It has been a quiet summer at Catch Basin. The Top 50 staff — those who were not furloughed last spring — spend most of their time in the company cafeteria, sipping tea and reading technical journals. The place typically empties out by 3 p.m., the techies going to their second jobs in the fast-food industry, the golfers bussing out to 30th-ranked Hillcrest Country Club for a few hours of unsupervised recreation. The basement level of the Michael F. Bamberger Computer Center is a sorry sight; the Bomar Brain sits idle, surrounded by stacks of recycled fan-fold paper.
“It’s the worst I’ve ever seen it,” I told a local TV crew last night. “If we don’t get some meaningful data by the weekend, we’re probably gonna lose the whole season.”
Why sugar-coat it? It’s nigh on two months since Louisville’s Big Spring Country Club, site of the 1952 PGA Championship and the 2008 Rolex Writers Cup, crept into the Top 50. Since then, there has been absolutely no movement in the rankings. Every one of the thousands of courses we rate, right down to last-place Ft. Meade City Mobile Home Park Golf Course, is right where it was on June 24, when Big Springs replaced Pennsylvania Run Golf Course, Kentucky’s best clover-fairways layout, at No. 50.
“No change — is that even possible?” I asked one of our Cal Sci consultants, Prof. Amazon V. Hachette.
“It’s not just possible,” he texted back. “It’s very possible. You’re too young to remember, but there were whole decades when the course rankings didn’t budge. The Old Course at St. Andrews, for example, was number one for more than three centuries, and there was a week in the 1920s when everybody, for some reason, stopped playing golf.”
Comforting words. But as I told the good professor, quoting John Maynard Keynes, “In the long run we are all dead.”
Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup Playoffs are underway at 51st-ranked Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J.
Meanwhile, our crack staff of second-raters continues to file reports, even if those reports don’t move the ranking. Our Heart-of-America man, Dr. Gary Abrams, performed an exhausting review of Hillcrest [Donald Ross] and 51st-ranked Swope Memorial Golf Club [A.W. Tillinghast] of Kansas City, Mo. “They’re featuring your Sports Illustrated story at Hillcrest,” Gary begins ….
I was pleased that the condition of the course was better than last year, and it’s still a classic and fun. Swope was amazing. Having not played there for many years, I was blown away by its immaculate condition — as good as any country club. Uniform rough, great bunkers, greens were tiptop. Wow. Can’t wait to go back …. [Fourth-ranked] Prairie Dunes tomorrow …. Love to take you out to Shirkey Golf Club in Richmond, Mo. Think you’ll find it a “primitive” masterpiece.
Shirkey, designed by Golf Course Superintendents Association of America co-founder
Chet Mendenhall, received a 4-1/2-star rating from Golf Digest and is currently ranked No. 304 on our list.
And then there’s this from investigative reporter Bruce Selcraig of Austin, Texas, our chief links correspondent, widely-published writer and former staffer for the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations …
Hey, John: Just played Narin & Portnoo Golf Club in County Donegal. Liked it a lot, never noticed that it was just 6,000 yds from the middle tees, only 6,200 from the tips. Lots of gorgeous holes, a huge beach the equal of Portsalon Golf Club’s. An unfortunate caravan park marring #17 and the first tee, but, you know, Loretta Lynn’s got to live somewhere. Fun, challenging.
Bruce adds, “Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age and declining stickhood, but I now think designers who put everything on mountainsides and don’t let you see a natural place for the ball to go are bozos, while designers who want their courses to please people for the next 200 years — Eddie Hackett! — are to be revered. Ahem.”
And this last bit from Bruce:
I walked onto the Old Tom Morris course at Rosapenna Golf Resort at 8 p.m. for some evening golf and had giant fun. Very traditional old links, flat mostly, surrounded by large dunes. The evening light made it memorable.
If you’re keeping score, Narin & Portnoo, Portsalon and Rosapenna’s Old Tom Morris course and Pat Ruddy-designed Sandy Hills links are currently ranked — some would say stuck — at T117.