Throughout the ages, a variety of chin-stroking sages have maintained that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Which is actually a load of old cobblers because I once had a neighbour whose lawn was regularly decimated by the fungal ravages of pythium blight.

Talking of all things turf-related, this scribe and a colleague took the opportunity while down at the British Masters at Hillside in Southport last week to visit the delightfully quirky and unassuming British Lawnmower Museum.

Wonderfully jam-packed with grass-cutting antiquities and absurdities, trail-blazing trimmers and edging shears and secateurs of the rich and famous, it’s an alluringly eccentric haven for shuffling, chortling reverence which imbued a sense of melancholic yearning for a simpler, genteel age before the invention of social media, Nigel Farage and those remorselessly footery halogen bloomin’ bulbs you have to fit into a light fixture that’s flush-mounted in the ceiling.

All of this green-fingered nostalgia got us reflecting on the European Tour in those formative days of yore when it spent much of its time bouncing around these very shores. Hillside, in fact, was a host venue for the Piccadilly Medal back in the circuit’s inaugural season of 1972.

Here in 2019, it put on a shimmering show. The classic, old-fashioned links, in an era of daunting championship behemoths that are stretched into a different postcode, was such a throwback you half expected to see a highlights package on the British Pathe newsreels.

As for the crowds? Well, it was a sell-out on the Saturday while the sight of eager observers mobbing the high dunes and generating a cavernous atmosphere around some of the greens made for a terrific spectating experience.

Switch on a hum-drum European Tour event in some far-flung outpost during the season and the modest attendances would make one man and his dog look like an epic scene from Ben Hur.

At a time when English golf in particular is flourishing – there are eight male golfers in the top 40 of the world rankings while young females like Georgia Hall and Charley Hull have prospered on the women’s circuit – it was hardly surprising that the public turned out in the north west corner of a country that is a great golfing heartland yet one, Open Championships apart, that is largely starved of top-level tour action.

That local lad Tommy Fleetwood was the host added to the allure while his general humility showed once again that golf is very lucky to have him. “Nothing that happened this week was about me in any way,” said Fleetwood who was straight on to a plane on Sunday night to head to this week’s US PGA Championship in New York.

“I was the face of the event and I had the opportunity to do something special and bring it here.”

The fact, however, that the British Masters came close to withering on the vine before Fleetwood and then title sponsor Betfred stepped in sits uneasily with, what on the face of it to a casual observer, looks like a flourishing scene.

The tournament continues to operate on a fairly short-term basis which merely underlines the difficulties the tour has in staging events in one of its traditional hotbeds.

In 2000, when England had just two players in the top 100 of the world rankings, the nation still hosted seven events. In 2020, the British Masters and the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth is the country’s lot.

Times have changed, of course, and there is money swilling around in other fertile lands of expansion even if some of those wide and varied ventures – Saudi Arabia for instance – gives the tour an almost mercenary, we’ll-go-anywhere reputation.

Trying to compete with the all-conquering PGA Tour in a futile, imbalanced battle forces that hand in many ways. Trying to attract sponsorship, meanwhile, without guarantees of which marquee players will actually turn up, remains an on-going and tricky situation.

Keeping the British Masters, an event with a grand history, on the schedule is important for the general health of the tour. It will return to Close House in Newcastle with Lee Westwood as host again in 2019.

While the course itself may not be everyone’s cup of tea – the fearsome elevation changes just about require climbing gear and great fistfuls of Kendal mint cake – the prospect of large crowds embracing the event in another golfing area sorely lacking showpiece occasions makes it a worthwhile escapade.

Where it goes after that remains to be seen with murmurings suggesting the possibility of a Scottish player hosting at a venue north of the border. We’ve had something similar before, of course, with Paul Lawrie fronting his own matchplay event on the European Tour.

The result, in a nation almost sated with tournament golf, was dispiritingly sigh-inducing. Only 11,000 over the course of the week turned up to the inaugural event in his native Aberdeen.

A move to East Lothian the following season was greeted with shrugging indifference and the final year of the agreement saw the event shipped to some Bavarian spa town in Germany before it disappeared off the schedule.

Lawrie didn’t go into the venture to massage his own ego or receive back-slapping plaudits. Like his various other acts of golfing philanthropy, it was done for a much wider cause but the support from the golfing public for one of Scotland’s great sportsmen was embarrassing.

That couldn’t be said of the backing local hero Fleetwood received from his ain folk.