Longhirst Hall’s director of golf on his 25 years at the club, his passion for the golf business and who would make it into his dream fourball
Graham Chambers, director of golf at at Longhirst Hall, has been a fixture in North East golf since joining Longhirst founder Tommy Dawson in 1995 – two years before the club’s first course opened. Today, Graham oversees two golf courses, The Dawson and The Lakes, both hosts the EuroPro Tour on several occasions. In 25 years Graham has covered everything from growing the first blades of grass on the fairways to building a driving range which is home to the Northumberland Union’s county coaching programme while growing the club into one of the largest in the North East. We shared a round with him at Longhirst to learn more…
How much golf do you get to play?
I’ve played a little bit more since joining the Ashington Buffs Golf Society and I’m lucky to visit some great venues around the UK through work, so I tend to get one or two games a month. If I could only choose one though, I’d choose preparing courses over playing them myself, that’s where my passion really lies.
How did you get into golf?
I grew up in Amble and my uncle John was a member of Warkworth, so I played with him before joining Newbiggin as a junior. I got married and joined the team at Longhirst as the golf courses were being finalised in 1995. I’ve worked on everything from maintenance to marketing since and seen the business grow incredibly.
Which is your favourite course in the North East?
I love what has been done at Wynyard, it’s a welcoming club and a successful business. I’m not normally keen on links golf, but Dunstanburgh Castle was beautiful when we played it earlier this year.
And further afield?
Playing at Lake Nona in Florida was an incredible experience. In the UK, playing at Wentworth is fantastic and I’ve really enjoyed visiting The Grove as well.
What’s your best score ever?
Playing off a handicap of 14, I had 47 points at Sharpley with the Buffs society. I’m not off 14 in their sweeps anymore.
Which is your favourite golfing memory?
I went to an event at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Florida and while we were having breakfast with the superintendent, Arnold Palmer was there, sitting quietly having his scrambled eggs on toast. I didn’t want to disturb him, but just seeing him at his home course was a great moment.
What about embarrassing moments?
In the early days of Longhirst, I went to a travel industry event at The Mere with Tommy and we needed 32 points between us in the final round of a six-event series to qualify to play at Wentworth with Gary Player. We played the warm up nine holes and then I got a bit carried away over lunch. Tommy had 27 points in the afternoon and I got four. He still talks about how much I let him down that day.
Do you have any superstitions?
Only one – if I see a magpie I have to see a second one. I’ll search for that second magpie even if it means driving around the course to see one before I come in.
What are your strengths on the course?
I’m solid around the greens, chipping and pitching are definitely my strengths.
And your weaknesses?
Although I’m pretty straight, I’m short off the tee which means I have to rely on my short game a lot.
Which is your favourite club?
My Cobra Baffler hybrids, I can hit shots from 110-200 yards with them.
Who are your best golfing friends?
I’ve played all over the world with my son, David. I also have to pick David Gilroy, Northumberland’s county captain, as he’s at Lognhirst all the time and we spend a lot of time together playing events and travelling.
What would you be doing if you weren’t running a golf club?
Back in the day, I wanted to work in TV production. I fell into working in retail before joining Longhirst and I really enjoy running the business. I’ve also got a great passion for music. I’ve played in bands for years, worked with some amazing artists, and I love writing and recording music. I’m working on my third album at the moment and I’ll be working on more in the future.
Who is your favourite tour player?
Tiger Woods has moved the needle more than any sportsman in the last 25 years, and when he’s playing he’s good for business.
Which event would you love to attend?
The BMW PGA at Wentworth is a fantastic experience. If I had to pick one, it would have to be The Masters.
Who have you learned from?
There’s not one particular person, but I’ve learned a lot from the clubs at the top of the game in our region. Clubs like Ramside, Wynyard, Slaley and Matfen proved that a modern approach to running a golf club could work in the North East. Learning from and working with those businesses has been great over the last 25 years.
Which three people would join you in your dream fourball?
Tiger Woods, just to be able to talk to him and see him play up close; Seve Ballesteros, who would be great company; and Freddie Flintoff, who would be great fun for four hours on the golf course.
If you could have one mulligan, when would you have used it?
I’d have got that fifth point at The Mere. It doesn’t matter which shot, just one of them.