Editor’s diary: November
In the space of a few days last month I had the pleasure of playing two of the most highly regarded courses in the British Isles. What a contrast Woodhall Spa and Old Head provided.
One is hidden away in rural Lincolnshire, surrounded by flat farmland. The other is clinging on to the cliffs on the southernmost tip of County Cork in Ireland.
One dates back to the early 20th century while the other is yet to celebrate its 20th birthday. One relies largely on its local membership while the other has a business model that is almost entirely dependent on American visitors.
One is special because of its firm, springy turf, penal bunkering and unrelenting excellence. The other boasts some of the most jaw-dropping spectacles in the world of golf.
One is defined by consistency and subtlety; the other by a selection of holes that you will never forget playing. You get the idea.
I loved playing both but it made me smile both as an avid consumer of Top 100 lists all my life and latterly as somebody who has put his name to them.
How can you possibly say, I wondered, that one is definitively better or more important than another. How could you express anything beyond a preference for one style of golf or the other?
Apart from both being exceptional golfing experiences, one of the few characteristics they do share is the quest for continual improvement.
To that end, Tom Doak is currently advising Woodhall Spa on what steps they could take to ensure the course retains its special heathland characteristics. I noticed when I was there how some of the fairways on the back nine have become shady corridors as trees have grown over the years. When that happens, it is always a struggle to prevent the turf becoming soft.
Meanwhile, over in County Cork, Old Head’s designer Ron Kirby is frequently on site to suggest ways in which the course can be improved, not least because the combination of exceptional weather and topography make it an ever-changing landscape. When Old Head closes at this stage of each year, Kirby is invariably on hand to oversee the latest batch of work. Come April and the course’s re-opening, they are ready to go again.
I’m sure that both courses are in safe hands.
He subject of Tiger Woods, like no other in golf, attracts ill-informed speculation and, worse still, that unedifying I told-you-so brand of gloating that his detractors so seem to relish.
Personally, I was sad to see him pull out of his latest return to action but remain optimistic that we haven’t seen the last of him as a competitive golfer.