No matter how carefully we police the collection of Top 50 data, shills for certain courses keep trying to influence the ratings. There’s “JH”, a Massachusetts businessman, who complains that The Country Club at Brookline deserves a ranking higher than No. 51. There’s a Philadelphia sportswriter — I’ll call him “Kernsie” — who pleads the case for 418th-ranked Stone Harbor Golf Club of Cape May Court House, N.J. And if you’ll indulge my eye-rolling, there’s a reality-show “developer/statesman” who insists that his golf courses, all of them, are better than Pine Valley, Augusta National or Royal Portrush.
And now a once-respected Texas journalist has turned to the dark side, wielding recipes in a sad effort to dislodge Askernish Old from the top spot. His name is Bruce Selcraig*, and his byline appears in all the top magazines. But he moonlights as a golf-course critic. If you’ve got a coastal property bigger than a fairground with dunes on it, Bruce has probably photographed it. If it isn’t fenced, he’s probably played it.
*Full disclosure: He’s a friend.
Anyway, Bruce is an admirer of the Carne Golf Links of Belmullet, Ireland. (As are we. Carne has held the number-two spot since the Top 50’s inception.) He plays there so often that he’s on a first-name basis with the clubhouse and greenkeeping staff and with many members of the Belmullet Golf Club. It is Bruce’s practice, after a round at Carne, to send us an unsolicited report on the course’s myriad charms, leaning heavily on exclamation points and adjectives such as “dazzling,” “tear-inducing,” and “unparalleled.”
On Tuesday, however, he sent this: “I got rained and winded out of Carne this time, but had a hot chowder with Eamon [Mangan]. I have written him just now, but do you happen to know the recipe or main ingredient of [Carne’s] chowder, which I like far more than the milky white stuff at many courses.” Stymied by his syntax, he added: “???”
Recognizing this as a variant of the “milkshake ploy” — as in, “Castle Pines is the best course west of the Mississippi because of their amazing milkshakes” — I wrote Bruce back, explaining that my usual lunch at Carne was the tasty vegetable soup and brown bread.
He exploded. “You have NOT had the chowder? You elongated girly man from dubious BBQ territory!” Still working the food theme, Bruce provided a link to his freshly-written PostGame blog about the 8th-ranked European Club in County Wicklow, which led off with the news flash that he had liked the salmon-and-prawn salad at Jack White’s Lounge & Restaurant.
Today, he raised the ante, writing, “This just in from Eamon … good luck,” followed by a document titled Blacksod Bay Seafood Chowder Recipe. The recipe began, “Make fish stock from shellfish shells & white fish bones, e.g. monkfish, cod, etc. Don’t use oily fish. Sweat off 1 diced onion, one head celery, 3 leeks chopped, 2 diced carrots …. And that’s as much as I’ll share, because the recipe was signed by Carne’s head chef (and 2005 Irish Chef of the Year) John Conmy, and I’d rather not have to defend a recipe-infringement suit.
Selcraig knows that. He sent the recipe because he thinks it will tip the clubhouse-food metric in Carne’s favor and put the Mayo links ahead of Scotland’s Askernish. To which I publicly say: “No way.” The Top 50 algorithm treats unsolicited course evaluations as corrupted data —at least until the best minds at Cal Sci figure out how to digitize monkfish-bone scores.
So Carne, even if it rules the chowder rankings, is still the runner-up among courses.
As for that BBQ crack, Bruce knows that Kansas City holds six of the top ten spots in the latest World Barbecue Ranking, while Texas’ top joint limps in at No. 14. And that’s a fact.
Top 50 on TV: They’ve had record crowds this week at the Frys.com Open, thanks to the Top 50. The host venue, the CordeValle Resort Golf Club, debuted at No. 50 in June of 2010, and has since soared to the 49th spot. Lured by our reports of oak-studded foothills, sprawling vineyards and soaring sycamores, Tiger Woods made a rare fall appearance. Was he impressed? Can’t say, but he decided to stay for the weekend.