In June, 2015, Tiger Woods made headlines when he shot the highest score of his professional career, 85, in the third round of the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. However, embarrasing though it may have been, Woods’ score still came nowhere near what is believed to be the highest single round score in Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) history.
In 1974, at the now-defunct Tallahassee Open at Killearn Country Club in Tallahassee, Florida, the late Mike Reasor, who could be described, not unfairly, as a ‘journeyman’ professional, shot level par for the first two rounds to make the halfway cut. However, Reasor needed to complete the 72-hole championship to retain exempt status for the Byron Nelson Golf Classic at Preston Trail Golf Club in Dallas, Texas two weeks later.
On the eve of the third round in Tallahassee, Reasor was thrown from a horse, suffering ligament damage to his left shoulder, which effectively immobilised his left arm, and other injuries. Undaunted, but heavily medicated, Reasor played the third round with just a 5-iron, which he swung one-handed, and shot a 51-over-par total of 123. Later quoted in the ‘New York Times’, Reasor said of his record-breaking round, ‘You should have seen them laughing on the first tee today. I stepped up with a 5‐iron and barely got it to the ladies’ tee.’ Indeed, Reasor played round four in similar fashion, improving to a 42-over-par total of 114, but failed to recover sufficiently from his injuries to play in the Byron Nelson Golf Classic in any case.
‘Golf’ is, unquestionably, an ancient word, but its etymology is uncertain. The first written reference to the word, in its modern form, appears on an Act of Parliament dating from 1457, during the reign of King James II of England, James VII of Scotland, but alternative spellings, such as ‘gouf’, ‘gouff’ and ‘goff’ have also been identified in Scottish documents.
Lingusitically, the general concensus appears to be that the word ‘golf’ is derived from the Middle Dutch word ‘colf’, or ‘kolf, or the Middle High German word ‘kolbe’, meaning ‘club’ or ‘stick’. Indeed, a variety of ‘club-and-ball’ games, including colf, kolf and, in Belgium and France, chole, were played in Britain and continental Europe during the Middle Ages. In fact, a game called ‘kolf’ is still played, albeit on an indoor course, in the Netherlands.
Of course, it can be argued that the game of golf pre-dates any of these supposedly similar games, none of which has been definitively associated with golf, particularly as the name of a game, rather than a blunt striking instrument. However, the phonetic similarities between the various names cannot be denied and it is not difficult to envisage Flemish, Dutch or German sailors – who would have been regular visitors to the ports on the east coast of Scotland, because of the trade links between their respective countries – importing a game that eventually became modern golf.
The ‘Postage Stamp’ is the name of the par-3 eighth hole on the Old Course at Royal Troon Golf Club in Troon, South Ayrshire, which has hosted the Open Championship on nine occasions. The name was coined when William Park – not to be confused with Willie Park Jr., who won the Open Chanpionship twice, at Prestwick in 1887 and Musselburgh Links in 1889 – described the long, narrow green as ‘a pitching surface skimmed down to the size of a postage stamp’ in an article in ‘Golf Illustrated’ in 1922, but not officially adopted until the Fifties. Indeed, the eighth hole was originally named ‘Ailsa’, after Ailsa Craig, a granite, volcanic island that lies ten miles offshore at the mouth of the Firth of Clyde, but is clearly visible from the elevated teeing ground.
Measuring just 123 yards from the championship tees, the Postage Stamp is, in fact, the shortest hole in Open Championship golf. That said, the sloping green, which measures 40 yards long by 14 yards wide, is protected by five cavernous bunkers, including the infamous ‘Coffin’ bunker, cut into the base of the sandhill that flanks the green to the left. The signature hazard was added when the Old Course was redesigned by five-time Open Champion and renowned golf course architect James Braid in 1922, in preparation for hosting its first Open Championship the following year.
According to Guinness World Records, the longest golf hole in the world is the seventh hole on the Sano Course at Satsuki Golf Club in Japan, which measures 964 yards, or 881 metres, from the back tees and is one of the few par-7 holes in the world. Guinness World Records states, ‘All records listed on our website are current and up-to-date’ but, neverthless, in November, 2018, Ladies European Tour professional Florentyna Parker posted pictorial evidence of an even longer hole, also a par-7, at the Gunsan Country Club in South Korea.
The Gunsam Country Club occupies 1,060 acres of low-lying, flat land, formerly a salt field, in North Jeolla Province in the southwest of the Korean Peninsula. All told, Gunsan Country Club consists of 81 golf holes, 63 of which are open to the public, but the hole in question is the third on the Jeongeup Course; a photograph of the tee marker confirmed the yardage as 1,098 yards, or 1,004 metres, or a jaunty seven-minute walk, just to cover the distance, never mind negotiating the water hazards that surround the hole, left and right.