Don’t drive
Hacker’s away

A question has been hanging around uncomfortably among the less gifted at our club since we witnessed the US Open at the Olympic Club, San Francisco, two weeks ago — if we had to play our golf on a course as brutally difficult as that, would we bother with the game?
As much as we love our forlorn jousts with club and ball, I suspect even the hardiest spirits amongst us would regretfully call it a day.
Hackers being, by and large, honest people — and let’s face it, no set of golfers are ever confronted with the stark truth as often as we are — we would throw up our hands and say we were unequal to such a challenge.
Thankfully for us — and even more so for the game — the vast majority of golf courses are not set up with such malicious intent. The United States Golf Association, the body responsible for preparing the US Open every year, consider it their duty to present the world’s best players with the cruellest possible task.
Apparently, they weren’t pleased that Rory McIlroy had won the previous year’s US Open with a score of 16 under par at the Congressional Country Club in Maryland — where Tiger Woods won last weekend — and were determined to toughen up this year’s test.
They were probably delighted that Webb Simpson won it with one over par but did it do any favours to the game of golf as an attractive sport to play?
Obviously, they don’t require players like us to play off the same tees as the pros but even off the forward tees the Olympic course would have been a killer with its sloping fairways and wicked greens surrounded by run-offs into bunkers and hollows. There was not a lot of fun to be had no matter how good you were.
Just to prove that great courses needn’t be heartbreakers we have just witnessed a brilliant tournament at Royal Portrush. The Irish Open was eminently more watchable, and just as dramatic, as the US Open even though no-one lost a ball up a tree.
Portrush is one of the world’s best courses and if the continual rain hadn’t softened it up we wouldn’t have seen as many birdies and eagles. Nevertheless, the place shone through the extreme conditions as a place you’d love to visit.
I’ve been fortunate enough to play it two or three times and although I found it very difficult the sheer joy of playing such a magnificent course made up for the many problems it inflicted on my game.
I’m sure I wouldn’t say the same thing about the Olympic club or a few other places I’ve been to that were tricked up just for effect.
The oldest and most revered major tournament course in the world is the Old Course at St Andrews which can be as timid as not to embarrass the humblest hacker and yet has produced some of the most memorable golfing dramas.
Padraig Harrington has recently spoken about the dangers of doctoring courses by lengthening holes and narrowing fairways. It’s OK to do it for the professionals, he says, but not for the amateurs and club members who have not gained from technology like the pros.
Hackers don’t always have the choice, of course. Roy Gardner writes:
‘I am a member of The Royal Golf Club in Bahrain, a course designed by Monty when he was in a very bad mood. They make us play the medals off a tee that gives us 6,800 yards of forced carries, undulating fairways, desert run off areas ten feet below the fairway, hundreds of horrible bunkers and hilly greens that Ian Poulter could not putt.
The SS is 74 and as often as not the CSS is 77. Add that to 40 degree heat in summer and either high humidity or 20 knot winds and you can see it is a hacker’s nightmare.
Having said that if your travels take you through the Middle East you have a standing invitation to give it a try……..’
Thank you Roy, but I might not take you up on that

5 thoughts on “Don’t drive
Hacker’s away

  1. Difficult courses can be fun?
    On a regular Golfing trip to Spain some years ago my friends and I played Monte Mayor. The course is in the mountains above Marbella and follows a deep ravine in spectacular scenery, a little like those calendars you used to see. What made this extremely difficult course fun was that the mountain and Ravine side of each hole were marked with red posts as lateral hazards, so when your ball dissappeared off the edge of the fairway into the chasm below, you merely dropped a ball where it crossed the boundary and carried on. Admittedly you nedded a lot of ammunition, I think I lost 8 balls, but it made it playable.
    Mark.

    • I was going to mention Monte Mayor, Mark. A terrifying place. Before I played it, I bought 12 second-hand balls in the pro’s shop and I swear they were all back on sale by the time I’d reached the ninth.

  2. Ah Monte Mayor, my favourite golf course just edging North Berwick into second, both of which are my favourites DESPITE their difficulty! Sorry to report though that MM has become a victim of the general malaise in Spain (and one suspects, its lack of attraction to the grip-it-and-rip-it resort golfer) and closed its doors at the back end of last year. I was there in November last on our annual trip to the coast and it ceased trading a day before we were due to play. She will be missed.

  3. I was fortunate enough to attend the US & Irish opens this year. I found the US Open more enjoyable from a spectator point of view. The stadium feel of the course added to the drama and excitement of the event. Don’t get me wrong Portrush was excellent but it lacked the amphitheatres of Olympic club. Indeed, for a links course which are generally flat Portrush was better than many Opens I have attended (miles better for spectating than say St Andrews).

    The US Open is golf’s self-styled ‘toughest test’ so you know that few (if any) players will break par. A brutal test like this is fine from time to time. I find it makes us average golfers appreciate the skill of the top player. I would love to have had the opportunity to go on Olympic to try and break 100.

  4. Hi Peter,totally agree with your comments,which is somewhat different for you and I on occasions!
    Setting up golf course like the U.S.A. demeans the players,
    and the spectators,who wish to see the worlds best players
    perform at their peak.Not made to play on unfair and unsuitable courses,which demeans their ability.
    Absolutely unbelievable.

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