My man, Horton, woke me this morning with a whispered “Sir? Sir?” and a gentle shake of my shoulder. Instantly, my eyes sprung open. My head rose from the pillow. The room was dark. The digital clock on the elephant table read 2:07 a.m., but I couldn’t remember if I had set the clock back before retiring.
Still whispering, Horton said, “Your instructions were to waken you –”
“I know what my instructions were,” I said sharply. “What do you have?”
“It’s Carne.” The two words fell from his tongue like leaves from a sugar maple. “I’ve sent for Dr. Eppes.”
That, faithful readers, is how I got the news that the Carne Golf Links of Belmullet, Ireland, had ascended to No. 2 in my Top 50 ranking. I was thrilled to get the news, Carne being perhaps my favorite course in the world.* But I was also annoyed, Horton’s reference to Charlie Eppes reminding me that the creator of our Top 50 algorithm and his bookworm bride have been incommunicado for months, having disappeared into central Europe at the end of his term as a visiting lecturer at Oxford.
*Full disclosure: I am an honorary lifetime member of the Belmullet Golf Club, which gives me playing privileges at Carne. I am also the author of a book — about Carne and other matters — titled Ancestral Links: A Golf Obsession Spanning Generations, available in trade paperback from New American Library.
It got worse after sunrise, when the technician who operates the Bomar Brain in our basement computer room informed me that Carne has actually been the world’s second-best golf course for some three weeks. “Carne passed Augusta National the day you were out buying Halloween candy,” he murmured, staring at his feet. “You, uh …. I mean, I guess nobody noticed. But we posted it right away.”
Exasperated, I went upstairs, opened the hall closet, and screamed. (The winter coats muffle my oaths.) When I was calm again, I summoned Horton and reluctantly fired him. “Thank you,” I said, “for your 28 years of faithful service.”
“It was an honor, sir.” He gave me one last gracious bow from the waist and departed by the front door, taking a handful of bite-size Butterfingers with him.
Coincidentally, I recently received a digital press release from Sorcha Murray, Carne’s commercial manager. Headlined “Now Golfers Can See What They Are Missing!”, it announces that Carne’s original 18 can now be viewed via “3D Flyover,” a bird’s-eye-view computer simulator similar to those employed on golf telecasts. “The famous Carne Golf Links course on the Belmullet peninsula can now be explored from the sky,” the release continues. “The fascinating character of each hole can be seen winding through the dunes on one of Ireland’s top courses designed by Eddie Hackett, one of his last courses and probably his best.”
Having examined the Flyover on the Carne home page, I have to give it a mixed review. The rugged terrain and spectacular scenery are reduced to computerscapes, the kind of low-resolution imagery you get with home-landscaping software. The dunes, clouds and beaches are generic. The great sandy blowout to the right of the seventeenth fairway is rendered as a grassy ravine such as you’d find on a West Texas course. The inconsequential pot-pond near the third green is depicted in Caribbean blue, as if it were an actual water hazard.
On the other hand, I have always wondered what Carne would look like from the sky, having seen ravens pluck golf balls off its greens and flap off toward the sea. Watching the Flyover again with my bird brain, it looks awesome.
Anyway, congratulations to all my friends at Carne. And if you should someday notice that you’ve vaulted over Askernish Old and taken the top spot, please send me a heads-up. I don’t like being left in the dark.