Two Great Golf Recipes

Bob, eating a cookie.

Last month, my club beat our No. 2 enemy club in a tournament named after our retired superintendent, who is shown eating a cookie in the photo above. (You can read more about him here, in an essay I wrote for Golf Digest ten years ago.) The tournament is named after him because before he came to work at our club, in the mid-1960s, he worked at their club. Our victory gave us a sweep of this year’s majors in our area: our two big annual men’s inter-club matches and a regional senior tournament, in which last year’s winners were so confident they’d win again that they’d already had their name engraved on the cup. Now we have to get that removed.

One of the best things about our match with our No. 2 enemy club is the soup that Dan, who works there, always prepares for the competitors:

Dan, in the tournament kitchen.

Dan’s soup has two ingredients: (1) clam chowder, and (2) hot sauce. You add the hot sauce yourself:

Note the recycled plastic-spoon holder, far right.

Hot sauce keeps clam chowder—which I like—from tasting a little bit like library paste.

My wife, Ann Hodgman—who has written several cookbooks, among many other things—has an even better golf recipe, which is in the 2011 edition of her first cookbook, Beat This! It’s for deep-fried dill pickles, and it’s from Robert Johnson, who used to be a chef at Augusta National. Ann wrote, “Since the recipe the chef gave me might be too challenging for people unused to deep-frying (‘add as much Cholula hot sauce as you will like to use’), I’ve expanded it a bit.” The complete recipe is on pages 122-23. If you give the book to the person in your house who does the cooking, maybe you’ll get to have them for Thanksgiving.

My Close Personal Friend Ivan Lendl

Ivan Lendl is the coach not only of Andy Murray but also of the men’s team at my golf club’s enemy club, on the other side of town, with which we’re currently playing our annual two-day match. Ordinarily, Lendl would be playing No. 1 on their team, since he won their club championship this year, but his obligations to Murray at the (tennis) U.S. Open came first. Still, he drove up on Friday to give his teammates a pep talk. He’s an impressive tutor, as Murray’s record shows. My club is still ahead, historically—the match has been played every year since 1948—but we’re running slightly behind in the decade since Lendl got involved. (He and I were paired last year, and he whupped me both days.)

Lendl and his wife, Samantha, have five daughters, three of whom—Marika, Isabelle, and Daniela, who has been known as Crash since she was a little girl—are terrific golfers. Marika graduated from the University of Florida last year; Isabelle is a senior at  Florida this year; and Crash plays for the University of Alabama.

Isabelle qualified for match play in the 2004 U.S. Women’s Amateur, when she was thirteen. I first saw her play two or three years before that, when she was already proficient at a shot I’ve never seen an adult amateur pull off: a low, short chip that bounced once or twice on a firm green sloping away from her, then spun to a stop right next to the hole. In Florida once, Isabelle was hitting balls on a driving range while a pro watched her. After she had methodically worked her way through one large basket of balls, she moved to the next station, kicked over the basket sitting next to it, to spill out the balls, and went to work on those. The part of her game that impressed the pro the most, he told me, was the kick: she had clearly done this many times before.

When Crash was eight, she told her father that she wanted to play ice hockey, and he let her stay up late one night to watch a televised women’s game, in the Olympics. Early in the first period, two players were pressed against the boards, trying to control the puck, and Crash asked, “Why didn’t she just smash her into the glass?” Ivan said, “There’s no checking in women’s hockey,” and Crash said, “You’re kidding.”  She watched for a few more minutes, then, disgusted, went up to bed.

One weekend a few years later, Ivan told Crash that he had to go out of town on Sunday and that if she wanted a golf game that day she’d better find someone else to play with. When he got up to go to the airport, he found her in the bathroom with a club directory open on her lap, and a cordless phone in her hand. “It was six o’clock in the morning,” Ivan told me, “and she was already up to the H’s.” One of the people she had called was a woman she had played with in the past. The woman had been to a party with her husband the night before and hadn’t got to bed until three a.m., and was not interested in golf. “What about your husband?” Crash asked. The woman said that he was asleep. Crash said, “Well, wake him up and ask him.”

I wrote about the Lendl girls here, in 2006.

Marika, Isabelle, Crash, and their coach, 2009.

(Golf-match update: My club won, 15½-14½. So we hold the trophy till next year.)

Push Carts on Tee Boxes? On Greens?

Push carts on putting green, Victoria Golf Club, Melbourne, Australia, June, 2010.

During the women’s member-guest at my club, a couple of weeks ago, a few guys from my Sunday Morning Group played a travel round at our enemy club, on the other side of town. (We have a reciprocal arrangement for tournament days, etc.)  A member strode up at some point and told them to stop rolling their push carts onto the tee boxes—and later he strode up to again and told them not to put their golf bags on the tee boxes, either. (Hey, maybe they should remove their golf shoes, too.)

I took the photos above and below at Victoria Golf Club, near Melbourne, Australia, in 2010. (The Australian Masters was played at Victoria that year and the next.) Players there are asked to roll their push carts and pull carts not just over the tee boxes but across the greens, to keep the fringes from being beaten up by concentrated foot traffic. Other Sandbelt courses have the same policy—including Royal Melbourne and Kingston Heath, which are ranked No. 22 and No. 11, respectively, on Golf Digest’s list of the 100 Best Courses Outside the United States.  Ditto Bandon Dunes (although at Bandon golfers with carts are asked to cross the greens only, and not to park their carts on them).

These practices makes perfect sense, because a push cart weighs much less than a greens mower. Or a tee mower. Or any of the guys that you or I play golf with. So lighten up, enemy club.


Sports Psychologists Are Wrong About This


Member-Guest 2010: “Smooth stroke. Back of the cup.”

I had a side-hill three-footer in a team match, in which a partner and I were playing two guys from our enemy club. I studied my little slider while one of the other guys failed to chip in. My putt was slick, but I felt confident. I could see the line as clearly as if it were painted on the grass.

When it was my turn, my partner—who had been in his pocket since hitting both his drive and his provisional drive out of bounds—suddenly spoke. “Take your time,” he said.

Now, there’s a golf injunction I hate. I had been doing little for the past fifteen minutes except waiting for other people to play themselves out of the hole. How much more time was I supposed to take? I ignored my partner and got comfortable over my ball. One long, last look at my target, and—he spoke again.

“Back of the cup,” he said. “Smooth stroke.”

He had me now. Was I missing something? I backed away and reexamined my line. Maybe the putt did break less than I’d been thinking. I picked a different blade of grass to aim for, and stroked the ball a little harder.

It dipped below the rim but didn’t fall.

The conventional wisdom among sports psychologists is that chat between partners should always be positive. The human brain can’t process negative instructions, they say. Tell a golfer to avoid that bunker over there and he’ll think of nothing but sand. Therefore, you say “Back of the cup,” not “Don’t jab it, you loser.”

I disagree. When a partner turns gravely supportive, I can’t help wondering what he’s worried about. Invariably, I come up with a list.

A better strategy, I think, is to confront golf anxieties squarely. Recently, some buddies and I tested this hypothesis. Our foursome was playing three other foursomes, and our pro, Fran, had a crucial putt.

“Hey, Fran,” I said. “Don’t screw up.”

He laughed. Then he drained it.

On the next hole, as I was teeing up my ball, Tony said, “Keep it out of the woods, for a change, O. K.?” Boom—straight up the middle. And long.

When your partner tells you to make a good swing, he is indirectly expressing his uneasiness about your ability to play golf; when your partner tells you not to screw up, he is using a joke to acknowledge the pressure you’re feeling and, in effect, forgiving you in advance for letting down the side, if that’s how things turn out.

On the final green, I was able to return the favor to Tony. “We need this one,” I said, “How about not blowing it?”

He took his time, made a smooth stroke, and nailed the back of the cup.