish Town, 1958) and Robert Moote (Ironshore, Rose Hall 1972).   Thompson is credited with re-designing the Manchester Golf Club in Mandeville, in 1930.  Originally built in 1865 at an elevation of 2,120 feet, the Manchester Golf Club is a nine-hole routing with two sets of tees and said to be the oldest golf course in continuous play in the western hemisphere.  In 1951 Thompson and Robert Moote, designed -but never built- another nine holes for the Manchester Golf Club.

Germane to Half Moon, Thompson mentored Robert Trent Jones, Sr, too, and later became partners for a decade, before Jones established his sole practice in 1940.  And about the same time Thompson and Moote were designing nine holes for Manchester GC, correspondence with Harold DeLisser, then co-owner of the Sunset Lodge and developer of Half Moon- reveal Jones’ interest in designing a golf course on a sugarcane farm owned by Alec and James Henderson.  It was reasoned golf might lure vacationers to Jamaica’s shores to recreate under the sun cooled by Caribbean breezes, while also providing jobs for local citizens.  And about a decade later, work was underway for a championship golf course adjacent to the young Half Moon in a joint venture between Half Moon and Rose Hall Developments.  The largely treeless terrain had been used to grow sugarcane since the mid 1600’s but scythes and oxen were to be replaced with irons, woods, golfers and caddies harvesting memories of a different sweetness.  Several designs were contemplated, some including par three holes moving into the hills framing Half Moon.  A few of those early designs are displayed at the Half Moon Clubhouse, including a remarkable, hand-drawn layout superimposed on a “stitched”, aerial photo of nearly three miles of Rose Hall coastline.  Taken in the spring of 1960, it shows the Rose Hall Sugar factory, the Half Moon in its nascent beginnings and the Colony Cottage Hotel under construction on land that is now being developed into Half Moon’s primary entrance.  It’s a bird’s eye perspective on history.

With an eye to developing hillside villa lots with views of the sea rather than golf holes, the present layout was settled by June of 1960 and work began later that year to clear cane and rock and survey a championship length course, suitable for all golfers.  Robert Trent Jones. Sr. ascribed to design principles championed by Stanley Thompson to create a course “… that will test the skill of the most advanced golfer without discouraging the duffer while adding to the enjoyment of both.”  Constructing the course was not an easy undertaking. The cost totaled a whopping $265,000 and though the land was contributed to the venture, construction strained the Half Moon’s finances.  And this was before purchasing the equipment to maintain the course.  Though initially expected to be completed within a year, construction being somewhat predictable in its unpredictability, the course was officially commissioned by Prime Minster Donald Sangster in 1962.

The Half Moon Golf Course architecture remained unaltered until the summers of 2004 and 2005, when Roger Rulewhich cast his discerning eye to refresh a now fully-mature layout.  For thirty-five years, Rulewhich was senior design architect for Robert Trent Jones, Sr. and knew well the principles of the course’s foundation.  A “bit of lipstick and rouge” rather than a full makeover is all that was deemed necessary to reveal a classic Jamaican version of championship Robert Trent Jones, Sr. design.   The course had become overcrowded with trees, bunkers needed to be rebuilt as did drainage, and it was recommended that play be reversed with the ninth hole finishing east of the clubhouse.  Tee boxes on holes #15 and #16 were re-located as an accommodation to a road widening, as was the green on #15.  Greens were expanded on holes #9 and #18 and completely re-built on #13 and #15.  But otherwise, the layout remains as originally constructed.  Greens are large, and in recognition of occasional deluges, designed to drain through surface pitch and gravity roll. However, the golf course retains its length played from a resort-friendly 5,035 to tournament-tough 7,120 yards.   Wind is constant, typically from the east; and, caddies, whose services are mandatory at Half Moon, are poised to guide golfers through the elements and bridge cultures along the walk.  It’s good exercise; it’s a walk in history; and it makes the Red Stripe at the 19th hole taste even better.

 

Guy Steuart III is Chairman of Half Moon.

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