The Walker Cup golf match will be played on May 15 and 16 at Muirfield, the course of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. The British Open Championship will also be played there June 29 to July 3. It is worth the while of any sportsman to visit this heartland of golf, but for those who have not had the opportunity let me describe such a journey and some of the memories it evokes in my mind.
Drive east from Edinburgh on the coast road and, after an enchanting 20-mile journey through, first, suburbia, then a mining area and, finally, farmland and seaside, you will pass through the heart of four golf courses into the villas, golf clubhouses and hotels of Gullane, a resort as dedicated to golf as St. Andrews itself.
But Gullane (pronounced Gill'n, with the g hard as in golf) is not our destination. A few hundred yards beyond the little town a private road leads off seaward, to some houses, a hotel that used to be a mansion house of great architectural distinction, and the clubhouse of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. It is a rambling, commodious, late 19th century building, with high ceilings over huge rooms, always maintained to a perfection that would make the most house-proud chatelaine envious. Equal care and devotion are lavished on the course, so that Muirfield, besides its other distinctions, is accepted as the best-groomed of all the championship links in Britain.
The visitor may at first have eyes only for the clubhouse and its treasures. Raeburn portraits (the great artist was once a member of the club), other paintings and photographs of past captains and personalities line the walls of the dining room and lounge. There are trophies which tradition has put beyond price. There is a case of last-century clubs looking as though they were made yesterday. Around everything is the aura one expects to find in the home of the oldest golf club in the world.
If the day should be unkind, which it rarely is in East Lothian, and the visitor wins the ear of Colonel Brian Evans-Lombe, a former cavalry officer who is now secretary to the Honourable Company and brings to his duties immense enthusiasm, energy and devotion, he can spend hours browsing over the old records.
From the dining room window almost the whole course can be seen, for Muirfield is unusual among seaside links in that it lies slightly below the level of the clubhouse in a great sweep of linksland ending in tumbling sand hills on the edge of the Firth of Forth. On the right lie the stunted, wind-beaten trees of Archer-field Wood (the Graden Sea-Wood of Stevenson's Pavilion on the Links) into which J. J. McDermott, then American champion, once hooked so many balls that he failed to qualify for the Open championship.
For the rest, apart from a couple of copses, there are no more trees than at St. Andrews itself and the American golfer may feel a little exposed and unprotected against the fierce winds from the west.
CHILL WIND BLOWS NO GOOD
It was chill winds and slippery greens that helped to beat the American Curtis Cup team on the same course in 1952, at a period of the year later than this year's Walker Cup match will be played. Chill winds there may be again, but unless the weather is notably unkind in the growing season before the match the putting surfaces should be smooth and consistent, which could not always be said of the Muirfield greens.
The course took a long time to live down the acid condemnation of Andrew Kirkaldy that it was "an auld water meadie," which is to say a cow pasture, but Kirkaldy's scorn was sour grapes over the victory of an amateur in the Open championship played there in 1892, and an Englishman at that—Harold Hilton.