Let’s Check in With That Guy Who Has Played Every Golf Course in Ireland

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Kevin Markham lives south of Dublin and knows Irish golf better than anyone. He has played every 18-hole course in the country and written two excellent books about them: Hooked, a course-by-course guide, with ratings; and Driving the Green, the story of the 7,000-mile trip during which he played them all while somehow remaining married. Recently, he wrote me to say that the County Sligo Golf Club—which I’ve played, though not with him—has been undergoing significant changes. You can read more at this blog’s new home, on the Golf Digest website. And if you “subscribe” to myusualgame.com, by filling in your email address in the blank on the right side of this page, you’ll be notified every time I post something new. And, if you’re willing to wait a month or so, you can find complete versions of all my old posts on this site, too, by paging down until you reach them.

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Six Surprising Golf-related Uses for Your Camera, Phone, Rangefinder, and Bifocals

During a recent Golf Digest assignment in Florida (at Streamsong Resort—see “Buddy This!”, in the January issue), my foursome was seated so far from the TV above the bar in the grillroom that no one at our table could follow what was happening in the World Series:

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To deal with that problem, I periodically took a zoomed picture of the screen and enlarged the image until we could read the score in the lower left-hand corner:

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You can read more at this blog’s new home, on the Golf Digest website. And if you “subscribe” to myusualgame.com, by filling in your email address in the blank on the right side of this page, you’ll be notified every time I post something new. And, if you’re willing to wait a month or so, you can find complete versions of all my old posts on this site, too, by paging down until you reach them.

Tour Players are Great Big Babyish Crybabies (About Cameras)

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The pros get upset if a camera on another fairway clicks during their backswing. What babies! During a recent Golf Digest assignment in Florida (at Streamsong Resort—see “Buddy This!”, in the January issue), three other editors and I played six rounds in four days while a photographer and his assistant clicked away, sometimes within inches of our faces. And it wasn’t a problem! In fact, I think it helped.

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You can read more at this blog’s new home, on the Golf Digest website. And if you “subscribe” to myusualgame.com, by filling in your email address in the blank on the right side of this page, you’ll be notified every time I post something new. And, if you’re willing to wait a month or so, you can find complete versions of all my old posts on this site, too, by paging down until you reach them.

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The Other Golf Course at Royal County Down

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A little over a year ago, I traveled to Northern Ireland on assignment for Golf Digest. My account of that trip, called The Adventure of a Lifetime, was mostly about Royal County Down, in Newcastle—the golf course that, if I really and truly had to pick just one, would probably get my vote as the world’s greatest. As terrific as R.C.D. is, though, it’s not the only golf course in County Down, or even in Newcastle. There’s a second course on the same property, called Annesley Links, and, although visiting Americans seldom play it, it has plenty of charms. It’s only 4,500 yards from the men’s medal tees, but if you can play it without losing more balls than you did on the championship course you’ll have something to brag about.annesleygc

You can read more at this blog’s new home, on the Golf Digest website. And if you “subscribe” to myusualgame.com, by filling in your email address in the blank on the right side of this page, you’ll be notified every time I post something new. And, if you’re willing to wait a month or so, you can find complete versions of all my old posts on this site, too, by paging down until you reach them.

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Five Holiday Gift Ideas for Avid Golfers

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Your loved ones have a hard time buying presents for you, so you try to help: “How about some of my favorite golf balls?” You write down the name of the kind you like—the exact name, including the “X” after the “V1”—and your loved ones take the piece of paper with them when they go shopping. And there, in the ball department of the huge golf store at the mall, they see the kind you want.

But, for some reason, things never work out. You can read more at this blog’s new home, on the Golf Digest website. And if you “subscribe” to myusualgame.com, by filling in your email address in the blank on the right side of this page, you’ll be notified every time I post something new. And, if you’re willing to wait a month or so, you can find complete versions of all my old posts on this site, too, by paging down until you reach them.

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Reader’s Trip Report: Bethpage Black and Yale

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Alex Nosevich, a reader, is a member of a club-with-a-club at Shining Rock Golf Club, in Northbridge, Massachusetts. “Our group calls itself the Winter Tour,” he told me recently, “because we play through the winter. However, as soon as our home course closes for the year we call ourselves the Arctic Tour. Probably more complicated than it needs to be.” Here’s what Shining Rock’s fifth hole—a long par 3, called Quarry—looks like when it isn’t covered with snow:

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It’s called Quarry because that granite outcropping near the green really is the remains of a quarry. According to the club’s website, “The abundance of granite in these hillsides made ready access to materials needed to construct the nearby Blackstone Canal or for foundations for the massive mills which blossomed along the river in the 1800′s.” Back in October, at around the time the Sunday Morning Group was celebrating the Crystal Anniversary of our annual autumn golf trip to Atlantic City, the Winter Tour took a similar trip to Bethpage Black, Bethpage Green, and Yale:

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You can read more at this blog’s new home, on the Golf Digest website. And if you “subscribe” to myusualgame.com, by filling in your email address in the blank on the right side of this page, you’ll be notified every time I post something new. And, if you’re willing to wait a month or so, you can find complete versions of all my old posts on this site, too, by paging down until you reach them.

Two Easy Ways to Speed Up Golf

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Each summer for the past ten years, Richard Hunt, an honorary member of the Sunday Morning Group, has spent his Saturday afternoons at the Wheel introducing youngsters to golf at The First Tee. This year, his chapter named a trophy after him: the Coach Rick Award, which goes to the scoring champions in the Ace/Birdie division. (He’s also pretty good at teaching grownups; he’s a marketing consultant in Manhattan, and he oversees the Venture Creation Program at the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, where he is a mentor-in-residence.) A couple of weeks ago, Richard attended the U.S.G.A.’s Pace of Play Symposium, at which two dozen speakers spent two days talking about how to make golf go faster. “I thought the event was quite valuable,” Richard (who took the photo below) told me. “This is exactly the kind of thing they need to do ‘for the good of the game.'”

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You can read more at this blog’s new home, on the Golf Digest website. And if you “subscribe” to myusualgame.com, by filling in your email address in the blank on the right side of this page, you’ll be notified every time I post something new. And, if you’re willing to wait a month or so, you can find complete versions of all my old posts on this site, too, by paging down until you reach them.

Uh-oh: What’s That White Stuff on My Golf Course?

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There wasn’t much snow to begin with, and most of what there was had melted by Saturday, but Gary, our terrific superintendent, closed the course temporarily, because it was so cold that the remaining snow and the frost were unlikely to go away before dark. That didn’t affect me directly, because I’m traveling without my clubs for a little over a week, on a reporting assignment that’s only tangentially related to golf. It didn’t affect Hacker (real name), either, because he had decided that, paradoxically, playing golf for three consecutive days with a broken finger had made the finger worse, not better. Still— and I think I speak for everyone—I am opposed to any form of weather that causes golf to be suspended.

Before our mini-storm hit, I had an opportunity to test two new pieces of equipment. Both are from eBags, one of a select group of companies for which I am an unpaid shill.

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You can read more at this blog’s new home, on the Golf Digest website. And if you “subscribe” to myusualgame.com, by filling in your email address in the blank on the right side of this page, you’ll be notified every time I post something new. And, if you’re willing to wait a month or so, you can find complete versions of all my old posts on this site, too, by paging down until you reach them.

This is the Best Sunscreen for Golfers, and I’m Not Kidding

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As I drove home from my dermatologist’s office, I felt more than slightly annoyed. Slicing two bumps from the side of my nose had taken the doctor roughly eleven seconds, from Novocain to Band-Aid, yet had cost me more than a thousand dollars. With five minutes of instruction, I figured, I could have performed the operation myself, using tools I already own. But I calmed down a few weeks later, when I went back for a follow-up appointment. One of the bumps was just a harmless old-guy surface enigma, the doctor said. The other, though, was something I really did need a licensed physician to deal with: a basal cell carcinoma—skin cancer.

Golfers face an elevated risk of developing all sorts of skin trouble—especially golfers who, like me, grew up in the sunburn era, when kids were pretty much expected to broil away the top few layers of their epidermis every summer. Most of the sun-related products that people used in those days were intended not to prevent damage caused by solar radiation but to exacerbate it. My pals and I used to bet Cokes on who could peel off the largest intact sheet of stomach skin.
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My bump removal took place a decade ago. A few days later, I showed up at the golf course with a pair of small bandages on my nose. The bandages attracted comment, and I was partly comforted and partly appalled to learn how many other members of my small club had suffered various skin cancers, most of them more troubling than mine. Friends showed me galaxies of scars on their arms, foreheads, faces, ears, and bald spots. Two current members and two former members have even been treated for melanoma, the hydrogen bomb of dermatological problems. One of the current members lost most of one calf in an operation to remove her tumor; one of the former members received 140 stitches in his stomach. Both are still alive, though—unlike a guy I knew in high school, who was too late in discovering the asymmetrical, irregularly bordered, unevenly colored, large-diameter mole lurking in the folds of his belly button.

Last month, one of the guys on the Sunday Morning Group’s annual buddies trip to Atlantic City told me about a sunscreen that, he said, was created specifically for golfers. It’s from New Zealand, and it’s used by large and growing number of tour pros and caddies. It’s called GolfersSkin, and it’s terrific: it’s sweat-proof, and it isn’t greasy, and it doesn’t stain golf shirts, and (according to my wife) it “smells like fine coconut cologne.”

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It comes in three forms: lotion, “hands-free stick,” and lip balm. I bought ‘em all, and I keep the stick and the lip balm in my golf bag, for touch-ups. And here’s the one-liter dispenser, for the clubhouse or, if you play enough golf, the trunk of your car:

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Beer, Bushmills, Burgers, Brats, Bonus Days

Our regular golf season is winding down. Someone in a position of authority piled up all our patio furniture on the clubhouse porch:

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As of late last week, though, we still had beer in the kegerator, plus part of one free-standing keg, so Chic (our club chairman) and Corey (our pro) decided that the Sunday Morning Group ought to hold a free-guest day, and that everybody ought to hang around until all the beer was gone. The morning was cold and overcast, but seventeen guys showed up:

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Someone remembered to bring Irish antifreeze:

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And, despite the weather, seven of us wore shorts, because after November 1 if you wear shorts you get an extra handicap stroke:

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My team didn’t win, but I got a skin for a net eagle on No. 2, and I almost made a hole-in-one on No. 12, a 185-yard par 3. On 12, I hit my secret weapon, Baby Driver, which has 16 degrees of loft and goes anywhere from about 180 yards to maybe 210. (The shortest hole I’ve ever used it on was a 134-yarder in Northern Ireland a few years ago. The wind was blowing like crazy, and I was the only one who made the green.) Here’s how close I came on Sunday—and, yes, I missed the putt:

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Howard brought lunch. He worried that he hadn’t bought enough food for seventeen guys, so after he finished playing he drove down to the grocery store and got more ground beef:

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That was great, but he also got these. C’mon, Howard. No health food.

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We don’t really clean our grill after we use it, because by the time lunch is over nobody is in the mood for housework. We do clean it before we use it again, however, by turning on the gas all the way and letting it run for a while. Here’s what we found when we lifted the lid on Sunday:

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The grill cleaned itself in no time, and the flames from the burning grease looked like something from a Burger King commercial:

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Our spatulas weren’t in the drawer in the big table in the kitchen, where they always are, so we figured they must have been stolen. (Our clubhouse is never locked, even after the course has closed for the winter, and stuff is always disappearing—including, once, a hundred cloth napkins with pictures of golf clubs and balls on them.) Then someone asked whether anyone had looked in the dishwasher—and that’s where they were. What kind of joker pulls a stunt like that?]

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We’ve had a TV in our clubhouse for several years, but no one had ever used it because the only place we have cable is in the golf shop. But Corey bought a hundred feet of coax at Staples or someplace, and ran it all the way over so that we could watch the Jets beat the Steelers while we worked on the beer:

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We lit a big fire in the fireplace, and the clubhouse stayed sort of warm as long as people kept the doors closed. Even so, it was probably colder inside than out, and everyone stayed bundled up.

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A couple of years ago, my club decided to stop giving trophies to tournament winners, because the trophies were expensive and many of the winners didn’t bother to take them home. But as soon as we’d stopped giving them out people began to complain about not having them anymore, so this year they were back, but less fancy. Here’s Addison drinking beer out of the mug he got for winning the club championship. (Fritz, the tournament chairman, said it looked bigger in the catalog.)

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Meanwhile, some of the guys were outside having a putting contest.

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The weather is supposed to turn lousy pretty soon, but not quite yet. In fact, we probably ought buy at least one more keg.

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