The Hacker: Members make balls-up of Turnberry rough – that's the thick of it

Just so you can get the full flavour of the task facing the world's best golfers in The Open at Turnberry this week, let me pass on some idea about the state of the rough on the Ailsa course.

Player after player who have had a sneak preview have told how tough it is. Padraig Harrington says it is the thickest he's ever seen.

But Colin Montgomerie came out with the most revealing fact. Turnberry members were given the rare treat of playing on The Open course a couple of weeks ago.

Usually club members are forbidden to tread the hallowed fairways for weeks before the event but 150 of them were allowed to play a medal on the Ailsa.

Between them they lost 480 balls in the tall and cruelly-thick rough. I don't have a record of the scores but I am told they were very high and there were between 70 and 80 "no returns".

In other words, half the competitors either ripped up their cards or gave up keeping count of the shots they'd taken. You get a few "NRs" in most club medals but that number represents a slaughter of epic proportions.

And the members weren't even playing off The Open tees. They were off the whites.

It does help to get some perspective on the difficulties presented by an Open course when you see how ordinary golfers perform on it.

Back in the days when golf stars used to have a pint or two with the press during tournaments I remember Wayne Grady propounding his belief that before every major tournament club golfers should be sent out to sample the problems the pros face and prove how hard is the challenge. He suggested the Press would be ideal for the job.

I said it was like sending canaries down a mine shaft but it is a good idea to send out guinea pigs to give us a measure of how tough it is.

Watching the top golfers in action on television can often make the game look too easy and not give a true impression of their achievements.

If you are at the course as a spectator you can see the distances involved and the level of accuracy required and you can feel whatever discomforts the weather is bringing. You also see the bad shots as well as the good.

What you see at home is a sanitised version. TV foreshortens a course, smooths out the bumps and hollows, hides the difficulties. And the cameras tend to show better players making the better shots with apparent ease.

There is an upside to this because the seeming simplicity of it all persuades people to take up the game. By the time they discover they've been conned, they're hooked.

Since I've been moaning about the rough at Royal Porthcawl I shall be taking a close look at Turnberry's rough this week and an even closer look at how the pros keep out of it.

Of course, the pros will have far more help than Turnberry's members in finding the balls that go adrift. Thousands of spectators will be assisting by trampling down the grass.

There will be even more than usual when they hear there's a good few balls waiting to be found.

Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower