When he said, "The love of money is the root of all evil," the
apostle Paul had no idea that his words would one day apply to a
strange game in a strange land played by men in knickers.
Nevertheless, flush with money, many in Ireland are bent on what
their colleagues abroad would consider blasphemy: modernizing
their golf courses. A good Welshman would say, "Devil go fly,"
but if I might wax American: Get your cotton-pickin' hands off
the priceless gem, bud.
According to Irish golf officials, foreigners comprise the
majority of the players at Ballybunion, Lahinch, Portmarnock,
Royal County Down and Royal Portrush. Those outlanders are making
a pilgrimage, so preserving the status quo should make sense.
Instead these clubs are making changes: installing irrigation,
watering bunker faces and fairways, ripping out gorse as fast as
they can and applying chemicals.
Here is my question: Have you Irishmen read about the butcher
who killed the golden goose? In a land where links tracks are
revered, where the names Harry S. Colt and Willie Park are
esteemed, why are you meddling with these classic courses? Where
does evolution stop? Because computer-operated irrigation
systems, such as the one at County Down, are so complex, should
you install one? Because grasses are being developed that can
survive a nuclear holocaust, does that mean you, Adare, should
plant them? Because Augusta National is stimping at 12, does
that mean the highly contoured 11th at Ballybunion should be
busting at 12 as well?
Here's an idea for our Old World friends: Turn off the telly
when the Masters is on so you won't again be tempted to tamper
with antiquity. Remembering that links courses' great asset is
that they are natural, take to heart a line from the poet Bliss
Carman: "The greatest joy in nature is the absence of man."
Mark Leslie retired in April as the editor of Golf Course News.
COLOR PHOTO: WINSLOW TOWNSON