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Smoker's Heavens

Cigar Aficionado's well-traveled golf writer picks his favorite golf courses to smoke cigars in the United States and around the world
Jeff Williams
From the Print Edition:
Morgan Freeman, Mar/Apr 2005

You know what it's like today to try to smoke a cigar in this world. As the law and political correctness circumscribe and tighten the circle where cigar smoking is acceptable, and legal, there is one place outside of your own home that you can reasonably expect to light up a cigar—the golf course.

Laws have made smoking indoors illegal, in both public and private facilities. And, in many states smoking is not allowed in any enclosed public facility or in restaurants or bars where food is served. But we still have the golf course. It is at golf courses where a certain degree of freedom still exists. Even if you can't smoke in the clubhouse, there is the course itself. What other sport would allow that?

What other sport has tees specifically made to keep cigars elevated from the turf? What other sport has a bag right at hand in which to carry a stash of cigars? There are still a few states that do not restrict smoking, like Georgia. That southern outpost also has excellent golf facilities at which to enjoy your favorite smoke. Some states will allow smoking in certain designated areas. And in those states that prohibit it in public indoor spaces, there is always the terrace, the great outdoors. That's why golf is still user-friendly. There are thousands of places—clubhouses, patios, tee boxes, even practice ranges—strewn across America and the world where smoking a cigar has special meaning. Here are a few that stand out, as places to play, as places to smoke, as places to write down in your diary of golf experiences. At the golf course, the smoking lamp is always on.

Verandah, Champions Dining Room, Augusta National Golf Club
Yes, first you have to get there, and getting there might be more difficult than accessing CIA headquarters. But if you are so privileged as to know a member, or know someone who knows a member, or know someone with clubhouse badges for the Masters, then you must make your way to the verandah on the second floor of the clubhouse, just outside the Champions Dining Room, also known as the Library.

Having made it this far in the world, consider yourself as having arrived. Take a seat in a cushy armchair and ponder where you are. This is the House that Jones Built. Bobby Jones, that is. The Masters is the tournament that Arnold Palmer built. Every great player of the twentieth century played at Augusta, from Sarazen and Hogan and Snead and Nelson, to Palmer and Nicklaus and Player, to Woods and Singh and Faldo. This is also the house that Hootie Johnson rules, as Masters chairman, and he is an avid cigar smoker.

Now, riding on the powerful arm of privilege, you have taken a seat on the verandah after playing Augusta National. You have discovered the difficulty of the largely undiscovered front nine and the beauty of the postcard back nine. You have played through Amen Corner, traversed the ponds at the 15th and 16th holes, and walked up the surprisingly steep fairway of the 18th, waving to the ghosts of the gallery that so adores its Masters champions. So what if you shot a 97. You are here.

The moment is, at once, both reality and dream, and you should have your very best cigar (a pre-Castro, perhaps?) at the ready. Any lush cigar will do, any cigar full of taste that burns slow and cool, any cigar that abides a sense of contemplation. You will want something that lasts.

You don't get a full panorama of the course from the verandah because the view is obscured by two of the most elegant, regal trees in existence. But you catch glimpses of the ninth and 18th greens, of the putting green, of the private member cottages. It would be gloriously special if you could be smoking that cigar late in the day, after the completion of play when the greenskeeping crew is cutting the fairways and greens. The blend of aromas of freshly cut grass, Georgia pine and a wonderful cigar is enough to produce olfactory overload. Yes, you have arrived.

Eighth Tee, Pebble Beach Golf Links
The Pebble Beach Golf Links is as much a living landscape painting as it is a championship golf test. The course is the annual host of the AT&T National Pebble Beach Pro-Am and every few years the U.S. Open rolls in. Playing Pebble Beach is an intoxicating visual experience, a dramatic meeting of the Monterey Peninsula headland and the Pacific Ocean. Surely the par-5 18th hole that sweeps along Carmel Bay and the little par-3 seventh hole that sticks a pinky finger into the ocean are Pebble Beach's most photographed and remembered holes.

But standing on the eighth tee puts the Pacific at your feet and gives you a vast vista of the ninth and 10th holes, the precious village of Carmel and the Point Lobos state park in the distance. With any luck, you'll see otters below you diving for their dinners, a seal on the prowl and sea birds on wing.

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