The Brown Slipper

The Brown Slipper is not taken lightly in the Harms Family. Most things are – taken lightly, that is. But The Slipper as it is known in the diminutive affectionate form, the trophy for the annual Harms brothers golf tournament,  does bring out an element of sibling rivalry which, unusually, has otherwise only ever surfaced a handful of times.

The most public surfacing was at my brother David’s wedding, held appropriately at the Murray Bridge Golf Club, where on the weekend Ravi Shastri belted the billy goats out of Shane Warne, the family gathered for the fine occasion.

I suspect we were all still playing club cricket then, at various levels, my youngest brother Mick, just 19, still hanging on to ambition. Which is why the wedding was on the first weekend in January – the cricketers’ wedding weekend.

I was MC and in my opening remarks, having embarrassed the (beautiful) bride by suggesting her garment had saved the (then) ailing wool industry. The scoffing was so severe  I had to back-pedal and explain I was referring to the garment’s unusually long trail (or are they trains?) rather than that my brand new sister-in-law  was a size 14. She wasn’t. Had her golf handicap matched her garment she’d have had the room covered. (I think I’ve done it again).

Having thrown to a short break on my return to the lectern I re-opened with the suggestion that David, who could bowl those Andrew Zesers innies and smash a few at No. 7, was probably the best cricketer of the four brothers. I still had the attention of the room at that stage and I will never forget the sound of red wine being spat from mouths – clearly of my other brothers, Sparrow and Mick.

I staggered to another break, and immediately had Sparrow and Mick at the bridal table wagging their fingers at me.

“That’s just ridiculous,” said Mick.

“David?” said Sparrow, and just screwed his face up.

Mick was a cavalier middle-order batsman who was satisfied with any innings as long as it included a boundary struck on the rise through cover, and a pull shot that wasn’t skied to mid-off. He also bowled jaunty out-swingers from the Mudassar Nazar-Phil Carlson school. Sparrow bowled flat out in the way that might kill someone in village cricket in the Cotswalds or take a decent number of wickets in third grade district cricket in Australia.

The night got better.

It’s not a topic which is brought up.

I have never won The Slipper.

You have to play a sound tactical game to win The Slipper and I knew Mick had been strategizing when he served up lunch in our Mooloolaba unit on the 35 degree Monday morning. A kilo and a half of the night-before’s  vindaloo, the adamant claim that we’d run out of Sharwood’s mango chutney, and the enthusiastic offering of the beers provided strong evidence.

I never recovered really.

We reached Twin Waters, a track I have handled reasonably well over the years, at one o’clock and, apart from three old blokes a couple of holes ahead, we were the only people stupid enough to be out playing.

I didn’t mind. Indeed, I love golf in the breathless Queensland heat: that feeling of sweaty forearms and the chance to play shots. Only it wasn’t breathless. It was blowing like we were at Carnoustie, a hot northerly of all things, and the Twin Waters biyou was unforgiving. You just couldn’t pick the club into the wind, and you just couldn’t pick the club with the wind.

My brother Sparrow is a notorious quick beginner and had four pointers (yes, we play stableford to keep everyone in it) at two of the first four holes. But he can find ways of collapsing. Mick also opened with a string of pars while all elements of my golf swing were being bamboozled by Indian ballast.

The banter was standard. As dry as the conditions. Mick niggled David who has a very loose right elbow and as a golfer is very hard to set a field to. David continued to stand on every tee with his driver and then wonder whether he could reach the bunkers and whether he should go back to 3-wood or even 3-iron. Confident that he would hit every drive down the guts he also took little notice of the terrain on either side of the fairway.

At one of the early holes he aimed left out over the jungle assuming the northerly would bring his delicate drive back to the centre of the fairway. It was so well hit it continued on its path, drilling into the wind, and sailing over the trees, into what may have been a small creeky, water-hazardy sort of thing, or may have been the full-blown out of bounds.

“What’s over there?” he said.

“Papua New Guinea,” someone replied.

I almost holed my eight iron at the par three seventh, and the tap-in birdie got me back in it.

But fitness became a factor, and although fatigue helped me to slow my swing, it didn’t help with touch on and around the greens.

It was blowing a gale by late in the round. Sparrow managed another two four pointers and finished with 36. Mick had 29, and David 28. I strung together four pars early in the back nine, but could only find 29 points in a round which included three shanks, all (bizarrely) with the 3-iron. I blamed the borrowed clubs.

David and I lost the four-ball match as well. And the money.

That night the fish and chips were still very good. And post-summer golf beers are some of the finest (in a strong field).

I didn’t play the second round citing family responsibilities and injury. Sparrow ran away with it. He had four birdies. He’d had 18 points after 5 holes, and during that run had used the putter just three times. He finished with 43 for a total of 79. Had I played I suspect I’d have been cranky by the sixth tee (I hate chip-ins) and I doubt I’d have finished within 20 points of him.

The Slipper is brown corduroy; it’s the type Sandy Stone would have worn.

The venue for 2013 is undecided.





About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst four. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. JTH – love the brotherly competitions. It doesn’t matter what else you do with your life so long as you beat your brothers.

    A few Christmases ago we had a large Selleck family gathering (cousins and uncles) at mum and dad’s place. Beer flowed, crap was spun, challenges put out. I told one of my younger brothers that despite the age difference I could still beat him up the footpath (about 70 metres). Shoes were taken off, spectators took up positions on the opposite nature strip, wives told us all we were stupid. In a moment of hop fueled bravado I told my brother to walk up a few metres and I would still whip his ass.

    With 10 to go I had him covered. With 5 to go I didn’t. Brother won, shouts rung out and we both went to the bathroom to soak our bloody feet – over a beer of course.

  2. John
    The errant shot into the mulga reminded me of a tale my mate Catts told me on Wednesday. He had just returned from playing the Hamilton Island golf course (which is actually on Dent Island apparently) A course strangley devoid of signature Peter Thompson pot bunkers but surrounded by plenty of scrub and rainforest. A golfer in front of him had brought his own gear along and apparenty went by the old adage if you cant play like a golfer you can at least look like one. Hence our man, replendent in new niblicks and armed with a set of the best Calloways set off, Priort to the 1st he purchaes a dozen pills. When he finished the 6 th her perchase another 12 from the drink girl. John Daley like he did not finish the back nine having lost 24 new balls and whatever he had in his bag to start with.
    The Robb boys have had the odd race over the years, Sadly G Robb, having lost any speck of athletic ability after finishing his foory career with the CCAE Wombats, has never been in the hunt particularly on a golf course . He can play a good lunch however. P Robb was more competive in the scheme of things but has now become a lycred road warrier which is really quite sad. He no longer plays lunch at all. The on course rivalling is now between father and son with my young bloke’s handicap coming down from 36 to 18 in the past 12 months. he is also gaining extra yeard off the tee by the day and soon will be hitting it past his old man. Should this happen, I’ll reliquish his membership and make him play League

  3. brother david says

    John, you failed to mention our arrival at the golf course for day 2, we pop the boot and Mick says “Hey , where are my golf clubs?” How can you turn up for a game without golf clubs? What is the penalty for that?
    This required serious negotiation with the wives/sisters in law to deliver the clubs. It also required skillful negotiation with the starter to push our starting time back a 1/2 hr .Hee Kyung Seo LPGA rookie of the year was hitting balls on the practice fairway so we had a chance to study the swing mechanics while waiting. You wouldn’t believe how slow and deliberate her swing is. Hits it dead straight.

  4. Peter Flynn says

    Like RGD Willis going out to bat in a Test match sans bat.

  5. Harmsy, is there a Knackers’ Golf Annual?

  6. Grant Fraser says

    thanks for this jth. Flinders Open is less than two weeks away and I have you as my inspiration.

  7. John Harms says


    Was pencilled in last year, but we ran out of dates.

    Will rectify that this year.

    Darts tournament is also on the agenda.


  8. Some of? What beers beat after-golf beers?

  9. John Butler says

    C Ryan

    After cricket beers.

  10. John Harms says

    JB and CR, I reckon there is a difference between after-cricket and after-golf beers. After-golf beers tend to be consumed with a heavy heart, so the distance between the joy of beer and the suffering of the round accentuates the beer. I agree though that post-cricket beers are brilliant. In the Qld context they tend to follow a day of heat, humidity and poor hydration (certainly in the ’80s), hence have a great rejuvenating effect. This is a topic I’d like to pursue in more detail.

  11. John Butler says


    If you played for the same cricket team I did, that heavy heart would be familiar.

    But the beer still tasted great.

  12. I’m gonna stop making fun of Tiger Woods. I played 18 holes of golf for the first time in about six years on the weekend and I was so in the mood for some… nevermind.

  13. Steve Fahey says

    Great yarn John

    Any story with the phrase “the Mudassar Nazar-Phil Carlson school” is a winner by me.

    There is nothing as sweet as victory over a brother, The Kevin Fahey Memorial Cricket Day at the Rosanna Cricket Club has been running since 2000 and stands 8-4 my way despite some incredibly modest (and occasionally humiliating) performances by myself. Just like Mike Brearley, I have a few blokes who manage to make up for my deficiencies, much to my brother Paul’s frustration.

  14. Beating brother(s) is important. Beating your father for the first time is significant (still recall the day I beat him at his sport tennis). Still being able to beat your son(s) at anything is vital. Whilst the list is dwindling golf is still on my list; guile still beats fitness and youthful enthusiasm in tennis. Darts is one where I can hold my own. I have to envoke the over 50 rule in anything like basketball (means I can cheat quite a bit); the mocking foul often comes into play if my lack of skill is laughed at – I get the ball straight away. Running went to his list years ago and even table tennis is now clearly his. Even his jokes are now usually better than some of my tired material.

  15. Barwon Heads, Thirteenth Beach and Curlewis are rated as 3 of the best 20 courses in Victoria (outside Melbourne) if venues are being considered for the golf day.

  16. Maybe we could get Schwarter (David Schwartz) to play as it’s home turf and the Almanac may get a mention on SEN as a result.

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