Although the Royal Hong Kong Golf Club is said to be located in the town of Fanling, the railroad stop is the next one, Sheung Shui, last stop before the border. As the train halts, the loudspeaker makes an announcement in Chinese, then in English, that says, "Passengers not wishing to proceed to the frontier are requested to get off here." Squatting on the platform was a little, very old Chinese in black pajamas and a wool cap of the sort favored by Babe Ruth. He had two screen cages full of live grasshoppers that he would capture and thrust into small paper bags to be purchased by fanciers of fried grasshoppers. Between the cages were two glass jars, lidded and wrapped. Australian golfers Graham Marsh and David Graham stopped and asked the old man what was in the jars.
"Sneek," he said.
"Sneek, sneek," he said.
"Snake!" said Marsh.
They hastened down to climb into the back of the truck that transported the players and visitors to the golf course, a five-minute journey. The governor of Hong Kong, Sir David Trench, an ardent golfer, flies to his weekend mansion, Fanling Lodge, between the 12th and 14th fairways, in a helicopter, but others must approach the clubhouse up a tight road that bends in front of a porch colored by flower boxes and decked with umbrella tables. Mountains stand around the course, which is itself fairly hilly, and there is the sound of bulldozers clearing fairways for a third 18-hole course to serve the club's 3,300 golfers, half of whom are not full members. Many of the part-privilege members are Japanese businessmen liable for transfer but determined to belong to a golf club. Despite its unhandy location, the Royal Hong Kong has the best golfing facilities anywhere around.
"We've an enthusiastic lot of golfers out here." said Joe Hardwick, pro at the Royal Hong Kong and before that assistant pro for 10 years at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club. "Things have quieted down since the riots. People act as if the riots never happened. You can get up to the Chinese border from here in about five minutes. From the top of that hill there you can see into China. But we don't worry about what the Chinese are going to do. We have our lives to live, don't we? What's the use getting upset?"
Asians had won the first four tournaments on the Asian circuit, but David Graham was leading in overall points, kept on a basis of showings from tournament to tournament. Besides a bonus of prize money, the overall winner receives an invitation to the $150,000 Alcan Golfer of the Year tournament. The 22-year-old Graham, a pro in Tasmania before he got a job with a Sydney sporting goods firm that helped to underwrite his appearance on the New Zealand, Australian and Asian tours, intends to try to play the PGA tour in the United States this fall. " Graham might do very well," Peter Thomson said. "The more the pressure gets on, the slower and smoother he swings. He's not like a lot of fellows who get in a hurry."
During the first round of the Hong Kong Open on the club's New Course, which is about 60 years old, Peter Thomson discussed Asian golf. I had noticed he was playing briskly, hitting the ball without hesitation. "The other courses we've played till now on the Asian circuit might as well have been made for the Japanese," he said. "The greens are designed so that it's hard to get a shot close to the pin. They don't hold a shot, and they're banked so the ball rolls off. The Japanese will kill you chipping and putting. They can get down in two from anywhere." The other courses did indeed seem to have been designed for old men—high-level bureaucrats and military officers—with accurate short games. "But Hong Kong is a better course for strikers of the ball," Thomson said. "So are Taipei and Tokyo, the final two tournaments."
A little fellow in a straw hat with two buckets of dirt on a shoulder pole was trotting along behind us to replace the divots and pack them with sod. A rooster was crowing in the early afternoon, and workmen were yelling at each other as they erected scaffolding around a new building that was rising from the trees. Scaffolding workers, among the highest-paid laborers in Hong Kong, build their structures up 10 or more stories by tying bamboo poles together with thin strips of fiber. They seem to be always shouting to each other, perhaps to keep up their courage.