How to read the greens

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The Independent Online
THE Spirit of Andrews is not to be confused with anything that might have been comforting those competitors who were not required to turn up for the third round yesterday. It is, in fact, a book that is apparently lying on the bedside tables of Greg Norman and Nick Price, among other top golfers.

Alister MacKenzie, a surgeon and camouflage expert from Yorkshire, who wrote the book has also designed or remodelled some of the greatest courses in the world, including Cypress Point, Augusta National and the Old Course at St Andrews. His masterpiece on course design was written in 1933, a year before his death, and since became known as the "Lost Manuscript".

In 1993, Ray Haddock, MacKenzie's step-grandson, an occasional 22-handicap golfer, went to play the Pasatiempo course in Santa Cruz, headquarters of the MacKenzie Historical Society. Barry Staley, executive director of the group, persuaded Haddock to let him look at MacKenzie's old papers that still remained in the family's care and "nearly fell off my chair" when he saw what was there.

"The Old Course is a classic," Norman said. "I'm reading his wonderful book and you get the feeling of what MacKenzie was trying to create. Take the 14th - there are at least four ways to play it. As conditions change, the good player has the mental ability to find the best way to play it. The changes he made were for the better golfer. That's why you had Ballesteros and Faldo and the best players winning."

As for the authors of the secondary publication, they went for a round on Thursday night and played the front nine "comfortably under par" before dashing home to see Jack Nicklaus take 10 at the 14th on the TV highlights. Lengthy though the Bear's torment was, they managed to switch on just as he clambered, rather disgruntled, out of Hell.

APART from thanking his wife for taking his suit to Tuesday's graduation at St Andrews University, Gary Player, now Doctor of Laws, had to thank Bob Charles for providing some underwear when his baggage failed to appear at the course in time. Charles is the southpaw from New Zealand. "You know how Bob plays," Player said. "I feel like I should be swinging left- handed."

Player recalled the first night he spent in St Andrews 40 years ago. "I didn't have a room, so I had to sleep on the sand dunes in my waterproofs." It didn't get much better the next night. "I had that room up there," said the South African, pointing at a window above the 18th which is now part of a block of flats. "But there were no curtains. I had to put up a rug to keep out the light at 4.30 in the morning."

THE Exhibition tent is crammed with goodies. Take the MPF 9000. That's a trolley, with a seat, and optional umbrella holder. It is from Taiwan. "By design and concept," the literature (if you can call it that) says, "of waving handle, during the operation of this cart, the dear golfers can easily fit this cart handle to his/her handle height, and more than this, the function of waving, can abrob [sic] or reduce the shocking from the ground transferred [sic] from the uneven course ground." Safety instructions are included: "Please lower your bottom into the center part of the seat, not the edges, in a slow gradual seating method, using hands, as available, to assist in stability. Do not attempt to stand on the seat, to tie shoelace, or lean a foot or any portion of a leg on the seat."

THE accepted method of getting to play the Old Course is to put your name in the daily ballot. It can take anything up to three days for your name to be picked out. That period may now be extended after Keith Prowse bought up a number of tee times and the glossy brochure is already out. "The Old Course Experience operated by Keith Prowse" offers a free draw for two places on the Old Course and luxury accommodation. The locals aren't happy.

THE clubhouse here was given a facelift in the winter, but the attitudes inside remain the same. No women; no dogs; and, certainly, no shorts. A golf writer who favours such garb was chatting with Seve Ballesteros outside the clubhouse entrance when they were interrupted by the Royal & Ancient secretary, Michael Bonallack. "You're not going in there like that, are you?" he enquired. "If it's all right with you," came the reply, "I've already been in for a leak."

Contributions from Andy Farrell and Peter Corrigan.