National Geographic : 1952 Jul
Playing 3,000 Golf Courses in Fourteen Lands ningdale, Wentworth, and Swinley Forest in England; the Royal Dublin and Portmarnock in Ireland. In the great Redan bunker at North Ber wick I learned, as many sadder men before me, that the best way out of this gruesome trap is to shoot backward, away from the green. On the links of Leith I stood where Charles I was leaning on his driver in 1642 when news first came to him of the great Irish Rebellion. At Prestwick I had reason to marvel once more at the record set there in 1870 by Tom Morris, Jr., and never yet equaled in 36-hole play. Using the gutta-percha ball then in vogue, which was 20 to 30 yards shorter in flight than the modern rubber-core, Morris shot a 149. With holes like the 17th (the Alps) in the way, I felt lucky to go around in 89 for 18. As I finished a round the chauffeur I had hired stepped forward with my sports coat and, with the glacial dignity of a Jeeves, as sisted me into it. This sartorial Man Friday, one Archibald D. Cowan, read me lectures on every cathedral, castle, and loch we passed; he tweaked my coattails whenever I tried to buy something he thought too expensive; he kept over the dashboard a list of Things Mr. Kennedy Should Do Today; he badgered golf clubs into giving me a rubdown room when it rained. But he had little patience with the inevi table Scotch-and-soda interviews forced on me by congenial golfers or newsmen. His usual comment when I reappeared after one of these sessions was: "Bletherin' again! Just bletherin'!" Yet Cowan was typical in his way of the kind consideration I encountered everywhere in Scotland. Even the heather flowered two weeks late for my benefit! Playing "Blind" Golf in Ireland Ireland, when I managed to land on it, was no less warm in its welcome. But for a time I wondered whether I would actually set foot on its emerald turf. Our plane, bouncing about like a ping-pong ball on an air jet, took three hours to complete a two-hour flight. From Howth, which was convenient to the two courses I was to play, I took a bus to Dublin. There I asked a policeman how to get a taxi. With a good Irish grin he replied, "I'll get you one, Mr. Kennedy." My jaw sagged a notch at such recognition. "You are Mr. Kennedy, aren't you? Sure, and your picture was in the morning papers. Now...tellme,sir,whatdidyethinkof the Spectacles at Carnoustie? Are they as fearsome as they say?" They are, and I told him so while he oblig ingly flagged a cab for me. Out at the Royal Dublin that day I encoun tered the most phlegmatic caddie of my career. I was playing a "blind hole," and my caddie stood on a hillock to give me direction. Lift ing what I thought a pretty good approach shot, I called out, "Am I on the green?" "No, sir." Disappointed, I trudged up the slope, but could see no ball. "Where is it?" I asked. "In the cup, sir." Ireland was my last port of call in Europe. I had no time to venture upon the Continent. There are, however, good courses to be seen there (the 12th hole at Biarritz is world famous), Scandinavia can boast many of note; Sweden alone has 20 courses of good quality. Many Odd, Exotic Courses The course which would tempt me most, per haps, is the one hacked out of the arid uplands of Ankara by our then Ambassador to Turkey, George Wadsworth, three years ago. Begging oil-sand greens from Near East oil companies, borrowing bulldozers, and recruiting local enthusiasts, Wadsworth (topped correctly by a gray Homburg) laid out three tees, three holes, and 13 traps in one afternoon amid thistles, molehills, and sandy scrub. Today the Ankara Golf Club boasts 18 holes and an attractive clubhouse for its 300 enthusiastic members. Another links I would give a week's wages to play is the one in British Uganda where ground rules specify: "If a ball comes to rest within dangerous proximity to a crocodile, an other ball may be dropped." Novel, too, are the courses in India where one's fore-caddie rushes to the ball, flaps his arms, and covers it with a red cloth-to keep native birds, kites, from flying off with it. But though I missed Ankara, Uganda, and Iadia, in other years I saw my quota of curious foreign courses. On one voyage to Central and South America in 1930 I played on fairways at ,atun made of land dredged from the Pan ama Canal; and, in Ecuador, I putted on oil sand greens. Because this Guayaquil course is flooded durir ig the rainy season, it has to be renovated annually. Its fairways are baked clay; once they gave dried out, fissures open up from a few in ches to a few feet wide. You don't lose a stroke when your ball rolls into one of these crevass es, but you do lose your ball. Two courses I played in Peru were almost as odd. At Negritos and Talara the fairways are nothing but one continuous bunker; you sink into sand at each step. The balls are painted black, don't roll at all, and must be lifted to the surface after each shot. On one hole you have to carry a green 150 yards away which is 75 feet above the tee.