“St. Andrews and the British Open”

From a 1984 Open Championship review
St. Andrews and the British Open

Editor’s note: This is one of several Herbert Warren Wind excerpts selected by author Bradley Klein to accompany his Wind profile, “Forever in Tweed, Amen,” as featured in TGJ No. 13.

Aug. 27, 1984

St. Andrews is an enchanting town for a traveller to return to, I discovered again this summer. The townspeople are genuinely friendly, and their politeness bowls you over. The imminence of another British Open championship on the Old Course had put an almost tangible tingle in the air. After dinner on the evening of my arrival, it was impossible for me to restrain myself from walking over to the Old Course to see how it was looking. It was then almost half past nine, but in a latitude as northerly as St. Andrews’ the light still holds in July at that late hour. I walked past the entrance of the R.& A. clubhouse and onto the course, with the eighteenth green on my left and the tee of the first hole on my right, just in front of the bay window of the Big Room. Two hundred and more St. Andreans were strolling here and there over the large grassed rectangle that serves as the fairway for both the first and the eighteenth holes. I found myself instinctively patting the grass of the eighteenth green to see if it felt as smooth and as tightly knit as the greens of the Old Course generally do. The grass felt fine, but it was a little higher than I had expected it to be. The greens evidently had not as yet been mowed to championship height. As I walked on in the gloaming toward the Swilcan Burn, I became increasingly conscious of how brightly green the eighteenth green, behind me, and the first green, across the Swilcan, were in comparison with the dun color of their joint fairway. The fairways had relatively little grass on them, and, though they are a pale brownish-green when in prime condition, they were browner and drier than I remembered ever having seen them before. On the first hole, which is 370 yards long, the green begins at the far side of the Swilcan, which is generally about a foot or so deep and is lined with walls of stone or wood on both sides. At the edge of the Swilcan, I picked up a ball-retriever that was lying there, and when I dipped the handle in the burn I found that the water was only half an inch deep. I headed back to my hotel a little concerned about the condition of the course. Clearly, this corner of Scotland had been undergoing a protracted drought. I was sure that everyone connected with the Open was praying for rain and more rain in the days remaining before the first round of the Open. I went to bed early that evening, not long after the distant lights of Carnoustie, across the Firth of Tay, had gone on.