posted on February 26, 2009 15:11
GOLF COURSE PENTIMENTO
One of the subtler joys of observing golf courses is the study of their architecture and design. If a golfer is lucky enough to experience the restoration of a course’s original design after years or even decades have covered the architect’s original intent with the reality of budget shortfalls, the popularity swings in golf’s appeal as sport, or even just the carelessness of bureaucracy in management of the living entity that is every course, the restoration process can be appreciated right down to the soles of the feet walking a course “as it was meant to be.”
Examples abound, from Harding Park in San Francisco to East Lake in Atlanta to the links courses of Scotland and Ireland that date back centuries all the way to the hands of Old and Young Tom Morris.
I was lucky enough to get to play East Lake once, courtesy of Shivas President Steve Cohen and some Atlanta locals from the Society, and in my foursome that freezing winter day -- we were told in the clubhouse that we could count ourselves among a tiny few who had played East Lake in 26-degrees and snow -- was one Atlanta chapter member of the Society named Gary Daughters.
I mention Gary because he has written a beautiful piece in the February/March edition of Links Magazine, just out, about Lookout Mountain Golf Club in northwest Georgia, which was designed by Seth Raynor in the 1920’s, but was lost to time after Raynor’s death. In a wonderful tale that Daughters tells with the fluency of an Ernie Els swing, we learn of how club members discovered the original design template hanging on a wall in the clubhouse grill, and through persistence, finally managed to realize the course that Raynor himself never saw complete.
The story, which I recommend highly, reminded me of the art term “Pentimento,” which Lillian Helman popularized in the early 1970’s with her book of the same name. It’s an Italian word derived from the word for “repent,” which is used in art restoration when earlier “drafts” of a canvas are discovered beneath the picture that ultimately lives on the surface. The artist either changed his mind, or time and others made changes after the artist was gone. But for a restoration team, the ultimate joy is to make such a discovery and bring the original back to the surface.
Walking Lookout Mountain, Daughters expresses this feeling as he joyously takes in -- from his eyes to his feet -- the original design and intent of architect Raynor. And we who love golf “as it was meant to be” can share in that joy like distant family suddenly rewarded with pictures of a descendent newly brought back to life in the face of a great, great grandchild now walking the green earth with the face of that descendent whom he, too, can now get to know.