Add weather to the moon — bad weather comprised of gale-force winds and intermittent rain — and you would have links golf à la England and Scotland. The advantage of moon-links would be the lessened gravity which enabled the late Alan Shepard to lash a golf ball “miles and miles,” as he put it. Unfortunately, the sites for the British Open have a full complement of earth gravity, plus weather described above and landscapes as unrelieved as the seas of the moon.
But to hear the announcers and aficionados speak of it, you would think these windswept pastures are the golden isles, the object of every golfers desire. “Links golf,” as it is referred to in hushed tones, is not to be found any place else in the world, for which those battered about in the 132nd British Open may be muttering their thanks. So it was invented in these parts in the 15th century, derived of games brought from Belgium. So it is the birthplace of golf. Let’s be frank, the Garden of Eden was in the middle of Iraq, but do lovers make pilgrimages to it? Do they endure grinding airflights and bad food for the privilege of setting foot in it? To search for the plaque that says, “here fell the apple”?
Greenskeepers of treed, manicured, and well-appointed courses in the United States must be mystified by the link mystique. “Cow pasture” was once a derogatory term for unkempt, treeless courses. There was a time in parts of the United States with hostile climes that grass greens could not be grown. Oiled cottonseed was tried as well as oil-sand. On the latter, it was the caddy’s job to rake a path through the greasy sand that a putt might be attempted. Now, horticulture has triumphed and there are grass greens growing virtually into the northern tundra.
American courses are threatened not by gales as much as technology. There are balls designed to climb, to soar, to improve the amateur and professional game. And there are clubs that the Rules Makers are trying to limit in their capacity to send a ball three hundred and more yards from the tee. The COR or coefficiency of restitution is not a Jesse Jackson demand but rather the measure of how the club face responds to the ball strike and the rule makers have established limits. Otherwise golf courses would have to be lengthened every year.
But even the best equipment and the ball with the most boring flight cannot overcome the challenge of links golf as played in its birthplace. There are pot bunkers there so deep they have steps to enter them. Some of these sand-filled redoubts afford the only landscape relief available. So daunting was the Open this year that one under par won the thing and it was carded by a youngster virtually unheard of outside the state of Ohio who had finished 26th in the last qualifying school. So zany was the course that he bested veteran players who can post minus-par scores in double digits in major tournaments.
Yet, who among the cowed participants would be so uncouth as to complain that this, while a good spot for a Viking invasion, is not a good place to play the game? Who among the awed announcers would suggest that ten hours of this for each of four days is a grueling bore? Not any who thought to be asked back.
Kinda like dissing Madonna. Who’d dare?