My Friends and I Went to Yale (for One Day)

Not long ago, two honorary members of the Sunday Morning Group invited the rest of us to play a round on Yale University’s golf course, whose official name is the Course at Yale. (The U.S.G.A. lists Yale on its GHIN handicap website under “T,” for “the”—an approach to alphabetization that may not be entirely unrelated to the rules mess at this year’s U.S. Open.) Seventeen of us accepted the invitation, and the sign below greeted us when we arrived (I stole it on our way out, so that we could hang it in our locker room at home):

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You can read more at this blog’s official 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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18 Good Things About Golf: No. 18

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18. Golf reminds you of your mortality. Like life, a round of golf begins in easy optimism, progresses through a lengthy middle period in which hope and despair are mingled, deteriorates into regret, confusion, and resignation, and comes abruptly to an end. Teeing off on the tenth hole, I usually find myself feeling pretty much the way I did when I turned thirty-five: Hey, what happened to the first nine? Then: Oh, well, maybe I’ll birdie in. You can read more at this blog’s official 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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I Used My Awesome New Laser Rangefinder to Watch a Chipmunk Eating a Mouse

had an issue with the rubber eyepiece on my previous laser rangefinder. But my current rangefinder, a Bushnell Tour X, is great. It’s the same one Rickie Fowler uses:

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You can read more at this blog’s official 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.

My Favorite Golf Shoes Keep Breaking My Heart

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In 2011, I became an enthusiastic unpaid shill for True Linkswear golf shoes, the most comfortable golf shoes I’ve ever worn. I now own more than a dozen pairs, and I wear them even when I’m not playing golf, and many of my friends have switched to them, too. But I have serious issues. You can read more at this blog’s official 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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Dewar’s Profile: How About Scotch for Breakfast?

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Because the Sunday Morning Group has an international reputation in the marketing world, the manufacturers of golf-oriented consumer items—and especially golf-oriented alcoholic beverages—sometimes come to us for help with product positioning. Recently, the people who make Dewar’s blended scotch whisky asked us to test a drink they’d come up with, called Dewar’s Hole-in-One Cold Brew. You can read more at this blog’s official 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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May Was Hole-in-One Month, Apparently

I was contacted recently by a lawyer who was looking for someone to serve as an expert witness in a lawsuit involving a hole-in-one prize. After last month, I almost qualify.

Eleven friends and I played Ballybunion, in Ireland, in early May. On the third hole, Addison made a hole-in-one from the back tee: 230 yards, downhill but into a stiff wind. My group was just leaving the fourth tee, and we watched his ball roll into the hole. There’s a plaque on the third tee commemorating a hole-in-one that Payne Stewart made from the same spot in 1998, the year before he died, during a buddies trip with Mark O’Meara and Tiger Woods. Here’s Addison:

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We returned home a week later, and in an effort to outsmart jet lag I pretty much went straight from the airport to my home course (after stopping by my house, briefly, to reintroduce myself to my wife). There were five of us, and on the seventh hole, which is slightly more than half as long as the third hole at Ballybunion, I made a hole-in-one:

P1180521-001Two weeks after that, Chris, during his first round ever with the Sunday Morning Group, made a hole-in-one on our twelfth hole, which is 185 yards long. Nobody in his group could see that far, so they weren’t sure his ball had really gone in until they got to the green. In the photo below, which was taken by Mike B., he’s retrieving his ball from the cup:
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And in the photo below, which was taken by me, Mike B. is taking the photo above:

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You can’t document these things too thoroughly (I learned from the lawyer who contacted me). Here’s my scorecard:

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One thing to note: Chris is beaming in his photograph because if you make a hole-in-one during our regular Sunday morning game you receive $500 from the Slush Fund. And Addison is smiling in his photograph because if you make a hole-in-one during an SMG-sanctioned event (meaning one that everyone on the email list was invited to participate in) you receive $250 from the Slush Fund. And I’m sort of frowning in my photograph because that post-Ireland round of mine was a last-minute thing that nobody bothered to invite everyone else to—so my Slush Fund prize was $0.

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For Father’s Day: How About a $135 Golf Glove?

I hate Father’s Day, for reasons I won’t enumerate. (If you’re curious, go here.) So it makes sense to me that people who insist on celebrating it should have to pay up. That’s just one reason you might want to start dropping hints that the one gift you’re really interested in this year is a $135 golf glove:

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Mine was given to me not by my children—who know they aren’t allowed even to mention Father’s Day—but by Pat Morrell, the founder of FitzGerald Morrell, a company sells custom-made leather gloves for a variety of activities, among them golf. “Just ask yourself how many golf gloves you’ve had to buy at the pro shop because your old pseudo-leather glove tore in the thumb or became brittle and flaky in the palm or in between your fingers,” he has explained. “You can buy custom clubs, custom balls, custom shirts, pants and shoes… but you can’t buy custom golf gloves. Until now.” Here’s Morrell himself, wearing some of his (non-golf) products:

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Morrell sent me a sizing kit, including a hand diagram, a measuring tape, and a pencil:

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After I’d traced my hand, kindergarten-style, I used an enclosed postage-paid envelop to send everything off to a shop in England—which looks pretty much exactly the way you’d guess it would:

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There, various craftsmen used various old-looking tools to create a glove to my precise specifications:

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They also added the monogram of the Sunday Morning Group, recognized the world over as a symbol of quality and trust. I’ve now used my $135 golf glove exclusively for a couple of months (except when it was raining), including a dozen rounds on a recent golf trip to Ireland:

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Gradually, it has acquired a fine patina, like a beloved fielder’s mitt. It has also fully conformed to my anatomy—so much so that, if I ever lose my left hand in an industrial accident, the glove could serve as a mold for a replacement:

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I’ve identified just a few drawbacks. One is that, if you want to be sure all your friends understand that you are wearing a $135 golf glove, you have to refer to it as “my $135 golf glove.” Another is that the leather is so substantial that the glove is not pleasant to wear when the temperature and relative humidity are high. A third is that, if you are accustomed to losing your golf glove two or three times a round, you have to constantly watch your back:

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I’ve taken to wearing it while I’m putting—like Nicklaus—to reduce my opportunities for losing it, and so far, with occasional help from friends, I’ve been successful. I’ve also been able to tidy up the trunk of my car. It used to look like this:

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It now looks like this:

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Why, it paid for itself right there.

Jason Day Tests World’s Greatest Golf-course Feature

This past Monday, Bob G., an honorary member of the Sunday Morning Group, invited Peter A., Hacker (real name), and me to join him for a round at his home course, GlenArbor Golf Club, in Bedford Hills, New York. We arrived before Bob did, and when I went into the locker room to take a whiz I noticed that one of the lockers had been reserved for someone named Jason Day.

Amazingly, that Jason Day turned out to be the real Jason Day, the No. 1 player in the world. Nobody at the club had mentioned anything about it to Bob, but Day was there to take part in an outing conducted by one of his sponsors, RBC, the Royal Bank of Canada.

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The outing consisted of thirty-two youngish banker types, and the format was a shamble—a best-ball competition in which every player in a foursome plays his or her own ball from the foursome’s best tee shot. Day joined each group for one hole. Here he is, hitting a shot on a hole next to a lake:

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That’s not Day on the right, standing in the hazard; that’s Hacker, recovering from an unfortunate drive. Day is on the left, under the red arrow. We got a closer look at him when he and the final RBC foursome played the eighteenth, a 414-yard par 4. The second half of that hole plays almost vertically up a steep hill, toward the clubhouse. Day had to hit is tee shot from the way-back tee, but his drive still flew miles beyond the other drives in the group. Naturally, his drive was the one they chose to use. Here he is, playing his second shot. (He hit it to about three feet, and made the putt).

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You have to figure that Day’s appearance was required by a contract he signed before he turned into Superman, but, even so, he seemed to be having a pretty good time. Here he is during lunch, as GlenArbor’s director of golf was announcing things like the winner of the closest-to-the-pin contest:

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Actually, I would bet that in some ways the outing was more fun for Day than it was for the bankers—who, after all, were under enormous pressure not to shank, flub, chilly-dip, or yip their ball while the best player in the world stood a few feet away, watching:

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We weren’t part of the outing, so I couldn’t do something I desperately wanted to do: grab a handful of soft-shell crabs from a big chafing dish on the buffet table. But we did get to try an awesome feature that GlenArbor added recently, right next to the terrace where the bankers were having drinks and eating lunch. Every golf club in the world should add one of these, even if they have to build a lake and a steep hill in order to do it:

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Those are Pro V1s in the range basket. The tee and the floating green haven’t been there for very long, but the director of golf told us that there are 60,000 balls in the lake already, and that a scuba diver will be coming soon to recover them. Here’s Bob, trying his luck:

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He missed the green, which is roughly the size of a doormat, but he came pretty close. Jason Day tried, too. Naturally, he stiffed it—and, because he had, he said he wasn’t going to push his luck by taking a second shot. He hit so fast that I didn’t manage to get a picture until afterward, as he was heading back to his table:

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Great player. Great course. Great floating green. Great afternoon.

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The Case for All-male Golf Clubs

Marion Hollins, the captain of the first American Curtis Cup team and the founder of Women's National Golf & Tennis Club. (Photo by Puttnam/Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Marion Hollins, the captain of the first American Curtis Cup team and the founder of Women’s National Golf & Tennis Club. (Photo by Puttnam/Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The men-only membership policy of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews was scandalous and indefensible, since the R & A is the main worldwide governing body for all of golf. But the men-only membership policy of Muirfield is not, since the tournament it will no longer be allowed to host, the British Open, is also men-only. Why shouldn’t a sports event whose participants are all of one sex be held at a sports club whose members are also all of that sex?

I wrote about this issue in Golf Digest thirteen years ago, when the controversy involved Augusta National and the Masters. The bitterest argument then was that the absence of women from the membership of any golf club is, ipso facto, the sexual equivalent of racism. At that time, the Rev. Jesse Jackson described men-only membership as “gender apartheid,” and said, “The gender bigotry is as offensive as racial bigotry or religious bigotry.” Others made essentially the same claim: that operating a social club whose membership includes no women is morally indistinguishable from operating a social club (or a society) that excludes blacks or Jews.

Yet Jackson’s accusation depended on a false analogy, and on his own (willful) muddling of the possible reasons for making distinctions between human beings. Racism is a belief in nonexistent racial differences, especially ones that imply the inferiority of one race in comparison with another. Sexism is more complicated, because genuine, non-prejudicial differences between men and women really do exist. (Maintaining separate restrooms for whites and blacks is morally repugnant; maintaining separate restrooms for males and females is not—and the current debate about restroom access for transgender people underscores that truth, since the one thing both sides agree about is that the differences are monumentally important.) Indeed, one of the transforming accomplishments of American feminism has been to foster a broader appreciation of the meaningful ways in which men and women are not the same. Women who prefer to be treated by female physicians, or to join women-only health clubs, or to be represented by female divorce attorneys aren’t guilty of “gender apartheid”; their preferences merely reflect the fact that they, like men, have needs and emotions and desires that are not sex blind.

If you aren’t tired of this issue already, you can read my entire argument here.

Marion Hollins and Maureen Orcutt, 1932.(Photo by J. Gaiger/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Marion Hollins and Maureen Orcutt, in England for the first Curtis Cup, 1932. (Photo by J. Gaiger/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

18 Good Things About Golf: No. 17

1920: Golfer Harry Vardon (1870 - 1937) at the Open Championship at Deal, Kent. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)

Harry Vardon, 1920. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)

17. Golf keeps you interested in being alive. Harry Vardon once wrote, “I have sometimes heard good golfers sigh regretfully, after holing out on the eighteenth green, that in the best of circumstances as to health and duration of life they cannot hope for more than another twenty, or thirty, or forty years of golf, and they are then very inclined to be a little bitter about the good years of their youth that they ‘wasted’ at some other less fascinating sport.” You don’t hear people talking like that about their jobs, except, perhaps, inversely.

Whenever I play a round with a good older golfer, I mentally subtract my age from his or hers, and figure that, with a little luck, maybe I’ll be able to play decently at least as long as that. The only reason I don’t regret not having played golf through my adolescence and young adulthood is that if I had done so I would have been miserable during the eight years my wife and I lived in New York City, where playing golf in-season is frustratingly time-consuming. I now judge all illnesses and injuries solely according to their probable impact on my game. I drive my car more slowly than I once did, because even a minor car accident would be golf-threatening. When I see a man on crutches or in a wheelchair, I think, “Gee, I bet he can’t hit it more than about a hundred yards.” I used to think that if I suffered some terrible injury to my hands I would have the surgeon fuse my fingers so that they would fit on the home keys of a typewriter keyboard; I now know that I would have them fused in a slightly strong overlapping golf grip.