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'The Seventh at St. Andrews' by Scott Gummer

By: Dr. John Wagner


Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a golf course architect and what your daily life might involve? This book answers some of those questions in a way that, for the most part, proved interesting. The setting for this story is St. Andrews, the "Home of Golf." And who wouldn't want to be the one who designs the first 18-hole course to be built on these hallowed grounds in the last 100 years?

This is the story of how architect David McLay Kidd got the job and how he designed and built the seventh course here. The book also explains how the golf courses in the area are administered by the St. Andrews Link Trust. It explains the entities that make up the Trust and what their responsibilities are for the courses, the people of the area, and the game.

It tells how the Trust decided whom to interview for the new course and their process for selecting Kidd. The book then takes you on the journey of how David came up with his design and how that vision materialized on a flat and uninteresting piece of land.

I enjoyed learning not only Kidd's design and how the course was built, but all the problems he had to deal with over the two-year process. Gummer takes us into his team's daily work routine and their private lives. We're allowed to glimpse how all these sometimes competing interests intertwine.

Kidd certainly is a hands-on designer who gets down and dirty on the job site. He doesn't have a lot of respect for designers who fly in, look at the site and then fly out to another project.

One very interesting aspect is Kidd's description of each hole, why he designed it a certain way and what it means to golfers. This provides a fascinating look into Kidd's mind and how he utilizes his team to enhance the work.

One aspect I didn't care for was the author's detailed analysis of all the alcohol they drank and the amount of time spent in local pubs. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed learning all the stuff these people do and endure while building a golf course. Gummer shows these are people with real-life situations and problems that have to be dealt with even though they're well-known in the golf world.

Overall, I consider this book an interesting read and very well-written. It must be some sort of gift to be able to design a course even though there are schools that teach golf architecture.

Who taught Ross, Thompson, Tillinghast, McKenzie, (Arthur Vernon) Macan (just to name a few) to design the great courses they created? I don't know but I'm sure glad that they had that rare ability.

"The Seventh at St. Andrews," by Scott Gummer, $26, Gotham Books, ISBN 978-1-592-40322-6

Dr. John Wagner has been a Seattle dentist for 37 years. He's been published in several dental journals as well as had several articles appear in the turf magazine for Pacific Northwest golf course superintendents. John has served as a guest lecturer at the University of Washington Business School for several years and as a guest lecturer for several dental societies. Dr. Wagner is the co-designer (with Steve Shea of the Berger Partnership) of a golf course in Japan that cost over $120 million and was built by Wadsworth Golf Construction. He's a Past President of the Washington State Golf Association and a Trustee of the Pacific Coast Golf Association. John is currently a Member of the USGA Green Section and a Director of the WSGA.