It seems to me that golf, more than any other sport, holds a longing in its heart for the way things used to be.
Which, for the most part, is a good thing.
In golf you can relive the past in very real ways—just take your sticks over to St. Andrews and play eighteen on the Old Course (better yet, play it in reverse, which is possible a few days every year). Or head down to Oakhurst Links in West Virginia, where they’ll lend you a set of hickories and a couple of gutties to bash around on an old-style course.
I guess football purists could strap on some leather helmets and trade concussions, but, I don’t know, that just doesn’t seem so appealing to me. Neither does nailing a peach basket to a wall and firing basketballs at it. (Hey, don’t forget to cut out the bottom!)
Furthermore, when golf tries to "modernize" itself, it often falls on its face—FedEx Cup, anyone?Heck, even clubmakers’ attempts to create better equipment get met with derision in some quarters. That debate actually dates to the 1800s, and it will go on forever, I suppose.
Meanwhile, guys like you and me can take pleasure in the ways that the royal and, yes, ancient game transports us to earlier eras. This issue finds history speaking to us in several ways. First is Bob Cullen’s piece on Florida’s storied Gasparilla Inn & Club, where the course and accommodations have been spruced up but the air of reclusiveness remains. Then there’s Tom Dunne’s remarkable story of "The Lost MacKenzie," about the recent discovery of an eighty-year-old design by the game’s greatest architect. Even Washington State’s brand-new Chambers Bay, our Course of the Year designee, has been conceived and built with the game’s roots very much in mind.
As a golfer, I find all this sepia-toned stuff very cool—though I will concede that nostalgia is selective. I’m glad, for example, that the stymie long ago left the game for good.
As if I could chip over your bloody ball!