And therein lies the crux of the debate: is the links in its present configuration and condition worth preserving? Or has the damage already been done? One of the few areas on which both sides are agreed is that the course is a long way from the one on which those five far-off Open champions learned the game.
So is it too late to save what is left of the Musselburgh links? And is it worth saving? While any number of mistakes have been made over the years - the short fifth, for example, had two nonsensical and wholly inappropriate bunkers added behind the green as recently as the past decade - and the course itself is best described as shabby, it is difficult for any golfer not to hope instinctively for its salvation.
As to what may or may not still happen, both sides are already preparing for the on-going battle.
"I'm still confident the golf course will regain its pride and that the interests of the club will be looked after," says MacGregor, at the same time acknowledging that the public inquiry came as "a bit of a surprise".
On the other hand, Colville is delighted at the latest development. "I'm still not sure of ultimate victory; far from it," he adds. "But I think we have a far better chance of winning in a public forum than we did when it was up to the Executive. We have support across the town from all sorts of people, and that has to count for something."
It is, however, a remarkable thing that though golf courses are often in lovely places it frequently so happens that the beauties of the landscape are to be seen from anywhere except the course. Who, for instance, ever heard of a self-respecting sea-side course where one could get a view of the sea! One may hear it perhaps roaring or murmuring, according to its mood, beyond an interminable row of sandhills, but save with the artificial aid of a high tee one never dreams of seeing it. So it is at Portrush, in accordance with the best traditions, and only two or three times in the course of the round does a view of the surrounding beauties threaten our mental concentration on the matter in hand. BERNARD DARWIN