- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
It's a role Iverson seems loath to play. Walking with the clubmen across the closely mowed pasture, he picks up threads of conversation from the previous March, when he had accompanied his boss, Tom Doak, on a tour of the property. To a question about the new tees he is to construct, he says, "We try to find places where the cut matches the fill and disturbs as little as possible." Quizzed about a schedule for top-dressing the greens with native sand, he glances over his shoulder at what passes for a maintenance shed—two padlocked shipping containers parked near the two-room clubhouse. "Do you have a little buggy of some sort to track some sand in?"
The clubmen snort. "We had a Cushman, but it died," says MacDonald. "Frost damage."
The fertilizer delivery system is more dependable, judging by the cows grazing on a dune above the 18th fairway, the sheep scattered across the holes on the sea meadow, and the ubiquitous rabbit dung. The greens are surrounded by white posts connected by a single strand of polywire attached to a nine-volt Paddock Master energizer; or, in the case of the 18th green, not attached. "They're not hooked up at the moment, but it doesn't matter," says MacInnes, stepping over a sagging strand. "The cows think they are!"
Scaling a trampled dune south of the 6th green, the three men step carefully around the cow pies and note the hoof damage. "More sheep, less cattle," Iverson says for the benefit of the clubmen. "Rabbit-eating sheep would be ideal."
But when they crest the tallest of the dunes, Iverson falls mute, taking in the southern view with a smile of recognition. Far below, running parallel to the sullen sea, a fairway squeezes through a grassy gorge and climbs up and up to a sheltered shelf in the high dunes, upon which a red flag is planted. Numbered 7 on the scorecard and nicknamed Cabinet Minister, it is the first hole of a 10-hole stretch as spectacular and challenging as any in the British Isles. Walking these dunes in 1891, Old Tom Morris had captured them in a single word: "Staggering."
Now it's Iverson. And it could be our imagination, but captain MacInnes and greenkeeper MacDonald seem the least bit edgy as they watch their visitor stare at the distant green. That's because in a couple of days, if things go as planned, their American friend will rumble onto the 7th green in his wee machine, lower the bucket, maneuver the joysticks . . . and dig.
Did we mention that this is not your typical renovation? The Morris course at Askernish Farm was abandoned in the 1920s, leaving only hints of its character in the rugged dunes. Several of Old Tom's holes were almost certainly lost to coastal erosion, brutal storms being a feature of the Hebridean winter. The physiognomy of the rest is a matter for speculation, because virtually no documentation survives. The current course, Askernish Old, is the pro bono work of Scottish links consultant Gordon Irvine and English golf architect Martin Ebert, who in 2007 produced a routing based on topographical clues and their knowledge of 19th-century greenkeeping practices.
Their course, while only an approximation of the original links, is "authentic" in that the holes remain as Irvine and Ebert found them. The tees, fairways and greens were simply mowed out by volunteers and have since been maintained without recourse to irrigation, artificial fertilizers or pesticides. Askernish bills itself as "the most natural golf course in the world."
"It kind of goes to the equipment thing," Iverson says over beers at the Borrodale Hotel. "Because while Old Tom's course would have been built largely by hand, he would have had dozens of laborers to carry out his instructions. Courses of this type were built by royalty or wealthy people. Resources were not an issue."
Resources are an issue for a 21st-century, community-owned golf club. Askernish has an annual greenkeeping budget of between $55,000 and $70,000, most of which goes to MacDonald and his guitar-playing assistant, Donald (Nollie) MacKinnon. To transplant turf or fill in rabbit warrens, MacDonald can call on part-timers MacInnes and Derek Yates, who are paid with a grant from Bandon Dunes developer Mike Keiser. But to rebuild greens, he needs a lot more. He needs the kind of muscle that chugs and bucks and spews hydrocarbons from a tailpipe.