Tag Archives: Bobby Weed

The Secret’s Out: “This Old Course” Returns to SI Golf Plus

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:

Turf cutting at Askernish Old

The work has begun at top-ranked Askernish Old. (John Garrity)

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.

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Riviera’s 10th: Best Drivable Par 4?

I was 999 words into an appreciation of the drivable, par-4 10th at Riviera Country Club, site of this week’s Northern Trust Open, when Geoff Shackelford posted this great photograph of the hole — taken, apparently, from a stepladder balanced on top of a carnival tractor. There are no people in Geoff’s photo, so I’m guessing he took it either on Tuesday, when the Oscar nominations were being announced, or this afternoon, when the threesome of Jonathan Byrd, Kevin Sutherland and Charlie Wi made the turn.

Full Image

The 10th at Riviera C.C. (Geoff Shackelford)

A picture being worth the proverbial thousand words, I trashed my comments and drove over to the SI Vault to see if the curators had preserved an essay I wrote about Riviera’s 10th during the 1995 PGA Championship (won by Steve Elkington). I found it in a folder labeled “Literary Gems,” next to one of Dan Patrick’s Q&A columns. Titled “Short and Sweet,” it played off a number of Hollywood tropes. “What a performance!” it began …

… On Thursday, the 10th hole at Riviera Country Club wore a beret and wondered, in a boozy voice, if “ze golfair” would be interested in some stimulating postcards. On Friday, the 10th played the teenager with rolled-up sleeves who offered you a cigarette when you were 11. On Saturday, the 10th put on a striped jacket and stood outside a tent extolling the charms of Little Egypt. And on Sunday, when the PGA Championship was ripe for the taking, the 10th wore a trench coat and tried to entice the big hitters with promises of a nuclear device.

A hole has to have a lot of personality to get me that wound up. The 10th at Riviera is my favorite drivable par-4, and I suspect it is the favorite of most modern golf architects. Bobby Weed cited it as the inspiration for his 16th hole at the University of Florida Golf Course (See “This Old Course”), although he was probably forgetting that the Scots were building drivable par 4s before he was born — the difference being that the Scots also built unreachable par 3s. (The eight seaside holes at James Braid’s Girvan Golf Course, just down the road from Turnberry, seem to have had par assigned by dropping numbered stones from a helicopter.)

If Shackelford’s pic and my purple prose don’t satisfy your pangs for 10th-hole trivia, you can pig out on Steve DiMeglio’s recent piece in USAToday, which begins, “Short and sweet — and plenty dangerous.”

Or is that the first line of Steve’s bio?

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