JOINT SERVICES GOLF CLUB (DHEKELIA)
CLUB & OPEN HISTORY
(Taken from the 1989 Cyprus Open Golf Championship Souvenir Programme, the year of John O’Rourke’s Captaincy)
When Major Franks RE and his engineers first cut their way through the hills and wadis of the E.S.B.A. in 1964, in order to provide a semblance of a golf course, he, as an enthusiastic golfer, was well pleased with the result. Here, at last, was a convenient place where the Royal and Ancient game could be played, albeit in different conditions to that which is normally experienced. Here were elevated mat tees fixed on the slopes of the hills looking down mimosa lined valleys to browns of oil and sand spread over concrete bases, dogleg holes marked with eucalyptus and conifers, scattered olives and carobs, and a subtle change of geography from the never easy flat terrain near the firing range to the hard head down slog of the back nine holes. The toil and seat of those architects is reflected today as a determined players endeavour to master the course. Twenty five years ago golfing facilities on the island of Cyprus were rather meagre. A few flat uninteresting holes existed at Nicosia near to the British High Commissionand adjacent to what is now the Turkish line. A pleasant nine hole course had also been constructed years ago at Pendayia, near Morphou, by the Cyprus Mines Corporation. This was a beautiful situation on the coastline surrounding the Company’s cottage hospital Fairways lined with bright bushes of azalias and oleanders, excellent consistent browns, and a small attractive clubhouse. Ideal for a day’s golf outing and very popular until the local political situation put it out of reach. Potatoes now grow where divots were once taken. Later came the unique 18 hole location at Tunnel Beach, Episkopi in the W.S.B.A. which provided a links type course. Then came the development of the RAF course at the Princess Mary Hospital, Akrotiri, and more recently the nine holes at Ayios Nikolaos on the Famagusta side of the E.S.B.A. Today, the services are well provided with varied conditions throughout the island to satisfy both beginners and accomplished players.
The Clubhouse at Dhekelia first stood at the point of a bluff overlooking the “Snake”, the main Famagusta to Larnaca road, with excellent views over the course and Larnaca Bay. Due to land slippage this had to be demolished in 1972. A replacement clubhouse was then constructed on the edge of the escarpment behind York Village. Over the years since its inauguration, a tremendous amount of work has been carried out to improve the conditions on the course. On working days, lorries, preceding lines of volunteers, were regularly filled with stones and debris. The amphitheatre of the 16th “Nunnery” hole was attacked with flamethrowers to eliminate the nests of snakes, obvious long term residents. Recent work initiated by the Chairman and the
introduction of water to the 12th, 16th and 17th give the course fifteen very good grass fairways. During the 70’s the man responsible for changing the face of the course was undoubtedly “Ross Clunis”, ex-Colonial Chief of Police and a dedicated golfer. Ross had produced a small course as early as the 1930’s on what is now the Larnaca International Airport. His obsession with water and grass first produced aprons and eventually in 1978 some excellent fairways which now stand as a token to his hard work and determination. The 14th hole christened “Clunis Creation” is a sure memorial of his efforts. The Cyprus Open Golf Championships were first organised in the 1930’s. It was then a match knockout event held at Nicosia and competitors from the British Colonial Administration and Garrison Units around the island travelled by horse or on the narrow gauge railway from Famagusta, a journey which took a whole day, to meet their opponents. Later the event moved to Pentayia and continued annually until 1974. By 1977 the standard of playing conditions at Dhekelia had improved so much that the Club were not embarrassed in asking for the sponsorship of a genuine Cyprus Open Golf Championship. Currently the Benson & Hedges Cyprus Open event is held each April over 54 holes and is recognised as the main golfing attraction, competitors coming in from the UK, Middle East, and Gulf State areas. The design, location and varying conditions at Dhekelia certainly provide a constant challenge to the most experienced and practised golfer.
Over the past twenty five years several thousand service and civilian enthusiasts have accepted the challenge. Most have moved on to other postings and many have retired.
The challenge will continue until the last putt has dropped.