Golfers are forever talking about tactics—how to handle this tree, that bunker, this swale, that mound—all things that dictate how they play a hole. They often sound like generals plotting at a sand table. With that in mind, we decided a year ago to build what amounted to a sand table for the four crucial holes at the Olympic Country Club, the site of next week's U.S. Open. By the time we were finished—with the results shown on the cover and beginning on page 56—we had almost called up an army of our own.
Last July Senior Editor Ray Cave played Olympic with the club pro, Kyle Burton, and with Burton's guidance selected the holes to be modeled. Aerial mapping photographs were obtained and Professor Desider Slavoj of City College of San Francisco drew cutaway views of the holes showing undulations of the ground in feet above sea level. When the rough models were finished Joseph Dey, executive director of the U.S. Golf Association, inspected them and, with the help of topographical maps, indicated just how he planned to narrow the fairways for the Open, which was still months off. Then Ken Venturi, who knows the course better than any touring pro, was brought to New York. With Golf Editor Alfred Wright he worked out where tee shots should land and the proper arcs for ideal drives. He also pinpointed the hidden pitfalls that will bother the Open competitors.
But the most demanding job of all fell to the man who made the models, Asdur Takakjian. Takakjian is an artist who, some years ago, began making toys for his children out of tin cans, funnels, bottle caps, thimbles, sink drains, nuts, bolts, washers and ingenuity. They were fine as playthings, but when art-loving adults began to prize them as decorations Takakjian found himself in a new realm of artistic activity, making what he calls dimensionals. Asked by SPORTS ILLUSTRATED Art Director Richard Gangel to use his dimensional approach on golf holes, he built a multicolored four-foot sample that he and Gangel gradually stylized down to essentials. Takakjian then went to Olympic, where he became such a familiar figure around the course that members would stop him in the clubhouse and ask how his game was (he does not play golf). Returning to his Tarrytown, N.Y. workshop and gallery—where the hallway lighting is diffused through a grid of coffee cans—he began construction.
There were problems. "I had to have something like 300 trees for the four models," he says. "When I checked the possibility of having them made out of Plexiglas I found they might cost as much as $30 apiece." He eventually came up with a liquid called Crystal-Cast that could be mixed with dyes to make any desired color. The design for a mold also bothered him, but Gangel had the answer to that: a filled-in whiskey shot glass of the sort used by clip joints to defraud their customers.
Several weeks later, just as we had always planned, Ken Venturi sat down to the models like a fascinated general and began saying things like, "You've got to watch this black tree on your drive.... Put a red circle right on that yellow knoll.... Let me have a piece of that wire. I'll show you how this shot has to fade into the hill.... That's perfect, perfect...."
Takakjian was amused. But then, he is getting accustomed to seeing adults play with his toys.