Chapter Eight: The Advent of the "Open  Doctor"

 

169    “a rugged, if not impossible, course”  RTJ to AK, USGA OHC, 14-15 Feb. 1991,transcript, pp. 70-71.

169    “greens committee should have an odd number”  Dan Jenkins, Fairways and Greens (New York: Random House, 1992), p. 92.

170    “head up body styling and engineering for Ford”  John Garrity, “Making the Monster,” Sports Illustrated, June 10, 1966, pp. 1-2, available in the SI Vault at http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1008246/index.htm, accessed on 29 March 2013.

171    “so hard, nobody can win it”  For information about the career of John Oswald in the American automobile industry, see Griffith Borgeson, Errett Lobban Cord: His Empire, His Motor Cars (Detroit, MI: Automobile Heritage Publishing Co., 2005). Many references to Oswald’s work for Cord can also be found by surfing the internet.

172    “Seventy-two was a score”  RTJ quoted in HWW, “Profiles: Links and Meadowland,” The New Yorker, 4 Aug. 1951, 40. See also Dan Jenkins, Sports Illustrated’s The Best 18 Golf Holes in America (New York: Delacorte Press, 1966), p. 130.

172    “not merely new technology” RTJ quoted in HWW, “Profiles,” 40.

173    “inconsolable for days”  RTJ, GMC, pp. 179-80.

174    “I was the first to really measure”  ibid., p. 107.

174    “that now lay virtually defenseless”  ibid.

175    “penalty for a bad drive to be the same”  Rees Jones quoted in Garrity, “Making the Monster,” p. 2.

176    “stiff consequences for failure”  RTJ, GMC, p. 107.  See Tom Flaherty, The U.S. Open 1895/1965: The complete story of the United States Golf Championship (New York: E. P. Dutton, Inc., 1966), p. 127.

176    “bunkers became an even bigger hazard”  Curt Sampson, Hogan (Nashville, TN: Rutledge Press, 1996), p. 154.

176    “gamble on muscle”  RTJ, GMC, p. 107.

176    “simply forced the professional”  ibid., p. 180.

176    “realistic par”  RTJ to Marge Darwell, in manuscript entitled “Just Me, Trent Jones,” by M. Darwell, p. 23, dated 2 Mar. 1998. This document is the preliminary draft of what was meant to be an autobiography authored by Jones with the help of Ms. Marge Darwell, one of Jones’s long-time secretaries, working with him at the time in his office at Coral Ridge Country Club in Fort Lauderdale. Jones introduced the document with the following words: “This story is about ‘Just Me, Robert Trent Jones, Sr.,’ and it tells about the golf courses I’ve built during my lifetime. It is the product of collaboration between me and my personal secretary, Marge Darwell. Marge has been researching facts about the courses I built and typing the information on her computer and I have embellished the description of the courses by telling her anecdotes I remember about some of them. We started to work on my story in February, 1995, and have since that time devoted an hour or so a few times a week at the computer adding things to the story. I want to publish this manuscript when we’ve finished. Photographs have yet to be selected, as I want to include the best shots of some of my best courses. Marge wants to call the book, Just Me, Trent Jones.” The total length of the document is 102 typewritten pages double-spaced. There seems to have been no attempt to publish the memoir, which in major respects were fragmentary and incomplete, at any rate.

176    “true championship examination”  RTJ, GMC, pp. 88-89

177    “had to be played into a specific areas”  ibid., p. 61.

177    “restore the playing values”  ibid., p. 40.

178    “helped brutalize”  Bradley S. Klein, Discovering Donald Ross: The Architect and His Courses (Chelsea, MI: Sleeping Bear Press, 1989), p. 289.

178    “not my favorite concept”  Tom Doak, The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses (Chelsea, MI: Sleeping Bear Press, 1996), p. 158.

178    “I don’t hate golfers”  RTJ, GMC, p. 40.  In Jones’s view, the average club member who was a short hitter (the kind of player Tom Doak worries about) shouldn’t be playing the back tees but rather playing the middle or forward tees appropriate to his game. “I make my courses a test for golfers of every ability,” claimed Jones. “By shifting tee markers and repositioning cups on a course, it can become intense or placid to conform with the conditions of the course and abilities of every player.” The new Oakland Hills was exactly this sort of course, in Trent’s opinion. It fully represented his “unwavering philosophy” that every hole should be a difficult par but an easy bogey. “Difficult as the South Course at Oakland Hills was and is for the professional from the back tees,” Jones opined in his autobiography, “it is very playable and enjoyable for the better amateur from the middle tees and for the lesser player from the forward tees. It is still a stern test, mind you, but it can be negotiated . . . with some frustration, as there always is, but usually without humiliation.”[i] Rather than a course that tricked or brutalized its players, Oakland Hills, for Jones, always remained “a great example of how a course can be remodeled to accommodate all types of players and still maintain the integrity of the original architect’s—in this case, Ross’s—design. In this way Oakland Hills could not only be a superb course for members but also a supreme test for a modern Open championship. Ibid., p. 42 and 179.

179    “close inspection”  Joe Dey quoted in John Garrity, “Making the Monster,” Sports Illustrated, 19 June 1976, accessed on 25 Feb. 2013, at http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1008246/index.htm.

179    “nothing unfair or tricky”  Byron Nelson quoted in ibid.

179    “used to dominating courses”  RTJ, “Oakland Hills,” typescript, n.d., p. 2, in Oakland Hills File, JP, CUA. This typescript was part of a larger manuscript that Jones was preparing for publication in the 1980s.

179    “psychological shock”  ibid., p. 2 and p. 4; RTJ, GMC, p. 42.

180    “but we don’t have to like it”  Sam Snead quoted in Garrity, “Making the Monster,” p. 1.

180    “a golfing rattlesnake”  Garrity, “Making the Monster,” p. 1.

180    “crashed their way around easy layouts”  ibid.

180    “not a single competitor matched par”  ibid.  Dan Jenkins later wrote, “Oakland Hills in 1951 was the kind of course where you could lose your feet in the tall, brutal rough. And on those frequent occasions when the golfer would find himself on the wrong side of the green, there was usually something between his ball and the cup, either the Sahara Desert, played by a yawning, intrusive bunker, or the Himalayas, played by the fierce undulations of the putting surfaces”  (Jenkins, Fairways and Greens, pp. 92-94). In Trent Jones’s words, it was as if his redesigned course threw them into “a state of confusion.”  There was “no complaint against a particular hole or a particular group of holes,” according to Jones; rather, it was “just that the golfers weren’t scoring as they had been accustomed to doing.” The experience was humiliating. “The first reaction of the players was to be cagey,” Trent explained. “Instead of trying to fly a tee shot over the fairway bunkers, they chose to play safe, use irons and 3-woods off the tee, play short of the traps, and take a longer iron to the greens” (RTJ, typescript, “Oakland Hills,” p. 62).  But the strategy did not work.

181    “par will mean something”  ibid.

181    “mentally photograph the course”  Tom Flaherty, The U.S. Open: 1895-1965 (NY: E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1966), p. 127.

182    “Hogan would have had an opinion”  RTJ quoted in Garrity, “Making the Monster,” p. 2.

183    “more disgusted with himself”  RTJ typescript, “Oakland Hills,” p. 62.

183    “can’t steal anything out there” Dan Jenkins, “Oakland Hills Country Club,” Sports Illustrated’s The Best Eighteen Holes in Golf (NY: Delacorte Press, 1966), p. 130

183    “thirty-three-year-old Dave Douglas”  Dave Douglas was paired with Ben for the last two rounds of the 1951 U.S. Open. This is noteworthy because Douglas stood at a score of 145 after two rounds (75-70) while Hogan rested four strokes behind him at 149 (76-73).  There were a half dozen golfers with 36-hole scores separating Douglas and Hogan, so why were they paired together for the “Saturday 36”? The answer is that it was not the policy of the USGA at the time to send the groups out on Saturday in order from highest position to lowest. This practice did not start to happen with the USGA (or professional tournament golf generally) until several years later.  The current system of pairing players, where the leader tees off in the last group, came about only after the U.S. Open (and other championships such as the Masters) started to be televised annually, because this ordering of the players made for the most dramatic finish for television. Before that, the leader was just as likely to go off in the middle of the starting times, and might have been grouped with almost any player in the field. The first year that the tournament leaders went off in reverse order with the leader in the last group (for the third and fourth rounds) was 1966. Prior to this, the players near the top of the leader-board typically teed off around the middle of the starting times. Pairings were totally in the hands of the tournament committee and it could put the competitors together in any pairings they chose; for example, the committee could put a notorious slow player together with a pro who played fast. Or the committee could pair a golfer who talked a lot with one who didn’t. In today’s tournament golf, this sort of frivolousness (or randomness) in setting the playing groups for the last two rounds of a tournament seems ridiculous, but that is how the system worked prior to the era of televised golf. The author wishes to thank USGA historian Dr. Rand Jerris for providing his help with this information.

183    “South African Bobby Locke”  Trent Jones greatly admired the golf game of “Old Muffin Face,” the uncharitable nickname that had been given to Locke, an extraordinarily talented pro from the Transvaal region of South Africa, unquestionably one of the era’s greatest players.  In 1949-50 Locke, wearing his customary “plus fours” (knickers), dress shirt, and tie—as well as what his competitors came to regard as a chronically “inscrutable look”—had won two straight British Opens and from 1947-49 had placed third, fourth, and fourth in the U.S. Open. In 1950 Locke did not play in the U.S. Open at Merion because he had been banned from the American tour, ostensibly for failing to show up for some scheduled exhibitions. However, the sad truth was that a number of American touring pros had come to resent Locke deeply because he was winning too much of the U.S. prize-money, including the biggest check at an event known as the “Chicago Victory National,” which Locke won in 1948 at Midlothian Country Club by a record 16 strokes. Claude Harmon, the 1948 Masters champion, would later admit. “We had to ban him. He was simply too good.”  (Harmon’s quote about Bobby Locke was expressed on a South African Open television broadcast on the Golf Channel, 19 December 2010.)  Locke was especially renowned for “a godlike putting touch.” (Sampson, Hogan, p. 155.) Locke wanted to get back at his jealous rivals by winning the Open at Oakland Hills.

          After Oakland Hills, the rightfully bitter South African chose play only a few isolated events in the United States. A good book on Bobby Locke’s life and controversial career in American golf is badly needed. Locke himself wrote two books, neither of which deal substantially with his “short but definitely not sweet” career in the United States (George Peper, ed., Golf in America: The First 100 Years (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc, Publishers, 1988, p. 100).  Those books are Bobby Locke, The Basis of My Game (London, England: Slazenger, Ltd., 1949) and Bobby Locke on Golf (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1954). Herbert Warren Wind discusses Locke’s career in his chapter “The Revival of International Golf,” in his The Story of American Golf (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1975), 3rd Edition, Revised, pp. 338-44, 363-4, and 38102. Wind’s book was originally published in 1948.

184    “have to be Houdini to win now”  Hogan quoted in Sommers, The U.S. Open: Golf’s Ultimate Challenge (NY: Atheneum, 1987), p. 159.

184    “nor should he want to”  RTJ, GMC, p. 187.

185    “I’m going to burn it up”  Hogan quoted in Sommers, The U.S, Open, p. 160.

185    “Location of Tee Shots”  RTJ, “Location of Tee Shots, 3rd Round, June 16, 1951, Oakland Hills Country Club, Birmingham. Michigan, 51st U.S.G.A. Open Championship,” copy in “Oakland Hills” file, JP, CUA. Jones prepared this chart on drafting paper whose dimensions were 25 inches wide and 42 inches long. The chart included all of the holes on the golf course except for the four par-threes. On the same type and size of drafting paper Jones prepared his “Drive Chart, 51st Open Championship, United States Golf Association, 1st Round—14th Hole, Oakland Hills Country Club, Birmingham, MI,” which recorded the driving distance (carry plus roll-out) for all 163 players in that year’s Open field. This chart is also in the Oakland Hill file, JP, CUA.

187    “Locke surely knew the bunker was there”  RTJ, GMC, p. 213.[1]

188    “the gallery was huge”  One golf writer reporting on the huge gallery at Oakland Hills for the finish of the ’51 Open called it “The biggest mob in history ever to follow a golfer” (quoted in Sampson, Hogan, p. 156).  In those days, the crowd was not roped off from the fairways and could get very close to the players when they were hitting their shots. Trent Jones recognized this to be a problem on two grounds: first, in big crowds like Hogan was now facing the player walked, and played his shots, with little to no protection from intruding or rowdy spectators; second, from the architect’s and greenkeeper’s points of view, there “wasn’t much sense in letting the rough grow to penalize the errant shot, then having the gallery trample it down to the point where the ball would sit nicely on top of it.” Prior to the post-World War II boom in the popularity of professional golf, there was not much need for roping off the galleries. As Jones recalls, some roping had been done before at St. Andrews for the British Open and on the 13th hole at Augusta National, but never in other tournaments or national championship play. “There were only three or four groups at the time for which the spectators needed to be kept from crowding close to the players,” Trent Jones later remembered, but the actions of huge galleries like those at Oakland Hills for the U.S. Open convinced Jones that systematic roping-off needed to be done to restrict spectators from the fairways and from those parts of the rough that were in play. In his view, “I introduced roping to American tournament golf.” The first time it would be done was at the 1954 U.S. Open at Baltusrol, another course that Jones would redesign for the Open championship. The USGA came to agree with Jones’s notion, but only after heated discussion, but following the success of the roping-off system used at Baltusrol, the idea caught on. As Jones would boast later in his career, “Now no tournament could be conducted without it.”  RTJ, GMC, p. 107.

189    “craning to see the finish”  Sommers, The U.S. Open, pp. 161-62.

190    “this is as it should be”  RTJ, “Oakland Hills,” p. 6.

190    “played in cold anger”  Flaherty, The U.S. Open, p. 129; Sommers, The U.S. Open, p. 162.

190    “I’d go into some other business”  Hogan quoted in Flaherty, The U.S. Open, p. 129.

191    “he might have won more Opens”  RTJ, Golf’s Magnificent Challenge, p. 18 and p. 180; RTJ to Marge Durwell, in “Just Me, Trent Jones,” p. 23. According to the version of the incident in  which Hogan made his remark to Ione Jones told by golf writer Peter Dobereiner, “the architect’s charming wife [Ione] was genuinely thrilled at Hogan’s victory and {after the trophy presentation] duly offered her congratulations, only to be taken aback by Hogan’s gruff reply: ‘If your husband had to play his own courses for a living, you’d starve.’ Incidentally, this is believed to be not only the rudest but also the longest sentence ever uttered by Hogan during his illustrious career.” (Peter Dobereiner, “Foreword,” Golf’s Magnificent Challenge (1988), p. 18.) To Trent Jones, Hogan’s depreciative remarks were actually “the ultimate compliment.” His victory at Oakland Hills in 1951 confirmed the architect’s opinion that “only a great player can win on a great golf course.” And Trent strongly suspected that, deep in his heart, Hogan felt the same way about it.

          Upon subsequent reflection Trent Jones wondered whether he had made the course too difficult. “Perhaps the change was too abrupt, and indeed the course has since been eased with the elimination of half a dozen strategic bunkers. Nevertheless, the 1951 Open was a milestone, the coming of age of American golf course architecture. I’m sure it was a form of culture shock, as well as the difficulty of the course, that contributed to the high scores…. Both the USGA and the PGA feel that par is a standard and that score around par should be the winning total in their championships. By this definition, Oakland Hills was indeed not too difficult.”

Jones always thought that the publicity generated by his redesign of Oakland Hills “gave further impetus” to his career. Without question, the job he did on the golf course—literally and figuratively—made him “famous or notorious, depending on whose opinion you want to entertain.”  See RTJ, GMC, p. 42 and 88.

191    “a very flattering article”  ibid, p. 88.

191    “one shortcoming or another”  HWW, “Profiles,” The New Yorker (4 Aug. 1951): 28-43.  Wind’s August 1951 essay—and shorter articles resulting from it that shortly after appeared in Time and Newsweek—put an exclamation mark on what Jones had done to toughen up at Oakland Hills. Prior to Jones’s remodeling, the old Ross course was a “pushover” no longer suitable as an examination for the nation’s top golfers. The “game’s star shot-makers,” after “years of grace,” Wind wrote, totally “lost their poise when confronted with the possibility of being penalized for off-line tee shots, visiting Jones’s bunkers with “disconcerting regularity.” Yet, “after getting over their first sense of humiliation at their inability to pick up their usual strings of birdies, most of the pros admitted, with decreasing reluctance, that the revised Oakland Hills was not an unfair course and faithfully rewarded them when they played good golf shots.” Wind quoted Bobby Locke’s stoic declaration following the conclusion of the championship that Jones’s reworking of the course was “the finest test of golfing skill” he had ever encountered. Wind’s profile of the golf architect in The New Yorker itself stands as a major landmark in Jones’s life journey, one that cultivated Jones’s image as the world’s greatest golf course architect and the one who was most unafraid to take on golf’s establishment.

192    “toss some grass seed around”  HWW, “Profiles,” The New Yorker: 28.

192    “result in a better score”  As it turned out for Jones, the timing was perfect for the national publicity given to him by The New Yorker article. “Money was becoming available after a brief recession before 1950,” Jones later explained. “Clubs around the country were in the mood to remodel their courses, and new construction was beginning to boom. Architects were suddenly in demand, and I had become perhaps the best-known in the world.” His work at Oakland Hills “spawned requests to remodel or touch up other sites for major championships.” Opportunities for redesign came to Jones at Baltusrol in New Jersey for the ’54 Open; at The Olympic Club in San Francisco for the ’55 Open; at Oak Hill in Jones’s home town of Rochester for the ’56 Open (and again for the ’68 Championship); at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for the ’59 Open, and at Congressional in Bethesda, Maryland, for the ’64 Open. Little wonder that Jones soon came to be known as “The Open Doctor.” (RTJ, GMC, p. 88 and 90.) As architect Tom Doak would later reflect, “The architect was regarded by many (except the players) as a hero. Trent Jones thus became the first golf architect whose name was a selling point in the marketing of a course, a phenomenon that led to greater recognition and higher fees for those at the top of the profession.” (Doak, “The Course of Architecture,” in Golf in America, ed. George Peper and the Editors of Golf Magazine (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1988), p. 116.)  Even President Dwight D. Eisenhower “was after me,” Jones recalled. Starting all the way back to William Howard Taft, U.S. Presidents had been avid golfers—Herbert Hoover, FDR, and Harry Truman being the exceptions. But no occupant of the White House came to love the game as passionately as Eisenhower, who became a member of a number of clubs, most notably Augusta National. Not long after he became President in 1952, “Ike” asked Trent Jones to build a hole at Camp David that he could play during his respites there. “Actually, we built one green with three tees,” Jones later explained, “so he could play it at different distances,” ranging from about 90 to 130 yards. (RTJ, GMC, p. 90)

193    “not a monster anymore”  Rees Jones quoted in Garrity, “Making the Monster,” p. 3.

193    “vanish in harmony with various national championships”  ibid., pp. 1-2.  For the most part, Oakland Hills got what it wanted. Gene Littler won the 1961 U.S. Open at Oakland Hills and Gary Player won the 1972 PGA Championship both shooting a score of 281, one over par. When two golfers, Australian David Graham and Texan Ben Crenshaw, both shot eight-under-par 272 in the 1979 PGA Championship at OHCC (Graham won a three-hole playoff, after shooting 65 in the final round), none of the members much liked the low scores. So Trent Jones was brought back to Detroit one more time to toughen the course; he succeeded. At the U.S. Senior Open at Oakland Hills in 1981, Arnold Palmer won with 289, nine-over par. Four years later Andy North won the rain-plagued 1985 U.S. Open on the course at one-under 279. When the U.S. Senior Open returned to the Birmingham, Michigan, layout in 1991, Jack Nicklaus led the pack by shooting a plus-two 282. The final U.S. Open played on the course in 1996 was won by Steve Jones at 278, a mere minus two. Irishman Padraig Harrington got it only to three-under 277 to win the 2008 PGA at Oakland Hills. The course is, indeed, still a great test of golf. (Oakland Hills also hosted the 2002 U.S. Amateur, won by Ricky Barnes, and the 2004 Ryder Cup, won by the European team.) 

193    “twentieth-century conditions”  RTJ, “Oakland Hills,” p. 2.

193    “Nobody cared who designed the sets”  RTJ Jr. quoted in Garrity, “Making the Monster,” Sports Illustrated, June 10, 1966, available in the SI Vault at http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1008246/index.htm, accessed on 29 March 2013.