Friday, 15 January 2016

Bobby Jones On "Carrying Horseshoes"

Bobby Jones' favourite round was at Sunningdale, in England.  I was lucky enough to play it as a twelve year old with my father.

We lived for two years in Camberley, Surrey, where my father, an army officer, was teaching at the British Officer's Staff College.  In those days, I was really more interested in playing football, rugby and cricket; being more into team sports.  I missed playing ice hockey while I was there, but loved living in England anyway.  Camberley is just down the road from Sunningdale and Wentworth golf clubs; and one day my father and I took a drive and found ourselves in the parking lot at Sunningdale.  A member spoke to my father and, the next thing you know, we were invited to play the course.  I had no idea just how lucky I was, as a twelve year old kid, to play a course like that.

I have no real recollection of what kind of numbers I was shooting in those days, but know I spent enough time in the woods, and the heather, to ensure that par was never much in jeopardy.  What I could do, however, was bash the cover off the ball.  In fact, my only recollection of that day at Sunningdale was driving the ball onto a par 4 green that I seem to recall we figured had travelled 329 yards.  It's interesting, however, because as I was reading Bobby Jones in Down the Fairway, he talked about driving the 15th green on the Old Course at Sunningdale, which he said was "a sweet one-shooter of 229 yards over level terrain; which means all the yards were 36 inches."  Looking back, after reading that from Bobby, I really have to suspect, that the 329 yard drive lodged in my faded memory must actually have been a 229--or 239 as the card now reads--yard carry at 15.  It definitely sounds more plausible, given the equipment I was using.  After all, as an adult, I rarely drove it more than three hundred yards, so 329 at age 12 or 13 sounds a bit--actually a good bit--exaggerated--unless it was downhill with a gale blowing behind me;  and even then...

Perhaps I can be forgiven for not remembering the day so well.  It was, after all, almost fifty years ago, and a casual round at that.  But I can still picture that ball landing on the green.  Perhaps it was the first time I'd ever driven a par four green.  What's a hundred yards anyway when you're talking about the old days?  What is it they say; the older you get, the better you used to be?  Either way, this drive to whatever par 4 green it was provided some excitement for my father, who couldn't believe a skinny kid like me could hit the ball as I did.  I actually thought Sunningdale was easier to play than the Camberley Heath club where we usually played; and which seemed to me to have had narrower fairways and impossible heather for rough.  I don't know what I'd think now.

Anyway, after fairly exhausting that particular subject, I must get back to Bobby Jones, which was my sole purpose in writing this.  He felt that the best round he ever played in competition was at Sunningdale in 1926.  In the first qualifying round of the Open, he shot 66, with 33 putts.  That round caused quite a stir and is one he remembered particularly fondly because his card was all threes and fours.  Bobby wrote, in Down the Fairway, "I love a round with only 4's and 3's in it.  The implication of such a round is that you are shooting golf and not carrying horseshoes."

That Bobby Jones was something special.