Guest Editor: Crested Ten Golf Park
Anyone with the audacity to trot around with three names is certainly someone to be suspicious of - much like the way people bristled and rolled their eyes when the Great Gatsby called everyone "old sport," I suppose. My three names - Michael Patrick Shiels - have a tendency to fog anyone's perception of me with an invisible Irish mist. I have always felt that I am best viewed while distorted through the bottom of a pint of Guinness, as most of those with 20/20 vision are certain to agree.
My great, great grandfather Robert Shiels married Elizabeth Murphy, and the Catholic couple emigrated from Ireland to the United States in 1867, or so, and chose to settle in upstate New York. Eventually, Robert was murdered - stoned from off a ladder as he was picking apples in his orchard. Elizabeth saved herself by fending off the two enraged intruders with a pitchfork while they chased her up the stairs of the farmhouse. News accounts say that the police eventually rounded-up the murderous pair and learned that they perpetrated their act in search of revenge for having lost a bar fight the night before.
When my grandfather, Arthur, learned this news after I'd recently unearthed these news accounts, he protested. He never knew that is what happened to his own grandfather, and that his own father was mainly responsible.
"Why are you bringing up family dirty laundry?" he asked me. Since the events took place over 80 years ago, I saw no trouble with researching them. After all, dirty laundry only lasts so long before it becomes folklore.
I doubt Robert Shiels played golf since Ireland's first golf course - Lahinch - didn't open until after he'd departed Eire. I wish, though, that more of the relaxed Irish golf attitudes could have immigrated to the United States along with Irishmen like Robert and the others that made the trip. If, as the song says, "the winds that blow across the sea from Ireland are perfumed by the heather as they go," then American golfers really need to take in some of that air and stop and smell the roses.
There are an increasing number of golf course projects that attempt to replicate Irish course design and incorporate a little Irish flavor. In northern Michigan, Arcadia Bluffs GC is sometimes mentioned in the same breath as Ballybunion GC. Not far from there, Tullymore GC claims to be a "wee bit Irish" and even says one of its par-3 holes is reminiscent of the Dell Hole at Lahinch. Across Lake Michigan in Wisconsin lies the Irish Course, a walking only layout that does all it can to provide an authentic Irish experience.
All this talk of Irish golf causes my three-named mind to wander through the rugged linksland layouts and the green parkland courses of Ireland right now - traveling between each one on the Emerald Isle's stone wall-lined cart paths they call roads.
If I could create my own authentic Irish golf course right here in Michigan, where I would serve as Honorary Secretary, sometimes bartender, and infrequent tin-whistle player, I know exactly what it would be like.
"Crested Ten Golf Park," so named after the premium Jamieson's whiskey available only in Ireland, would offer a treeless 18-hole, 6,500-yard layout - walk-able, with only one set of tees. In fact, players would have to walk, since there would be no carts other than the pull-able two-wheeled trolleys.
Golfers would come across an occasional goat or sheep, which would be no worry since there are no alligators to eat them, and they would be allowed to bring a pet along for the round, if they like. I'm thinking Irish setters or wolfhounds here, not poodles, chihuahuas, or the unfortunately named shiatsus. Wives, husbands, and children may stroll along and watch, as well. Unlike the pets, though, they must be leashed.
Daily fee players can pay at the window, the same window that the members shall check-in through, and the first tee will be in near eyesight of that window, which will be a stone's throw from the car park. A small and practical golf shop will border the other side of the first tee, and the first hole will play alongside a stonewalled graveyard where only the most loyal of members may be planted upon request - at no charge. The starter will not ask you to see your receipt nor will he tell you to have a nice day.
There will be no practice range and no putting green - those who wish to arrive early and linger will therefore be forced to do so while tapping-in pints in the modest upstairs clubhouse that is warmed by a fire and overlooks the first tee and final green. In addition to a hot toddy, you can get hot soup, but the only other menu items will be small, triangular sandwiches, fried fish and chips. No tablecloths, and golf shoes are allowed - you may even take them off if you wish. Pipe smoking encouraged; cigar smoking tolerated.
Tee markers will be simple painted stones. Flagsticks will be black and white barber pole style, and the only yardage-markers will be a similar, smaller barber pole in the middle of the fairway 150 yards out.
Tees and greens will be only a few meters apart, and a round of golf shall be played in no more than three hours, 45 minutes without rushing. No drink carts, no marshals, no ball washers, no rubbish cans, no cart paths, and while the greens will be small, undulated and fair, they will not be silky smooth billiards tables. Likewise, the only one eating off of the fairways at Crested Ten Golf Park will be the sheep. Expect a hard and fast course with plenty of rub of the green.
Whatever Michigan town Crested Ten is created in will be visible from the links. No homes will be built on the course.
All we need now is some Michigan land, some money, and some Irish-type golfers who like a little fun with their golf.
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Michael Patrick Shiels is golf columnist for the Observer & Eccentric Newspapers. He is also the official golf writer of the Michigan Section PGA, and former producer of the J.P. McCarthy Show. His work has appeared in newspapers and magazines across the country, including PGA Tour.com. He has authored two golf books with former CBS and BBC golf analyst Ben Wright.