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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

(continued from page 2)

That's why it's so much fun to light up a cigar on the 18th tee. The 18th tee is elevated and provides a spectacular view of the well-bunkered fairway, the well-bunkered green and the brick clubhouse beyond. After the long walk up the hill from the 17th green, you are faced with the final walk of the day. So light up a cigar here (a robusto would be perfect), carry it to the green, shake hands with your partners and repair to the clubhouse patio, where you may finish the smoke with a pitcher of beer and lively conversations about one-putt double bogeys and leg cramps.

The Terrace at Old Head Golf Links, Ireland
When it opened in 1997, the Old Head Golf Links was generally regarded as the most spectacular course in the world, exceeding even the majesty of Pebble Beach. The course sits on a huge rock table thrust out into the Atlantic Ocean, seven miles south of the precious Irish town of Kinsale and only a 40-minute drive from the city of Cork. Nine of the holes play along the cliff lines, which are more than 250 feet high. Sea birds make their rookeries in caves that run underneath the 12th hole, making a raucous cacophony as you play.

In 2004, Ireland became the first European country to ban smoking in working places, forcing the patrons of pubs and restaurants to puff outside. That also relegated cigar smokers at the Old Head to the terrace, though many would have gone there anyway, including co-owner John O'Connor, a man devoted to Montecristo No. 4s. The terrace overlooks the 17th and 18th holes, parts of the front nine and the immense black and white lighthouse at the farthest tip of the land. All are surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean. Some 10 miles offshore is where the Lusitania was sunk by the Germans, one of the catalysts for America's entry into the First World War.

The Old Head is both a membership club and open to the public. It's not bashful about charging greens fees that are Pebble Beach—like, in the $300 range depending on the value of the euro to the dollar. Well-trained caddies are available and the Old Head really should be walked to get the full sensory experience.

Since you are not in the United States anymore, you can buy Cuban cigars. The Old Head will have plenty on hand, such as Montecristo, Partagas and Cohiba. Then grab a pint of Guinness and move to the patio, where you might well encounter Mr. O'Connor himself. Say hello. He will like you even more for smoking a cigar.

Royal and Ancient Clubhouse, St. Andrews, Scotland
If history is a fable to which we all ascribe, then the fable and history of golf begins in St. Andrews, Scotland. It is on this fabled linksland that shepherds, for amusement, bashed rocks around with sticks and rolled them into holes in the fourteenth century, and by the start of the sixteenth century, something of a formal game had evolved. That's how the story goes, and for lack of anything compelling to refute it, that's what we believe. (Let's not talk about the Dutch at the village of Loenen in 1296, OK.)

The clubhouse of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews sits stoutly behind the first tee of the Old Course. It's the home of the world's most powerful golf association, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, where it holds sway over golf around the world except for the United States and Mexico, which are ruled by the United States Golf Association. The Old Course is the frequent host of the British Open Championship, the oldest of all major championships.

In front of the clubhouse is a terrace, and to its right, as viewed from the first tee, is a set of steps leading down from the side entrance of the clubhouse to the street. These are excellent areas to smoke a cigar and take in the royal and ancient atmosphere. You don't have to play golf at all (but it would be a shame, really, if you didn't) to have a St. Andrews experience. It's rather fascinating and amusing to watch players gather and tee off at the first hole and finish off at the 18th green, which will be to your left as you look out onto the course. The six courses at St. Andrews are public, but the Old Course is by far the most difficult to get on and arrangements should be made well in advance to play it. Occasionally, a single can join a threesome by walking up.

Smoking a cigar on the clubhouse terrace can be a contemplative experience. You could be thinking back to the days of the shepherds, to the 1800s and legendary pro Old Tom Morris, to Bobby Jones's Open triumph in 1930, to Arnold Palmer's second-place finish in 1960 that revitalized the championship. Here, with the smoke being whisked away by a fresh sea breeze, you are part of living history.

The Lodge at Sea Island Golf Club and Ocean Forest Golf Club
On St. Simons Island off the deep southeast coast of Georgia are two golf facilities of stout character and supreme amenity. The Sea Island Golf Club is public, the Ocean Forest Club private. Both are excellent examples of Low Country golf. The Sea Island Club has a course redesigned by Rees Jones and another course by Tom Fazio that has hosted the UBS Warburg Cup competition; the Ocean Forest Club, also designed by Jones, hosted the venerable 2001 Walker Cup, a competition between amateur teams from the United States and Great Britain/Ireland.

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