Reverse Old Course Gets Two Days In November 2019

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Great news for the lucky souls in St. Andrews who have an open mind and an appreciation for golf history, as the Old Course will be set up in the reverse fashion once the original routing and later employed by Old Tom Morris to spread wear-and-tear. Annually, the routing is played in April.

Here is Jeremy Glenn’s deep dive on the setup and reverse routing.

From Graylyn Loomis on Twitter:

Match Play: Pebble Beach Versus The Old Course

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The Morrissett brothers of Golf Club Atlas fame taught me the joy of settling golf course debates via match play. While not a perfect system to compare to works of golf architecture, it can be incredibly effective between semi-like-minded souls. Think of golf course match play as a war of attrition that sheds outside influences that muddy so many golf course rankings.

Forget the friendliness of staff, size of clubhouse and deliciousness of the cheeseburger. They can’t intrude on a straight-up, hole-by-hole duel.

Sadly, there are few forums for such debates and maybe as with 18 holes of golf, laboriously debating the merits of holes strikes some as tedious. But in an incredible week when the world of golf took us to Pebble Beach and The Old Course, the two most important jewels of their respective nations prompted a match to settle a question Matt Adams and I (sort of) addressed earlier in the week for Golf Central.

Here’s how my Pebble Beach vs. Old Course match played out. Disagree away and please, if you’ve been fortunate enough to play both, tell me your match outcomes. I won’t be hurt.  (PS – we play these matches to the end, even if one course closes things out early.)

First Hole – The setting, the width, the burn, the tee where every legend of the game as stood, matched against the mediocrity of Pebble Beach’s opening hole, makes this a quickie. Old Course 1 up.

Second Hole – The “Dyke” features beautifully simple strategy, a need to consider the day’s hole location and a mind-boggling green complex at the end. While I love Pebble Beach’s second hole, changes in recent years to the landing area, the manicured barranca and a shrunken green complex add up to a loss. Old Course 2 up.

Third Hole – For years this would have been an easy win for Pebble’s third, one of my favorite holes until tweaks have taken some of the life and strategic subtlety away. Should be a Pebble win, but it’s not. Halve. Old Course 2 up.

Fourth Hole – Pebble Beach’s fourth has benefited from tree loss down the right, opening up the round’s first view of the sea. Some odd bunkering tweaks do not take away from this drive and pitch in the way gorse might be getting carried away at St. Andrews’s “Ginger Beer” par-4. Old Course 1 up.  

Fifth Hole – Jack Nicklaus’ par-3 is a big improvement over the old fifth and has aged pretty well in twenty years. But the Hole O’ Cross is one of the world’s most bizarre and fascinating par-5’s, with an enormous green fronted by a deep swale that also can feed balls onto the absurd green. Old Course 2 up.

Sixth Hole – Speaking of fantastic par-5’s, Pebble Beach’s 6th remains beautiful and peculiar. A green expansion to reclaim trickier hole locations could make it better. While the Old Course’s sixth is a fine par-4, it’s not nearly as memorable as Pebble Beach’s sixth hole. Old Course 1 up.

Seventh Hole – Order another round, a long, drawn-out debate should ensue here. Pebble Beach’s 107-yard par-3 seventh remains one of the world’s most photographed and fun to play. There may be no better spot in the world of golf. But the green has morphed into a circle and old photos show a far more interesting hole. While the “High (Out)” hole requires a well-conceived tee shot, and one of the most underrated second shots in golf has you playing over the Shell bunker to a double green shared with the Eden. Sorry Pebble Beach. Old Course 2 up.

Eighth Hole – Pebble Beach’s magnificent second over the ocean easily beats out the fine, but ultimately so-so 8th in St Andrews. Old Course 1 up.

Ninth Hole – Another easy win for Pebble Beach. While St. Andrews’s 9th is fun to play, it can’t compete with the setting and shots required. Or the views. All Square.

Tenth Hole – Bobby Jones is another nice little drive and pitch, though the green shared with the 8th is a bit of a dud. The tenth at Pebble Beach? As magnificent a meeting of golf architecture and nature as you’ll find. Pebble Beach 1 up.

Eleventh Hole – The glorious High hole backed by the Eden Estuary, guarded by the Hill and Strath bunkers, offering views of town. Oh, and all of that history. Versus an uphill, mid-length par-4 with two hole locations?  All Square.

Twelfth Hole – The most important short par-4 influencing designers from Jones and MacKenzie to Nicklaus and Weiskopf’s is too much for Pebble Beach’s modified Redan anchored by another circular green complex with most of the best hole locations lost. Old Course 1 up.

Thirteenth Hole – This one is tricky. The Hole O’ Cross is a strange, hard to grasp par-4 at the Old Course but ultimately one with strategy, interest and character. The uphill 13th at Pebble Beach also featured strategic charm, though I’m not sure how often in the modern game its steeply tilted green rewards drives down the left. Both are fun to play. Halve. Old Course 1 up.

Fourteenth Hole – Difficult three-shotters at both courses, the edge goes to St. Andrews on the back of its magnificent green complex and strategic variety. Old Course 2 up.

 Fifteenth Hole – Straightaway par-4’s at both courses and of similar distances. Again, the green complex makes the difference. Old Course 3 up.

 Sixteenth Hole – The Old Course, with its Principal’s Nose and Deacon Sime bunkers, a boundary fence and glorious green, get the edge as much as I enjoy the topography, shot shapes and difficulty of Pebble Beach’s 16th. Old Course 4 up.

 Seventeenth Hole - The Road hole, even in its emasculated state with rough grass covering what should be fairway sending balls farther away from the optimum angle of attack, is still the Road hole. A restored green at Pebble Beach almost made me halve this one, but the restoration wasn’t perfect and the options just aren’t as interesting. Old Course 5 up.

Eighteenth Hole – As much as I adore the finish in St. Andrews, nothing compares to the conclusion of a day at Pebble Beach. Old Course 4 up.


There you have it. At least architecturally, a pretty turbulent match with few halves and ultimately an easy Old Course at St. Andrews win.

Here’s our chat from Golf Central:

Video: How Not To Play The Road Hole

Hat tip to Alex Myers for this absolute beauty. The Old Course Hotel certainly is in play, but playing your second from the 16th is a humiliation I’m certain the Station Master’s Garden never inflicted on anyone.

Rusacks, Marine Hotels Will Be Coming On The Market (Again)

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Tom Ramage reports that major losses in their hotel empire will prompt the Macdonald Hotels group to sell most of their hotels.

In golf, that means two of the most storied properties possible will be available: Rusacks on the 18th hole of St. Andrews and the Marine hotel overlooking the 16th at North Berwick.

Hey rich golf guys, make sure these land in the right hands, please.

Old Course: The Revamped Shell Bunker Looks Like A Swimming Pool

With a sand bottom…

I don’t meant to be cruel, but the fascination in Scotland these days with constant rebuilding of Old Course bunkers with an eye toward mechanical precision is increasingly tough to watch, particularly when we know a sense of naturalness is essential to reminding the golfer that most of these pits were accidental in origin. The more man-made they look, the more the golfer is likely to reject them.

Anyway, here are the photos of a recent reconstruction followed by a historic photo from a postcard I purchased a few years ago. Look at that face and lack of sand manicuring!


Ignorance Is Strength Files: Slumbers Says R&A Growing Rough To Ensure Old Course Strategy

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Even though we’ve seen this movie before: eliminating fairway at the Old Course to mask regulatory ineptitude, the retirement of Chief Inspector Peter Dawson seemingly put an end to that madness.

Turns out, his replacement has signed off on an enhanced rough harvesting effort to combat the surge in driving distances at the home of strategic golf, the Old Course.

Who knew there was any more rough to grow or fairway to eliminate at the Road?

While most understand the Road hole’s strategy and the visual and angle issues caused by bailing out left off the 17th tee, the R&A has begun adding more rough to “enhance” strategy by offering hack-out rough.

From John Huggan’s Golf World report after Martin Slumbers’ day with reporters this week.

“We will be looking at the course setup and there is some rough beginning to grow that will ensure the strategic nature of the Old Course remains. The importance of making sure you play the strategy properly will be enhanced. But if we get no weather, no wind and plenty of rain, we all know the links course is at the mercy of these great players. The Old Course is no different.”

Specifically, Slumbers indicated that the rough left of the 17th fairway on the iconic Road Hole will be enhanced in order to force players to the right, closer to the out-of-bounds. The grass on the bank left of the 14th fairway and right of the fifth will also be allowed to grow longer than ever before.

Also do not discount how much gorse has been allowed to remain to “defend” the course, on top of tee boxes on the neighboring courses, something Old Tom Morris worked to rid the place of and which was instrumental in the course’s increase in strategy and enjoyment.

But it’s the notion of taking a shot away from a player, or disallowing a ball to run to a disadvantageous location at the Old Course, that speaks to a special level of absurdity. Particularly given Slumbers’s suggestion that the growing effort has already begun, meaning everyday golfers will have to suffer more for one week every five to six years.

What a bleak and cynical vision for the most important and cherished links, and all so that a few people can avoid doing their job as regulators.

Storm Ali Shreds Alfred Dunhill Links Championship Tents

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They have some work to do in St. Andrews reclaiming tents for the upcoming Alfred Dunhill Links after the dreaded Storm Ali blew through the UK and especially through St. Andrews.

Richard Rooney with details and photos for The Courier.

There was as also this Instagram posting:

The St. Andrews Effect: 591 Try Senior Open Qualifying, Chamblee, Koch Among The Notables

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The Forecaddie weighed in on the proceedings from Scotland where many Americans made the voyage.

Well done to all of the geezers who crossed the Atlantic in an effort to play this week's Senior Open at The Old Course.

For Immediate release:

Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee will make his first professional appearance in more than ten years after successfully qualifying for The Senior Open Presented by Rolex.

The American, who made his last appearance on the PGA Tour in 2008, was one of 27 golfers who came through qualifying to book their place on the Old Course at St Andrews from July 26-29.

A record 591 qualifiers took part in the traditional Monday Qualifying at Fairmont St Andrews, Ladybank, Lundin Links and Scotscraig, with participants from all four corners of the globe descending on the county of Fife.

The 56 year old, who shared first place at Scotscraig Golf Club, said: “St Andrews means a lot to everybody in the golf world, but it holds a special place in my heart because I spent the summer of 1982 in Scotland. One of the highlights of my career was playing in The Open in 1995.

“So to bring my career in the game full circle, from the amateur game, to the PGA Tour, to the Senior Open, I couldn’t be happier to have made the field and to play amongst some of the best players to have every played the game.

“It’s a real treat for me to see a side of the game I haven’t known for 15 years.”

Joining Chamblee from Scotscraig were compatriot John Inman and English amateur Robert Maxfield – CEO of the Professional Golfers’ Association. Also earning their spots were Victor Casado, Vicente Fernandez, Darrell Kestner and amateur G.S. Lacy.

The first results of qualifying came from Ladybank as Fran Quinn finished first on three under par. He was joined automatically by Tommy Tolles and David Shacklady, who successfully earned his Staysure Tour card at Qualifying School earlier this year.

A five-way play-off was required for the final four spots, with Bob Ford, amateur Ryan Howison, Mark Ridley and former Walker Cup player Gary Wolstenholme securing their places on the first extra hole.

At Fairmont St Andrews, the closest Qualifying venue to the Old Course, Spain’s Andres Rosa was the only golfer to finish under par – one stroke ahead of David Mills and Henrik Simonsen who finished level par with rounds of 72.

An eight-man play-off decided the final four spots with Sweden’s Mats Dornell joined by fellow amateur Gene Elliott, Bill Breen and Pedro Linhart taking the spoils.

Six spots were available at Lundin Links, with Gary Koch – a colleague of Chamblee’s - and Jonathan Cheetham sharing first place on three under par. Angel Franco, amateur Michael McCoy and San Filippo qualified automatically on two under par.

A six-man play-off determined the final place on offer for this year’s Senior Open, and play was suspended on Monday evening due to darkness with three players still in the hunt. After play resumed at 8am on Tuesday morning, Australia’s Paul Archbold became the last man in after negotiating nine extra holes. 

The successful qualifiers will join a host of golfing greats at St Andrews including Ryder Cup Captains Sir Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie, Tom Watson, Ian Woosnam, and defending Senior Open champion Bernhard Langer.

Tickets starting at £15 can be purchased at, while under-16s and parking are free.


Fairmont St Andrews

Andres Rosa
David Mills
Henrik Simonsen
Mats Dornell (AM)
Gene Elliott (AM)
Bill Breen
Pedro Linhart


Fran Quinn
David Shacklady
Tommy Tolles
Bob Ford

Gary Wolstenholme
Mark Ridley
Ryan Howison (AM)

Lundin Links

Gary Koch
Jonathan Cheetham
Mike San Filippo

Michael McCoy (AM)
Angel Franco
Paul Archbold


Brandel Chamblee
John Inman
Robert Maxfield (AM)
Vicente Fernandez
Victor Casado

Darrell Kestner
G.S. Lacy (AM)

Images: Incredible Snow At St. Andrews

The Beast From The East they are calling it, reports Brentley Romine. But look at the contours in snow! Arrow on the image right will take you through all of the shots posted by the Links Trust.

2023: Walker Cup Headed To The Old Course

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The R&A finally got the hint after the USGA awarded future Walker Cups to Seminole and Cypress Point!

Announcing a return to the Old Course for the biennial matches was long overdue and most welcomed. It's a good time to be a 13 year old budding star!

For Immediate Release:

26 February 2018, St Andrews, Scotland: A historic milestone in the rich heritage of the Walker Cup will be reached at the Home of Golf in 2023 when the international match between Great Britain and Ireland and the United States is played at St Andrews.
The occasion will mark exactly 101 years since the biennial encounter was first contested at the National Golf Links of America in 1922 and will be the ninth time that the Walker Cup has been played at St Andrews; more than any other venue in its history.
The Walker Cup was last played over the world renowned Old Course in 1975 when the United States team, which included future major champions Jerry Pate, Craig Stadler and Curtis Strange, defeated GB&I 15½ -8½. GB&I won the Walker Cup matches played in 1938 and 1971 at St Andrews.
Duncan Weir, Executive Director – Golf Development at The R&A, said, “The Walker Cup is the pinnacle of men’s amateur golf in Great Britain and Ireland and the United States with many of the game’s greatest players including Bobby Jones and Sir Michael Bonallack having featured in memorable matches played over the Old Course at St Andrews.
“We are excited to be bringing the Walker Cup back to the Home of Golf for the first time in nearly 50 years and look forward to watching some of the world’s most talented amateur golfers contest the match over the famous Old Course in 2023.”
Euan Loudon, Chief Executive of St Andrews Links Trust, said, “We are delighted to see the Walker Cup return to our calendar of prestigious events at the Old Course. After a near 50-year absence we hope it will produce a memorable contest and reinforce the stature of amateur golf in Great Britain and Ireland.
“I am sure many talented golfers on both sides of the Atlantic, some of whom may just be at the beginning of their golfing journeys, will be inspired by the prospect of competing in amateur golf’s premier match at the Home of Golf.”
The match in 2023 will be the 49th playing of the Walker Cup and, of the 46 matches played to date, the United States has won 36 matches, GB&I nine matches, with one match tied.
The 2019 Walker Cup will be played on Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 September at Royal Liverpool, the venue for the first ever match between teams from Great Britain and Ireland and the United States in 1921 which would become the Walker Cup one year later. 
Seminole Golf Club in Florida will host the Walker Cup for the first time in its history in May 2021 while the 50th Walker Cup will be contested at Cypress Point in California in 2025.

The Open Returns To The Old Course In 2021

As The Forecaddie notes, golf's worst-kept secret was made official with the awarding of the 2021 Open Championship to the Old Course at St. Andrews. As I noted when the news broke during Morning Drive today, this is bucket list stuff. So start saving your money!

The R&A's announcement includes some wonderful footage and images:

Climate Coalition: "Only a small increase in sea-level rise would imperil all of the world's links courses"

A depressing new report on even the slightest change in sea levels suggests most of the world's links are imperiled, with some already on the cusp of major damage in a perfect storm scenario.

From an unbylined BBC report on The Climate Coalition issuing a warning to golf, football and cricket as the sports to be hardest hit, with links courses the most endangered.

The Open is the only one of golf's majors played in the UK and is hosted on links courses, including - as well at St Andrews and Royal Troon - Royal Birkdale, Hoylake, Royal Lytham & St Annes, Muirfield, Sandwich, Turnberry, Portrush and 2018 venue Carnoustie.

It adds that "more than 450 years of golfing history" at Montrose, one of the five oldest courses in the world, is at risk of being washed away by rising seas and coastal erosion linked to climate change.

Research published by Dundee University in 2016 showed the North Sea has crept 70 metres towards Montrose within the past 30 years.

Chris Curnin, director at Montrose Golf Links, said: "As the sea rises and the coast falls away, we're left with nowhere to go. Climate change is often seen as tomorrow's problem - but it's already eating away at our course.

"In a perfect storm we could lose 5-10 metres over just a couple of days and that could happen at pretty much any point."

Hmmm, Files: Old Course, Carnoustie Course Records Fall During Alfred Dunhill Championship

There will be the usual hysteria after a record falls that something must be done and while I always find that shortsighted and slightly disrespectful to the players involved--but let the hysteria begin!

Ross Fisher had an amazing shot at 59 during the Alfred Dunhill final round over the Old Course, in spite of a glacial round pace caused in part by the pro-am format. But a last hole three-putt from the Valley of Sin left him with 61 and a new record. Victor Dubuisson was on a 59 watch a few groups ahead of Fisher, but settled for 63.

Fisher was gutted to have finished the way he did, but well aware of his accomplishment.

“But to go out and shoot a score like that, with no bogeys, I just saw the lines and was hitting good putts and they were going in and I didn’t want it to end.

“At the home of golf, I wanted to try and give that putt on the last a try for 59 and it just came up a bit shy and then unfortunately I didn’t hit a great (birdie) putt, so unfortunately had to settle for a 61 – but I would definitely have taken it.”

The Fisher scorecard:

A new course record on the oldest course in the world ✍🏻 Congratulations Ross Fisher! #DunhillLinks

A post shared by European Tour (@europeantour) on Oct 8, 2017 at 10:40am PDT

Why should we be hysterical when the distance situation at classic courses has been an issue for nearly two decades ago, with huge leaps since the governing bodies drew a line in the sand (2003)?

Because course records get attention, especially when it's the Home of Golf and especially on a course not using some of the absurd Open Championship tees employed by the R&A to mask distance leaps.

While most of us know modern course conditioning combines with today's instruction technology and brain power, should lead to records falling. And that's just fine. But couple that with players rarely hitting a long iron due to courses being overwhelmed, and these accomplishments should be warning signs that the importance of certain skills has been diminished to the point that such a record may need an asterisk.

Gary Player took to Twitter to remind us that the Old Course is pretty defenseless these days.

This comes on the heels of Tommy Fleetwood shooting 63 at Carnoustie to establish a new course record there.

Fleetwood was honored by the accomplishment, reports The Telegraph's James Corrigan.

“Carnoustie course record holder – it sounds good doesn’t it? It was a good day’s work by any standards,” Fleetwood said. “When you consider all the great players who have played here, in Opens and in this tournament, it is very special to have the lowest score ever recorded on this course. Yeah, I hit it in some places where you probably won’t be able to get able to hitting it when the Open comes back here next year, but I’m still very proud.”

The highlights from that epic round:

Obama Plays The Old Course, Checks Out The Claret Jug

Looks like the former President had a grand day on the Old Course.

Note in the Swilken Bridge shot and post-round images how many people are encircling the Home green. BTW, nice outfits from the playing partners!

And checking out the Claret Jug, and given that he's in St. Andrews, this may be the Royal and Ancient clubhouse version (which is the oldest version).

Even @BarackObama is in awe of the Claret Jug!

A post shared by The Open (@theopen) on May 26, 2017 at 9:16am PDT

Anyone know the golf book he's got in hand?


Check out the crowd...


Old Course Hotel Takes Better Shelter From Road Hole Tee

I'm not sure why I found this roofer quote so funny given that he's been tasked to eliminate the £1,500 each week spent by the Old Course Hotel to replace damaged slates, but I will certainly cite this as my reason for hitting the hotel roof twice in 2015.

From an unbylined Sunday Herald story:

Euroshield owner Henry Kamphuis said: “I was stunned when we got the call because it was St Andrews. I was up on the hotel and the gutters are just full of golf balls. It’s very easy to hit the hotel. It’s right in the middle of the fairway.”

Trending: Sand Coming (Back) To St. Andrews!

We saw it at Troon and Turnberry and the world continued to revolve on its axis. So it is with great delight that Adam Lawrence reports on a New Course at St. Andrews effort to remove the gorse that so annoyed Old Tom Morris, and restore it to the sandy/grassy aesthetic of old.

This news is fun on multiple levels: this makes for a better looking course, better playing and better functioning. And what happens in St. Andrews has the potential to influence countless other links that have been compromised by gorse and the loss of dunes.

Lawrence quotes Graeme Taylor, course manager for the New and Jubilee.

Taylor told GCA that the reason for converting the gorse areas back to exposed sand was primarily ecological. “Bob Taylor, our ecologist from the Sports Turf Research Institute, actaully first suggested the exposed sand areas back in 2005,” he explained. “Bob explained that exposed sand was a habitat common to linksland and was ecologically important. We tried a few areas then, but nothing like the scale of what we are now doing. Bob visited us again after last year’s Open, and again suggested that creating open sand areas would be very beneficial ecologically, restore natural habitats, and be an interesting feature to otherwise scruffy areas.”

The news of an architect's involvement at St. Andrews is also intriguing given Ebert's fine work at Turnberry, Troon and presumably based on the track record of he and partner Tom Mackenzie, Portrush.

Could this be leading to a consulting role for The Old Course? Given the many disappointing tweaks in recent times and the overabundance of gorse that would have Old Tom fuming, let's hope so.

Q&A With Kevin Cook, Author Of Tommy's Honor

I resisted picking up Tommy's Honor in my usual fear of fictionalized versions of real stories and a cover that suggested it was going to be a downer. But for me it has become the best pre-Scottish golf pilgrimmage reading and one which I now crack open before heading to Scotland. (Note to self: don't judge a book by its cover.)

Any concerns about the Tommy's Honor storytelling related to golf's founding father and his decorated son are promptly eliminated when Kevin Cook takes us back to Old Tom's days in Prestwick. He captures a genuine sense of what these brave, slightly-nutty characters did to transform the idea of whapping a ball around on fescue turf and into the sport we have today. The former Golf Magazine editor does it with a perfect mix of historical accuracy, soulful storytelling and cinematic flair.

Cook's 2007 book, winner of the USGA book award, is an essential and entertaining way to learn about the early days of golf and The Open. It's become an essential piece of reading prior to making a Scotland golf pilgrimage.

Given the book's early focus on the first Open Championship at Prestwick and an Edinburgh Film Festival screening of the film version receiving encouraging reviews (here, here, here), the author kindly answered questions about his work.

No distributor has been finalized for the film with a screenplay by Cook and wife Pamela Marin. But since the film has just hit the festival circuit (clip's below Q&A), and we should be able to see it later this year or in early 2017.

GS: What compelled you to tackle the seemingly impossible task of re-creating the life and times of Old Tom, Young Tom and the founding of golf? 

KC: My wife, Pamela Marin, took me to Scotland for my first pilgrimage in 1986. I showed up at the Old Course at dawn and was lucky enough to play with three locals, Peter, Peter and John. They blessed me gravely when I descended into the Hell Bunker and laughed when I hit a grounder and called it a worm-burner. To them that’s a “scalded cat.”

They also talked about Tommy Morris. I knew about Old Tom, but the more I learned about his son the more I was drawn to this untold family drama with a tragic love story at its heart—all revolving around the dawn of professional golf.


GS: How many years was the book in the works research-wise and what kind of interesting things happened along the way in digging through archives for this?

KC: First came 20 years of filing away bits and pieces of the story. Then I got fired as editor of Golf Magazine. Seemed like a good time to write that book! In 2005 I rented a room in St Andrews and spent a couple weeks haunting the university library. That was the first of several trips, with side trips to the Mitchell Library in Glasgow, other archives in Scotland and the library at Royal Liverpool, where Tommy won the first big pro tournament outside Scotland in 1872. I hit a few worm-burners there before the 2006 Open Championship.

Along the way I made friends. One I’ll never forget was the late David Malcolm, a St Andrean who was one of the smartest and warmest people I ever met. (His Tom Morris of St Andrews: Colossus of Golf, co-written with Peter Crabtree, is a more scholarly approach to Tom’s life.) We compared notes and shared research. Our families became close, and we even house-swapped. David and his wife, Ruth, a gifted artist, got our pad in New York while Pamela and our kids and I stayed in their home in St Andrews.  


GS: Old Tom’s Prestwick years have always seemed to be a bit of a mystery, yet you get right into them early on in Tommy’s Honor. What went into the Prestwick research and does Old Tom Morris get enough credit for his role in helping create The Open?

KC: Ian Bunch, then the club secretary at Prestwick, welcomed me to the upstairs archive where I pored through records of Tom’s 14 years there, including the invitations (on robin’s-egg blue paper) summoning crack golfers to the first Open Championship in 1860. Tom organized the whole thing, working with his patron James Ogilvie Fairlie and the wealthy, sporty Earl of Eglinton. Tom hit the first tee ball—just as the wind blew his necktie up over his face, blocking his view—and came in second to his rival Willie Park.                 

Kevin Cook and Pamela Marin, photo by Ken Kubik
GS: As a writer and historian, did you struggle at all with taking what you researched and how you made it into a narrative, even if you were perhaps fictionalizing at times? (As a reader you never come across as either uncertain in your take, nor overly presumptuous about the circumstances they faced). 

KC: One surprise was how much specific information there was to tap into. During a time of what was called “Golfomania,” newspapers in Scotland and England tried to outdo each other in covering the game. I wore out a microfiche machine or two reading shot-by-shot accounts of famous matches. It was like discovering box scores from the very first baseball games.

Tom lived until 1908. As an eager publicist for his sport and his town (and his clubmaking business) he gave loads of interviews and loved to reminisce about Tommy. Many of their contemporaries wrote memoirs and gave interview of their own. David Malcolm’s research turned up fascinating details about Margaret, Tommy’s wife, which he generously shared with me. One of the great pleasures of writing the book was connecting the dots between countless details and putting them in context.

Yes, it had to hold together as a narrative. I was lucky to have a story that’s inherently dramatic, literally life and death. But there are times when you make storytelling choices, which boil down to educated guesses. For instance, I’ve got Tommy needling Tom about his lousy putting: “You’d be a fine putter, Da, if the hole were always a yard closer.” Now, I certainly don’t claim to know that Tommy said that on the hole where I’ve got him saying it, but he did tease his father, and Tom remembered that line decades later.          

GS: How did getting the book to the big screen come about? 

KC: A movie producer named Jim Kreutzer picked up my book on a golf trip to St Andrews and called to ask me about it. This was in 2012. Good timing. My wife, Pamela, a journalist and author of a well-received memoir, was remaking herself as a screenwriter. It’s an utterly different kind of writing—and thinking—and she’d written a script that got attention in Hollywood. That one didn’t get made, but it proved her ability. When the time came to make a deal for Tommy’s Honor, I optioned the book with one proviso: We write the script.

GS: The film looks visually stunning, but naturally, all golfers want to know is: did they make the golf scenes realistic?

KC: Jim Farmer, the R&A’s honorary professional and a former British Club Pro champ, did a terrific job as the actors’ golf coach. He got a surprise at first. During the casting process Jack Lowden, who plays Tommy, said, “Oh yes, I’ve been a golfer for years.” Because that’s what you do as an actor—if they ask if you can ride a horse or breakdance, you say yes. Later he told Jim he’d never swung a club in his life. But Jack’s an athlete as well as a brilliant young actor, and with Jim’s help he built a swing that’s authentic to the period. One thing I loved about Jim Farmer’s work was that the swings are authentic but different. Willie Park’s swing isn’t like Tommy’s.

There’s a crowd reaction that’s totally real. The great Peter Mullan, who plays Tom, had to make a ten-foot putt on a bumpy 19th-century green. He must have missed fifteen times. Each time, director Jason Connery reset the shot and the gallery got pumped up again. At last Peter knocks it in and the crowd goes genuinely wild.

The CGI people did a remarkable job recreating the blizzard of 1875 for one key sequence. And the biggest laugh in the movie comes during a favorite scene of mine, a caddies’ tournament that’s straight from the archives.       

GS: How did the trimming process go for making the book into a film?

KC: As the screenwriters Pamela and I did our own whittling, sitting side by side at the computer in early 2013. If I showed you our first draft you’d see that its structure, tone and dialogue account for about 80 percent of what wound up onscreen. Jason Connery was a joy to work with and had a bunch of good ideas that we incorporated. Jason grew up playing golf with his famous father; he’s got this story in his bones.

GS: Is there anything since the book was published that you have learned that might have changed your approach to the “characters”?

KC: I think we got it right. Tom Morris was modern pro golf’s founding father. Tommy invented a new role—he was the first touring professional. Tour pros should tip their hats to Tommy every time they tee off on Sunday.

And I think or at least hope that my work, and the script of which Pamela was the lead writer, will remind readers and moviegoers that the game’s pioneers weren’t stained-glass icons out of ancient history. They were brave, tough, star-crossed strivers living in a fascinating time.


GS: What does it mean to you that your book is now often cited as required reading before golfers make the pilgrimage to Scotland for the first time?

KC: That’s the best compliment I ever got. Tommy’s Honor began with my first pilgrimage to St Andrews. If the book and movie contribute to others’ experiences, I’ll have done my bit to honor Scotland and its people. 

Tommy's Honour clip one:

Tommy's Honour clip two: