The computer room at Catch Basin is operating normally again, the flooding issues having been resolved and the possum captured and relocated to a creek in southern Jackson County, Mo. That leaves only a couple of obstacles to be overcome before we issue the long-awaited Top 50 update. The first is a minor software glitch: incompatibility issues involving Cal Sci’s mainframe computer and our 1970s-issue Bomar Brain. We’re working on that.
The other obstacle is human frailty. It turns out that a previously dependable course rater — a 10-handicap Midwesterner with a degree from a recognized university — submitted corrupted data for a handful of European golf courses. Most of the errors are inconsequential. He reports, for example, that the new Castle Stuart links in Inverness, Scotland, is a 9-hole parkland course, when it is, in fact, an 18-hole linksland course on the Firth of Moray.
One of his findings, however, has distorted the rankings in an unacceptable way. The course in question belongs to the venerable Pau Golf Club of southern France, currently No. 3,676. Opened in 1856, Pau (pronounced “Poh”) is the oldest course on the European mainland. Apparently dazzled by its antiquity, our renegade rater ignored Top 50 protocols and awarded bonus points for “hundreds of beautiful hardwood trees” and “French-speaking clubhouse staff.” We have discovered, however, that he did not make an actual tour of the golf course.
Is that a problem? Oh, Mama! In the ball-washer section of the evaluation report, our man gave Pau a rare five-brush rating, calling the club’s Roman-era stone wash basin “the best crankless ball-washer in golf and the only orb overhauler worthy of installation in the British Museum.” Unfortunately, he treated the Roman basin as a dedicated ball washer — which it most definitely is not. Pau members use it to clean their clubs, to scrub their shoes and, for all we know, to brush their teeth.
Rest assured that the overreaching course rater faces severe sanctions. But I’ll need an extra week or so to correct Pau’s score and then recalibrate the updated Top 50.*
*To readers who wonder how a mid-ranked European course can impact the Top 50, I will simply point out that our list, unlike other course rating systems, is configured from the bottom up — i.e., we start with the lowest-ranked course (Ft. Meade City Mobile Home Park Golf Course) and work our way up to No. 1 (Askernish Old).
By the way, England’s Joe Lloyd — winner of the 1897 U.S. Open at the Chicago Golf Club — was Pau’s first head pro. (Or, as they say in France, le premier professeur de golf.) Lloyd also spent many summers pro-ing at the beautiful Essex Country Club in Manchester, Mass., where he was succeeded by Donald Ross, creator of Oak Hill (No. 8), Seminole (No. 14) and Pine Needles (No. 30).
Essex, one of many New England clubs yearning to break into the Top 50, will host the 2010 Curtis Cup.