Should You Pay $20 to Watch “The Match,” or Line Up to Punch a Stranger in the TV Department at Walmart?

I can’t answer that, but I can tell you that in 1995 I played eighteen holes at Shadow Creek, the Las Vegas golf course where Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods will slug it out on Black Friday. My host was Kenny Wynn, Steve’s younger brother. Two years earlier, Kenny had lost his gaming license, temporarily, after admitting that he had a drug problem. (Nine years after my round, local police confiscated his computers in some kind of child-pornography investigation.)

When I called Kenny to ask for driving directions, he told me to take the freeway to a certain exit north of town. “As you look toward the mountains, you’ll see a forest rising out of the desert,” he said, and we both laughed. But he was right. Las Vegas has sprawled past the golf course since then, but at the time Shadow Creek was an Oz-like quadrant of green surrounded by miles and miles and miles of sand. At the front gate, I spoke my name into a telephone and smiled at a closed-circuit television camera. Then, as I drove to the clubhouse, I shared the road with a ring-necked pheasant, a chukar, and a long-eared rabbit—a small sampling of the non-native species with which Steve Wynn had ornamented the grounds. When Shadow Creek opened, there were also wallabies and African cranes, but they turned out to be too large to coexist with mishit golf balls. I left my shoes in the (alleged) locker of Davis Love III. No photographs allowed.

The course was designed by Tom Fazio and completed in 1990. The cost has been estimated at $40 million, $50 million, $60 million—who knows? Shadow Creek can probably be considered our best look into Fazio’s artistic soul, since he was given not only a blank check but also a blank canvas: he built the course, basically, by digging a gigantic hole in the desert and filling it with money. Every hill, every pond, every bump, every dip, every bounce, every break is there because he put it there. The stones in the artificial creek that circulates through the property (and tumbles over an artificial waterfall on the seventeenth hole before returning to its artificial headwaters) were glued in place by Fazio himself, maybe. The pine trees that surround you on every hole only look as though they run all the way to the snow-capped mountains in the distance. The rye grass on the fairways would die if the maintenance crew ever stopped flooding it with the ground-up life savings of slot-machine players. There’s a par 3 that you enter and leave through a tunnel. It’s a virtual golf course—except that it’s real.

The two other members of our foursome were a professional from a nearby country club and his wife, who arrived in a white Porsche Carrera and were wearing more gold and diamonds than I’m used to seeing on a golf course. “Ah, the life of a Las Vegas club pro,” the pro said, smiling. Kenny Wynn—an impatient, slashing 18- or 20-handicapper—quit after a few holes, and once he was gone we had a relaxed, pleasant round. No other group entered our field of vision, although later, in the clubhouse, I did see the well-known golf nut and occasional actor Joe Pesci. Our golf carts had built-in coolers, which were filled (and, at the turn, refilled) with ice and soft drinks. We were accompanied by an affable caddie/chauffeur, who paced yardages, filled divots, repaired ball marks, read putts, and urged us to drink something at any moment when we weren’t swinging a golf club. I chugged roughly a gallon of Gatorade per nine—it gets hot at the bottom of a hole—but didn’t pee until a day or two later. On with The Match!

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Making Awesome Golf Stuff Even Awesomer

Waste Management Phoenix Open - Final Round

A group of professional caddies is suing the PGA Tour for requiring them to wear bibs bearing the logos of companies that pay fees to the tour but not to the caddies—and I hope they win, because it’s true, as one sportswriter said, that the tour is forcing the caddies to serve as “unpaid human billboards.” It’s a good thing they didn’t ask me to represent them in their lawsuit, though, because my own first reaction would have been “Wow! Free caddie bibs!” My friends and I not only happily wear logo-covered golf stuff that nobody pays us to wear; we even spend money of our own to add additional logos to our already-logo-covered stuff, the better to emulate Jim “5-Hour Energy-and-Web.com-plus-SunGard-Financial-among-many-other-companies” Furyk and his fellow tour members. 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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An Empirical Proof of Golf’s Superiority to Tennis

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Gary Levering, a lawyer and real-estate developer in Houston, died last year. He played on the golf team at Northwestern from 1957 to 1961 (photo above, courtesy of Northwestern Athletics), and once he’d established himself in his career he reimbursed the university for his scholarship. He believed that golf was a more difficult sport than tennis. To prove it, he signed up for lessons at the Houston Racquet Club and won the club championship two years later: Q.E.D. He earned a perfect score on the test the U.S.G.A. uses to certify rules officials, and was known to friends as Dr. Golf. I learned about Levering from Keith Kimmick, a reader and a commercial-insurance executive. He heard Levering give a talk about bipolar disorder, from which he suffered, at River Oaks Country Club, and when the talk was over Kimmick asked what he could do to help.

Kimmick has served on the advisory board of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance of Greater Houston ever since. “Fortunately, I don’t suffer from this illness,” he told me recently, “but I admired Gary for stepping out to tell the world about himself. The D.B.S.A. provides free assistance for those that suffer from bipolar and depression through trained facilitators. I spend most of my time working a booth at various health functions throughout the city, spreading the word.”

Levering and Kimmick became golf buddies, too. Levering owned a house in Pebble Beach and was a member of Cypress Point Club, which always hovers near the top of Golf Digest’s 100 Greatest. During guest rounds there, Kimmick got to know Mike Reese, a longtime Cypress caddie. Reese died of a brain aneurysm in 2007, at the age of 49, and Kimmick wrote a tribute, of which this was part:

Casey Reamer, Cypress Point Club’s head pro, remembers Mike as a true perfectionist on the golf course. One day when Mike was caddying for him, Casey had accidentally left his Bushnell (electronic measuring device) in his golf bag. They are not permitted at Cypress Point Club, but Mike insisted that Casey test his yardages. On the 7th hole, Mike said he was 178 yards from the pin and the Bushnell indicated 179 yards. On the 8th hole, Mike said he was 134 yards and the Bushnell flashed 134 yards to the mark. On the 9th hole, Mike said he was 117 yards and the Bushnell indicated 116 yards. Casey responded to Mike that he was very impressed that he was right on target with the Bushnell once, and within a yard the other two times. Mike very professionally flipped the Bushnell over where the sticker read within one yard up to 1500 yards, and said, “I believe the Bushnell was off one yard on those other two holes.”
Kimmick and Reese shared a love for Cypress memorabilia. Kimmick’s collection is extensive, and he has shown me images of some of his favorite items. I’m going to write about one of them in a future post. (Not the photo below, which is part of my own Cypress collection. It’s of Alister MacKenzie and his wife, Hilda, on the fifteenth green when the course was new. That box in Hilda’s hand is a camera—and check out her shoes.
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Reader’s Trip Report: Bandon Dunes in a Hurricane

Mike Goldman, a reader, recently spent several days at Bandon Dunes with seven friends. Here’s the local forecast from part of their trip:

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They played every day, naturally, even though the Speed Golf World Championship, which was supposed to be held on Old MacDonald while they were there, was canceled because of the weather. Here’s what the wind did to the speed-golf scoreboards:

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From Goldman’s report:
While the entire trip was a home run (mainly because my team won), the lasting memory will be our trudge through the hurricane on Saturday, on Bandon Dunes. What started as a light mist and a stiff breeze quickly regressed into a wind and rainstorm so dramatic that one member of our group said, on the second tee, “We’ve already passed the point of bringing all the animals inside and duct-taping the windows.” 
 
I’m not an agronomist, but my understanding is that gorse is a hearty plant and that it’s unusual to see it rolling down fairways like tumbleweeds. At one point, on the sixth green, we suspended play and hunkered down in a catcher’s stance, and leaned into the wind to keep from blowing off the cliff. We were a little nervous, but, mainly, we were laughing hysterically at what we were going to have to do to complete the match. Here’s one of our caddies climbing uphill into the wind:
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On the seventh green, as we were trying unsuccessfully to mark our balls, one of the caddies said, “Whatever you do, do not get within 10 feet of that cliff.” No. 9 at Bandon is a straightforward par 5. On a normal day, it’s two good shots and a little pitch, and then you’re putting for birdie. Playing dead into he storm, I hit driver (hard), 3-wood, 3-wood (again), and then a torched 8-iron to the front fringe, 50 feet from the hole. I’m more pleased with that result than hitting it in two on a normal day.
 
At the end of nine holes, much to the relief of our caddies, we suspended play for a burger and a beer, and strategized about how best to complete the matches. We settled on the Preserve, Bandon’s new 13-hole par-3 course. The longest hole is only about 160 yards, but many holes turned out to be unreachable. On others, you’d hit a simple pitch shot and watch the wind whisk your ball over the green and into the gorse. At the end of the day, we were tattered, wind-damaged, and in possession of a golf experience we’ll all remember for a lifetime.  
Here’s the winning team. (Marty Hackel: note the wardrobe.) From left to right, they are Mike Kemmet, Trevor Dyer, Mike Goldman, and Steve Harry. Dyer (a.k.a. The Captain) organized the trip, and kept everyone up to date with a website he created for that purpose —an excellent idea.
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Here’s Dyer during the hurricane. It looks like he’s swinging, but he’s actually just being bent into a pretzel by the wind:
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And here’s a picture of Goldman during a round once the storm had passed:
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And here’s a golf quiz: when you read Goldman’s account of their Saturday rounds, did you wish you’d been there, too? I did. (That means I passed the quiz.) I visited Bandon back in February 2007 with Tony and Ray. We played ten rounds in five days, all in the rain. During lunch between eighteens each day, we parked our rainsuits in some industrial-strength dryers in the clubhouse. Here are Ray and Tony with our caddies:
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During that trip, a starter told me that, several winters before, on a day when the wind blew hard and Bandon received almost seven inches of rain, all eighty-five golfers on the tee sheet played—and so did two walk-ons, who were passing through and thought the day looked reasonable for golf. They were right!
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The Muny Life: The Beav, in Concord, New Hampshire

P1090355-001My Muny Life column in the January Golf Digest was about Beaver Meadow Golf Course, in Concord, New Hampshire—known to regulars as “the Beav.” The course has an unusual policy of keeping groups well away from the first tee until it’s their turn to play—because, the starter told me, “We find that people hit the ball better if no one is watching.”

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The Beav’s original nine holes were laid out in 1896 by Willie Campbell, a transplanted Scotsman, who had also laid out some of the early holes at The Country Club, in Brookline, Massachusetts. He was The Country Club’s first head professional, and then he held the same job at Myopia Hunt Club and Franklin Park Golf Course, which opened in 1896 and is the second oldest public golf course in the country. (It’s now known as William J. Devine Golf Course, and was one of the subjects of an earlier Muny Life column.)

Frederick Law Olmsted's 1891 plan for Franklin Park, five years before the creation of the golf course.

Frederick Law Olmsted’s 1891 plan for Franklin Park, five years before the creation of the golf course.

Campbell had heart problems. He died in 1900, at the age of thirty-eight, but he played golf till almost the end. According to his obituary in the Boston Evening Transcript: “Last spring, when unable to drive a ball more than seventy-five or a hundred yards, owing to his weakness, Campbell beat the best ball of two leading amateur players at [Franklin Park] simply by his marvelous accuracy in approaching and putting.” (Willie’s wife, Georgina, took over his job at Franklin when he died, thus becoming the first woman golf pro in the United States.) Campbell is memorialized at the Beav with an annual tournament in his honor:

That (Photoshopped) face isn't Campbell's, but I don't know whose it is.

That (Photoshopped) face isn’t Campbell’s, but I don’t know whose it is.

My principal guide to the Beav was Dave Andrews, a retired television news reporter. Dave swings righty but writes and putts lefty, and he was able to use his ambidexterity to his advantage with this tricky shot, from the collar of a bunker:

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Dave is an avid supporter of women’s golf. Beaver Meadow used to host a Symetra Tour event called the Northeast Delta Dental International, and Andrews served twice as the tournament’s (volunteer) caddie master. He and several of his friends also sometimes serve as volunteer caddies at women’s mini-tour events in Florida, where they go to escape New England winters, and at the LPGA’s Q School. That’s Dave and Hannah Yun below, at the 2011 Q School, where he helped Yun earn her 2012 LPGA rookie card.

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Dave is the author of a novel called Pops and Sunshine, which makes good use of some of his experiences as a caddie and as a regular at Beaver Meadow. The guys who hang around with him have been big supporters not only of women’s golf but also of the book. This is Tinker Foy, who has been a Beav member for more than fifty years:

P1090440-001Tinker’s son, Denny, was Dave’s partner in a tournament that was underway when I arrived. Denny has the rarest and most prized of all golf tans, the sunglasses-stem line:

P1090331Another of Dave’s regular golf buddies is Russ Matthews. Russ sold his company when he was in his forties, and now plays golf a hundred percent of the time, Dave told me. He has been to Scotland a couple of times, and when he isn’t playing golf he’s watching it on TV. He’s part of the group that goes to Florida each winter, but Russ said he wouldn’t want to live there full time, because he likes the change of seasons. “I played hockey when I was a kid,” he said. “When I started, I just had figure skates, and I taped magazines to my legs, as shin guards.” He had a heart attack not long after I visited, but he’s doing fine now. Here he is:

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Every year, Beaver Meadow plays a two-weekend tournament, called the Beaver Cup, against a club in Phoenix, New York, called Beaver Meadows. There’s a golf club in Virginia that has almost the same name as my golf club, and one of these days the Sunday Morning Group is going to challenge them to something. In the meantime, I hope the guys from the Beav will drop by (after the snow has melted) for a round at our place.

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The Adventure of a Lifetime, and My Golf Buddy Johnny Browne

Royal County Down, Newcastle, Northern Ireland, November 11, 2013.

Royal County Down, Newcastle, Northern Ireland, November 11, 2013.

I have an article in the February issue of Golf Digest called The Adventure of a Lifetime, about Royal County Down, in Northern Ireland. In it, I mention that, before teeing off on the eleventh hole one day, my playing partner and I climbed into a jungle of of whins and briars to look for a century-old relic that a caddie had told me about in 2011: the remains of a small stone building, which the maintenance crew had uncovered during an aggressive gorse-removal project. We found it, at some risk to our clothing, although it was so overgrown that we couldn’t see much more than one corner:

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The caddie’s theory was that the structure had been the house of the original greenkeeper, but Harry McCaw—a past captain of both Royal County Down and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews—told me this past November that he thought it might once have served as the literal “club house”: the place where early players stored their clubs. When he said this, we were standing in the current R.C.D. clubhouse in front of a glass case that contained, among other mementos, the red coat that was McCaw’s official uniform during his captaincy of the R. & A.

A past R. & A. captain (not McCaw), playing the Old Course. That's the R. & A. clubhouse in the background.

A past R. & A. captain (not McCaw), playing the Old Course. That’s the R. & A. clubhouse in the background.

Captains of the R. & A. begin their term by “driving in” from the first tee of the Old Course. That is, they hit a ceremonial tee shot, accompanied by a cannon, in front of a large crowd of club members, townspeople, and miscellaneous onlookers. I asked McCaw whether driving in had made him nervous, and he said that it had and that he’d had plenty of time to brood about it because new captains are tapped roughly nine months before they take office. I don’t have a photograph of McCaw’s driving-in, but here’s a video of the ceremony in 2012:

The playing partner who accompanied me into the jungle to find that old stone building was Johnny Browne, a Belfast physician and a three-time R.C.D. club champion. Johnny played his first round of golf at Ormeau Golf Club, a muny in Belfast, where his father was a regular. He said that, during and after the Second World War, golf balls were so precious that boys at Ormeau would look for them by lying down in the rough and rolling around. Johnny has two brothers, both of whom also play golf. His younger brother, Tim, is a past R.C.D. champion as well, and Johnny said that, of the three, Tim is the most obsessed. “His wife is a Presbyterian minister,” he said. “She gives the same sermon three times every Sunday, and Tim is such a good husband that he sits through all three—although during the second and third he’s probably mentally reviewing golf holes and golf courses.” When Tim and Johnny attend church together, they pass ball markers back and forth. Johnny has a large collection, and Tim has a huge one. (Their older brother, Connor, “has a more balanced view of the game,” Johnny said.) Here’s Johnny during one of our rounds at R.C.D.:

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Johnny’s earliest memory is of the 1953 Irish Open, which was held at Belvoir Park Golf Club, in a suburb on Belfast’s south side. (“Belvoir” is pronounced “Beaver.”) “What I remember is Dai Rees getting on his knees to talk to me,” Johnny said. “No wonder I’m a golf nut.” Johnny is a member of Belvoir Park, which was designed by Harry S. Colt, and he once jointly held the course record there (66) with a good local amateur and Peter Alliss. He lives in an apartment overlooking the eighteenth hole. He is the honorary secretary of the club, and he runs the youth group at his church, and he is deeply involved in a non-profit organization called Macmillan Cancer Support, which he began working for when his wife, Linda, was dying of ovarian cancer, two years ago. Here’s Johnny talking about Linda and cancer care in a video he made for Macmillan last year:

Four Miles From Muirfield is the Golf Course I Dream About

Four miles, as the golf ball flies.

Four miles, as the golf ball flies.

If my wife ever throws me out of the house and they won’t let me move into the Crow’s Nest at Augusta National, I’m going to hide out in North Berwick, Scotland, just a few miles along the coast from Muirfield Golf Club. I’ve played North Berwick pretty many times over the years, and it’s probably the course I think about the most, except for my home course. Among the many permanently memorable holes is the thirteenth, a par-four, on which the green is on the far side of a very old stone wall:

Thirteenth green, North Berwick Golf Club, Scotland, May, 2008.

Thirteenth green, North Berwick Golf Club, Scotland, May, 2008.

On a visit in 2004, I missed the green to the right and tried to chip through an opening:

DCP_3091I missed the gap, and then l was really in trouble. During two of my most recent visits to North Berwick, I stayed in a small hotel overlooking the course, called Blenheim House. Sad to say, the young couple who owned it, Milton and Ailsa, gave up last year and sold it to someone else. I don’t know if it’s back in business.

R.I.P.: Blenheim House Hotel, North Berwick, May, 2008.

R.I.P.: Blenheim House Hotel, North Berwick, May, 2008.

One of the great things about that hotel was that you could get to the golf course simply by walking through a gate in the back garden:

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Here’s the gate, viewed from the golf-course side. The people in the windows are eating breakfast:

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During the relatively few daylight moments when I wasn’t playing golf, I gazed at the golf course from the window in my room. Here’s what I saw:

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The cylindrical stone building at the far right is the starter’s shelter; the semi-subterranean white structure just to the left of it is the golf shop. The eighteenth green is at the far left, and the clubhouse is out of the picture to the left of that. The opening tee shot at North Berwick usually calls for something like a five-iron, and the second is essentially blind, and several of the other holes are almost as unusual. When I looked out my window one morning, before breakfast, I saw a guy walking a dachshund just east of the course:

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Here’s what my room looked like. As you can see from the size of the suitcase, this was before I had realized I could cram all the clothes I need for an overseas golf trip into a carry-on bag:

P1040668One afternoon in 2007, when I was in Scotland on a Golf Digest assignment, I teed off at North Berwick by myself. After a few holes I was joined by an old man, who had come through a gate leading to one of the houses overlooking the course. He had lost his wife sixteen years before, he said. He walked along with me and asked me questions and held the flag while I putted, and I played really well for as long as he was there. He said that if someone offered him a plane ticket to New York he would go in five minutes, and I briefly considered trying to work out a temporary life swap. He said that he had once been to Chicago, and that while he was there a shoeshine man had asked him if he was French. He said no, Scottish, and the shoeshine man said, “You speak English very well.”

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On the fourteenth hole, the old man and I caught up to and joined three Swedes. He knew them already, because he had run into them the night before, in the bar at the Blenheim. They were part of a group of six, and they had played Muirfield the previous day, and they were going home in the morning. One of them said that the flight from Edinburgh to Stockholm was just an hour, and that he would be going straight from the airport to his office—a thought that made everyone temporarily adopt a grim facial expression. The old man walked along with us until he got back to his gate. It turned out that he was very interested in Swedish girls, and other girls.

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That night, I stayed not at Blenheim House but at the Mallard Hotel, in Gullane. Incidentally, “Berwick” is pronounced BARE-ick, and “Gullane” us pronounced GILL-en. There are three golf courses in Gullane: No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3. Muirfield Golf Club is virtually next door and can be seen from the top of Gullane Hill, and a caddie at Gullane once described it to me as Gullane No. 4—although Muirfield members don’t think of themselves that way.

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I ate dinner that night at a pub called the Old Clubhouse. Directly across the street from both the pub and my hotel was the Gullane Golf Club’s six-hole children’s course, which costs nothing to play, as long as you’re not an adult. As I walked to dinner, I saw a man and his nine- or ten-year-old daughter. He was teeing up balls for her, and she was hitting the most gorgeous draws with a driver. She was hitting from a tee toward a green, but she was using the hole as a driving range. What a swing! And beyond the children’s course I could see Gullane No. 1 and No. 2.

First green, Gullane No. 1, looking back toward town. The knobby thing at  top right overlooks North Berwick and is visible in the photo with the rainbow, below.

First green, Gullane No. 1, looking back toward town. The knobby thing at top right overlooks North Berwick and is also visible in the photo with the rainbow, below.

The next year, I went back to Scotland with eight friends from home, and we spent the first two nights of the trip in North Berwick. On the second day, we saw this:

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And that evening we saw this:

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I almost feel picking a fight with my wife, to see if I can’t tempt her to give me the boot.

Sankaty Head Caddie Camp and Other Nantucket Wonders

Bruce Memorial Golf Course and Westchester County Airport, July 8, 2013.

Bruce Memorial Golf Course and Westchester County Airport, July 8, 2013.

My wife and I flew to Nantucket earlier this week. In the air, we felt kind of rich, because we were the only passengers on the flight, but also kind of poor, because the plane was just a crappy Cape Air twin-engine Cessna eight-seater. I’d flown Cape Air before, on trips to and from Martha’s Vineyard, where my wife and I have spent summer vacations for many years. The weather during those flights was almost always terrible, and I spent most of each one gripping my seat and thinking, “We’re almost certainly going to die, but, if we don’t, this sure is faster than taking the ferry.” The weather this time was perfect, and from the plane I saw lots of golf courses, including the one in the photo above, a public course in Greenwich, Connecticut, right next to the airport. It was almost like visiting Google Earth!

This was our pilot. He never asked me to take the controls, but I studied them, just in case, when I wasn't scanning the ground for golf courses.

This was our pilot. He never asked me to take the controls, but I studied them, just in case, when I wasn’t scanning the ground for golf courses.

When we got to Nantucket, my wife took a nap, and Bob G.—an honorary member of the Sunday Morning Group, who had made our trip possible by arranging for me to give a talk in a local lecture series—took me on a tour of the island. Because our wives weren’t with us, our tour consisted solely of golf courses.

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Old Sconset—the first stop on our tour—is known locally as Skinner’s, because Skinner was the middle name of one of the people who owned it for a while. (It’s now owned by the Nantucket Islands Land Bank.) You can read about the history of the course here.

Inside the clubhouse, Old Sconset Golf Course.

Inside the clubhouse, Old Sconset Golf Course.

When Skinner’s is crowded, players reserve their place on the first tee by placing a ball in a sloping chute on top of the fence:

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The next day, Bob and I actually played golf, at Sankaty Head Golf Club, a course that’s been on my to-play list for a long time.

Sankaty Head lighthouse, which recently had to be moved farther from the cruel, cruel sea, and the somewhat less cruel fifth fairway.

Sankaty Head lighthouse, which recently had to be moved farther from the cruel, cruel sea, and the somewhat less cruel fifth fairway.

There’s lots of cool stuff in the Sankaty clubhouse, including the plaque in the photo below, which hangs on a wall in the men’s locker room. Note that each result is annotated with a description of the day’s weather:

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Maybe the very best thing about Sankaty is its caddie camp. Every summer, sixty boys spend two months living at the club and caddying for members. They have their own bunkhouses and dining hall, and there are organized games, trips into town, and other activities, in addition to lots of after-hours golf.

Tom, Bob G., Charlie, and Peter. The caddies get Garmin G.P.S. watches, hats with their name on them, and other stuff, and they make good money. Also, they are so polite that they make you almost reluctant to use bad words in their presence.

Tom, Bob G., Charlie, and Peter. The caddies get Garmin G.P.S. watches, hats with their name on them, and other stuff, and they make good money. Also, they are so polite that they make you almost reluctant to use bad words in their presence.

Here’s the camp, which is near the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth holes:

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And here are more caddies, on the driving range. I felt angry at myself for not knowing, when I was thirteen or fourteen, that spending a summer like this was possible:

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The next day, Bob and I played golf at Miacomet Golf Course, which, like Skinner’s, is public and is owned by the Land Bank. We played with Phil Truono, the director of golf.

Phil Truono, Miacomet Golf Course, Nantucket, July 10, 2013.

Phil Truono, Miacomet Golf Course, Nantucket, July 10, 2013.

Miacomet used to have just nine holes, but in 2003 the Land Bank added a second nine and renovated the whole thing. It’s a terrific golf course, and playing it is a relative bargain. People on Nantucket sometimes say that Sankaty Head is for millionaires and Nantucket Golf Club (where we didn’t play) is for billionaires. If that’s true, then I guess Miacomet is for thousandaires and Skinner’s is for hundredaires—so there’s something for everyone, as there always should be. (Non-golfers can look out for themselves.)

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What’s In My Bag, Part Three: Let’s Have a Look Inside Those Pockets

Will, Brent, D.O., Ben, Liberty National Golf Course, Jersey City, New Jersey, May 5, 2013.

Famous building, Will, Brent, D.O., Ben, famous statue. Fourteenth tee, Liberty National Golf Course, Jersey City, New Jersey, May 5, 2013.

On Sunday, I had the tremendous good fortune to be invited to join a twelve-man outing at Liberty National Golf Course, in Jersey City, New Jersey, directly across the Hudson River from lower Manhattan. I employed a labor-saving technique I’ve often used during visits to other rich-guy golf clubs: I wore my sorriest-looking pair of shoes, knowing that the locker-room guy would fully resuscitate them while we were playing. During a multi-day trip Pine Valley ten or fifteen years ago, I took three sorry-looking pairs of shoes and left them outside my door sequentially. I went home feeling like a new man.

Cool clubhouse.

Cool clubhouse–and that statue again.

Liberty National was designed by Tom Kite and Bob Cupp, and it was built, in 2006, on a desolate industrial site. (I’ve seen a variety of cost estimates, all of which have nine digits.) The Barclays—which used to be known as the Westchester Classic, and then as the Buick Classic—was held there in 2009, and it will be held there again in August. Tour players grumbled about the course the first time. Since then, Kite and Cupp have made many changes, and either the changes have been effective or I don’t know what I’m talking about, because I liked the course a lot. And the clubhouse is the only starkly modernistical one I’ve ever been in that I fully approve of.

The bar, post-round.

The bar, post-round.

Partway through our round, I apologized to my caddie for having forgotten to remove a couple of nonessential items from my golf bag. (I’ve gotten a little lazy about on-course housekeeping in recent years, because at home I now almost always use a pushcart.) The bag can’t have been too bad, though, because I still occasionally carry it myself. Here is some of what was in it:

Ball markers

The photo above shows my selection of lucky ball markers for that day. Clockwise from lower left: a souvenir marker from Royal County Down, a necessity because of the sublimity, transcendence, immanence, etc., of that course; a souvenir marker from a casino in Connecticut, useful because it has four colored pointy things, any one of which can be aimed at the hole; a Norwegian coin with an actual hole in the middle of it; a Moroccan coin featuring King Hassan II, who loved golf, wore golf gloves on both hands, and was accompanied during golf rounds by a servant whose only job was to use a pair of silver tongs to hold the king’s cigarette while swung; a one-something coin from Dubai, which I often use when I absolutely have to one-putt; a big old Mexican coin with some guy on it; a Colombian coin featuring what appear to me to be balls, holes, and “aiming chutes.”

When I wrote about (a slightly different selection of) lucky ball markers, last year, I said that when I used a coin with a guy’s head on it I aimed the top the head at the hole. Michael Clark, a reader, wrote to say that, on the final day of a three-day-tournament at his club, he had discovered a better way. “The eyes of the coin had to be looking at the hole,” he wrote. “When the eyes lined up to the hole the putts were dropping! Also, it had to be the same coin. So, if the coin has eyes, line them up!” Since then, I have field-tested Clark’s method, and adopted it.

Morefar green repair tool

The photo above is of what is probably the luckiest green-repair tool I’ve ever owned. I got it at a super-secretive golf club called Morefar Back O’ Beyond, which straddles the border between Danbury, Connecticut, and Brewster, New York.

The course on the left is Morefar. The course on the right is Richter Park, which is owned by the city of Danbury, Connecticut, and is one of the best munys in the country.

The course on the left is Morefar. The course on the right is Richter Park, which is owned by the city of Danbury, Connecticut, and is one of the best munys in the country.

Morefar

Morefar used to be owned by the disgraced insurance company A.I.G. I played there a dozen years ago as the guest of one of the club’s handful of local members. Only a tiny number of golfers are allowed out each day, and the only other group on the course on the day we were there was that of the Sultan of Brunei, who teed off before we did. He and his retinue were almost comically slow, but, it turns out, you don’t play through the Sultan of Brunei. On an airplane recently, I saw a guy (in first class) who had a Morefar attaché case in his lap. I gave him the secret sign of brotherhood (by showing him my green-repair tool) as I walked past him on my way to the back of the plane, but he cut me dead.

coppertone

The item above is roll-on sunscreen, which I use as “lip balm.” The tube is at least half again as big as a ChapStick tube, and the stuff is waterproof. It’s especially handy in cold weather and in wind. I don’t carry ordinary sunscreen in my golf bag because I don’t believe in applying sunscreen in situ. I once told someone that if I ever ran for President my platform would have just three planks. I don’t recall what the first two were, but the third was that everyone would have to put on their sunscreen at home, before they went to the golf course, the swimming pool, or wherever. Sunscreen is much easier to apply when you aren’t wearing clothes, and it works better if it’s had some time to soak in. When I see young parents at the beach trying to squirt sunscreen onto squirming, uncooperative children, I think: “An hour ago, your children were naked and not covered with sand; why didn’t you think of doing this then? When I’m the President, we’ll have no more of this nonsense.”

Several readers have sent me descriptions of what’s in their own bag. As promised, I will soon create a new section and post several of them permanently. If you’d like to add your own bag to the pile, send an email to myusualgame@gmail.com. Include a golf-related description of yourself and at least one or two photos of your golf stuff.

(Read Part One and Part Two.)

What's In My Bag?

What’s In My Bag?

Beef Box: Golf Idiots, and Neckties on TV Commentators

In 2001, I played 136 holes in one day at Doral with Jim McLean, who runs a golf school there. We started on the Blue Monster and averaged forty-five minutes per eighteen, and to save time we often teed off simultaneously, as in the photo above.

In 2001, I played 136 holes in one day at Doral with Jim McLean, who runs a golf school there. We started on the Blue Monster, where Tiger won over the weekend, and we averaged forty-five minutes per eighteen. To  save time, we often teed off simultaneously, as in the photo above.

David Lee, a reader in Appleton, Wisconsin, sent the following email to the PGA Tour over the weekend:

After hearing it again in today’s TV broadcast, I have a suggestion. I’m referring to a fan shouting out immediately after a Tiger hit: “IN THE HOLE!” It has become so obnoxious to hear these comments, seemingly elicited so that the fan can tell friends at home afterwards that it was his voice doing the shout-out—I’m guessing that that’s the reason because the comment occurs within a nanosecond of the clubhead contacting the ball, oftentimes on a very long shot and without regard to the quality of the shot. Current technology must make it easy for the TV networks to block out such shout-outs—I’m not talking about spontaneous outbursts of support—I think that you and I know which outbursts we’re discussing here. The PGA Tour should do some PR communicating to tournament spectator attendees that such comments are frowned upon and that they will not make it to the air-waves anyway—and take action to eliminate these outbursts from the telecasts. I think that the vast majority of your golfing fans would support this move, as well as would the Tour players.

I don’t know whether what he suggests is technologically possible, but if it is I’d be in favor of it. Or how about using something like a surgical staple gun to implant a device under the scalp of each spectator which would administer a painful but nonlethal electric shock each time the spectator shouted something stupid? And let’s do same to guys who sit behind home plate at baseball games and clap as each ball is pitched, in the hope of bothering the batter.

Nobody else at a golf tournament dresses like this. Why do they?

Nobody else at a golf tournament dresses like this. Why do they?

And, as long as I’m complaining, how about not allowing TV golf commentators to wear neckties? Golf courses should be tie-free zones for everyone but Tim Finchem and the manager of the grill room.

I don't mind seeing ties on ten-year-old caddies in 1925, as in this photo, which was taken at my golf club. The pro when I joined, in 1991, was the son of tiny kid who is fourth from the left in the front row.

I don’t mind seeing ties on ten-year-old caddies in 1925, as in this photo, which was taken at my golf club, but everyone else should knock it off. The pro when I joined, in 1991, was the son of tiny kid who is fourth from the left in the front row–who was the son of the (tie-less) man at the right, the pro in 1925.