Monday, January 24, 2011
A Good Walk Spoiled
What is a warm-weather fan to do in the unending dark days of winter? Read about golf, of course. Am I a golfer? No, but I've played on occasion and would like to play more. I also sometimes watch it on TV, but it rarely is satisfying.
As Mark Twain famously said: "Golf is a good walk spoiled." Excepting their occasional environmental degradation of nature (this has changed over the years), I'm a fan of golf courses. The sculpting of the earth, the taming of grass, trees and bushes, the thoughtfulness behind the design and framing of views. Golf courses can be gorgeous places to visit. If you get too emotional however, the game of golf can be a terrible burden, removing any appreciation of the art surrounding you.
John Strawn's Driving the Green: The Making of a Golf Course (1991, NY: HarperCollins) is a detailed account of one developer's path to creating Ironhorse, a new course in Florida. From initial vision, clearing of site, lakes being dug, through to completion, this is a book that really explains what it takes to construct a golf course. A non-fiction book, the characters are sometimes so far over the top that it is hard to believe they actually exist.
John Feinstein's OPEN: Inside the Ropes at Bethpage Black, tells a different story. It is a tale of how the USGA goes about planning and then executing a championship golf tournament, in this case, the US Open in 2002. Planning up to nearly a decade out, this particular Open goes beyond the basic problems typically faced by the USGA, as the Open was planned at Bethpage Black, a municipal course in a forest preserve owned by the State of New York. A classic design, the course had been mismanaged and not kept up, so the USGA needed to revitalize the course and make it a worthwhile venue for the Open. Add in the calamitous events of 9/11/2001, and the whole picture changed.
Both these books give a very thorough look into two facets of the golf world most people never think about. Well-worth picking up even for the non-golfer, these well-written accounts give the reader new found appreciation for the game.