The original course of the Inverness Club, laid out in 1903, consisted of nine holes which cut back and forth over what is, for the most part, mildly undulating terrain. Just previous to the 1920 Open, the ubiquitous Donald Ross, the architect of that period, was called in to fashion 18 holes of championship caliber. Golf courses, to be sure, date fairly quickly as equipment and techniques advance hand in hand. To bring Inverness once again up to modern championship standards for the 1957 Open, the club called on Dick Wilson, that extremely skillful architect whose recent works include the new Meadow Brook, the new Deep-dale and Villa Real in Havana.
Working with the Open Committee—Robert A. Stranahan, the father of the two-time British Amateur champion, Frank, served as honorary chairman; James J. Secor, a large convivial man whose bulk and verdant mustache preserve the glory of the Ted Ray era, served as general chairman—Wilson's changes were selective rather than wholesale. A number of greens were tightened by revising the trapping. A few new back tees were added. On several holes where the fairway traps were situated only 200 yards from the tee and were virtually out of play for professional golfers, these old traps were filled in and replaced by new, active traps cut 30 yards or so farther down the fairway flanks. For the Open the fairways will be narrowed, and their width will run from 31 to 40 yards. In line with the USGA's policy for the Open, the greens will be bordered by a close-clipped 30-inch apron, then by a six-foot stretch of two-inch rough graduating into five-inch rough. Inverness will be a pleasant and authentic test of championship golf, but, at the same time, the experts are predicting the lowest scoring the Open has produced for years. Lloyd Gullickson, the Inverness pro, estimates that the winning total will be 280—an average of 70 per round—or lower. (The record low total for the Open, by the way, is 276, set by Ben Hogan at Riviera in 1948.)
In 1920, over the old course, Ted Ray achieved his victory by playing four steady, very respectable—rounds—74, 73, 73, 75. Perhaps the prototype of the driver-niblick-putter breed of successful tournament golfers, Ray virtually won the championship on the 7th hole, a shortish par 4 which doglegs to the left. On each of his rounds Ted picked up his birdie by cutting the corner with clouts that carried 275 yards in the air (see page 62). The present 7th is some 20 yards longer than in Ray's day and the trees in the angle of the dogleg have grown a great deal taller, but the hole still presents a player with a fine chance for his birdie. The 6th, 11th, 12th and 18th are also eminently birdiable. The toughest holes to par, unquestionably, will be the 4th, 5th, 9th, 14th and 15th.
Pipes and lockers
Ray was the last "foreigner" to win the title and, at 43, the oldest man ever to win the Open. A commanding, persuasive personality, Ray had a fondness for playing with a large Sherlock Holmes-type pipe stuck continuously in his mouth. This started at Inverness a sudden rush on the local tobacconists, many of the young and hopeful golfers figuring that the lack of a pipe was probably the only thing holding them back from par-busting performances. Among the golfers who embraced the overnight fad was the present Open Committee chairman, Jim Secor, in 1920 a fairly good, if nervous, young amateur who was trying to gain a place in the field via the qualifying rounds which preceded the tournament proper. As he played the 3rd hole, Secor thought he smelled something burning. So did his playing partner, Otto Hackbarth. In his nervousness Secor had stuck his pipe in his back pocket when he was playing the first hole and had forgotten all about it.
In the hearts of all professional golfers, there is an especial affection for Inverness. During the 1920 Open, the pros were accorded the full hospitality of the clubhouse, the first time this was ever done anywhere. Previously, professional golfers had had to change their clothes in downtown hotels or in their autos and were generally regarded as not good enough for the clubhouse. Inverness shattered this foolish prejudice and set a healthy new precedent. After the tournament, led by Walter Hagen, that man of innate taste and grace, the pros presented to Inverness, as a token of their gratitude, a handsome hall clock which stands in the club's main foyer. A brass plate on the clock bears a formal inscription and the following verse:
God measures men by what they are
Not what in wealth possess
This vibrant message chimes afar
The voice of Inverness
THE INVERNESS CLUB