To many of the legends of golf -- Walter Hagen, Bobby Locke, Henry Cotton among them -- the course on which this year's British Open will be contested has always seemed one of the greatest. Whoever wins on this layout, all sandhills and solitude, will have proved himself a real artist at this tantalizingly difficult game.
Royal St. George's is situated in a medieval town, once a great port, which now lies two miles inland. It is as far removed from the lush parkland courses on which most golf is played as one can possibly imagine.
But it was on this sort of course in Scotland, and possibly in Holland, that the game of golf began and it is this sort of golf, with blind carries, sloping lies, cavernous bunkers, bumps, and hollows that is ``the real golf'' to the British.
At Open time it has been said, ``You can lose 40,000 people in these rolling dunes.''
It is a driver's course. You have to be able to drive accurately at marks on the horizon, often judging the length needed from memory or by a kind of computed hunch allowing for the strength of the wind and the lightness or heaviness of the air.
The salt wind blows regularly, too, often coming in and going down with the English Channel tides.
You must be able to play all the shots from all the lies, taking the rough with the smooth. It's not just a drive, pitch, and putt course. In 1981, when Bill Rogers won here, dozens of sub-par rounds were posted on the quiet second day. But after four days, only the winner had bettered the 280 par.
In 1934 Britain's Henry Cotton started 67, 65, but finished (and won) with a final 79!