Tag Archives: St. Annes Old Links

Top 50 Transparency Praised by Founder

A reader from Stone Harbor, N.J., asks if we conduct our course ratings in secrecy. “Do you travel under aliases? Do you inform a course’s staff that you are evaluating their facility and plan to publish an assessment that could be damaging to their reputations and bottom line? Do you go about your business whistling with a smile* while actually twisting your knife in the backs of honest businessmen who are merely trying to provide fun and recreation?”

* This is anatomically impossible, unless you whistle through your teeth; but we do try to project a certain cheeriness.

The e-mail is signed “Diogenes,” so I assume the writer is Greek. And before I address the substance of his letter, I’d just like to say how sorry I am about his country’s sovereign debt crisis and for the shocking deterioration of the 7th-ranked Parthenon and other public buildings. Things look bleak, I know, but a century or so of austerity should square the Greeks’ accounts and get them back out on the golf course.

Anyway, Di asked about “secrecy.” My answer is a flat “No.” We don’t sneak onto golf courses in Zorro masks and capes, and we don’t hide our clipboards and cameras in gym bags. To the contrary, the arrival of a Top 50 rater tends to be a civic happening replete with bunting, ceremony and intemperate drinking. It’s the democratic nature of the Top 50, in fact, that makes it so much fun. What other course-rating system has gallery members draw lots for a chance to evaluate the par-3s? Who but the Top 50 would let the head pro appeal for a better score in return for logoed caps and golf balls?

Besides, if we snuck in and out of venues, would we get so much publicity? Not to be immodest, but my recent rating trip to England got almost as much media attention as the Open Championship at 186th-ranked Royal Lytham & St. Annes. First it was Sports Illustrated’s Alan Shipnuck, who took participatory journalism to a new level by following me around 17th-ranked Royal Birkdale dressed in my clothes. (“If you can learn about someone by walking in their shoes,” he said afterwards, “it has to be even better to walk around in their baggy polo shirts and Dockers.”) Shipnuck’s reverential report can be seen here.

Michael Bamberger

SI’s Michael Bamberger followed our Top 50 rater at St. Annes Old Links. (John Garrity)

Also following me at Birkdale was Michael Bamberger, author of To the Linksland and inventor of the E-Club. In appreciation, I let him rate the 200-yard fourth hole, where each of us missed an ace by a matter of inches. (“Challenging to the extreme,” he concluded, “but brilliant!”) Bamberger then popped up a couple of evenings later as I rated St. Annes Old Links (49). He wrote about it for Golf.com, as did Golf Digest’s Cameron Morfit, whose astute critique of St. Annes can be read here.

To sum up, the Top 50 — far from being secretive — is the most transparent of all the leading course-rating systems. Diogenes may not accept that, but I infer that he’s bitter about some perceived slight or life-destroying tort that he associates with golf course critics. That’s unfortunate, but it has nothing to do with us.

Unless, that is, he is referring to our sister company, America’s Worst Golf Courses (LLC).  Our AWGC raters do conceal their identities, and they usually prevaricate when asked why they are dipping test strips into the ball washers or taking core samples from the greens. “When things get hairy,” I tell them, “it’s best to lie.”

Different company, of course.

Glen Echo's 14th hole

Would Glen Echo’s “Dewdrop” par 3 present a challenge to modern Olympians? (John Garrity)

Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but the London Olympics reminds us that golf returns to the Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in the summer of 2016. That should focus attention on 51st-ranked Glen Echo Country Club of St. Louis, Mo., which was an Olympic venue in conjunction with the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. I played Glen Echo some weeks ago and found it to be in tip-top shape and fully capable of hosting the Olympics again, should the Gil Hanse-designed Rio course be thwarted by local politicians. (Glen Echo still has a commuter line running alongside its first hole, so transportation will be a snap.)

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A Open Letter to Trump (from Duke)

“John,” writes our chief Asian correspondent, Duke Ishikawa, “could you give this note to Donald if you have any chance to reach him, please?”

I don’t expect to see “Donald” in the next couple of weeks, so I decided to post Duke’s letter here on the theory that Donald is following the site closely to see if his 51st-ranked Trump International Golf Links can break into the Top 50.

Mr.Donald Trump

Chairman, Trump International

From Duke Ishikawa (Tokyo International News)

Sir, I have two things to explain to you, please?

1. It will be a year and half, this coming September, since the March 11 disaster in Northern Japan. More than two hundred orphans were born from the earthquake and tsunami. They are still having a tough time. So we plan to have a charity skins game with Jumbo Ozaki, Isao Aoki and Tommy Nakajima. They are considered The Big 3 in Japan with more than 200 combined wins. They’ll play at the end of summer because kids’ school starts on Sept. 1

The first 16 holes will be for $500 or $1,000 each, then double for the last two holes. The three pros will donate 30% to 50% of their skins to the orphans for their schooling. We’ll be talking to leading TV stations to dover it, and I’m sure the AP, Reuters, Bloomberg, the New York Times and many U.S. media will cover it to. So my question is, is there a possibility of your sponsorship, please?

2. Tokyo is a candidate for the 2020 Summer Games, and surely golf will be continued as an Olympic event. But we don’t have good-enough courses in the Tokyo area. There are about 2,400 courses in Japan, but more than 90% of them are in mountain areas.That means far from where people live. Gas is a few times higher than US. We then have to pay more yen to the toll road. One bad example is the DIamond Cup, the men’s tournament held in June. They only  had 6,839 admission for all four days. Because the course was too far. No business at all.

So we need a new golf course near Tokyo. But it must be Japan’s first Stadium-Type Course. The new course should be near Tokyo Disneyland, which is not far from Narita Airport. The name should be California Golf Park (CGP).We pick up all eighteen holes from famous ones in California. They should be the 16th of Cypress Point, the 18th and 8th from Pebble Beach. The tenth of Riviera CC. (I took this idea from the Bear’s Best in Las Vegas.) The main entrance should be named Goldrush Road instead of Magnolia Lane. The clubhouse will look like the capitol building in Sacramento, and one of our honorable members will be the former CA governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

I’d like the architect to be one from Crenshaw-Coore, Nicklaus himself (not with his sons), Nick Faldo and Jumbo Ozaki.

The first stadium-type course in Japan has a good future of business. We have more than thirty-million populations in the Tokyo metropolitan area, so it should be quite easy to collect 100,000 spectators for a tournament if we can provide enough facility. (The biggest number for a US Open gallery was 387,045 in 2005 at Pinhurst CC. )There are about fifty professional golf tournaments, both men and women, in Japan. Two or three of them could be held at the California Golf Park. Each one would collect more than one hundred thousand people. I would expect quite similar results as the Wentworth Club in London.

The Eisenhower Trophy will be in Japan in 2014. Then, possibly, the 2020 Olympic Game. The Presidents Cup in 2015 will be in Korea, but we have another chance to invite it to Japan, because it is a home and away game.Then not only Japan but also Mr. Finchem will be pleased to see his Presidents Cup return to Asia. That will provide big opportunities for the golf business in Japan and also the CGP itself.

We used spent more than $200 million to $250 million to build one course in Japan. But the costs now are much less. Japan is no longer Number One in costs. So if you build Japan’s first stadium-type course, you will be able to make a giant step for your real estate business in a new territory.

Respectfully, Duke Ishikawa

On second thought, I’m going to try to get Duke’s letter to The Donald. The first part, anyway; the part soliciting a donation for the Japanese orphans. The Tokyo stadium-course proposal I may hold back to show to my accountants at Catch Basin. It would be great to have a Top 50 course that was actually owned by the Top 50.

Morfit and Bamberger

Cameron Morfit (left) and Michael Bamberger were among the notables playing St. Annes Old Links on Friday evening. (John Garrity)

Top 50 on TV: Still nothing this week, but Friday evening I slipped away from the Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes to inspect the St. Annes Old Links of Lancashire, England. (Joining me were Sports Illustrated senior writer Michael Bamberger and GOLF Magazine senior writer Cameron Morfit.) Situated between the Pleasure Beach roller coaster and the more dignified neighborhoods of St. Annes, the Old Links is a modestly-duned and immaculately-maintained layout. There are bands of deep rough, but the playing corridors are wide enough to minimize ball searching and tame enough to encourage recovery shots. “These conditions are the sine qua non of links golf,” said Bamberger, who is wont to speak Latin or Greek when he’s on his game. “The English probably think of it as a working-man’s links, but if it were in America I’d rate St. Annes in the top one or two hundred.” I’d go even farther. I’d rate it No. 50 in the world.

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