What can be cooler than to look out your window and see Lookout Mountain? Granted, it was foggy this morning, and the mountain resembled a black-and-white graph of recent stock prices. And not to get snippy about it, but Lookout Mountain is just a tree-covered brow of rock that wouldn’t draw a glance in the Rockies. But hey, it’s always great to have a room with a view. Thank you, Fairfield Inn.
Why am I in Chattanooga? Well, I’m here, first of all, to take photographs of the Pete Dye-designed Honors Course, just up the road in Ooltewah. Tennessee’s homage to amateur golf is currently No. 74 on the Top 50, and if certain Confederate Flag-waving members of our staff get their way, it could climb to as high as No. 71. (Don’t read anything political into that last remark. They belong to a Civil War re-enactment troupe.) I’m also here to type a few lines about the NCAA Championship for Sports Illustrated Golf Plus.
Personally, I’d rather do my course photography on a day when the facility is closed. Players and spectators, with their gaudy golf bags and tie-dyed apparel, tend to jazz up the landscape and draw the eye away from a course’s strategic elements. That’s why your high-end, hundred-dollar-a-day course photographers shoot early in the morning and deep into the gloaming — to get that “nobody has set foot on this course since it opened” look. Sometimes I take it even farther and insist that the greenkeeping crew remove all the tee markers, flagsticks and ball-washers and, if possible, refrain from mowing the course for a week.
Needless to say, I didn’t get that kind of cooperation today, with four teams of collegiate golfers duking it out on the Honors Course. But tomorrow, with the University of Oregon and Florida State University sent packing, I’ll have half as many obstacles in front of my lens. And come Monday, the Honors Course will return to its pristine state.
Speaking of turf-trampling interlopers, the Spanish explorer, Hernando DeSoto, is supposed to have paused here on his way to Detroit. I can understand why; the Honors Course has five charming guest houses that can accommodate up to ten foursomes, not counting their horses.
Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but I’m personally fond of Jack Nicklaus’s Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, site of the Memorial. I always remind people that the late Desmond Muirhead, the Salvador Dali of golf, was Jack’s co-designer on this project, and that Muirhead remains a Top 50 fixture for his work on the Mission Hills Tournament Course, No. 44. As for The Memorial’s quest to become the “fifth major” — well, that trial balloon floated down to Ponte Vedra many years ago. “Golf will never have a fifth major,” Gary Player explained back in 1978. “You can’t start up a major today that Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen never had a chance to win.”