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Olympic Golf A Boom For Brazil?

Olympic golf a boom for Brazil?

Some wrung their hands when Rio de Janeiro was awarded the 2016 Olympics on Oct. 2, bemoaning the lack of great golf courses. That’s a glass-half-empty approach. Exactly a week later, when the International Olympic Committee voted to let golf back into the Games, others were scurrying to find maps of Brazil. That’s a glass-half-full approach. Seven years is a long time in which to build a great golf courseor lots of them.

There are more riches than merely Olympic gold in those hills around Rio and in the lush Brazilian countryside within commuting distance of the host city. Just think of the pitch a designer can make to potential partners: Put up the money and own a facility with instant credibility seen by the world on TV during the Summer Games. How would “Site of 2016 Olympic Golf” look on your scorecard?

When people say including golf in the Olympics will help grow the game, Brazil is exactly the type of place they have in mind, a country of nearly 200 million people, but with only about 25,000 golfers. The massive South American nation is not yet a hot-bed of course construction as are China, Vietnam, Malaysia and parts of the Caribbean. But Brazil has gotten some design attentionand now it will get more.

Jack Nicklaus Design, for example, has projects under construction at Piaui, several hundred miles from Rio, and Sao Paulo, 200 miles south of Rio on the coast. While the mountains around Rio are not the best terrain for golf courses, it is not unprecedented to have an Olympic venue hundreds of miles from the host city. (During last year’s Summer Olympics in Beijing, the equestrian events were held in Hong Kong.)

Greg Norman is also among those who builds courses worldwide, as is the ubiquitous IMG Golf Course Services, which has constructed courses around the globe. Tom Doak, with Pacific Dunes and Sebonack GC among his credits, has already established contacts in Brazil.

And then there is the PGA Tour, which has 19 TPC courses and licenses the name to 12 others, including TPC Cancun in Mexico. What if it built a 36-hole facility in Brazil with a learning center and added a grow-the-game First Tee component to the package? Officials in Ponte Vedra Beach say it’s too early for such speculation, but they don’t discourage it.

The Olympic golf vote was 63-27 with two abstentions, easily more than the majority needed. The competition will be 72-hole stroke play with 60 men and 60 women. The top 15 on the world rankings will qualify. Selection then goes down the world ranking with no more than two players from any one country. Currently, that system would yield a field representing more than 30 countries.

On Oct. 2, the question was: Where will they play Olympic golf in Rio, since there are no deserving courses? Five years from now the question may well be: Where are they going to play Olympic golf in Brazil, since there are so many deserving courses? And that’s part of why the Olympics connection is good for golf.

Fairest of them all

As Vijay Singh played his final practice round last Wednesday evening, the chill in the air made it feel like January instead of June. But there was something else wrong with this picture. Off to the left of the 12th fairway at Olympia Fields CC, a maintenance worker wielding an electric saw was cutting down tree limbs. This will be a nice championship course, someone mentioned, when it’s finished.

Not until Sunday at dusk was this venue somewhat validated as a long-shot choice for the 103rd U.S. Open. Jim Furyk, one of the world’s best golfers, won and he did so without destroying all the world’s golf records. Only four men broke par after the sun arrived and stayed. Olympia Fields has two courses, and it was as though both were in play. But by then, this place had been cast as so under-whelming that folks around Chicago, city of broad shoulders and narrow trophy cases, pondered the imponderable: What will happen first, our next World Series or our next U.S. Open? Some might vote for (c) neither.

“And to think a year ago I was on death row,” quipped Tom Meeks, the USGA’s senior director of rules and competitions. Indeed, after the second round at barely playable Bethpage Black in 2002, his name was mud. But last week, this Open’s complaint department was closed. As golfers arrived, they noticed relatively benign rough and fairways that were firmer than the greens. When the wind blew, which wasn’t often, it helped on the longer holes. Ernie Els, a bomber who’s won two Opens, said it was great because a finesse course would increase the number of contenders. Lee Janzen, who won two Opens without hitting the long ball, theorized that maybe the USGA had taken kind and gentle pills after Bethpage. Even Tiger Woods, who never challenged, praised Olympia Fields.

“It’s like we’ve done something wrong because nobody’s mad,” continued Meeks. Golfers at U.S. Opens generally regard their hotels as a welcome nightly retreat. Not here. In the remote south suburbs, multi-millionaire players stayed at chains they haven’t patronized since they were poor. “Almost ate my bar of soap. I thought it was a wafer,” said one superstar who couldn’t wait to get to the course every day because the clubhouse buffet was fabulous. Even swing instructors talked nice. “Fairest Open setup I’ve ever seen,” said Butch Harmon. Everybody was happy, except maybe the members.

Shades of the last Chicago-area Open in 1990 at Medinah CC, where players returned horrified from practice rounds, worried they might not break 80. So the USGA shaved the rough, it rained before the first round and it was bombs away. The USGA party line is that it became disenchanted with Medinah. The club’s version is different. For several reasons–several million reasons–Medinah signed on with the PGA of America for its major and Ryder Cup. Medinah thought it had a strong chance for the 2003 Ryder Cup until, to the surprise of many, the USGA awarded the 2003 Open to Olympia Fields, which hadn’t hosted the event since 1928. Hmm. Buzz Taylor, a Chicagoan, was the USGA president then, and you don’t put an Open and a Ryder Cup in the same region, same season. So the 2003 Ryder Cup–delayed to 2004 by the 9/11 terrorist attacks–went to Detroit. Medinah got the 2012 Ryder Cup, and the 2006 PGA Championship. The USGA, if it wants to play in Chicago, has few alternatives.

“This is a better course than Medinah,” Meeks concluded. “It’s the best course in this area available for an Open. If anybody can tell me how to make Olympia Fields tougher, given the unusual weather we had, tell me.” Meeks sees no reason why Olympia Fields can’t be on the “long list” of Open stops, along with “short-list” standbys such as Pebble Beach–which, by the way, is the only Open course where 12 under par was reached twice. Not even Furyk went that low here, although he reached 11 under. If the USGA overcompensated for last year this year, will it overcompensate for this year at Shinnecock Hills GC next year? “I know this,” Harmon said. “It’s the USGA that’s supposed to set the rules on equipment. How far the balls are going, how big the drivers are, how good golf gps decives are (you can read golf gps reviews at Golf GPS Center to find out). If they don’t like what players are doing to their Open courses, they’ve got nobody to blame but themselves.”

C.B.’s Brilliant

Charles Blair Macdonald’s National GL, site of the upcoming Walker Cup Match, revolutionized the game and set the bar for American golf course architecture

Spectators (on the par-4 16th) at the 1922 Walker Cup saw the U.S. beat GB&I, 84, in the event’s first playing.

To know the National GL of America in Southampton, N.Y., to appreciate its singularity, one must understand Charles Blair Macdonald.

Bullheaded and irascible, visionary and loyal, Macdonald created the National, site of the first Walker Cup in 1922 and home to this year’s matches, Sept. 78. But Macdonald was much more than the man behind a seminal American course. No one did more to propel the stateside game forwardwith its Scottish roots and traditions intactthan he.

Bernard Darwin, the preeminent golf writer of the first half of the 20th century, wrote that “probably more than any other one man, [Macdonald] created American golf.”

It was an immersion in the Scottish version that set Macdonald on his way. In 1872, when he was 16, the Canadian-born and Chicago-raised Macdonald was sent by his father to live with professor William Macdonald in Scotland. The decision by Macdonald’s father to have his son educated in St. Andrews at the knee of his grandfather (who happened to be a member of the Royal and Ancient GC) was surely made in the interest of scholarship and family unity, but its repercussions on golf’s westward expansion and the very nature of the game are still being felt.

What was intended to be a two-year course of study at the University of St. Andrews became a doctorate in golf. His grandfather’s interest in the game and his membership in the R&A (C.B.’s uncle was a member as well) cemented young Macdonald to the community and the game. Reflecting the democratic nature of Scottish golf, Macdonald met and played with people from every social stratum, including the most influential man in town, Old Tom Morris. In fact, the day after he arrived in St. Andrews, young C.B. was taken by his grandfather to meet the iconic Morris in his famous shop across the street from the 18th hole of the Old Course.

The youngster was promptly outfitted with a set of clubs made by the 51-year-old clubmakerthe best known in St. Andrewsand because the R&A did not allow junior members, professor Macdonald secured a locker for his grandson in the back of Morris’ famed red-roof shop. School, of course, would not begin until fall, so after making the acquaintance of other young men in town, including Morris’ son “Young Tom,” Macdonald played wall-to-wall golf until autumn. In one of the more telling and relatable lines in his 1928 book Scotland’s Gift: Golf , Macdonald wrote, “There was nothing to do in St. Andrews but play golf and bathe.”

Macdonald returned in 1874 to a golf-less Chicago. He eventually founded and designed the course for Chicago GC in 1892, but by 1901, now living in New York City and having been instrumental in the founding of the USGA in 1894, Macdonald was unsatisfied with the quality of courses in the U.S. It was then that he read an article in the British Golf Illustrated that would echo throughout the game for centuries to come.

The writer was his old friend, Horace Hutchinson, the skilled amateur and gifted journalist. In the piece, Hutchinson asked a simple question directed at the leading British players of the day: “Which do you consider the most testing holes on any course in the United Kingdom?” Responses flooded in from a who’s who of late 1800s British golf including Harry Vardon, J.H. Taylor, James Braid, John Low, Herbert Fowler and Harold Hilton. The responsesbroken down by par 3s, par 4s and par 5swere remarkably consistent. Among par 3s, or one-shot holes as they were then known, the Eden (11th at St. Andrews) and the Redan (15th at North Berwick) ruled. Among two-shotters, the hands-down winner was the Alps (17th at Prestwick). And the hole voted toughest in the United Kingdom among three-shotters was, not surprisingly, the Road Hole (17th at the Old Course, which played as a par 5 until 1964).

For Macdonald the article was enlightening, the final piece to a puzzle he had been assembling in his head for decades. He had seen the comparative void in American golf course design; he knew that genuine greatness, the kind routinely found in Scotland and England, lay in linksland. Now, with this printed compilation of the leading holes, he had cracked the code. Macdonald had a templateproven over centuries and endorsed by the game’s greatest playersfor what made an excellent course. All he would have to do now was study the “Discussion” holes and transplant themor at least their essenceto linksland in America.

With Peconic Bay a stunning backdrop, Macdonald’s National is both visually and strategically compelling.

For 400 years golf had largely been an incidental visitor treading on virgin linksland. With the National, Macdonald envisioned a revolution.

This seemingly simple bridge across time and sea marked a tectonic shift. For 400 years golf had largely been an incidental visitor treading on virgin linksland and pasture shaped not by human hands but by eons of wind and water. Macdonald now envisioned a revolution. He was about to reorder golf by introducing the human elementcreativity, intentionality, even strategyinto golf course creation. The Neanderthal had departed the cave. At the moment Macdonald nurtured the thought, he gave rise to a field that would grow, revolutionize and add immeasurable depth and texture to the game. He called it golf course architecture.

“He was essentially the first golf course architect, per se,” said the late Scottish golf historian David Malcolm. “I mean he actually designed courses. What went before Macdonald was sort of walls and fences and the occasional bunker in the middle of the fairway, but he took it to another level: shaping greens and shaping bunkers and positioning bunkers properly. He actually went about it scientifically. He thought through the various stages in making a golf hole. This is the very first time this had been done.”

It was one thing to suggest there might be patterns or principles of golf course design inherent in the great holes of the United Kingdom. It was another to suggest they could be transplanted, re-created or, better yet, improved upon; another thing to find suitable ground upon which to make this all happen; and yet another thing to do it. Macdonald, who would eventually enlist a local surveyor named Seth Raynor to help, was determined to do all of the above.

Within a year of the Golf Illustrated article’s publication, Macdonald began a tour of the world’s great courses. He conferred regularly with the game’s finest players and most knowledgeable writers. They were largely supportive, but there was also skepticism, some fueled by the sheer originality of Macdonald’s thinking and some by blind xenophobia. He was alternately praised for his vision and mocked for his naivete. His perceived attempt to “lift” the iconic building blocks of U.K. golf was derided by one critic who said Macdonald might be able to copy a hole, but the facsimile would lack “the genius of locality” and the depth of history and tradition enjoyed by the original.

From its Jarvis Hunt clubhouse to iconic holes such as Sahara (No. 2, top right) and the Alps (No. 3, below right), National reflected Macdonald’s vision for the game.

“[Macdonald] was essentially the first golf course architect, per se. I mean he actually designed courses.”

DAVID MALCOLM, GOLF HISTORIAN

After discussions with many of golf’s leading players, Macdonald wasn’t swayed and grew more certain the concept was viable. So, after spending much of the years between 1902 and 1906 abroad, Macdonald returned to New York with sketches, surveyor’s maps and notes, some drawn by Macdonald himself, others by friends such as Walter Travis and Devereux Emmett. C.B. not only studied the Alps, Redan, Eden and Road holes, he gathered files on the odd but interesting bunker or berm, tee box or water hazard and other features he thought might be put to use on his patchwork design.

Macdonald knew the National would become the benchmark, inspiring the next generation of golf course designers to think creatively while embracing classic themes. The result was a course that revolutionized the game. As he explained in Scotland’s Gift: Golf , two decades after completing the National, Macdonald understood the scope of his achievement: “The National has now fulfilled its mission, having caused the reconstruction of all the best known golf courses existing in the first decade of this century in the United States and, further, has caused the study of golf architecture resulting in the building of numerous meritorious courses of great interest throughout the country.”

A sampling of his genius:

The par-4 second hole at the National is an excellent illustration of Macdonald’s ability to draw inspiration from an existing hole while creating an interpretation wholly his own. Sahara owes its name and overall strategy to the third hole at Royal St. George’s in Sandwich (St. George’s Sahara is now a par 3.) Its essence is the breathtaking thrill of hitting into the unforeseen. The view from the tee is unsettling, particularly to a golfer playing it for the first time. There is a vast sandy wasteland capped only by horizon. The player can take it on faith that there is a green somewhere over the edge, but it is exceedingly well-protected by the oft-enlarged Sahara bunker short left, deep rough and bunkers short right, and the ever-present charming menace of the windmill. While long-hitting Walker Cup contestants should have no problem reaching this green, holding the green is another question.

The National bares her teeth at the Alps, No. 3. Inspired by the 17th hole at Prestwick, it is the toughest hole on the front nine. Many believe that Macdonald did the impossible at National by not only “copying” standout holes from abroad but improving on them. That may be true here, in that so many phases of the game come into play on the 426-yarder. Whether it is the precision required by the tee shot, the balance and focus of playing over a massive hill to a blind green; an awkward greenside chip or a delicate putt on a radically contoured green, the Alps demands it all. No wonder National’s Alps is the No. 1 handicap hole and considered by most expert observers as the finest blind approach in golf.

The heart of any Redan is the green. Tilted away from the tee and to the back left (the back left is about five feet below the right front), the fourth hole, named for an imposing Crimean War-era fortress, requires precise aim and touch allowing the ball to land softly on the upper-right portion of the green and letting the grade do the remainder of the work. Pot bunkers guard the uphill side of the green, leaving treacherous shots to a run-away surface. Another bunker fronts the landing area, and a massive, deep fronting bunker penalizes weak shots to the left.

There has long been debate about the superiority of the original Redanthe 15th at North Berwickor its National cousin. Each has its devotees, but one can count among National’s partisans none other than Ben Sayers, legendary professional at North Berwick in the late 1890s. Sayers thought the National version superior to the original. More recently Ben Crenshaw has concurred. Harold Hilton took the middle ground when he told The New York Herald in 1911, “Looking at the fourth I can see in my mind’s eyes the ‘Redan’ at North Berwick. This hole … is every bit as good a hole as the famous ‘one-shotter’ in Scotland.” The Redan is a signature element in virtually all Macdonald/Raynor designs.

No. 7 is a superb example of how Macdonald took general inspiration not specific detail from the great courses of the British Isles. Macdonald could easily have called for a faux railway shed some 150 yards off the tee. Similarly he could have replicated the infamous Road Hole Bunker, the knobby green or the road itself all to exact scale. Instead, he took the essence of each element and created an entirely new hole.

Whereas off the tee the original had drying sheds (then rail barns and now a hotel), National’s tribute has an expanse of bunkers. The pot bunker fronting National’s seventh green is more a nod to the original Road Hole Bunker than an outright imitation. The green at National is similar in size but far flatter than that on the Old Course. Yet it’s with the final element of the holethe signature elementthat Macdonald took the greatest creative license: His road hole has no road. Instead, the defense against long-right approach shots is a daunting series of ever-deepening bunkers that stretches almost 100 yards and angles in closely behind the right rear of the green. This hole features one of only two changes made to the course in preparation for the Walker Cup. A new back tee has been added here as well as at 16.

An oft-voiced argument that Macdonald’s original holes at National are even more interesting than his “copied” holes gains credence with No. 14. His introduction of the Cape hole was certainly his most creative and arguably his most lasting contribution to the golf lexicon. One early reviewer wrote in 1908 that, “in the opinion of many competent judges [the 14th] will become the greatest water hole in the world.”

Golf has always offered risky carries over harrowing hazards, but in the early 1900s the idea of a peninsula green was radical and exciting. Pairing those dynamics with the wind, the majesty of National and the tidal swath of salt water that once gurgled along the entire starboard side of the putting surface prior to the construction of Sebonac Inlet Road, it’s no surprise that Macdonald was proud of his creation. “It is today one of the most individual holes in existence,” he wrote, “and there is probably not another like it anywhere … a par four to this hole, which by land is but a little over 300 yards, is very satisfying.”

Macdonald’s forthrightness about his workand the game itselfrubbed many the wrong way. Malcolm called the burly, mustachioed course architect “a bombastic bastard” who “was the plague of changing rooms in America because of his upholding of old-world standards.” Defenders saw C.B. as golf’s noble warrior, a puritanical defender of the game’s inherent honor.

Those who knew him best saw both sides. Upon his death at age 83 from complications of kidney failure in 1939, the National’s board of governors eulogized Macdonald, acknowledging his ruthlessness and belligerence while hailing him as a leader, competitor and friend.

“There was much in Charlie of the ancient Scottish Chieftains, his forbears, of whom he was mightily proud, and whose characteristics were as evident in Charlie as in the Highlanders of old,” the club officials wrote. They added: “One of the great traits of our founder was his ability to retain the friendship and ardent support of numbers of outstanding men in the face of violent disagreement and abrupt opposition.”

Decades after Macdonald did things his way, the results speak for themselves.

A spectacular new lodge in New Zealand offers everything from out-of-this-world landscapes and an award-winning golf course to wine-tasting and hot-air balloons

About a decade ago, New Zealand welcomed a handful of small, ultraluxurious resorts that quickly became known as Super Lodges. Of these, none was as super as Kauri Cliffs, which opened in 2001 on 5,000 pristine acres on the semitropical northeast coast of New Zealand’s North Island. An hour’s flight from Auckland, Kauri Cliffs combined sumptuously turned-out cottages with a glorious setting, a top-notch chef, and one of the world’s best new golf courses, a seaside stunner 200 feet above the Pacific, designed by the late David Harman.

Kauri Cliffs was the creation of American financier Julian Robertson and his wife, Josie. Not content to rest on their laurels, they soon set to building an even more spectacular golf course on a 6,000-acre ranch they had acquired on the southeastern coast of North Island, in the famed Hawke’s Bay wine region. For this project, Cape Kidnappers, the Robertsons engaged architect Tom Doak to turn an extraordinary site-800 feet above the sea and characterized by steep, narrow ridges-into a course Golf Magazine has ranked twenty-seventh globally.

This month, Cape Kidnappers becomes a full-service resort with the opening of the Farm, a handsome new Super Lodge with 24 suites, plus a four-bedroom private cottage. The Farm at Cape Kidnappers has glamorous vintage-ranch interiors by star Aspen decorator Linda Bedell, who’s added rustic-chic touches like rough-hewn beams, cowhide rugs, and painted barn cabinets. The property has two dining rooms, a wine-tasting cellar, a library, a fitness center, a spa, and an outdoor pool. Guests can go fly-fishing, winery hopping, horseback riding, river kayaking, paragliding, surfing, caving, even hot-air ballooning. One can only imagine what the Robertsons are planning to do with the 12,000 acres they own on New Zealand’s South Island. . . . (From $720 for two, including breakfast, aperitifs, dinner; 011-64-6-875-1900, or reservations@ capekidnappers.com.)

Other news is the recent makeover-by young new owners-of the historic 1895 Otahona Lodge, outside the city of Christchurch. The former home of New Zealand member of parliament Sir Heaton Rhodes, the seven-suite, fifteen-fireplace mansion-a fine example of Queen Anne architecture-has a pool, a tennis court, an excellent chef (Jimmy McIntyre), enchanting gardens, orchards, and bridle paths. Nearby are the wineries of the Waipara Valley, as well as some 50 golf courses. Otahona can also arrange helicopter hops for everything from remote fly-fishing to heliskiing in the Southern Alps.

GOLF-LOVING CPA TAKES SWING AT IRS

Thomas Jurewicz is trying to get more green from golf greens.

The CPA at Rehmann Robson in Farmington Hills is leading a crusade with some real estate attorneys in the Carolinas to get the Internal Revenue Service to allow golf course owners and developers to depreciate greens and tees.

While that might seem inconsequential, Jurewicz, an avid golfer and sports fan, says all golfers have a stake in the outcome.

The upfront savings of $100,000 in the first year alone of a new, $10 million golf course could be used by developers to make their courses just that much better, said the 39-year-old Jurewicz.

With a 15-year depreciation schedule on tees and greens, a course owner could realize tax savings of about $1 million, he said. That money would come in handy, considering the ongoing costs of keeping greens and tees in top playable shape, he said.

Jurewicz has picked his fight with one of the world’s scariest and most formidable foes: the IRS.

Since the tax courts ruled in the 1950s that golf courses couldn’t depreciate tees and greens, few have had the nerve to challenge officialdom.

Jurewicz, however, is taking the plunge. He has a local course owner, a client at Rehmann Robson, who plans to file a special form with the IRS requesting permission to take a depreciation deduction this year on greens and fees, thus setting into motion a confrontation with the IRS. Jurewicz and a client plan to go to the U.S. Tax Court to argue their case, if the IRS denies the request.

The IRS’ position is antiquated, Jurewicz will argue, because it dates to a time when greens and tees were built by the “push-up method” of bulldozing mounds of dirt into place and seeding them. That method didn’t really require significant capital, he said. Consequently, the IRS denied owners the right to depreciate the investment.

Over the years, however, greens and tees have become much more expensive to build. They account for $3 million to $4 million of the overall cost of a typical $10 million golf course, Jurewicz said.

Greens and tees are built in layers to promote drainage in wet weather. Construction requires first digging out two or three feet of dirt in the configuration of the green. Then, progressively smaller layers of pebbles are put in to build the green, with pea gravel at the bottom, until it is capped with dirt and seeded.

Greens eventually need to be rebuilt because drainage deteriorates. Drainage is critical, because the faster greens drain after rain, the faster golfers can get back on the course and the more greens fees can be collected.

The depreciation deduction up front means a golf course owner probably will have to pay higher capital- gains taxes when the property is sold – say, 20 years after it is built, Jurewicz said. But owners still would rather save the money short-term.

While studying the depreciation issue in recent months, Jurewicz had stumbled across attorneys in North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida who already were challenging the IRS on the same issue, he said.

They have formed an ad hoc committee to pursue the issue and have enlisted the help of the United States Golf Association for technical advice on greens construction, Jurewicz said.

The committee is using the USGA as a conduit to reach course superintendents across the country to determine the amount of investment they have in greens and tees, the costs of rebuilding them and to gather other data that can be used to strengthen their case in court.

Greening the Glen

Since the first Canadian Open golf championship was held in 1904 at the Royal Montreal Golf Club, Canadian golf fans have rarely had more to celebrate. The $1.2-million Canadian Open, starting on Sept. 5, claims one of the most powerful fields of competitors ever assembled in Canada. The contestants expected at the Glen Abbey course, 30 km west of Toronto, include the 1991 U.S. Open champion, Payne Stewart of Orlando, Fla., and this year’s British Open winner, Ian Baker-Finch of Sanctuary Cove, Australia. Among the supporting cast are top money winners Australian Greg Normal of Lost Tree Village, Fla., Bruce Lietzke of Dallas, Fred Couples of Palm Beach, Fla., Jack Nicklaus of North Palm Beach, Fla., and one of the leading Canadian money winners, Dave Barr of Richmond, B.C. Said Richard Grimm, the chief organizer for the event: “We are very fortunate to have a field that has been enormously successful.” Added 1990 Canadian Open champion Wayne Levi, of New Hartford, N.Y.: “It’s going to be tough.”

Close to 100,000 fans will follow the event around Glen Abbey’s manicured fairways, and another 500,000 are expected to watch the final round on the CTV network. Still, critics of the event insist that the championship is losing international prestige and will have to be restructured if it is to stay competitive. According to the influential London-based British monthly Golf World, the Canadian Open–the fourth-oldest national golf championship in the world–no longer ranks among the top 26 tournaments in the world, in part because it does not attract such major European players as Severiano Ballesteros of Pedrena, Spain, Nick Faldo of Welwyn Garden City, England, and Ian Woosnam of Owestry, Wales. While many golfers enjoy playing Glen Abbey’s sprawling layout, others say that they would like to see the tournament relocate to a different course. Added Lorne Rubenstein, a veteran Canadian golf writer based in Toronto: “I was talking to Nick Faldo at the Irish Open, and he said that the Canadian Open has lost prestige because it has remained at the same location for years.”

Even though the top Europeans are staying away, many of the golfers who will battle Glen Abbey’s tough 7,102-yard, par-72 layout say that the championship is still highly competitive. Levi, whose 1990 victory at Glen Abbey capped a sparkling season in which he won four tournaments and was named the tour’s player of the year, said that Glen Abbey, which Nicklaus redesigned in 1974, is a challenging course. “There is usually a little bit of wind and the greens are fast,” he said. “There is a lot of rough.” Levi also said that most golfers like to return to Glen Abbey year after year because they are familiar with the course’s characteristics. “It gives them an advantage,” he said, “especially the older guys.”

The Royal Canadian Golf Association, which operates the Canadian Open, has tried to make the tournament more attractive for fans and players by linking it to the coveted Ryder Cup. That event, which every second year places Europe’s top professional golfers in competition with their U.S. rivals, takes place at Kiawah Island Resort, off the coast of South Carolina, from Sept. 26 to 29. The Europeans have won the past two Ryder Cups, and Grimm said that many members of the U.S. team entered the Canadian Open to maintain their competitive edege. Before the start of the Canadian Open, U.S. team members, including Payne Stewart, Couples, Levi and Corey Pavin of Kauai, Hawaii, will sharpen their Ryder Cup skills in what was being billed as a nine-hole “shootout,” with the winner collecting $12,500.

Despite the impressive field of participants, the Canadian event is still something of an orphan of the Professional Golfers’ Association of America (PGA) circuit. Until 1988, the Open was held earlier in the summer, usually between the more popular U.S. and British opens. But the PGA Tour dropped the Open into the lower-profile September date in 1989 because it was unable to find a sponsor willing to buy 40 per cent of all network TV advertising during tournament broadcasts. The tournament’s sponsor since 1971, du Maurier Ltd., a subsidiary of Montreal-based Imperial Tobacco Ltd., puts up $1.2 million in prize money, including $216,000 for the winner, and spends an additional $1.5 million on promotion and hospitality. But under a 1988 federal law, which is currently being appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, the cigarette manufacturer cannot advertise its products on television.

Tournament organizers say that they are rethinking the date of the Canadian Open. But some of them, including Grimm, contend that the Open’s current date may not be unfavorable after all. Said Grimm: “There are very few dates in the summer schedule that are as attractive as many people think they are.” He added: “You run the risk of losing golfers to other events.”

Some critics recommend moving the Open to a new course after 11 consecutive years at Glen Abbey. But most of them acknowledge that the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s finances are so closely linked to the course that moving the tournament would be difficult. Rubenstein said that because the association owns the course outright, it is free to spend the $500,000 that it raises by staging the Open to pay for the extensive amateur golf program that it operates across Canada. Said Rubenstein: “It basically comes down to money. The golf association needs the money.”

Grimm also pointed out the Nicklaus designed Glen Abbey especially for the Open and its fans. Not only are its fairways and putting greens and tough challenge for golfers but, unlike most courses, the greens are surrounded by high, rolling banks that give spectators a clear view of the action. And with so many champions attending this year’s Open, golf fans will have plenty of action to cheer on.

A golfer’s course

The Canadians paid and Nicklaus designed

Not every member of a private golf club can sit on the veranda at the end of a round, sipping a sarsaparilla and watching Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman play up the 18th fairway. But the people who belong to the exclusive Loxahatchee Club in Jupiter, Fla., where the two stars of professional golf also are members, have grown accustomed to the finest that life has to offer. From the professional caddies in uniforms at the first tee to the squeeze containers of special body soap in the shower stalls, Loxahatchee seemingly leaves no request unfulfilled–certainly not the demand for a challenging and pleasurable outing of golf. Course designer Nicklaus has described Loxahatchee, 15 minutes from his home on Lake Worth in North Palm Beach, as perhaps “the best course” he has designed. Certainly it is the crowning jewel for Gordon Gray, the golf-loving chairman of Toronto-based Royal LePage Ltd., who, with honorary chairman Brian Magee, created the $8.4-million layout with one priority. Said Gray: “It is a golfer’s golf course.” He’s also like to read golf gps reviews at golfgpscenter.net.

Nicklaus’s attention to every detail is evident at Loxahatchee (the name, from the Seminole Indian phrase for “Turtle River,” is pronounced LOX-a-HATCH-ee). Sculpted on the flat Florida plain five minutes inland from the Gulf Stream, the course ambles 7,043 yards from the championship tees around and along nine manmade lakes and among the myrtle, pine, oak and scrub palmetto trees. For all the sand bunkers and island greens, however, the most distinctive feature of the par-72 layout is the grassy mounds, some as high as 25 feet, which line the fairways and define the limits of play. Four different tee-off positions allow less accomplished golfers to move up for drives and play a foreshortened course of only 5,387 yards. In 1985, the authoritative monthly Golf Digest picked Loxahatchee as “the best new private course” of the year.

That was consolation of sorts to the 280 members of Loxahatchee, which opened on Feb. 15, 1985. While founding members got in for $92,000, plus the cost of a home, new members now must purchase a $48,000 refundable bond and commit to buying a lot and building a home. Recently, one of the top lots sold for $475,000, and a typical two-bedroom “cottage” costs upwards of $450,000. As well, annual dues and extra charges amount to $9,400 for 1989.

Loxahatchee members tend not to have to keep track of their bank balances. Among the current members are Toronto tycoons Gray, Montegu Black and Fredrik Eaton of the family department-store chain. Still, with 35 membership spots still unfilled–and 54 members yet to buy property–Gray delayed turning the course over to the members last October as planned and now says that he will attempt to make the transfer “later this year.”

Gray, Magee and Nicklaus run the club, in Gray’s words, like a “benevolent disctatorship.” But they are responsive to the needs of the members. When there were complaints that light standards erected on baseball fields in a nearby park were unsightly, the club bought back 10 acres of the land it had donated for the park and the town of Jupiter agreed to erect the lights in another location not visible from the golf course. Nicklaus has the last word about the golf course. Said Gray: “Jack is all-powerful. We wouldn’t think of doing anything to the course without his approval.

Gray, a major owner of Royal LePage and a 12-handicapper, is a longtime friend of Nicklaus, whom he met in Florida’s Lost Tree Village, where both owned homes. Under the stewardship of Gray, 61, and Magee, now 70 and living in England, LePage assembled the land for such large Toronto projects as the Eaton Centre and three of the five downtown bank complexes.

Over the years, the Nicklaus and Gray families have travelled the world together. Gray, one of 12 Canadian members of the exclusive Restigouche Salmon Club in New Brunswick, was Nicklaus’s sponsor when he became one of the 12 U.S. members. After winning the 1980 U.S. Open, Nicklaus publicly credited Gray–and a relaxing Restigouche fishing trip–as the prime factor in making his victory possible. For Gray and Nicklaus, Loxahatchee is yet another happy result of their golfing partnership.