It’s no longer a secret. The first installment of This Old Course 2011 has just appeared in the February 21 edition of Sports Illustrated Golf Plus, and the course getting a world-class makeover is [drum roll] …. top-ranked Askernish Old!
“This Old Course,” if you need reminding, is the award-winning, decennial series that gives readers a builder’s-eye view of a complete golf course renovation, from the first member’s complaint that the greens are too bumpy to the last grudgingly-signed check for excavator rental.* The 2001 series focused on Bobby Weed’s total redesign of the University of Florida Golf Course, an original Donald Ross layout. Number 421 in the Top 50 before Weed’s do-over, UF’s course is now ranked 39th — possibly due to SI’s 16 articles on the project (which is roughly double the attention that TIME devoted to last year’s mega-series on Detroit’s urban crisis).**
*Full disclosure: I am the author of the series.
**I was also the author of the 2001 series.
The return of This Old Course has been met with the expected acclaim:
“Is it ten years already? It must be time to have the house repainted.” — SI’s Gary Van Sickle
“The 2001 series was better.” — Course designer Bobby Weed
‘“Askernish Old’ is the name used by a number of golf writers to describe the 1891 Old Tom Morris designed golf course on remote South Uist, an island in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides that was quite literally ‘lost in the sands of time’ and rediscovered in 2005. It has since been restored and as far as I know is currently the only course on the island … unlike St. Andrews you will find no ‘Askernish New.’” — Shivas Irons Society president Steve Cohen
There are subtle differences between the two series. The Askernish coverage will be shorter — five articles in all, terminating in late June. The course work is also scaled down. In fact, Old Tom’s ghost course will look pretty much the same in July as it did a month ago, when work started. “We like to cover our tracks,” explains Eric Iverson, the on-site man for Tom Doak’s Renaissance Golf Design. “We try to make it look like we’ve never been there.”
That’s a good philosophy to have, it seems to me, when you’re working on the world’s top course.