WHEN a golfer blames the course for his own poor play - i.e. the greens were too slow, the fairways too narrow, the roughs too high, not enough sand in the bunkers or too much sand in them, a bad bounce, an unexpected lip out or whatever the architect and writer, Pat Ruddy has a ready answer: “Golfers are today's pampered Royalty!”
Golfers who moan about the cost of the game, or the condition of the course not being up to their expectations disregard the years of loving care that went into preparing a course for their enjoyment.
“They forget the millions spent assembling a course; the efforts and expertise of architects, constructors, devoted green-keepers, housekeepers and caterers.
“When they arrive at the club (at any time in the morning, afternoon or evening) everything is ready for them. There is food available if they want it, the grass has been freshly cut (it doesn't self-mow!) pitch marks and divots have been repaired, bunkers raked, rubbish bins emptied, pop up sprinklers do not turn themselves on.
“The showers are hot; clean towels at the ready. Someone always there to serve drinks. Too many golfers take it all for granted. Such high service comes at a price. A simple flick of plastic does the trick for the golfers of today.”
Those are the words written by Pat Ruddy in his latest book - Holes in My Head - A Lifetime Dreaming Golf Holes, which is a valuable insight into one of Ireland's most successful and unique golfing brains.
While golf is a game for enthusiasts of widely different abilities and seriousness, the architect who seeks to create golf courses to fit all must consider the numbers.
What did you shoot? What's your handicap? How far away is the flag? How far to get over the water? How deep is the green? How wide is the fairway?
Golf is a game of numbers. If you don't know the numbers, especially how far you hit the ball with each club in varying situations, you are at a disadvantage and reduced to playing by instinct, which is fine if you are ‘faffing’ about but it's an entirely different matter when there is something important on the line.
Few have led a lifetime as passionate about and as dedicated to the game as Pat Ruddy. His philosophy is stated clearly but not so easy to carry out, i.e. building courses of different scales and complexities to provide 'entertainment' for golfers of divergent skills, attitudes and temperaments.
The irony that those lacking the ability to play golf well, usually go home happier and more stimulated after a round than the perfectionist who expects too much, is not lost on him. One basks in the glory of a single good shot for days, whereas the other's sleep is disturbed due to one sloppy stroke.
Ruddy was infected by the golf bug early but he has drawn immense satisfaction from being consumed by it ever since.
First as a keen player, then as a trailblazing golf scribe before achieving his boyhood dream of building his own course: The European Club in County Wicklow, which he discovered by hiring a helicopter to bring him around the coast of Ireland in search of virgin links land.
Ruddy makes no secret of the fact that he enjoys providing substantial challenges. He is one of the few architects who will not shy away from saying that he expects serious players to toughen up and goes against the tide of modern minimalism.
“Bigger courses are better for the practical reason that big can be made smaller but it is not so easy to make a 'small course' bigger.
“Bigger courses can be played from multiple tees, offering championship play or social golf as required. Such flexibility cannot be duplicated on a smaller course. It's not my fault if vanity causes golfers to be humiliated by playing from the wrong tees.”
Massive thought goes into everything Ruddy does. Now, he has put it all (or nearly all) down on paper for posterity. Students of golf architecture will be entertained, educated and grateful for the insights.
The European Club is a deliberately modern design. Ruddy's ideas are always 'ahead of the game' and entirely his own with no copying of the great masters of bygone eras. He adopts innovations that you won't encounter elsewhere, i.e. a 20-holes golf course and a green that is 130-yards long (a par-3 by itself!)
Ruddy believes passionately: No matter what the price or the score, the wise golfer relishes the simplicity of walking around in a beautiful place, breathing the fresh air and with, more often than not, nice people as his companions.
His ingenious philosophy has seen no less than 35 national championships staged at courses designed by him. That he still has even more holes in his head waiting to be built comes as no surprise to me.
It will be well worth your time reading about them! Holes in My Head - A Lifetime Dreaming Golf Holes - published by Ruddy Golf Library, c/o The European Club, Brittas, Co. Wicklow. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Words of the Wise
The sand belt golf courses south of Melbourne, Australia are the best collection of golf courses on the planet. To play them is to experience the greatest form of golf you can play. Melbourne is, arguably, the greatest sporting city in the whole world. If I had a choice, I'd have asked the stork who delivered me to drop me off in Melbourne!