Greetings ye keepers of the green!
I can nae begin to tell ye how gobsmacked I am to see what’s happening in in the world of gawf today.
Yes, I’ve been dead nigh onto a hundred years now but I’ve been observing … I’ve been keenly observing … and I have a few choice things to say to those who are practicing the art and science of greenkeeping today.
First, it’s bloody astonishing to see what your courses look like today. Even here at St. Andrews where I’m buried, they’ve managed to harness Mother Nature herself with irrigation systems, drainage and some crazy concoctions that stop the turf from getting all sick and patchy.
And the mowers! I was the first to introduce push mowers on a golf course back in the day. They were ugly, heavy nasty things. Now they just whiz along and cut perfectly. Let me tell ye it’s a helluva bit better than sheep, sonny boy.
I’m nae sure what to think about all the different styles of courses these days. My mind is right boggled by Augusta National. It’s like art! Everything is perfect. It’s not what we thought gawf was meant to be played on back 150 years ago. But who I am to judge?
I am fond of what I’ve been seeing the past few decades with courses getting grittier, more primitive and a little less artistic. When the good people at Pinehurst decided to go back to my countryman Mr. Donald Ross’s original vision, that started something important. I like what Mr. Crenshaw, Mr. Coore, Mr. Doak and that other Scot gentleman Mr. David McLay Kidd – who’s father was a greenkeeper too – are doing. It’s auld school!
Ye also have rediscovered something I was a big believer in a century ago: saund (or sand, and you call it). My assistant Mr. Honeyman probably was mighty weary of me saying, “Saund Honeyman! Saund and mair saund!” The turf loves saund!
But ye also seem to have lost your minds when it comes to bunkers! Why in the name of Queen Mary would ye make them so perfect??? As your Mr. Timothy Moraghan tells yer spoiled whiny players, “They’re hazards … don’t hit it there.” Exactly! Quit mollycoddling them and tell them this: Play the course as ye find it, laddie.
I must say I’m a wee tetch jealous of how well ye all get along these days. Back when I roamed the turf, greenkeepers didn’t share their secret tricks and such. We just put down more saund and the stinky stuff from cows. Now, ye can find answers to any questions anytime and ye all get along like great mates. I’m not sure why you spend so much time Tweeting like birdies, but it seems to help you keep the turf better so keep duin it.
Back when I roamed the turf, greenkeepers didn’t share their secret tricks and such. We just put down more saund and the stinky stuff from cows.”
So, good on ye for all you’ve done for greenkeeping. It’s bonnie to have helped get you started. But, as I lie mouldering neath the soil, I have had a few thoughts that ye may find some wisdom in.
There is giant power in habit. I swam every morning in the Firth of Fife no matter the weather or my temperament. It was my habit and it was one reason I lived so long and left a legacy for others. If I tried to teach my apprentices and assistants one thing, it was to build good habits and practice them every day.
Look around and enjoy the place and time you’re in. Remember the past is past and the future is unknowable. Tis a good life that’s spent in the present.
Innovation for the sake of innovation isn’t always an answer. The auld ways of building healthy soils and ensuring the turf gets fed proper are still good ways.
Ye seem to think I was only a greenkeeper and a clubmaker and a golf professional. People who knew me back in the day remember me for something else: being kind. I dinnae have an unkind word to say about others because I believed in the Golden Rule. Be kind to the people ye meet and ye shall be happy.
Treasure your family, particularly your wee ones. Greenkeeping is hard work but ye should leave it behind at the barn when ye go home at night.
Lastly, remember that gawf was meant to be a pastime. We invented the game to stay busy and active and have a bit of a lark while herding the bloody sheep. It’s not worth making yourself bonkers about. It’s supposed to be fun. Don’t eer forget that’s the real Spirit of St. Andrews.