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Clearing Up ‘Dwarf Course’ Comment

A reader from Daytona Beach, Fla., gets right to the point: “You don’t know what a ‘dwarf course’ is? What a fool some folks are!”

The reader refers to golf architect Bill Amick’s remark, in my last post, that he was off to West Africa to build a dwarf course at an eco lodge. Or maybe it was an eco course at a dwarf lodge. But the reader, now that I look more closely, is Bill Amick. So I’ll let him explain the term.

I coined that label, dwarf course, because of my mother. She was a wonderful woman and I loved her very much, but she was short. For some reason, she was never fond of me calling her a dwarf. Hey, she should have known that life, like golf, is not always fair. For instance, she could not have become a member of the Augusta National Golf Club. Though that was not because of her limited vertical stature.

Having cleared that up, Bill comments on the rankings:

I was extremely pleased that Ridgewood Golf Club [formerly Chestuee Golf & Country Club] made it into your latest top 20. And I’m proud that, after looking it up, I know it by its current name. It has always been a rule of mine that a golf course architect should at least know the names of the courses he or she has designed. Not knowing would be almost as bad as the over-the-hill touring pro who, having put his signature on a course, had to be pointed in the direction of the first tee for the ceremonial opening round.

And I find Grand Reserve a welcome addition to your aqua-range list. I can’t think of a better use for treated sewer water.

Turning to the new, Bill drops a tidbit or two about his detour through Scotland:

As you know, I made it up to The Trump in Aberdeen [No. 51] to share the ceremonies with my friend Martin Hawtree. And here’s what really burned me. As my taxi was delivering me down the entrance road, The Donald was leaving in his long black limo. He did not wait for me at the clubhouse nor even wave as we passed on the road. I guess some Americans are just rude.

I did get a tour of His course by the Hawtree team, so my visit was not a complete bummer. I was impressed by it all, and in a later message I’ll attach what I write for ByDesign with my impressions of the course.

When I got to Ghana, I’m happy to say, there was no rude American passing me in his long black limo as I entered the property. But I did think of my dear, late mother. Have I ever mentioned that she was not a particularly tall person?

Shipnuck and Bamberger Putting

Shipnuck putts and Bamberger tends the flag on a course not unlike Royal Birkdale. (John Garrity)

Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but on Wednesday afternoon I joined my Sports Illustrated colleagues, Alan Shipnuck and Michael Bamberger, for a lovely round at 17th-ranked Royal Birkdale Golf Club. We were playing hooky from our British Open assignments, but Alan made it kosher by writing a broadly-comical yet deeply-moving GOLF.com column about our round. (Deeply moving when he describes me as a “premier ball striker”; broadly comical when he pegs Michael as a “crafty” links player.)

About which Amick, in a follow-up e-mail, complained, “All you golf writers ever seem to do is play great courses. And now we have to read about it?”

No, but I’m sure Bill will want to read this legend that was on the wall of the first Royal Birkdale clubhouse:

“As the earth is not meant to be carted away The divots you cut in the course of your play Should be neatly replaced by your caddie or you, With their roots to the earth and their blades to the blue”

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‘World’s Best Course’: Where Does It Rank?

“Save five or more spots on your next list for the new ‘Best Course in the World,’” writes golf architect Bill Amick, a Top 50 fixture. “That’s according to it’s developer, one of the world’s most humble persons.”

Filtering out the sarcasm, I infer that Amick wants us to take a look at the Trump International Golf Links of Aberdeen, Scotland, Donald Trump’s latest and most-ambitious golf project. But unbenownst to Amick, Trump-Aberdeen debuted last month at No. 51 on the strength of Travelin’ Joe Passov’s GOLF Magazine review, which was grudgingly favorable. “For all the hyperbole,” Joe wrote with gritted teeth, “Trump Scotland might turn out to be as good as advertised.”

No course cracks the Top 50 until it’s been rated by myself or by our ratings director, Gary Van Sickle. Neither of us, sad to say, has been able to get up to Aberdeen for a walkaround. In the meantime, we’re waiting to hear from Amick, who was invited to the grand opening by Trump Scotland’s designer, Martin Hawtree, who was celebrating the 100th anniversary of his firm.*

* Hawtree, known for his renovation of Royal Birkdale Golf Club and other Open Championship venues, has not been around that long. The firm, which describes itself as “The World’s Longest Continuous Golf Architectural Practice,” was founded in 1912 by Martin’s grandfather, Frederic George Hawtree, and carried on by his father, Frederic William Hawtree.

Judging solely from photographs, I’m inclined to put TIGL in the upper echelon of modern links courses, close behind sixth-ranked Castle Stuart, the eighth-ranked European Club, and 40th-ranked Kingsbarns. Had Trump not spent $155 million on it, I might even compare his Aberdeen track to the incomparable Askernish and Carne links, currently rated one-two. (Old Tom Morris designed the former for ten shillings per hole, while the great Eddie Hackett gave Carne seven years of his attention in return for a few expense checks, which he was loath to cash.)

“After Aberdeen I go to Ghana,” Amick concludes, “where I’m designing a dwarf course at a new eco lodge.”

Unsure of what constitutes a dwarf course, I Googled the term and found a YouTube video called “Dwarf Course 1,” which shows British teenagers running a playground obstacle course. “Eco Lodge,” meanwhile, linked me to a number of “green hotels,” including a treehouse lodge in the Australian rain forest. I could speculate on what Amick has in mind for West Africa, but I think I’ll just wait for his next e-mail.

Castle Stuart

Castle Stuart was built for windy conditions. Note the whitecaps on the Moray Firth. (John Garrity)

Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but Castle Stuart just concluded its second hosting of the Scottish Open with Jeev Milkha Singh claiming the trophy. “After three opening rounds of very low scoring, Castle Stuart finally bared its teeth,” reports the Associated Press. “A fierce westerly wind and heavy rain at times proved too much for top-ranked Luke Donald (73) and Phil Mickelson (74), who both finished tied for 16th at 12-under.” The AP doesn’t quantify how “fierce” the wind was, but I’ve played Castle Stuart in gusts of up to 65 mph, which blew my bag over, shattered my umbrella, and caused my ball to roll of its own accord on the back of the 12th green. That aside, the course was both playable and enjoyable. Castle Stuart deserves its sixth ranking.

It’s on to Royal Lytham & St. Annes (No. 132) for the Open Championship. Wet and windy weather is forecast.

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