Would Young Tom Morris have designed Inland courses?

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    Ben Cowan

    Had Young Tom lived to be 80 years old, what would his design career have entailed? Would he have gone to the US? Would he have done inland Heathland and Parkland designs where Colt and WPJ worked?


    Melvyn Morrow

    Now there is a question many in the family have debated over the years. I believe he would have gone on to win many more Opens too, well up into the mid 1880’s anyway. As for design, yes – many a time we have wondered just what we could have expected regards his design ability. The general feeling being that he would have produced a sporty design, by that we mean courses that take the challenge to the golfer by locating more hazards in areas that would attract shots with therefore more thought required with each shot.

    Young Tommy was a thinking golfer with considerable talent and very strong wrists, his ability to control the ball was way in advance of most of the players of his day. Seeing his score cards and knowing many of the old Scottish courses he played (although today much modified), we firmly believe he would be a match for many of the top pros today – why do we think that, his scores using the old gutty and Hickory clubs define his abilities. So we expect that his designs to reflect his game and that was way out of the normal. Yes, his short life robbed us of his children as well as what I believe would have been wonderful designs. In fact I feel that his designs would have been able to combat the modern aerial game, bring the game down to earth again thus making golf more like real golf.

    His early loss hurt the family, although Old Tom still went on, his other son J.O.F while a good golfer was not in the top few of his day, and so never went into design in any way apart from helping his father, Old Tom.

    Also, Inland courses are much loved by many who have never been brought up on the links, with that fresh sea breeze and the joyous land that golf links offers. Then Old Tom undertook many an inland design in his life time using turf dykes to try to represent the ripples and undulations found on links courses – can still see a few at Tarland (Duke of Aberdeenshire old course, a Tarland Golf Club). And inland courses offered more option for hazards i.e. railways to quarries, pond, streams and rivers – but not island greens! Still one thing many designers today seem to forget because of our technology and large budgets – is the land to be used for golf is it ‘Fit For Purpose’ – money is no substitute for good land as many a modern designer has found to the cost of his reputation – Land Fit For Golf – the key words missing from many designer’s vocabulary. Something Young Tommy knew all about, so yes Golf, I believe has lost out on the early death of Young Tommy, leaving us poorer for it.

    Then, I might be slightly bias.

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