Ranking the Rota
My favourite Open course is . . .
ince the beginning of time (ie 1860), the Open has been played on just 14 courses. I’ve played all of them at least once, and I’ve played most of them more than once, and in 2010 I played all 14 in a two-week trip. Here’s my ranking, in reverse order:
SGolf holes all over the world measure 4¼ inches (108mm) in diameter because in 1829 a blacksmith in Musselburgh made a holecutting device from a piece of drain pipe that happened to be that size.The course, which has just nine holes, is interesting mainly because of facts like that one. 14 Prince’s is the least impressive of the three Open courses on England’s southeastern coast. (See Nos 7 and 10 for the other two.) The Open was played there once, in 1932 – Gene Sarazen won, using the sand wedge he’d just invented – but that layout no longer exists. 13 Prestwick has hosted 24 Opens, including the rst 12.The course is famously “quirky,” but I don’t love it. The private parts of the clubhouse are way cool, however. Plead with a member to show you around. 12 The Dunluce course at Royal Portrush. I don’t understand why Opens, including this year’s, are given to Troon.You play what seems like the same hole over and over again, then you play the Postage Stamp, then you play what feels like the same hole over and over again, again. 11 If I could pick any Open club to join, I might pick Royal Cinque Ports, in Deal, England – because I love the course and because the members remind me of the members of my club at home. In 1898, one of them played cross-country from Royal St George’s in 32 strokes. He hit his nal shot through a clubhouse window. 10 For the Open, the R&A turns the first hole at Royal Liverpool into the third, giving players two holes to warm up before hitting one of the scariest tee shots in tournament 9 golf. Plus, the Beatles.
Royal Lytham has way 8
too many bunkers, but its ninth hole is one of my favourite par 3s anywhere, and the club o ers what might be the best overnight stay-andplay package in the world.
Ian Fleming was a 7
member of Royal St George’s. He made it the model for Royal St Marks, the club where James Bond wins a cheating match with Auric Gold nger. On a clear day, you can see France. When the wind is blowing hard, Carnoustie might be too tough for ordinary humans.The course has provided some of the memorable Opens ever – Hogan, Player, Watson, Van de Velde – and it’s just over the bridge from St Andrews. 6 Every serious golfer, at some point, has to play as many rounds as possible on the Old Course at St Andrews. If you suspend your preconceptions about what golf holes are supposed to look like, playing the Old Course can be a transcendental experience. St Andrews makes the strongest possible argument for allowing links courses to create themselves. 2 The voting in my head was close, but in the end Royal Portrush, in Northern Ireland, came in at No 1. Design changes eliminated its only serious weaknesses, the two closing holes. And the scheduled return of the Open in 2019, after a 68-year absence, is a hopeful sign ( ngers crossed) that people, given time, can learn to coexist. 1