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Joy of Golf: The weird and wonderful origins of the game’s funkiest course names

Sport360's Joy Chakravarty uncovers the stories behind the curious names of some of the most famous golf courses around the world.

Joy Chakravarty 2016/07/28

When I started my career as a golf journalist, two golf courses immediately caught my attention. No, they were not the usual suspects – Old Course at St Andrews and Augusta National.

Rather, I was intrigued by the names Baltusrol and Crooked Stick. Baltusrol, the host venue of this week’s PGA Championship was where the 1993 US Open was played and won by Lee Janzen, while Crooked Stick became part of golfing folklore when John Daly won the 1991 PGA Championship there in the most sensational fashion.

What is Baltusrol supposed to mean, I wondered? As it turned out, the name is inspired by Baltus Roll, a farmer who was murdered by a couple of petty thieves near the area in 1831. The case was the talking point of New Jersey for many years.

Crooked Stick was about to be named ‘The Golf Club of Indianapolis’ when the group of people ivolved with it had an inspired moment. One of the directors recalled how architect Pete Dye came across a gangly stick while inspecting the site, and used it like a golf club on some stones.

And voila! Crooked Stick was the chosen name. Origins of golf course names is a fascinating subject for me. In most cases, the owners would play safe and stick to tried and tested ones.

Obviously, in the days when Britain ruled the world and a course received Royal patronage, they were left with no choice but to adhere to ‘Royal + Name of City + Golf Club’ formula.

And hence, Royal Melbourne GC, Royal Calcutta GC, Royal Troon GC, Royal Liverpool GC etc. There are 62 of them across the globe. Another golf course name that fascinated me was Cape Kidnappers, the out-of-this-world course set on the sheer cliffs of Hawkes Bay area in New Zealand.

Obviously, it is based on the name of the area, which was coined by Captain Cook and his men on HMS Endeavour, when a boat full of Maori men came from the area and tried to kidnap Captain Cook’s cook. Crooked Stick led me to find out about Crooked Cat Golf Club at Orange County National in Florida.

Picturesque: Baltusrol.

The golf course derived its name from the fact which none of the 18 fairways are straight and each of them are dogleg holes. Shadow Creek in Nevada is another unlikely name for a course. Before the golf course was made, there as absolutely no shadow in the area.

When inaugurated, it was the most expensive golf course ever built. Architect Tom Fazio actually transformed a desert into a lush green landscape. From zero trees, 21,000 matured trees were planted and man-made lakes created.

While in Melbourne last year for the Cricket World Cup, I came across another unforgettable name for a golf course – Growling Frog Golf Club. I thought the name was funny, until I found out that it is based on a native Growling Grass Frog, which is found in abundance on the golf course.

Like Baltusrol, there are other golf clubs whose names have been inspired by a gory past. Hell’s Point Golf Club, in Virginia, has the Hell’s Point Creek running across the course.

No one really knows why the creek was named so, but there are two stories – in 1800s, the creek was supposed to be infested with poisonous snakes, and two, several ruins of capsized slave boats were discovered at the mouth of the creek.

Fossil Trace in Colorado, and Furnace Creek in California are also interesting. Fossil Trace actually has preserved footprints of dinosaurs on the back nine of the course, while Furnace Creek is shut down in summers because temperatures reach in excess of 50 degree Celsius.

To end with, here’s my recent favourite – the Kissing Camels course, which is part of the Garden of Gods club in Colorado Springs. It is named after a famous rock formation next to the course that resembles two camels kissing each other.

Miller’s off the mark Johnny Miller’s latest criticism of Rory McIlroy is really a most laughable one. During the final round of the Open Championship, the 69-year-old Miller showed his old-school mentality in golf and decided McIlroy’s tight shirts were the reason behind his dip in form (if it can be called that after 10 top-10s in 15 starts!).

Miller took off on McIlroy’s gym regimen and choice of shirts. He said: “I think he overdid the weight room, personally. I don’t think that helped him at all. Same thing with Tiger Woods. You just get carried away with wearing the tight shirts and showing off their, sort of, muscles.”

McIlroy has restrained himself from getting back at the American, but he has absolutely no doubt his golf has benefited immensely from the training. All his four majors came after he started doing weight training, and it also helped him get over the back pains he felt in 2011.

As for the tight tee shirts, they are the in thing and manufacturers prefer to call them ‘performance’ wear. They actually spend millions of dollars every year in R&D to develop this compression clothing, which have benefited athletes.

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