Allan Stark, in the photo above, went to the same high school I did, in Kansas City. He was way, way older than I was then, but we’re the same age now—how did that happen? Almost a decade ago, he and his golf buddy Chuck Hunter started a small tournament, called the 1502. They also created a website, through which, among a few other things, they sell golf hats like the one in the photo above.
What’s the meaning of the logo on the hat? In 1457, the Scottish parliament, at the request of James II, banned golf (and football), out of fear that Scottish soldiers weren’t spending enough time practicing their archery. This wasn’t the first indication that James was a dangerous demagogue; five years earlier, he had dealt with a rival, the 8th Earl of Douglas, by stabbing him twenty-six times and throwing his body out a window.
The golf ban was affirmed twice during succeeding decades. But in 1502 James’s grandson James IV lifted it. (Later the same year, he spent fourteen shillings on golf equipment for himself.) Allan’s hat therefore celebrates the year in which golf ceased to be illegal in Scotland—a turning point in world history. The hats are nice, too! I’m wearing mine right now.
I have one suggestion for Allan and Chuck: add a line of 1457 hats, for people like my wife.
My third favorite food, after bacon and coffee ice cream, is jerky—and of those three only jerky remains edible after being forgotten in a pocket of your golf bag for an entire season. I am theoretically capable of making my own jerky, because a couple of years ago my wife bought a dehydrator. Her intention was to use it to dry sliced fruits and vegetables, which she would then sprinkle on salads and so forth, but it can make jerky, too.
In truth, though, the only thing we’ve used her dehydrator for, so far, is rescuing her iPhone after it spent almost an hour soaking in a grande latte, which she had spilled into a cake pan on the floor of her car. When she finally realized what she’d done, she put the phone in a bowl of uncooked rice, the way people always say you’re supposed to. Suddenly, though, I thought of her dehydrator (which by then was in storage cabinet in the basement). I baked the phone for a week—and it recovered! The dehydrator she owns is currently selling on Amazon for sixty bucks. That makes it almost worth buying just so you’ll have it on hand the next time you drop your phone into a toilet.
Even if you own all the right equipment, the easiest way to acquire jerky is to buy it. My favorite brand at the moment is Chef’s Cut, a company started by two caddies, who virtually overnight went from making jerky between loops to being pretty rich. Hundreds of golf clubs now stock their products, and if yours doesn’t do that yet you can look for Chef’s Cut at the grocery store or order it online. My favorite version is Chipotle Cracked Pepper, but there are others.
And, if you are one of the many men who prefer to take their nourishment in Slim Jim form, Chef’s Cut offers that, too:
The best pizza within half an hour of my house comes from Bohemian Pizza, in Litchfield, Connecticut. One of the keys to the greatness of the pizza is that they bake the crusts ahead of time. (My favorite combination, a creation of my own: bacon, chicken, andouille sausage, caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes, and artichoke hearts, with olive oil instead of tomato sauce.) I’d always simultaneously loved the restaurant and wondered how they passed their health inspections. Then, last summer, the owner demolished virtually the entire structure and rebuilt it with new everything, including plumbing (see photo above). Why would any man ever want to pee into anything else? The only way to improve it would be to fill it with shaved ice from the bar.
The photo above, from someone’s Instagram, is a little fuzzy. Here’s the same idea implemented at another restaurant not far from here, El Coyote. I haven’t peed there, but Hacker (real name) has, and he sent me this:
And here’s a truckload of raw material, which I spotted at Ballybunion, in Ireland, on a buddies in May, 2016. If we go to work now, we could have a complete inventory ready by spring:
I’ve owned or tested a number of pushcarts, and so far the one I’ve liked best and would recommend for most golfers is the Clicgear 3.5+. It’s a substantial piece of machinery, yet it folds down into a reasonably compact unit, which I have no trouble fitting into the trunk of my car as long as there’s nothing much in my trunk other than my golf bag and my pushcart.
The Clicgear does have an annoying design flaw, though—as you can sort of see in the first and third golf carts in the photo above: some bags sit so low on the cart that they come very close to the front wheel, and even scrape. The reason is that each cart’s bag rest, a padded metal loop, doesn’t stick out far enough and is at least an inch too close to the wheel. Clicgear has acknowledged that this can be an issue for “tour and large size golf bags,” but it actually affects small bags, too. I’ve got a lightweight Sun Mountain carry bag, and after about a year the wheel began to rub. I dealt with the problem at first by resting the bottom of the bag not on the bag rest but on the little folding arms above it, which are meant to secure the bag to the cart, but when I did that the bag wouldn’t stay put. More recently, I gave up and spent ten bucks for Clicgear’s solution: a “booster clip” that clamps onto the bag rest and is supposed to add an inch of clearance.
At least part of the issue with Sun Mountain and similar carry bags is that their bases are beveled, to accommodate the lever that pops out the legs, and the Clicgear bag rest doesn’t extend far enough past the bevel: it’s too short to engage the actual bottom of the bag.
I hate the idea of spending ten dollars on a piece of plastic that must have cost a millionth of a cent to manufacture and that wouldn’t be necessary if Clicgear had ever bothered to correct its own design flaw. (The bag rest has been the same since the beginning, in models 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, and 3.5+.) And even the booster clip is poorly designed, since it has a rounded front that reduces its effective thickness for bags like mine. A much better solution would have been to redesign and replace the bag rest itself. But the clip does lift my bag just high enough that it no longer scraps—for now. We’ll check back in a year.
I have a story in the current New Yorker about building a putting green in the back yard of an executive editor at the book publisher Simon & Schuster. The photo above is of the owner chipping to the finished green from a “teeing area” below his deck; the photo below is of the construction site when the project was nearing completion.
The green was built by Michael Lehrer, whose company, Home Green Advantage, has built hundreds of greens, golf holes, and other artificial-turf surfaces in the metropolitan area—including this one, on a terrace on a high floor of a tall building in Manhattan:
Lehrer also built the awesome floating green at GlenArbor Golf Club, in Bedford Hills, New York—which I wrote about here. (That’s Bob G., an honorary Sunday Morning Group member, in the photo below.)
Among the advertisers on the Golf Channel broadcast of the current LPGA Tour event is the Duluth Trading Company, which is promoting its Ballroom Jeans. Those aren’t jeans that are nice enough to waltz in; they’re jeans that have extra room for your balls. A women’s sports event may seem like an odd place to advertise a product intended for overweight middle-aged men—but keep in mind that the main viewing audience for LPGA Tour events is overweight middle-aged men.
Wrestling match held in 1938 in Sikeston, Missouri, a legendary power vortex.
My right hand felt heavy when I woke up one morning, and my fingertips tingled. The tingling persisted through breakfast. I shook my hand, did a few pushups, and squeezed a rubber ball. The tingling persisted through lunch. I consulted a medical website and discovered that I was suffering—as I had suspected—from poor circulation, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, a herniated disk, a tumor, Guillain-Barré syndrome, and multiple sclerosis.
I paced nervously through my house, and thought about how much I love my children, my wife, and our furniture. I fretted about whether to call my doctor. It was Sunday afternoon, and he was probably playing golf. Should I page him on the course or drive directly to the emergency room and schedule my own M.R.I.?
Thinking about golf and my doctor made me think of something else. With a flash of insight possibly comparable to Pasteur’s realization that moldy bread can cure pneumonia, I was suddenly able to diagnose my malady as pseudo-carpal-tunnel syndrome brought on by sleeping in an awkward position while wearing one of those copper wristbands that Seve Ballesteros used to endorse. I removed the wristband—which was crimped against the underside of my arm like a staple in a stack of papers—and within an hour all my symptoms had disappeared.
Despite the side effects, I loved that wristband. It was made by a company called Sabona of London, whose headquarters are in Sikeston, Missouri, a legendary American power vortex. (Also in Sikeston: Lambert’s Cafe, “The Only Home of Throwed Rolls,” where waiters throw fresh-from-the-oven dinner rolls at customers all the way across the restaurant.) Pretty many of the golfers I saw on TV wore copper wristbands; wearing one myself seemed like an easy way to become exactly like them.
When my wife first saw my wristband—which she called a bracelet—she laughed out loud, and I took it off for a while. But then I put it back on. I lost it eventually, but several years ago, at the P.G.A. Golf Merchandise Show, in Orlando, I persuaded various merchants to give me new wristbands, and ever since then I’ve worn them in rotation, with occasional replacements. Most are made of “surgical-grade silicone,” rather than plumbing-grade copper, (One, which a woman in Bogota, Colombia, gave me after I’d admired hers, looks liked barbed wire.) Several have proven power-boosting components, among them magnets, titanium pieces, ion-emitting discs, and holographic images like the ones on credit cards (also a well-known source of power). The effect on my golf game has been, quite literally, unbelievable, as you will see in the video below, which we made at the show.
I have an article in this week’s New Yorker about hearing and hearing loss. There’s only one teensy mention of golf, in the second paragraph, but hearing is an important subject for all golfers, especially as we get older. Much of what athletes in several sports think of as “feel” is actually aural feedback rather than anything to do with the sense of touch. Arnold Palmer, when he was in his seventies, said he had of trouble playing golf if he wasn’t wearing his hearing aids. (“Without my aids, I lose all feel for what I want to do,” he told Golf Digest.) The reason is that good shots sound different from bad shots, and if you can’t hear that difference from one swing to the next, over the course of a round, you can lose your way.
The same is true in other sports. Liam Maguire, a hockey analyst in Canada, once said, “You can’t handle the puck if you’re not able to hear it hitting the stick. It’s amazing how much hearing plays into these basic capabilities.” A recent article in the New York Times described an 18-year-old deaf tennis player, who is notable because at 143rd in the world he’s the highest-ranked deaf tennis player ever. He has compensated for his deafness by learning to see things that other players hear, including the spin on a serve.
You would think that, for an athlete, not being able to hear would be less of an impediment than not being able to see, but that isn’t always the case. A hearing researcher at Harvard Medical School who is also a serious sailor told me that much of the ability to sail a boat depends on having fully functioning ears—both hearing and a sense of balance. An experience sailor, as long as he didn’t run into anything, might actually have an easier time sailing blind than sailing deaf. The Vision Cup, an international tournament for blind golfers, will be held in British Columbia in July. Is there a Hearing Cup? Maybe someone knows.