The Course of Little Aden Golf Club (by Jim Barclay)


The first three golf holes at Little Aden were laid out before the refinery was on stream. The architect was Mike Daly, an Irishman who worked for one of the contractors. Mike had been an officer in the Palestine Police, among other occupations, spoke Arabic fluently and - more importantly - could lay his hands on earth-moving equipment and all the sundries needed for the construction and maintenance of a course that was to become - in its class - unique.

The course was laid out on a stretch of land bounded by Wedge Hill, and an old cemetery (I think), and a road that ran to somewhere near the sea, and scrubland not suitable for golf.  Wedge Hill was constantly being blasted away to provide material for breakwaters and other etceteras, and as constantly the course was expanded.  It had, I think, six holes when I arrived in Little Aden in 1954, and twelve within a couple of years. It still had twelve when I left in 1963.

Some of us had golfed on sand courses before, in Abadan, Iran, but the Little Aden course was unlike any other. It had superior greens - or browns, as they were correctly called. A Middle-East brown was traditionally made by mixing sand with fuel oil - which was cheap -   and rolling the mix into a circular and flat putting surface.  (They are still made that way in northern Alberta and Saskatchewan, where water is scarce and the summer short.) The nuisance is obvious - the ball picks up traces of residue that stains the hands and clothes. 

At Little Aden we experimented with other binders  -  all oils that were fit to export plus spent engine oil from the local taxi pool. It helped our cause when a golfer became the refinery's Technical Superintendent, then Process Superintendent.  His lab tests on viscosity and binding indices showed that the ideal binder for oil and sand was a used lubricating oil from the Reformer's compressors.  Rumour had it that these compressors were soon to become the best-nursed in the BP group.  Especially on those weekends when the golf club held its monthly medals and championships. Before Henry Longhurst came to play our course in 1957 rumor also had it that the lube was changed twice for his benefit.

But there was more to our browns than mere binding oil. Round flat browns are boring, so we experimented with swales and slopes, which meant teaching the driver of the camel that pulled the roller how to weave his way across a brown rather than move in ever- increasing circles. During competitions, after a fourball had passed, a local assistant brownkeeper would pull a large doormat over the surface of the brown to smooth the impression of the tennis shoes most golfers wore. In this way we had browns that would have been the envy of Augusta National. Longhurst said he had never seen anything quite like them. They were the envy of the Khormaksar Golf Club in Steamer Point, whose members had been experimenting since 1895.

     The fairways were of hard baked sand that every so often had to be seawatered from the type of truck used to spray water on roads, then rolled and left to dry in the sun.

    And après golf?  We played liar dice at the clubhouse. Clubhouse is a euphemism. It was originally a hut close to the first tee and the road that ran to somewhere (a pumpstation?). Around 1959 Mike Daly liberated a construction building and erected it at the opposite side of the course and closer to Wedge Hill and to home. What had been the fourth hole became the first. And we now had running water and a power supply to keep the liquor cold, and an annex to house our pullcarts.  But I can still see Henry Longhurst standing outside the first clubhouse recounting what he claimed was the funniest golf joke he had ever heard. There was an old lady who thought that Stockton-on-Tees was the name of a golf club&ldots;.

Our finest golfers?  Daly, Refinery Manager Joe Allison, Doug Stewart, and the man with the classiest swing of all - Angus Caldwell.

As of April 2006 the golf course is still in use by the employees of the Aden refinery

If anyone has pictures of the golf club we can include in the site please contact Jonathan Wilkins