Hard times beckon on a bitch of a course

Guy Hodgson assesses a demanding links venue with a whiff of scandal

There are some sports you would associate with Joan Collins but golf is not one of them. There is a link with the actress, however, and one that reveals itself at the US Open which starts today. The Bitch and the birdie are not as removed as might be imagined.

There is a high tone to the clubhouse at Shinnecock Hills, the venue of this week's tournament, a solid sobriety befitting its status on a course built by American high society, the Vanderbilts. Grey is the colour and respectability oozes from every pillar.

But this refined face masks a scandal which once titillated London, Paris and New York. The Shinnecock clubhouse has a past, a stain on its reputation put there by its architect, Stanford White and, curiously enough, preserved for posterity partly by Miss Collins.

Early in her career she appeared in a film, The Girl In The Red Velvet Swing, playing the true-life part of Evelyn Nesbitt, an actress seduced by White, whose abilities on the drawing board were matched by an appetite for young women. The attraction proved fatal, however, because five years later Nesbitt's jealous husband shot the architect three times through the head.

So much for Shinnecock's upright standing, and so much too for the US Open's image as a tournament where the one thing a golfer does not need in his bag is imagination. The archetypal course for America's premier tournament has narrow fairways, pernicious rough and provides little or no opportunity to be creative.

This time the character of the tournament will take a violent mood swing. Shinnecock, built on a narrow strip of land on the extreme eastern tip of Long Island, is a links course for a start, its landscape more akin to Muirfield and Turnberry than Oakmont, Pennsylvania, where the tournament was played last year.

Named after the Indian tribe that still has its reservation little more than a mile away, the course has virtually no trees and the problems it poses for golfers live and die with the wind.

On a still day it is a benign lay-out from which the likes of Seve Ballesteros would expect to shoot the flags out, but those days come around with only a little more regularity than Christmas. Normally the wind crashes in from over the ocean at around 25 to 30 knots.

At 6,944 yards and a par of 70 it is not back-breaking by modern standards, and its fairways - 28 to 35 yards - are wider than most USGA officials can remember. But when the wind is really spiteful, making regulation can be the height of a player's ambition.

In 1986, the last time the US Open was played here, not a single player broke par on a particularly savage first day after, which Jim Murray in the Los Angeles Times wrote: "This was like climbing Everest after a lifetime of taking elevators."

Nevertheless, Shinnecock is regarded with affection by its victims. Ernie Els, the defending champion, regards the course as one of the best he has played on. "Oakmont was target golf," he said. "You had to bring the ball down soft on to the greens and there was no wind to talk about. This year will be very different. It is very close to Scottish links type of golf and you get to play different shots. You have to run some in and hook and cut, too."

In short, Shinnecock can be bitch to play around with. Joan Collins knows a thing or two about that too.

News
Food blogger and Guardian writer Jack Monroe with her young son
people
News
people
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
TV
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Life and Style
The racy marketing to entice consumers to buy Fairlife, which launches in the US next month
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital