New Website a Labor of Love for Americanized Brit

By: Tony Dear is truly a labor of love. I'm English and spent most of my life living in a town of 80,000 people who had precisely one golf course to practice the Royal and Ancient game. Trouble was, that course was private, so unless they had a handicap certificate to prove they were a member of another club, or could somehow else prove their competency, people couldn't get on it.

Bellingham, Wash., has roughly 80,000 people too, but there are five courses more or less within the city limits (okay, Shuksan's out in Whatcom County a bit, but go with me here), and only one of them is private.

What's more, the four public-access courses (Lake Padden, Shuksan, Sudden Valley and North Bellingham) are all really good. I was a golf teacher and British PGA apprentice professional 18 years ago (I can't believe it was that long) so I played the game quite seriously. Actually, I feared I might have taken after Nick Faldo a bit and not said a word to my playing partners. Of course, the trouble was I wasn't quite as good as Faldo, so instead of being the determined destroyer and brooding genius, I was really just a proper misery who can't have been much fun to play with.

Now, because I don't play so much or as well (bad back, kids, you know the story), I actually enjoy the game way more than I used to. I notice all the nature and the views, and enjoy the company of those I'm playing with. I get what people used to say about golf being a relaxing pastime and good exercise, even though it used to never be about things like that.

In and around Bellingham, there's a lot of nature and some magnificent views. And in the six years that I've lived here, I've not yet played so much as a single hole with anybody whose company I didn't enjoy.

Building the site ( became possible last year as the economy worsened and my work opportunities decreased. I had been the golf correspondent of the New York Sun for four years but, sadly, that excellent newspaper - like so many others - fell victim to the economy. And a few of the other publications I contributed to either folded or cut their freelance budgets entirely (thankfully Cybergolf has remained strong so I have been able to continue writing for editor Jeff Shelley, and I also post stories on

Working on the site has been great fun because I'm writing about a subject I'm very interested in and very fond of. A guy called David Nguyen of Light Switch Designs in California designed it and I just filled in the words. It took about four months to write them all, take the photos, fit it all together and iron out the kinks of which I'm sure there is still one or two lurking somewhere.

I see it as part hobby, part job. There are three sponsors at present: Joe's Pro Golf Lab in Bellingham, Pro Golf Discount and the Coeur d'Alene Casino in Idaho, who thankfully took a chance sponsoring a brand-new site about so specific a subject. Fortunately, I am acquainted with the principals at each of those businesses, so didn't feel I had to cold-call, which I'm fairly certain I wouldn't be much good at.