Old Course at St. Andrews versus Augusta National Golf Club. Old versus fairly new. Natural versus kohl and lipstick. Now, that’s a tough one. It’s like Angelina Jolie with or without make up. Brad Pitt might be the best judge of that one but for the casual bystander, either version will do.Take a detached view of the Old Course and you will be looking at a crumpled grazing ground with clumps of gorse all over it. Of course, if you happen to be a golfer, especially a non-American one, this piece of turf and the building attached to it acquire a different meaning. After all, it is the “Home of golf” and the rules you play by or choose to ignore emanate from here. The place is also steeped in history. There are reports of men killing time by swinging a club at a feather-stuffed leather ball as far back as the 15th century over these grounds while their sheep merrily played the role of greenkeeper.
On the other hand, the term “picture perfect” sits well with Augusta National. Not a blade of grass or a pine is out of place. The golf course gives the colour green a whole new meaning. It doesn’t get any greener than this. Add to that the white sand bunkers, azaleas in different shades of pink and white dogwood trees, and the overall effect is very pleasing to the eye.
Broadly speaking, there are two categories of golf courses. There’s the links variety, so called because they form a link between water and land. The Old Course is an example. One of the reasons why this golf course has withstood the test of time and modern technology is the winds that sweep in from the adjoining bay. With the shortcropped yellowed grass and barren landscape, links courses are not much to look at.
Parkland courses call for a different type of play. There’s more of target hitting here as the ground is softer, the grass thicker and winds aren’t generally a factor. The golf ball stops much quicker on these inland courses. Set up in the mid 1930s, the Augusta National is a prime example, but then, these golf courses find different ways to torment golfers. Things like well-placed bunkers and water bodies and rough and undulating greens that are super slick are thrown in. The sight of a world-class golfer putting off the green is not uncommon at Augusta National.
Most of the golf courses in India are of the parkland variety.
Tip I tried: If you are used to playing on inland golf courses, it can be quite intimidating teeing up next to a large body of water. For one, the wind almost always tends to be a factor to the point that at times, just walking is a struggle. Also, quite often you are hitting blind shots across undulations. The natural tendency when you are being buffeted around is to swing hard. That doesn’t help. What does is putting the ball a fraction further back in your stance and completing your swing.
Prabhdev Singh is Editor, Golf Digest India