For Our Next Trick... Think Carnoustie was tough? Wait'll you see what the R&A has up its sleeve

July 25, 1999

Welcome to Royal St. Gorge, Sir Percival. It's an honor to have
you and your fellow Royal & Ancient members here to inspect our
links as a site for a future British Open."

"Yes, well, you can understand our need for new venues after
last week's near-disaster at Carnoustie. Who would have dreamed
that a Frenchman would almost win our championship and that only
six over par would be good enough for the playoff? Thank
goodness one of our blokes won. But overall it was a bad show.
Bloody awful."

"Not your fault, Sir Purcival. How would you know the wind would
never exceed 35 miles an hour? Left the course defenseless,
especially the 250-yard par-3 16th. I hear someone actually made
a birdie there. But may I be so bold as to suggest that you
might have narrowed the fairways a tad? I mean, 14 yards is much
wider than Old Tom Morris would have permitted."

"I suppose you're right, but that's over with now. We're here to
inspect Royal St. Gorge to see if it's up to snuff. Sorry we
caught you on a rainy day."

"Rains here every day--that's one of the charms of Royal St.
Gorge--and when the wind whips in off the Bay of Fae, the
temperature in July can dip into the 40s. We get fog, too.
Remember Angus McClargnie, who once finished 85th in the Open?
He was level par on the inward nine in our club championship
back in '78 when he hit a two-iron 145 yards into a gale at the
14th and wound up two feet from the pin."

"Good God. Sank his putt, did he?"

"Never had a chance. Turns out that in the fog he had hit to the
nearby 4th green. Bit of bad luck. But that's Royal St. Gorge
for you, lots of wind, rain and fog."

"Just the sort of thing we want. How long is the course?"

"From the tips it's only 7,292 yards, but we can easily lengthen
it to 7,553 by placing several tees back in an adjoining sheep
meadow. That would give us three par-5s of more than 625 yards,
a record."

"I see on the scorecard that par is 72."

"For members, Sir Purcival, for members. For an Open, I suggest
we make it a par 70. And during the month leading up to the
Open, we'll keep the mowers in the shed. We favor knee-high
rough. Gives a player a choice between a penalty stroke and a
sprained wrist. If we intend to host a proper championship, we
must crush the players' spirits before they tee off."

"Good thought. Now where is the 1st fairway?"

"You're standing on it, Sir Purcival."

"I thought this was a footpath."

"Well, actually, it is. But you'll notice how it widens so that
down in the landing area there's room for a player and his
caddie to walk side by side through the heavy gorse."

"That crater over there--ground under repair, eh? I imagine
that's where one of the Jerries' bombs landed back in '41. Lots
of those still around."

"That's not a crater, Sir Purcival, that's Hugh's Bunker. Been
there since the Norman Conquest, and I don't mean Greg, heh,
heh. Sorry. Legend has it that during a tournament in 1890, an
innkeeper named Hugh Kirkladdy backed into it while trying to
get a line on his putt. The fall killed him. It's said the
greenkeeper simply dumped a load of sand on him, and play
continued."

"Why is a flagstick on that knob over there?"

"The knob is part of the green, sir. All our greens have a few.
Put the cup on one of them and it's drumkillebo, which is what
we call triple bogey here at the club. There's one setting on
the 18th green we call the Devil's Horn. Putts to the right
break right. To the left break left. Short ones roll back. Get
to the cup and the ball rolls over."

"In other words, a putt has to be just right."

"There is no just right. Six putts is the norm. Most of our
members head straight to the taproom when they reach the green. A
little toddy to ward off pneumonia."

"Well, that sounds delicious. Absolutely what we're looking for.
Now I'll let you in on a little secret. Our gentlemen friends
from over the pond, that is, the USGA, are always saying how
they are seeking to identify the best player. Well, we'd like to
go one step further, and I think Royal St. Gorge is the place to
do it. We want to put on a championship that nobody can win."

COLOR ILLUSTRATION: JOE CIARDIELLO

"If we intend to host a proper championship, we must crush the
players' spirits before they tee off."

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)