Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Golf’s Final Frontier is in the Mind

Sorry for the long delay in posting here, I've had much going on. Here is a short essay written by a friend of mine, Melvyn Morrow, of Scotland. While I will admit Melvyn and I have had some disagreements in the past, I think in many cases he is simply misunderstood by many, including myself, from time to time. I think he and I are equally proud of our country's and our heritage, his just happens to be the ancient home of golf and mine the bus-stop of the modern game of golf. Sometimes that can lead to some interesting discussions. While I don't agree with all he says, I do hope his writing can lead to some thought among people and perhaps let them think about the golf course they are playing, and its natural beauty, and golf courses and their features are the prime subject in what I write about here. Enjoy,


Golf’s Final Frontier is in the Mind.

The Royal and Ancient Game of Golf, Scottish fashion is in my humble opinion the only real way to play golf. This also applies to Hickory Golf which is in itself the forefather of our modern game.

Before taken up the Game or even deciding to have a round we should first resolve within ourselves just what game it is that we are about to play.

(A)  Are we going for a ride in the Park, utilising all the current aids available (carts, distance devices in all their formats through to the latest high tech golf clubs and balls). The intention of these aids are to save us from ourselves, to minimise any effort or commitment to any real contact with the game. I mean do we really want to break out in a sweat and get committed to this mad game that actually requires the player to walk on average some 6,500 yards. Yet if you do not walk you miss half of the real enjoyment and information gained by noticing and observing the course, its contours and not forgetting Nature herself in all her splendour. Let’s not forget that little extra understand one gets as one by walking to the approach of your next shot – alas by riding up to the ball you have more chance of missing the cleverness of the course design and designers. Add to that you pay even more to hire the cart which does not offer the same visual stimulation that walking manages. Well you can relax with the knowledge that your payment has helped in the courses upkeep, or have you really; my guess is that your money may be spent in maintenance to the cart path reflecting very little on the course itself. What a day, what a round, yet you can’t help coming away feeling like a loser for you have lost most of the pleasure of the game. But then I suppose each to their own.
(B)  Or are we going to play the Royal and Ancient Game of Golf – Real Style ‘Walking while Thinking’. Preparation is advisable be it by agreeing to carry ones clubs or use a push pull trolley. If you decide upon a Caddie please make certain that any advice must be asked for not freely given (free from a caddie – that’s a first) as other members of your party may be none too happy. Golf has its own Etiquette, a great tool to control behaviour requiring a degree of courtesy to protect all on a golf course, as well as asking us to consider others.
(C)  Golf’s Final Frontier is in the Mind, never more so than when you are about to Tee off on the 1st Hole of a course you have never before played. You have gone about your little pre shot routine. The Ball is on its Tee, you pre check your grip and note the position of the flag and any potential hazard, now you believe you are ready. But you are not, did you once look at the course ahead of you, did you notice the contours, the natural and manmade hazards between you and the flag, have you plotted your route or are you a golfer that believes that on a golf course a straight line is the optimal shot. If you do not consider the navigation you may find that before you get to the next Green you will be seeking help from the Caddie or wishing you had a cart and place to put down your clubs, wishing you had access to those distance aids. In other words your game has suddenly taken a turn for the worst all because of a simple omission in your preparation. You looked but did not see. You forgot to consider the Designer’s input that little bit of magic called design, that Golf Course architecture that has been crafted with Nature to offer all the pleasures and pains subject to the way you decide to navigate the course. The more natural the course the more it blends into the general landscape defusing the clear path and perhaps focusing on the wrong options. Build a course out of place or on land not fit for purpose, by that I mean break it away from its natural surrounding and the architecture of the new course is clear to see, the hidden trails are not so hidden after all. You may even notice that your eyes are attracted to more manmade items further exposing the designer’s intentions.  Add the scarring of the cart paths and the overall cost to design and build a course on a poor location means that the golfer will in the end have to pay higher Green Fees. Golf is refreshing, it’s an outdoor game that allows gentle exercise by walking, distressing the mind and the body as you walk. By opening one eyes and mind to Nature wonders, tweaked in places by man, then the course is there waiting to see if you are a golfer or just a mere player.

Golf has always been a Walking and Thinking Game, it’s over the last 30-50 years that we have been slowly trying to make it easy for some of us. The fact of the matter is that No, Golf is not meant to be easy, it’s meant to be enjoyable. But that does not seem the modern intention, far from it, we are not making it actually easy we are watering down the game, changing the game, we are attracting players who are happy to ride, dislike thinking and let their distance toys do the work of club selection, just what is the point - where is the satisfaction. I am so annoyed and angry when I read of clubs that have NO Waking Courses, it must rate as the biggest betrayal there is in the History of the Game. To me it shouts of no commitment and certainly no love for the values and honour of the Game of Golf.

I was born a Links Golfer, my family comes from St Andrews and Prestwick, we have been playing golf from the 1700’s and have had a small influence upon the game in Scotland.  Please come over and play our Links courses noticing how the wind plays a big part in our games. Please play our great courses like The Old Course, Prestwick  Troon, Royal Dornoch, Cruden Bay and many, many more, but please do not forget the gems hidden away that are real honest courses hardly changed over the years. Courses like Machrie (http://www.machrie.com/machrie-golf-links.html ), Brora(http://www.broragolf.co.uk/ ), Moray (http://www.moraygolf.co.uk/ ), Elie (http://www.golfhouseclub.co.uk/index.php?page=ghc-index ) , Crail (http://www.crailgolfingsociety.co.uk/ ),
Leven (http://www.leven-links.com/ ), Askernish (http://www.askernishgolfclub.com/ ) and many, many more

We have the odd cart and you can use distance aids but why ruin a good day’s golf with toys when you need to keep your wits about you while playing on different courses. Don’t forget to leave behind your Cart and your Range Finder if you want to remember your enjoyable days you spent on the golf courses. Only you and that mind of yours will remember, so keep them in good order by Walking and Thinking.

Here’s to the Royal & Ancient Game of Golf, in the original Scottish style.

Melvyn
Melvyn Hunter Morrow