What could happen in the middle of this story is that the writer might decide to hurl Morocco to the ground and ravage it. Nothing obscene, mind you. Just a gentle, loving tussle in a platter of couscous while his heart thumps ecstatically and the neckcloth on his Foreign Legion cap billows in the soft Marrakesh breeze. The thing is, Morocco grabs you here, right here, like a haunting song. But even before I went there recently on a golf assignment—uh huh, golf among the Arabs—I had been carrying on a rather violent affair with the country. Casbahs and French Legionnaires had done it. And harem girls. And Humphrey Bogart running a bar in Casablanca. What chance did I have on a visit? None, of course, which explains why I shall soon be rejoining a group of contented Berbers in Tiznit, there to enjoy the quiet life of carving silver gunpowder horns and perhaps helping tend the greens of the Robert Trent Jones course that King Hassan II is certain to have constructed one day in the Anti-Atlas.
I thought I knew what to expect in the way of golf in Morocco. I knew the king was building courses as if he had heard that Charlie Farrell was opening a racket club in Agadir. I was aware he had also been flying in Claude Harmon between nines to put some altitude on his low darters. But a golf course there, I felt, would have to combine all that was beautiful and serene about the St. Louis zoo and the battle of the Kasserine Pass.
For example, it was easy for me to envision this wondrous Trent Jones par-4 where one drove from a nest of cobras, aimed for a meandering camel on the right, drew it back between a couple of Sahara dunes and hoped to avoid being stymied by the only living palm in the country. The second shot would require a full carry over an old Nazi ammunition bunker, would have to bounce safely over a herd of sheep, glance off a mosque and come to rest on a putting surface occupied by acrobats, storytellers and clusters of veiled women.
In all of my stupidity, in fact, I have to confess that I didn't really know where Morocco was. I knew it was over there somewhere in Africa or Arabia, somewhere in the land of Yvonne de Carlo and Peter Lorre, in the land of dark, narrow streets, magic rugs, tribesmen and a lot of guys wearing tarbooshes and trying to buy a visa.
I had inquired of Claude Harmon, "What do you do over there besides get your jewels stolen and watch Sydney Greenstreet auction off your wife?"
Like myself, Claude tends to exaggerate, but he has an excuse, having devoted his career to curing the slices of millionaires, presidents and kings. In any case, his reply was encouraging.
"It's the most beautiful country in the world," he said, "next to the good old U.S.A. And it's just as friendly as can be. You're gonna eat it up like a drive and a wedge. And, hey. The king is my man."
Claude Harmon was the king's man, actually. For a couple of years Claude had been going over to Morocco to bring Hassan II's game down from 110 to 85. Claude had been getting permission from his two clubs—Winged Foot in the summer and Thunderbird in the winter—to go over and watch the king take divots in Rabat, Marrakesh, Casablanca, Fez, Tangier, anywhere there happened to be nine holes hidden inside the palace walls or tucked away on a hillside or creeping through a palm grove or seared by the Atlantic or Mediterranean sun. This led some of Claude's friends to invent a slogan for him: have overlapping grip, will travel.
Originally, according to Claude, the king wanted Tommy Armour because he had come into possession of an instruction book by Armour and decided to invite him over. Tommy thought about it but eventually declined, his friends joked, because he discovered that Morocco wasn't in Westchester County.
Claude, the king was told, had a reputation as the most accomplished teaching pro in the U.S., a man who had once captured the Masters (1948) even though he hadn't played in a single tournament all that winter, who could go around Seminole in something like even 3s and in his later years had taught such power brokers, statusmakers, Bob Hopes and patriotic Americans as Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon.