Useful Golf Terminolory

From “The Rules of Golf [Revised],” edited by Francis Ouimet, 1948.

The word stymie—which means “prevent or hinder the progress of”—was originally just a golf term, having to do with a ball that blocked another ball’s path to the hole. The first citation in the Oxford English Dictionary is from 1857; it concerns wooden putters, which, apparently, could impart enough sidespin to a nineteenth-century golf ball to cause it “to pass the stimy.” The rule book changed in 1953, the first year a player could require another player to mark and lift an obstructing ball. My Sunday-morning golf buddies and I have kept stymies alive, sort of, by employing them in playoffs.

We also have added several terms of our own to golf’s lexicon. An Underwood, for example, is a shot that appears to be heading into the trees or out of bounds but hits a branch, root, stone, golf cart, squirrel, or low-flying aircraft and ends up in the middle of the fairway. It was named for a many-time club champion, who has a long, bothersome history of lucky bounces (in addition to a long, bothersome history of being the club’s best putter, chipper, driver, and so forth). The rest of us will often shout “Underwood!” just before a shot of ours reaches whatever trouble it’s heading for; sometimes, that works. Fifteen or twenty years ago, a member named Pickett resigned after deciding he had used up his lifetime’s allotment of Underwoods and therefore had no reason to continue playing. He thus became the first member of our club to be Picketted—in his case, self-Picketted.

Underwood, Royal Birkdale, May, 2010.

A Gillen is the opposite of a skin—it’s a negative skin. It’s what you get, in our version of the game, if you make the unmatched worst score on any hole. Gillens were invented by Tim, who had been irritated by Gillen’s habit of playing miserably for nine or ten holes and then scooping up all the carryovers with an improbable net birdie. The most astonishing Gillen ever recorded was earned by Gillen himself, on a day when five of us were playing together. On our seventh hole, a short-par-three, Gillen hit a good tee shot and made an easy par, while all four of the rest of us—after a remarkable succession of long bombs and chip-ins—made birdies. Gillen thus became the first person ever to receive a Gillen for a three.

Tim, inventor of the Gillen, Old Course at St. Andrews, May, 2008.

On that same hole on a different Sunday, I played in a group that included Schoon. He had a one-foot par putt, which, for some reason, no one had given him. He made a bad stroke and advanced the ball just four inches. The remaining distance—0.2032 meters—is now treated locally as a unit of golf measurement, called a Schoon. (A two-foot putt is three Schoons long.) Schoons are especially useful in setting the official gimme distance. Before we tee off, for example, Hacker (real name) might announce, “Mulligan on the first tee, play everything down, and Schoons are good for everyone but Schoon.”

A First for the Sunday Morning Group

A nearby muny reopened on the last day of February, making this past winter the shortest one ever, but then almost immediately we got a couple of feet of snow and everything shut down again. Now, finally, my home course is open for good. I missed the official first day, last Friday, because I was traveling, but I was there on Sunday for the first 2017 meeting of the Sunday Morning Group. The best thing about being home again was that we could play in less than three and a half hours, instead of the five and a half hours our last off-season round took.

Our course was in great shape, and a number of improvements had either been implemented or were under way. Our seventh hole, at 120-140 yards, has always been a surprisingly challenging par 3—in a four-man scramble once, my team’s best tee shot was short of the front bunker, which is well short of the green—but the back of the tee box is being pushed ten or fifteen yards, onto what used to be a cart path:

More important, S.M.G.’s dining-and-beer-drinking terrace is being enlarged, and will soon cover part of the executive parking lot. When the stonework is finished, we’ll have a second sitting area, a built-in grill, and a butt-high stone wall that guys who’ve had too much to drink can fall off the back of:

Opening Day lunch was provided by Keith and his father, Jim. Because Keith is a new member, he didn’t know that we have a rule against salad:

But a few guys tried it anyway, maybe figuring that if they did they wouldn’t have to eat anything green for the rest of the week. And the salad turned out to be good! Keith and Jim also brought hors and chocolate-chip cookies. So Hacker (real name) told them they have to bring Opening Day lunch from now on.

Harry’s Last Round of Golf

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Our old friend Harry, who was one of the founding members of the Sunday Morning Group, died not long ago, and his widow told us she was going to send us half of his ashes to spread around the golf course, as Harry had wanted. The container we received was so heavy—three pounds—that I thought maybe she had sent us all of him, but Hacker (real name) said he’d Googled “cremation” and that all of Harry would have been more like six. We had 17 guys on Sunday, plus Harry. Schoonie had the only cart, so we put Harry on his team:

Joe brought lunch: pulled pork, spicy sausages, and lobster macaroni and cheese — all made by him, none of it touched by his wife—and because the Ryder Cup broadcast was about to begin we ate in the clubhouse, in front of the TV, instead of on our patio. I announced that I had stirred half a cup of Harry into the pulled pork, but no one believed me:

After lunch, Hacker borrowed an ash-distribution utensil from the clubhouse kitchen:

We put some of Harry under one of the bluestone pavers on the patio:

And some on the first fairway:

And some in the cup on the seventh hole, where Harry once had a hole-in-one:

And some in the divot mix in one of the divot-mix boxes that Harry himself built and gave to the club:

So long, Harry!

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What Happened to Harry’s Leak?

One Sunday a decade ago, we had four dollars left in the pot after paying everyone off. Hacker (real name) always handles our extra cash, but he was at home nursing his wife, who had just had cataract surgery, so we were on our own. We did remember one of his rules, though: “Money never flows backward.” In other words, no refunds. So we held a playoff.

It was actually a throw-off: two balls from where you were sitting, overhand or underhand, toward the No. 1 hole on the practice green, first in wins the four bucks. My first try didn’t even reach the putting surface, and my second rolled about six feet to the left. Nobody else did much better, except for Harry, who lipped the hole twice. After a brief discussion, we declared him the winner.

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This was partly a symbolic gesture, because Harry had just retired and his wife had called in an old promise: as soon as he left his job, he’d told her years before, they’d move to Pennsylvania, where she had family. We’d never really had to deal with somebody moving away before—at least, not somebody like Harry, who was practically a part of our course. With Harry gone, who was going to say “Where’s my leak?” when a drive unaccountably bent to the left, and who was going to say “Let me adjust my glasses” when somebody made the kind of remark that was known to tick Harry off? Less selfishly, what was life going to be like for Harry? Pennsylvania has golf courses, but how many of them have a rule printed right on their scorecard saying that Harry isn’t allowed to keep score?

Harry (far right) in the Devil's Asshole, in front of the tenth green at Pine Valley, at some point in the late 1980s or early 1990s, with Rick, John A. (their host), and Hacker.

Harry (far right) in the Devil’s Asshole, in front of the tenth green at Pine Valley, at some point in the late 1980s or early 1990s, with Rick, John A. (their host), and Hacker.

Not long ago, down in Pennsylvania, Harry did something else we weren’t happy about: he died. He had been in poor health for a while, and then things got worse. This was a serious blow, because Harry was one of the founding members of the Sunday Morning Group, which turned 20 this year. To celebrate Harry’s life, we mixed up a big batch of his favorite cocktail: brandy and green crème de menthe:

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It looked and tasted like cough medicine, but we did our best with it—although I kind of think that, if drinking everything in the Thermos would have brought Harry back to life, we would have decided to let him go. I poured what was left in the dirt behind the Dumpster because I was afraid it might kill the grass.

Tim D., making a manful effort with one of Harry's memorial Emerald Stingers.

Tim D., making a manful effort with one of Harry’s memorial Emerald Stingers.

Now we have to figure out what to do with Harry himself, since his widow is going to send us his ashes. He always said he wanted to be thrown into the pond on the fourth hole, because so many of his golf balls are at the bottom of it, but the ashes would probably just float over the spillway and disappear downstream. Several of the guys, including me, have said they’d like to buried under one of the pavers on the patio by the putting green, so maybe we’ll invoke the standard Sunday Morning Group power of attorney and put him there instead:

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Or maybe we’ll stir him in with the divot mix on one of our par 3s. That would be appropriate because Harry himself built our divot-mix boxes, 12 or 15 years ago. Everyone could take a scoop and fix a couple of divots.

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Hating Golf’s Out-of-Bounds Rule Has a Long History

The penalty for losing a ball or hitting it out of bounds is “stroke and distance”: if your first shot vanishes or ends up on the wrong side of the white stakes, you count that stroke (one), add a penalty stroke (two), and hit again from the original spot (three).
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Many average golfers either don’t understand that rule or refuse to observe it. They “drop one” on the course near the spot where they figure their first shot disappeared, add a stroke, and play from there.

Stroke and distance was part of golf’s original list of rules, in 1744, but during subsequent decades and centuries it was repeatedly modified, dropped, resurrected, and modified again. Sometimes you counted only the bad stroke and the do-over; sometimes you added a penalty but got a drop. The most severe version was adopted by the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews in 1842: three strokes and distance, meaning that if you hit a ball out of bounds your next stroke, played from the spot where you struck your first, counted as your fifth. That lasted until 1846.

In 1951, the R & A and the USGA agreed to apply the single-stroke-and-distance penalty universally. But there was still plenty of grumbling, and in 1959 the Southern California Golf Association, with the support of 90 per cent of its members, adopted a local rule eliminating what it described as the “unfair penalty stroke in connection with ball out of bounds, lost ball and unplayable lie.” Thenceforth, in Southern California, if you did something stupid the assessment was “stroke only.” You counted the bad shot and the replay (from the original spot), but nothing in between.

The California revolt had some prominent supporters—among them Gene Sarazen, who told Golf Digest, “Golf is a game of luck. The stroke and distance penalty gives luck extra value. A guy gets into trouble at the wrong time or on the wrong hole and it is the equivalent of two strokes added to his card. The population is growing and taking up more space, so out-of-bounds holes are increasing. The double penalty rule is entirely unnecessary.”

The USGA relented for a year, in 1960, but the stroke-only faction ultimately lost out, and the current rule, with minor tinkering, has been in place all over the world since 1968. But who knows? Maybe the governing bodies will come around to Sarazen’s point of view.

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World’s Greatest Putting Contest

My golf club’s annual men’s member-guest is the world’s second greatest golf tournament, after the Masters, and our member-guest putting contest, which begins on Friday at noon and concludes on Saturday evening, is the world’s greatest putting contest. It takes place on the practice green:
IMG_3240Our superintendent, one of our former superintendents, and our pro create the course, which has four holes. For ten bucks, you and your partner go around twice. Scoring is best-ball, and the four pairs with the lowest eight-hole scores qualify for the final. If your ball rolls off the putting surface—as it’s likely to do, since the holes are cut close to the edges, and the green is triple-cut and rolled—you are assessed a penalty stroke. In the photo below, Tony, at the far left, is wearing an Ian Poulter wig visor, to replace the hair he’s lost to chemotherapy, and Hacker (real name) is getting ready to incur a one-stroke penalty:

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Qualifying continues into the evening:

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Once the sun has gone down completely, C.J. and Jaws supplement the club’s Tiki torches with a couple of super-powerful shop lights they own:

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This year’s course was especially diabolical because the fourth hole included a double water hazard: two bowls of blue-dyed water embedded in the green so that the tops of the bowls were flush with the putting surface. To have any chance of making the putt, you had to slide your ball between the hazards, as Reese is attempting to do here:

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The two balls you see on the right-hand side of the photo above are actually the tee markers for the water-hazard ball drop. Many players had to use the drop, including my brother and me. Late in the evening, one of the guests lifted one of the bowls out of the ground and drank a little of the water, to see what would happen. Somewhat surprisingly, nothing happened—at least, not immediately.

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My brother’s and my best round was one under par. That got our names onto the scoreboard for a little while, but we ended up missing a playoff for the final by a stroke. So we ate pizza (supplied by Peter P.) and watched the main event from the gallery. Not everyone in the gallery gave the action his undivided attention:

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The format for the final was four holes of best-ball followed by four holes of aggregate. Mike G. and Matt, who are brothers, finished the final in a tie with Addison and Kevin, who are old high-school teammates. Mike and Matt won on the first hole of sudden death. Here are Mike and Matt:

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Night golf and poker followed, then a few hours of sleep, then—boo hoo—the final day of this year’s men’s member-guest.

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Dewar’s Profile: How About Scotch for Breakfast?

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. Here’s what it looks like:

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And here’s the official recipe:

3 shots of cold-brew coffee

2 shots of DEWAR’S 12-Year-Old

½ shot of simple syrup

1 dash of vanilla extract (optional)

¼ shot of heavy cream

Add the coffee, whisky, simple syrup and vanilla extract (if using) to a cocktail shaker. Add ice to the shaker to above the level of the liquid and shake for 3 seconds. Strain the mixture into tall glass with ice cubes. Top with heavy cream, optional.

As it happens, my wife is a cold-brew nut. So with her help I mixed up a batch of Cafe du Monde Coffee and Chicory in our kitchen (and allowed it to cold-steep for 24 hours):

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Then, on Sunday morning, I took the coffee to the club, along with all the other ingredients—including a bottle of scotch provided by Dewar’s—and set up a “test bar” on the first tee:

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The guys gave it an exhaustive work-up:

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They even checked the purity of the individual ingredients. Did you know that red Solo cups came this small?

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Final verdict: all possible thumbs up. And there is no way that the vanilla or heavy cream should be considered “optional.” I had to leave the scotch out of mine, for personal reasons, but even in its virgin form Hole-in-One Cold Brew is great—like melted Haagen-Dasz coffee ice cream on the rocks. And Hacker (real name) finally had an excuse to wear his red Dewar’s fleece jacket, which he bought for $10 during a promotion of some kind at our liquor store a decade or two ago, before we had a working relationship with the company.

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Next: how about something made with Wild Turkey?

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We have lots of them in our area—including on the eighth hole, above—even though Reese periodically thins the flock:

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Incidentally, when a detachment of the Sunday Morning Group was in Ireland, last month, Reese’s foursome spotted a fox on the third hole at Enniscrone. Reese has a den in his yard at home, and he knows how to speak fox:

He fox-barked at the Enniscrone fox three times, and all three times the fox turned around. And Reese can gobble, too.

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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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Non-golf Activities for Snowed-in Golfers

In the olden days, settlers in blizzard-prone parts of the country spent the winter doing things like making candles and splitting cedar logs into shingles. My golf buddies and I—on days when we can’t figure out how to play somewhere, somehow—find similar ways to stay busy. Hacker (real name) referees high-school wrestling matches. Tim D. repairs his equipment—for example, by sewing up rips in his golf bag:
P1170535I recently used my favorite photo-project website, Mixbook.com, to create a photo album of my personal golf memories from last year:

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And I created a long-term supply of my favorite golf-appropriate nutritional supplement, using a kit my wife gave me:

Bacon Kit Box

The kit contained everything I needed:

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The only thing not included was a nice big pork belly, which my wife also gave me:

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The instructions were easy to follow:

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And now I have enough to last at least a couple of weeks.

How to Dress for Sub-freezing Golf

In shorts, obviously. (The Sunday Morning Group gives two extra strokes if you wear them after December 1.) One great thing about shorts is that they complement any outfit:

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Last year, because of Addison, we had to add a rule about sock height. He arrived one Sunday in unusually tall socks, which he pulled up almost to his knees and fastened with rubber bands that he’d found in his mother’s refrigerator, on two bunches of broccoli:

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Those socks are virtually pants! The new rule is “crew height or shorter”—demonstrated here by Fritz:

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On Sunday, Fritz and I got to wondering whether there might not be a non-sock, non-pant, non-cheating solution to the exposed-skin problem (the wind was straight from the North Pole). After the round, I did some research and found this post, on the Fox Sports website. It was written two years ago by Brendon Ayanbadejo, who played linebacker for several NFL teams:

“What allowed me to wear so little in cold games was a cocktail Brian Urlacher and Muhsin Muhammad revealed to me. There is a cream called Warm Skin that we would mix with Vaseline and Tiger Balm. We would mix all these topicals together and rub them into our arms, legs, back … pretty much over our entire body. Make sure you put your jock on before you do this or you will get extremely uncomfortably hot in some of the wrong places.”

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So I ordered some Warm Skin and began working on my own leg recipe, using stuff I found in various closets and medicine cabinets in my house. The best combination, so far, is Warm Skin, Musher’s Secret (which my wife bought to protect our dog’s feet from road salt), and capsaicin creme (which is hot, like Tiger Balm, and is usually sold as a topical analgesic for arthritis). I stirred in some Aquaphor, too—what the hell.

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