We have some while to go until we get to the next Masters Tournament (to be precise, it ends on Easter Sunday, which is exactly five months away from today) but as it draws nearer we will doubtless hear the eternal refrain about the return to Augusta National signalling the ‘proper start’ of the golf season.
And we all know what that means – the emerald-green fairways, the vivid colours of the azaleas and other flowers, a sense of spring and gentle gorgeousness. Watching golf from Augusta does make us want to get out and play, even if our own course bears little resemblance to it at that time of year other than for the presence of flagsticks.
Golf from Augusta more often than not makes for compelling drama, not least due to the abundance of water on the back nine. The fact that the course depends on the presence of spectators to make it look so good (for example, when no one is there, the 2nd hole seems to conclude with a green in the middle of a field; a beautifully manicured field, granted, but a field nonetheless) does not detract from the pleasure of watching the proceedings unfold.
I guess it’s axiomatic that good-looking courses make for better TV. In September, Paul Casey won the Porsche European Open at the Green Eagle GC in Hamburg. Nothing wrong with that, but nothing like as enjoyable to watch as it would have been if staged at Falkenstein in the same city. When Bernd Wiesberger won the Italian Open last month, part of the pleasure of tuning in was to see it being played at Olgiata, a glorious old-style course just outside Rome.
I do realise the European Tour is not in the business of taking tournaments to places simply on the basis of their aesthetic appeal. I totally get why it’s more financially prudent to be seduced by the offer of a large cheque from a course operator than it is to go somewhere because it offers a particular stunning sea view. But given that one of the many attractive and intriguing elements of golf is the rich variety of landscapes it can be played in (whether it’s grass, clay or hard, a tennis court is always a 78’ x 27’ rectangle), it should be no surprise that the course as well as the competition being played on it forms an intrinsic part of the allure.
To finish back at Augusta, the grandeur of the golf tournament and its course do suggest an aura of gentility. The city of Augusta indeed has some fine properties and it was named after Princess Augusta, the mother of King George III (during whose reign America ceased to be a British colony). But there can be another side to it, by which I don’t mean the back nine. I was recently reading a story by a music journalist, Allan Jones, about being on tour in Georgia with REM in 1985 when Peter Buck, the band’s guitarist, observed of repeated over-boisterous behaviour by some fans that “if you’re maybe playing the wrong bar in somewhere like Charlotte or Augusta, you don’t pull that kinda stuff…[or else people will] smash your head in”.
I can’t think any of those sort could possibly have been club members…
You can follow Robert Green on Twitter @robrtgreen and enjoy his other blog f-factors.com plus you can read more by him on golf at robertgreengolf.com