Masters Countdown: Bobby Jones’s Father, the Great Flood, and the Eleventh Hole

Eleventh green, twelfth tee, twelfth green, Augusta National, early 1930s.

Eleventh green, twelfth tee, twelfth green, Augusta National, early 1930s.

The Masters tee on the eleventh hole was originally positioned above and to the right of the tenth green, not far from the seventeenth green. The hole ran downhill and played considerably shorter than its measured distance, which was a little over four hundred yards. In fact, until about a decade ago the green was at least theoretically drivable from the members’ tee, which was on the old line, although the shot was blind and called for a powerful fade.

Alister MacKenzie's original routing, showing the location of the eleventh tee, between the seventeenth green and the old tenth green. The modern tee is somewhere back near the red X in the upper right hand corner of the image.

Alister MacKenzie’s original routing, showing the location of the eleventh tee, between the seventeenth green and the old tenth green. The modern tee is somewhere back near the red X in the upper right hand corner of the image.

The hole was first changed in 1950, when the club built a new tournament tee, below and to the left of the tenth green. The change was suggested by Clifford Roberts, the club’s chairman and co-founder, and endorsed by Bobby Jones. The change was made both to lengthen the hole and to eliminate a gallery bottleneck between the tenth green and the eleventh tee. “Under the new arrangement,” Jones wrote at the time, “the spectators will have ample room on the high ground to the right of the fairway to observe play, all the way from tee to green, without going on to the fairway at all. It will be substantially the same arrangement as is provided at number 13, where everyone can get a clear view of all shots played without following the contestants down the fairway.” The Masters tee is even farther back today, and the fairway has been reshaped. The hole measures a little more that five hundred yards for the tournament, and when you stand on the tee it looks like a thousand.

Eleventh green, 1930s.

Eleventh green, 1930s. No pond yet.

The eleventh hole’s most conspicuous feature is the pond to the left of the green. Roberts, in his book about the club, which was published in 1976, wrote that the pond had been his idea; Byron Nelson told me in 1998 that it had been his own. “There was already water behind the green,” he said, “because Rae’s Creek ran back there. But not many people went over the green. So I told Cliff that I thought he ought to dam up the creek and let the water make a pond to the left of the green.” (Nelson’s memory that the creek passed only behind the green wasn’t not quite correct. The water also looped near the front left, almost as close to the green as the pond is today—as you can see in the photos above.) The dam was built in 1951.

There's that pond. Look out.

There’s that pond. Look out.

In mid-October 1990, Augusta got more than a foot of rain in just thirty-six hours. Rae’s Creek flooded, and took the eleventh green and much of the rest of Amen Corner with it:

amen corner flood 1990Hord Hardin, the club’s chairman at the time, said they were lucky the flood hadn’t occurred right before the Masters. “We probably would have had to play four sixteen-hole rounds,” he said. The green was rebuilt using data from a 1982 survey, and the bunker and the pond were recreated from photographs. The hole was back in play not just for the Masters but for the Thanksgiving member party, six weeks later.

The Colonel, Bobby Jones's father.

The Colonel, Bobby Jones’s father.

In the early years, there was a small pot bunker in the center of the fairway at roughly the distance of a reasonable drive, invisible from the tee. The bunker was Jones’s idea. He wanted the course to have a hazard that could be avoided only with good luck or local knowledge—the sort of seemingly arbitrary booby trap that is plentiful on the Old Course at St. Andrews. Jones’s father, Colonel Bob Jones (photo above), drove into it during his first round on the course, in 1932, and when he found his ball in the sand he shouted, “What goddamned fool put a goddamned bunker right in the goddamned center of the goddamned fairway?” or words to that effect. His son, who was playing with him (along with Roberts), had to answer, “I did.” The bunker was eventually filled in, though not till many years later.

Donald Trump Goes to Ireland

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In 2006, I traveled to Ireland with three other Golf Digest editors, and among the courses we played was Doonbeg, about an hour and a half down the coast from Lahinch. (A useful rule of thumb, when estimating travel times on older Irish roads, is to think of the kilometers as miles, and multiply by two.) In the magazine I wrote that, after playing the course twice, I wanted to take back nearly every unkind thought I’d ever had about Greg Norman, who designed it. Several of the holes, I said, were permanently memorable, including the teensy but murderous fourteenth, a par 3, which has a green scarcely large enough to contain a foursome (shown above).

doonbeg lodge

The only part of Doonbeg I didn’t care for was the club itself, which, in contrast to the course, seemed distinctly overdetermined. Doonbeg was created, in 2002, by Kiawah Development Partners, of Kiawah Island, South Carolina, and there was a powerful American-style screw-you quality to many of the amenities, both inside the huge gray-stone clubhouse (where golf balls in 2006 were selling for a hundred dollars a dozen) and on the grounds beyond the course, where the walls bordering the endless private drive had been draped with sod that appeared to have been cut on Savile Row. Well, reality finally caught up with the owners, and the property went into receivership in January. Last month, the whole thing sold, for about twenty million dollars, to my close personal friend Donald Trump, who subsequently sent a letter to Doonbeg’s (mostly non-Irish) members and apartment owners. Here’s the first part of his letter:

Trump letter

A downside with Trump is that he names or renames everything after himself. But the rest of us can continue to call the course Doonbeg, and I think the members and the Irish and golfers in general ought to be pleased, because, as Trump demonstrated at Doral last week, when he buys a struggling golf property he doesn’t fool around. No matter what you think about him, he has been extremely successful—and shrewd!—at cleaning up golf messes made by other people. So good for him.

Some of the en-suite luxuries in my room at Mar-a-Lago, where I spent one night in 2012.

Some of the en-suite luxuries in my room at Mar-a-Lago, where I spent one night in 2012.

Masters Countdown: The Plan to Demolish Augusta National’s Clubhouse

ANGC clubhouseThe original plans for Augusta National Golf Club called for two eighteen-hole golf courses—a Championship Course and a Ladies Course—plus tennis courts, outdoor squash courts, an eighteen-hole pitch-and-putt course, a bridle path, a couple of dozen houses for members, and, possibly, an on-site hotel. In addition, $100,000 was to be spent on a clubhouse—which was needed because the existing manor house, which had been built in 1857 by a horticulturalist and nurseryman named Dennis Redmond, was going to be torn down.

Redmond manor house, 1800s.Redmond was, in addition to a planter, an architectural historian and an editor of an agricultural publication called The Southern Cultivator.  His house had eighteen-inch-thick walls made of concrete, a material that before that time had not been used in residential construction in the south; Redmond called it “artificial rock.”

Redmond’s house, post-Redmond, in the 1800s. Redmond was, in addition to a nurseryman, an architectural historian and an editor of an agricultural publication called The Southern Cultivator. His house had eighteen-inch-thick walls made of concrete, a material that before that time had not been used in residential construction in the south; Redmond called it “artificial rock.”

It seems unimaginable today, but demolishing the old manor house wouldn’t have been a reckless act. Although the building looks imposing in photographs, it’s quite small. Much of its apparent bulk comes from its porches, which are nine-and-a-half feet deep and run all the way around on both floors, and from large wings added later on each side. In 1931, the building had fourteen rooms, but most were cramped and dark, and there was no kitchen, no electricity, and no plumbing. The ground floor had been referred to by the builder as a “basement,” and it looked like one. A consulting engineer, after making an inspection, concluded that most members “would probably be better satisfied in a modern building with all modern conveniences.” Few disagreed.

ANGC clubhouse old-001

Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones, the club’s co-founders, hired Willis Irvin, a local architect, to draw plans for a new clubhouse. A detailed rendering of his design appeared in the Augusta Chronicle in 1931:

The clubhouse that was never built, designed by Willis Irvin, a prominent Augusta Architect. I apologize for the appalling quality of the image, which is a scan of a photocopy of a microfilm print of a newspaper photograph of a drawing.

This is the Augusta National clubhouse that was never built. It was designed by Willis Irvin, who died in 1950. I apologize for the appalling quality of the image, which is a scan of a photocopy of a microfilm print of a newspaper reproduction of an architectural drawing.

The building was to have two large wings, an exterior of white-painted brick, a slate roof, several impressive chimneys, and a vast neoclassical portico supported by four tall columns. The most striking feature was to be an enormous men’s locker room containing four hundred lockers, some double and some single. According to the Chronicle, Jones had been involved in the planning, and the locker room was going to incorporate “the best features of the clubs he has visited.” There were to be nooks and corners in which golfers could gather before, after, and between rounds to play cards, drink gin, eat lunch, watch the action on the course through large bay windows, and converse. A separate wing was to contain similar facilities for women.

Early Masters competitors did more between-rounds drinking and smoking than they tend to do nowadays. Clockwise from the lower left, these people are: Lawson Little, Charlie Bartlett (the golf editor of the Chicago Tribune, after whom the press lounge in the media building at Augusta National was named), Billy Burke, Tommy Armour, Ben Hogan, and Olin Dutra.

Masters competitors did more between-rounds drinking and smoking in the early years than they do nowadays. This photo is from the second tournament, in 1935, when the clubhouse was still a dank mess. Clockwise from lower left: Lawson Little, Charlie Bartlett (the golf editor of the Chicago Tribune, after whom the press lounge in Augusta National’s media building was later named), Billy Burke, Tommy Armour, Ben Hogan, and Olin Dutra.

You can’t see much detail in the poorly reproduced newspaper image higher up in this post, but several of the private houses that Willis Irvin designed were similar to what he had in mind for Augusta National. (According to the South Carolina State Historic Preservation Office, he specialized in “elegant rural estates,” often “built for wealthy northern clients” who wanted winter residences in the South.) The Irvin house in the photo below, called White Hall, is in Aiken, South Carolina. It was built in 1928, and in many ways it’s a scaled-down version of what he proposed for Augusta National:

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Here’s another similar Irvin house, from Hartsville, South Carolina, built about 1931:

CokerAnd here’s the back of Irvin’s own house, in Aiken, which was built in 1855 but which he enlarged in 1930, by adding the wings. (He liked wings.)

Irvin House

Not everyone was eager to tear down the old manor house. Harry M. Atkinson, of Atlanta, who was part of Augusta National’s tiny group of early members, wrote to Roberts in 1931 to say that he and his wife loved the building and believed it should be renovated rather than razed. “We both were greatly impressed with the avenue of magnolias leading up to the old Berckmans residence and the planting around the house,” he wrote. (Prosper Berckmans, a Belgian horticulturalist and landscape architect, had bought the property from Redmond in 1858 and turned it into Fruitlands Nurseries, which by 1931 had been out of business for a little more than a decade.) “We think that all of that, including the house, ought to be preserved carefully,” Atkinson continued. “It can be made a perfect gem, using the old house for a club house. You could not reproduce what is there for any amount of money.”

ANGC old

Atkinson also said that he felt “a great many golf clubs” had been ruined by the construction of “club houses that are too elaborate and too luxurious”—an observation that may be even more apt today than it was then. In response to Atkinson, Roberts wrote that that the house would be hard to save but that, for financial reasons, nothing was likely to be done in a hurry. Still, early master plans for the Augusta National property included a “Site for Club House”:

plan showing clubhouse site

The image above is a detail from a subdivision plan prepared by Olmsted Bros. in 1932. The footprint of Irvin’s proposed clubhouse is shown in black. Just above it is the driveway circle, which still exists, and the near end of Magnolia Lane; to the left is the first tee; at roughly eight o’clock (shaped like upside-down rabbit ears) is the ninth green; directly below the clubhouse is the tenth tee; to the right are the proposed tennis courts. Here’s some of the same area as it actually appeared a couple of years later, in a photograph taken from an airplane:

aerial view ANGC 1934

The demolition plan would have proceeded if the club had had the money to carry it out. But Roberts and Jones were unable to sign up more than a handful of members, and therefore had to make do with their crumbling old manor house (and no tennis). Thank goodness.

Another of Irvin's designs--this one from Hartsville.

Another house designed by Irvin, also in Hartsville. This one was built in 1934, the year of the first Masters.

angc postcard

Masters Countdown: Tenth Hole

ANGC early routing

In Alister MacKenzie’s original conception of the golf course at Augusta National (shown above), the holes were numbered as they are today. MacKenzie’s thinking changed in 1931, before construction began, and he switched the nines, so that the current first hole became the tenth. Several writers have attributed the change to Bobby Jones, who contributed to the design, but contemporary documents make it clear that the idea was MacKenzie’s. His intention was probably to provide a better view of the finishing green to members who might be lounging near the big picture windows in the locker room of the planned new clubhouse, which Jones and Clifford Roberts, the club’s co-founders, intended to build as soon as they’d raised enough money to tear down the old plantation house. (Luckily, they never did. I’ll tell that story soon.)

ANGC tenth green

The club switched the nines again in 1934, between the first tournament and the second. This time, the reason was that the shady area near the current twelfth green, which lay at the lowest elevation on the property, was the last part of the course to thaw on frosty mornings. By playing the other nine first, golfers could tee off earlier. The new arrangement also made for more stirring Masters finishes, a fact that was recognized at the time.

Tenth hole, Augusta National. Looking back up the hill, toward the tee.

Tenth hole, Augusta National. Looking back up the hill, toward the tee.

It’s easy to understand why MacKenzie thought of the current tenth as a good starting hole. The view from the tee is one of the most enticing in golf—the sort that can coax a smooth swing from a hurried player who hasn’t had time to loosen up. The drop in elevation to the ideal landing area is more than a hundred feet—enough to make a thinly struck drive seem solidly launched. The fairway runs down and to the left and out of sight, through a bending corridor of pine trees. The slope rewards any player who can work the ball from right to left, yet there is room on the right for those who can’t. Golfers leave the tee feeling that they are descending into a different world—an appropriate emotion for players entering the most celebrated second nine in golf.

Early members playing the tenth hole.

Early Augusta members playing the tenth. In MacKenzie’s first drawing of the hole, there was a big fairway bunker not too far from the foreground of this photo. (See the plan at the top of this post.) When this hole became the opening hole, though, he removed the bunker, because he didn’t think a golfer should have to clear a large hazard with his first shot of the day. But when the ordering of the holes changed again the fairway bunker wasn’t put back.

The tenth hole was originally much shorter than it is today. (MacKenzie, in a note in the program for the first tournament, in 1934, called the hole “comparatively easy.”) Until 1937, the green was situated well in front of and below where it is today, in a damp hollow to the right of the sprawling fairway bunker. That bunker seems anomalous to modern players, because even well-struck drives don’t reach it and even poorly struck approach shots usually miss it. But in the early years the bunker (which at that time was really more of a waste area) guarded the left flank of a punchbowl green:

The original tenth green, on the right. The current green is well beyond it and to the left.

The original tenth green, on the right. The modern green is on the rise well beyond it and to the left.

Moving the green was the idea of Perry Maxwell, who one year later also redesigned the seventh hole. Maxwell pointed out that moving the tenth green to higher ground would not only solve a drainage problem but also markedly strengthen the hole. The change turned a breathtaking but mediocre short hole into one of the greatest par 4s in the world.

The Muny Life: The Beav, in Concord, New Hampshire

P1090355-001My Muny Life column in the January Golf Digest was about Beaver Meadow Golf Course, in Concord, New Hampshire—known to regulars as “the Beav.” The course has an unusual policy of keeping groups well away from the first tee until it’s their turn to play—because, the starter told me, “We find that people hit the ball better if no one is watching.”

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The Beav’s original nine holes were laid out in 1896 by Willie Campbell, a transplanted Scotsman, who had also laid out some of the early holes at The Country Club, in Brookline, Massachusetts. He was The Country Club’s first head professional, and then he held the same job at Myopia Hunt Club and Franklin Park Golf Course, which opened in 1896 and is the second oldest public golf course in the country. (It’s now known as William J. Devine Golf Course, and was one of the subjects of an earlier Muny Life column.)

Frederick Law Olmsted's 1891 plan for Franklin Park, five years before the creation of the golf course.

Frederick Law Olmsted’s 1891 plan for Franklin Park, five years before the creation of the golf course.

Campbell had heart problems. He died in 1900, at the age of thirty-eight, but he played golf till almost the end. According to his obituary in the Boston Evening Transcript: “Last spring, when unable to drive a ball more than seventy-five or a hundred yards, owing to his weakness, Campbell beat the best ball of two leading amateur players at [Franklin Park] simply by his marvelous accuracy in approaching and putting.” (Willie’s wife, Georgina, took over his job at Franklin when he died, thus becoming the first woman golf pro in the United States.) Campbell is memorialized at the Beav with an annual tournament in his honor:

That (Photoshopped) face isn't Campbell's, but I don't know whose it is.

That (Photoshopped) face isn’t Campbell’s, but I don’t know whose it is.

My principal guide to the Beav was Dave Andrews, a retired television news reporter. Dave swings righty but writes and putts lefty, and he was able to use his ambidexterity to his advantage with this tricky shot, from the collar of a bunker:

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Dave is an avid supporter of women’s golf. Beaver Meadow used to host a Symetra Tour event called the Northeast Delta Dental International, and Andrews served twice as the tournament’s (volunteer) caddie master. He and several of his friends also sometimes serve as volunteer caddies at women’s mini-tour events in Florida, where they go to escape New England winters, and at the LPGA’s Q School. That’s Dave and Hannah Yun below, at the 2011 Q School, where he helped Yun earn her 2012 LPGA rookie card.

andrews yun

Dave is the author of a novel called Pops and Sunshine, which makes good use of some of his experiences as a caddie and as a regular at Beaver Meadow. The guys who hang around with him have been big supporters not only of women’s golf but also of the book. This is Tinker Foy, who has been a Beav member for more than fifty years:

P1090440-001Tinker’s son, Denny, was Dave’s partner in a tournament that was underway when I arrived. Denny has the rarest and most prized of all golf tans, the sunglasses-stem line:

P1090331Another of Dave’s regular golf buddies is Russ Matthews. Russ sold his company when he was in his forties, and now plays golf a hundred percent of the time, Dave told me. He has been to Scotland a couple of times, and when he isn’t playing golf he’s watching it on TV. He’s part of the group that goes to Florida each winter, but Russ said he wouldn’t want to live there full time, because he likes the change of seasons. “I played hockey when I was a kid,” he said. “When I started, I just had figure skates, and I taped magazines to my legs, as shin guards.” He had a heart attack not long after I visited, but he’s doing fine now. Here he is:

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Every year, Beaver Meadow plays a two-weekend tournament, called the Beaver Cup, against a club in Phoenix, New York, called Beaver Meadows. There’s a golf club in Virginia that has almost the same name as my golf club, and one of these days the Sunday Morning Group is going to challenge them to something. In the meantime, I hope the guys from the Beav will drop by (after the snow has melted) for a round at our place.

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The Adventure of a Lifetime, and My Golf Buddy Johnny Browne

Royal County Down, Newcastle, Northern Ireland, November 11, 2013.

Royal County Down, Newcastle, Northern Ireland, November 11, 2013.

I have an article in the February issue of Golf Digest called The Adventure of a Lifetime, about Royal County Down, in Northern Ireland. In it, I mention that, before teeing off on the eleventh hole one day, my playing partner and I climbed into a jungle of of whins and briars to look for a century-old relic that a caddie had told me about in 2011: the remains of a small stone building, which the maintenance crew had uncovered during an aggressive gorse-removal project. We found it, at some risk to our clothing, although it was so overgrown that we couldn’t see much more than one corner:

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The caddie’s theory was that the structure had been the house of the original greenkeeper, but Harry McCaw—a past captain of both Royal County Down and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews—told me this past November that he thought it might once have served as the literal “club house”: the place where early players stored their clubs. When he said this, we were standing in the current R.C.D. clubhouse in front of a glass case that contained, among other mementos, the red coat that was McCaw’s official uniform during his captaincy of the R. & A.

A past R. & A. captain (not McCaw), playing the Old Course. That's the R. & A. clubhouse in the background.

A past R. & A. captain (not McCaw), playing the Old Course. That’s the R. & A. clubhouse in the background.

Captains of the R. & A. begin their term by “driving in” from the first tee of the Old Course. That is, they hit a ceremonial tee shot, accompanied by a cannon, in front of a large crowd of club members, townspeople, and miscellaneous onlookers. I asked McCaw whether driving in had made him nervous, and he said that it had and that he’d had plenty of time to brood about it because new captains are tapped roughly nine months before they take office. I don’t have a photograph of McCaw’s driving-in, but here’s a video of the ceremony in 2012:

The playing partner who accompanied me into the jungle to find that old stone building was Johnny Browne, a Belfast physician and a three-time R.C.D. club champion. Johnny played his first round of golf at Ormeau Golf Club, a muny in Belfast, where his father was a regular. He said that, during and after the Second World War, golf balls were so precious that boys at Ormeau would look for them by lying down in the rough and rolling around. Johnny has two brothers, both of whom also play golf. His younger brother, Tim, is a past R.C.D. champion as well, and Johnny said that, of the three, Tim is the most obsessed. “His wife is a Presbyterian minister,” he said. “She gives the same sermon three times every Sunday, and Tim is such a good husband that he sits through all three—although during the second and third he’s probably mentally reviewing golf holes and golf courses.” When Tim and Johnny attend church together, they pass ball markers back and forth. Johnny has a large collection, and Tim has a huge one. (Their older brother, Connor, “has a more balanced view of the game,” Johnny said.) Here’s Johnny during one of our rounds at R.C.D.:

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Johnny’s earliest memory is of the 1953 Irish Open, which was held at Belvoir Park Golf Club, in a suburb on Belfast’s south side. (“Belvoir” is pronounced “Beaver.”) “What I remember is Dai Rees getting on his knees to talk to me,” Johnny said. “No wonder I’m a golf nut.” Johnny is a member of Belvoir Park, which was designed by Harry S. Colt, and he once jointly held the course record there (66) with a good local amateur and Peter Alliss. He lives in an apartment overlooking the eighteenth hole. He is the honorary secretary of the club, and he runs the youth group at his church, and he is deeply involved in a non-profit organization called Macmillan Cancer Support, which he began working for when his wife, Linda, was dying of ovarian cancer, two years ago. Here’s Johnny talking about Linda and cancer care in a video he made for Macmillan last year:

Which Hacker is the Real Hacker (Real Name)?

IMG_0398The person I play the most golf with is Bob Hacker, a.k.a. “Hacker (real name),” on the left in the photo above, which was taken last winter at Pelham Bay Golf Course, in the Bronx. (That’s me on the right.) He is also the person primarily responsible for managing the Sunday Morning Group and its finances, and is therefore widely believed to be the chairman of the Committee, the mysterious but all-powerful body that governs everything we do. He is unique—or so I thought until recently, when Tony, who is the person I play the second most golf with and is the co-inventor, with me, of the Hybrid Lifestyle, sent me a photograph of a starter at the Black Diamond Golf Ranch, in Lecanto, Florida, where he had gone to play golf with his Atlanta friends, who are richer, smarter, and better-looking than we are:

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That’s just part of him, obviously. Doug Egly, who is Black Diamond’s general manager, sent me this photo of him in his entirety:

2007 Hacker, Bob

The existence of this second Bob Hacker suggests either that we are living in an episode of the Twilight Zone or that Black Diamond Ranch is a parallel universe of some kind, filled with eerie duplicates of people I know, but with better weather. Photographs of the Quarry Course—one of three on the property, all designed by Tom Fazio—do make it seem otherworldly:

photo 1 photo 3photo 2

As it happens, the real Hacker and I visited Tony in Atlanta shortly before he went to Florida with those other friends. We played golf at his Atlanta club, about which I’ll probably have something to say at some point, and in the evenings we played the card game setback with Tony’s wife, Teresa, who remained undefeated until we stacked the deck while she was in the kitchen making us something to eat. Anyway, the easiest way to distinguish Tony from his Twilight Zone doppelganger is by checking the trunk of his car, which contains so many golf clubs that he has to keep his golf clubs somewhere else:

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Reader’s Trip Report: Mackinac Island, Michigan

IMG_20130804_104132Jim Doherty, a reader in Chicago, wrote to me toward the end of the summer about a family vacation he had taken to Mackinac Island, Michigan—which is in Lake Huron all the way up next to Canada. (Mackinac, incidentally, is pronounced Mackinaw.) Jim is one of the guys in the photo above; the other is his brother-in-law, Mike. Because male golfers are essentially interchangeable, it doesn’t matter which is which. Here’s what the island looks like from the air.

Mackinac

Jim wrote:

Mackinac Island doesn’t allow any motorized vehicles. You ferry over with bikes, and there are horses and carriages that you can use to get around as well. The island had some military importance way back in 1812 and is now a beautiful spot to visit. There are a lot of fudge shops, for some reason. Anyway, even though our wives had chosen this non-golf-hotspot for our vacation, Mike and I brought our sticks on the theory that at some point our families would be equally sick of us (seven-hour drive) and be happy to see us exit to a golf course for a while.

Mackinac has two courses. One belongs to the Grand Hotel, where Jim, Mike, and their families were staying. It’s made up of two non-contiguous nines, called the Jewel and the Woods, and golfers are transported from one to the other by horse-drawn carriage. According to the hotel’s website, “The leisurely 15-minute ride includes parts of the island unseen by many visitors.” That sounds mildly interesting, but I think Jim and Mike were right to skip it. Jim wrote, “I try to avoid non-golf resorts that have a course. I find that they are usually full of very slow, non-regular golfers who are just trying to kill time, theirs and mine.” (The hotel and its golf course are visible in the photo above, in the lower part of the island.)

Instead, Jim and Mike played a nine-hole course called Wawashkamo Golf Club, which you can see, sort of, in the clearing in the woods near the runway at the top of the photo of the island. Here’s what the club’s front gate looks like:

Wawashkamo

Jim continued:

Remember, there are no motorized vehicles, so we rode our bikes, with our bags on our backs, up to the course. The inclines early in the ride were steep enough that we needed to walk the bikes, but it was worth it. Wawashkamo is a gem. No irrigation in the fairways or rough. Fescue-lined holes. Tiny hand-mowed greens in great shape, and tees that are literally about twenty square feet. I guarantee that the area rug under your dining-room table is bigger.

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Wawashkamo was laid out in 1898 by a Scotsman (from Carnoustie!) named Alex Smith. The club’s first pro was Frank Dufina, a Chippewa Indian, who played in the 1911 Western Open. He was fourteen years old when he went to work at Wawashkamo, and eighty-four when he retired, in 1968. Among the course’s unique features is its third green:

IMG_20130804_092803The putting surface (as you can see in the photo above) is surrounded by a thick fescue collar, which is called a Circus Ring. Its purpose is explained in the sign in the photo below:

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Jim continued:

Wawashkamo has two sets of tees, which change the length and angle of the holes a bit. It’s an easy walk: ninety minutes, max, for nine holes, then back on the bikes for the downhill ride to our families. The club’s pro, Chuck Olson, invited us to leave our clubs overnight and return to play the next morning, to ease our bike ride. We got the idea, from talking to him and a member, that the club’s budget is nil.

Here’s the clubhouse:

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And here are two of the amenities, which are available to visitors as well as to members:

IMG_20130804_104341Wawashkamo is closed for the season (I’m pretty sure, based on the website), but it will be open again in early May. Fifty dollars for eighteen holes, walking. Let’s go!

A Ghost Course in Southern New Jersey

The Great Trial, Blue Heron Pines East, October, 2003.

The Great Trial, Blue Heron Pines East, October, 2003.

On the morning of the second day of the Sunday Morning Group’s fourth annual autumn golf trip to Atlantic City, in 2003, Hacker (real name) gave everyone printed driving directions to Blue Heron Pines East, the course we were scheduled to play that day, but then drove himself and Harry, his navigator, to a course called Harbor Pines, which we weren’t playing until the next day and which was twenty-five minutes from Blue Heron. We had to shuffle the tee times while we waited for them to realize they’d screwed up. Then, after the round, we held a trial in the clubhouse—there were several lawyers on the trip—and sentenced the two of them to buy everybody’s lunch. Harry never fully understood why he was being forced to pay for so many bacon cheeseburgers, but everyone else, including Hacker, thought the whole thing was pretty funny.

That's Hacker in the middle and Harry on the right. Harry claimed later that he'd been represented by incompetent counsel.

The reading of the charges. That’s Hacker in the middle and Harry on the right. Harry claimed later that he’d been represented by incompetent counsel.

Blue Heron Pines East, which was designed by Steve Smyers, was one of our favorite golf courses, but in 2007 a real-estate developer bought it, and announced a plan to build an enormous condominium complex right on top of most of the holes. A year later, the global economic implosion helped to kill the condominium project, but the golf course remained closed and was allowed to revert to New Jersey. Earlier this month, during this year’s S.M.G. trip, Hacker and I drove over to have a look at the ruins, after playing a round at what used to be called Blue Heron Pines West. (It was designed by our close personal friend Stephen Kay and is still doing business, as Ron Jaworski’s Blue Heron Pines). Here’s what used to be the sign at the entrance of the East course:

P1100102And here’s the old driving range and part of the old parking lot:

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And here’s the ramp leading down into what used to be the cart barn:

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And here, through the opening in the trees, is what was once the fairway of the first hole, a really nice short, uphill par 4. The green was on the rise in front of that bank of trees in the distance:

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And here’s the patio outside the clubhouse. We held the trial on the other side of those double doors, in what was then the grillroom:

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And here’s another view of the clubhouse, and of what used to be the entrance of the golf shop:

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We learned during this year’s trip that the property has a new owner, who just received approval for a new condominium plan. That means, I guess, that people aren’t suddenly going to come to their senses and give us back our golf course. We like the surviving course a lot, but it would be nice to have both. And if the condominiums really do get built we won’t even be able to explore the remains.

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A few years ago, for The New Yorker, I wrote about another ghost course, on an island in the Outer Hebrides, in northwestern Scotland. You can read about that lost golf course here.

My Father, a.k.a. Johnny Persimmon Seed

Persimmon tree planted by my father, eleventh hole, Kansas City Country Club, September 28, 2013.

Persimmon tree planted long ago by my father. Eleventh hole, Kansas City Country Club, September 28, 2013.

Many years ago, my father planted two persimmon trees, a male and a female, in the rough on the eleventh hole at the Kansas City Country Club, where he was a member. Persimmon is the wood that the best wooden woods were made from, and he felt that every golf club ought to pay tribute. (Persimmon is as hard as ebony. It’s still used for pool cues and archery bows, among other useful implements.) Our behind-our-house neighbors had a huge persimmon tree, which dropped plum-size fruits into their yard and ours. My friends and I used to collect the squishiest ones and throw them at each other—another important application. My father never extended his persimmon-planting program beyond the eleventh hole at the Kansas City Country Club, but the idea was a good one and someone ought to take it up again—maybe me.

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I was in Kansas City for my fortieth high-school reunion, and I played golf at K.C.C.C. with my classmates Dick, Hinkley, and Pajamas. They’re still in the witness protection program because of stuff we did when we were teenagers, so I can’t show you a photo, but you can read a little bit about them here. I also played a round at Indian Hills Country Club, which, like K.C.C.C. and Swope Memorial, was designed by A. W. Tillinghast. The guys I played with at Indian Hills are much younger than I am, so I can show their faces:

Adam, me, Scott, Ricardo, Indian Hills Country Club, September 26, 2013.

Adam, me, Scott, Ricardo, Indian Hills Country Club, September 26, 2013.

While I was in town, I also made mandatory stops at Winstead’s and Arthur Bryant’s. Bryant’s is the world’s best barbecue place. The health department shut it down for a few days recently, because of a misunderstanding concerning cockroaches, or something. The sandwiches are so big that they give you extra bread, which you can also use as supplemental napkins.

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Bryant’s barbecue sauce, if you aren’t familiar with it, is unlike any you’ve ever tasted. New batches are aged in the restaurant’s front window, and the jug in the photo below may have been there when I was in high school. The dark liquid near the top is of unknown composition.

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I keep a case of Bryant’s sauce in my sauce cellar, in my basement, along with a case from Gates & Sons, which is Bryant’s main competitor. The two sauces are so different that you don’t have to choose one or the other. You can enjoy them both, or you can do what my wife and I often do, which is to mix them together. In any configuration, they are so much better than other so-called barbecue sauces that it’s almost ridiculous.

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