July 17, 2013

British Open

I like this oddly surrealistic photo by Glyn Kirk of Phil Mickelson and ten greenskeepers, none of whom is looking at the second most famous golfer in the world. It's like a Magritte version of Van Gogh's picture of crows and a wheat field, or maybe a still from an alienated 1960 Euro movie: Last Year at Muirfield. (By the way, the essential weirdness of golf courses has only been exploited in one or two arthouse movies, most notably Lars von Trier's Melancholia.) Or Monty Python's Upper Class Twit of the Year and Race for People with No Sense of Direction skits. Or like when all the Agent Smiths in the Matrix Reloaded fight scene finally lose and then they all get depressed, turn different directions, and walk off (8:30 in the video).

It's interesting that all those greenskeepers aren't watering the not very green fairway. American golfers like a uniform carpet of green grass, but British Open courses are played on the random humps and bumps of sand dunes, where the trouble comes from the ball rolling into trouble. These days, pro golfers only fear two things: wind and gravity. Playing conditions look sensationally fast for an Open.

Muirfield, the home course of the Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, is the snobbiest, most formal golf course in Scotland. And yet, like almost all Scottish clubs, it is less private than thousands of American country clubs. Muirfield is open to non-members two mornings per week. If you are interested in private club lore, here's a description of what getting on Muirfield is like for an outsider by a guy who managed to play all the top 100 courses in the world on Golf magazine's list, finally finishing off with Augusta National after about a decade of trying to wheedle an invite.

19 comments:

Billy Chav said...

Conclusion of Antonioni's La Notte rivals Melancholi for use of golf course aesthetics. Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau rolling around in a sand trap. The Mickelson shot itself could easily be an Antonioni still.

FF said...

The UK says greenkeeper
http://www.bigga.org.uk/

and the US says greenskeeper
http://www.greenskeeper.org/main.cfm

Quirky

Anonymous said...

Did you see Bubba Watson's hovercraft golf cart?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5u_2bGPdUY

Anonymous said...

I rarely enjoy watching British Opens, Steve. The courses are not tv friendly, with little to no definition, and in the past, with BBC feeds, the camera work has always been sub-par( bless Frank Chirkinian). Maybe the problem is that they can't put tv towers where American networks would put them or perhaps the courses just don't lend themselves such placements.

It just doesn't translate through that camera.

speaking of Mickelson--after his poor performance in round 4 of our Open, I have a feeling, just a feeling, he COULD actually win this, the least likely of majors for him to capture. Stranger things have happened.

Anonymous said...

I rarely enjoy watching British Opens, Steve. The courses are not tv friendly, with little to no definition, and in the past, with BBC feeds, the camera work has always been sub-par( bless Frank Chirkinian). Maybe the problem is that they can't put tv towers where American networks would put them or perhaps the courses just don't lend themselves such placements.

Good point. I've noticed this too. The British Opens are never very telegenic. Always gray, overcast, with very dull, straw like grass. It just looks very messy.

Contrast it with US golf on TV, with rich, green grass, sun, nice panoramic shots, etc.

Steve Sailer said...

Muirfield, like St. Andrews, televises particularly poorly since it's not on the ocean and doesn't have big sand dunes. There are plenty of 5 and 10 foot tall slopes that give golfers fits, but they only show up on TV late on a sunny day.

Auntie Analogue said...


The long sun gives the header photo intrigue; stripped of its figures' long, anchoring shadows which give it pleasant composition, the image would have been unremarkable.

Steve Sailer said...

Like the Last Year at Marienbad still, with the similar shadows.

Anonymous said...

Not only are the courses poorly defined but the Golfers always seem to be shot from a distance, while the US TV is always "up close and personal".

The usually grey weather, and having everyone in rain gear doesn't help either.

Anonymous said...

Steve Sailer: It's interesting that all those greenskeepers aren't watering the not very green fairway. American golfers like a uniform carpet of green grass, but British Open courses are played on the random humps and bumps of sand dunes...

FF: The UK says greenkeeper...

Judging from the pictures, maybe the UKers should say "brownkeeper"?

pat said...

Typo alert:

It's Marienbad not Muirfield.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/113576/fog-reviewed-david-thomson-life-under-occupation

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/113551/world-war-z-reviewed-david-thomson

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/113713/fall-bbc-and-netflix-reviewed-david-thomson

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/113864/only-god-forgives-review-drive-director-and-ryan-gosling-reunite

Anonymous said...

What's with all this golf stuff? Even the word 'golf' sounds stupid. Sounds like gulf, and who needs a gulf in sports, but then, it's not even a sport but hiking around with a stupid ball.

Golf also makes no sense and is a totally contradictory sport. Just look at a golf course and it seems so open and free, like sound of music where hills are alive and you can go anywhere and sing and dance.
But most of the fields cannot be used as players must hit the ball into these allotted holes. So, most of the space goes unused.
Also, all that space seems relaxing, and when one first hits the ball, it's like FREEDOM, like homerun in baseball. But if a baseball player can hit the ball anywhere onto the field or into the stands, golfer must aim the ball into this tiny little hole. So, golf gives the impression of openness and freedom but the actual play is tightly constricted and aimed at driving the ball into a little hole in the ground. It lends the sense of freedom--lots of space on land and air--, but its goal is predetermined and controlled. And though the open spaces and hitting the ball into the air may feel liberating and relaxing, it must be a pain in the ass and nerve-racking to drive the landed ball into the damn hole. So much for relaxation. It will likely make you feel more grumpy and frustrated at the end of the day.

Maybe golf brings out the Odyssean in folks. It feels like an adventure to play such a game in such a wide and open field, like voyaging through a sea of grass. But its final goal is to 'go home' and reach the final hole. So, it shares the Odyssean paradox: wanderlust headed for home. Maybe the grass is like the sea in golf like gravel is used to signify the sea in zen stone gardens. Maybe Brits were into golf cuz they were a seafaring people.(Japanese are also an island folks, and they sure love golf).
Maybe Americans like golf cuz Americans love both the idea of freedom and idea of having a goal. Freedom aimed at work ethic and achievement than freedom just to be wild and stupid(like the fools at Woodstock who lost the New England work ethic).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTo7hC-DLtU

Speaking of Resnais, he made another movie called MON ONCLE d'AMERIQUE whose idea is kinda like golf. It's about modern life as one-where-we-think-are-free but one where we are really driven by 'predetermined' forces and toward certain hidden 'goals'.
Just like golfers feel free as they hit the ball into the air in wide open spaces BUT MUST FOLLOW THE PREDETERMINED COURSE OF THE GAME, modern folks think they are free but their decisions are shaped by society, human nature, and inner drives.

Maybe that's why memory is so crucial in LAST YEAR. Our present is determined by our past, and to break out of the determinism of past forces, we must change or deny our memory of the past, but then, what kind of present would it be if it denied the very past that led to it?
But maybe some people prefer the fantasy of their own chosen narrative. So, never mind what really happened LAST YEAR with Zimmerman and Martin. Just pretend that didn't happen and invent what should have happened.
And so, we have this Trayvon Mon Amour BS.

http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/mon-oncle-damerique-1980

http://www.jonathanrosenbaum.com/?p=23951

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxXvuvUpjls

Anonymous said...

Most of the British Open course are older than their American counterparts, but handle the modern game by defending par quite well.

As Dan Jenkins once had a Scottish barkeep comment to two American competitors complaining about the weather and the course, "You have titanium and sports psychologists on your side. All we have is wind and nature."

Power Child said...

To make Glyn Kirk's photo more like that still from Last Year at Marienbad, Mickelson's shadow should be digitally erased. That done, Mickelson seems to hover above the image.

(In LYAM, I believe the shot in question was taken at high noon and the shadows of the people were physically painted onto the ground.)

Top100's description was neat, thanks for linking.

Power Child said...

@Anonymous of 7/18/13, 10:11 AM:

I found both Last Year and Mon Oncle enjoyable, even though I'm typically repulsed by those types of movies. I think Resnais does good work.

Your Odyssian theory about golf is interesting, and makes me want to invent a golf-like game where the holes "move" and could be anywhere on the landscape.

Anonymous said...

"Maybe Americans like golf cuz Americans love both the idea of freedom and idea of having a goal."

We are all equally free but there are only few paths to success and power.

middle aged vetr said...

british open is one of my favorites to watch but I grew up on Long Island which is geologically much like post-ice-age Scotland but without the mountains

David said...

>hitting the ball into the air may feel liberating and relaxing, [but] it must be a pain in the ass and nerve-racking to drive the landed ball into the damn hole.[...] It will likely make you feel more grumpy and frustrated at the end of the day.<

You write of this game almost as if you've played it.

Every sport has an end toward which the player is to strive. Teleology is the meaning of the game of golf. The game demonstrates the tension between free will and determinism, between choice and final causation.

For filling that little hole is an existential act, a declaration of one's being - a sticking of one's thumb in the eye of das nichts. (Much as is wagging one's finger in the hole of a donut, which, as Mencken observed, is that one part of any donut that is always edible.) This existential urge activates the final causation involved, therefore choice and necessity move in a seamless dance. In such a dance, one becomes the representation, becomes the sacred. The holy trinity - represented, naturally, by the number 3 - is thus added to for the nonce, causing (?) the wild cry that I emit when I slice "FOUR/FORE". This cry of exu(a)tation is often echoed by my fellow searchers downfield in words more or less patterned after your golf/gulf distinction.

I love golf.