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:

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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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Golf With a Broken Neck (and Back)

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Rex Hauck is a brother-in-law of Tony’s and, therefore, an honorary-member-by-marriage of the Sunday Morning Group. That’s Rex on the far right in the photo above (and Tony on the far left). Hauck and a girlfriend went skiing in Aspen back in the nineteen-eighties, when he was twenty-eight. They got on a chairlift, and when he reached behind them for the safety bar he was surprised to discover that their chair didn’t have one. Partway up the mountain, the chair struck a tower and began to swing. Rex and his girlfriend were thrown out, and fell forty feet. His girlfriend landed first, in deep snow, and was unhurt; Hauck landed across her legs, on his back, and had to be taken down the mountain on a rescue sled.

“I fractured three vertebrae in my neck, and also suffered a compression fracture of two vertebrae in the middle of my spine,” he told me recently. “I had two operations to repair the damage. Doctors took out bone and muscle from the vertebrae in my neck but could do nothing for the compression fracture in my back.”

A representative of the ski company visited Hauck in the hospital, and offered him a free lifetime lift pass. He declined, and discovered later that the same chair had struck the tower before, damaging its safety bar, and that rather than fixing the problem or taking the chair out of service the lift operator had simply removed the bar. He also learned, to his sorrow, that Colorado law narrowly limits the legal liability of lift operators, to an extent that seems inconceivable to someone whose state’s economy doesn’t depend heavily on the profitability of its skiing industry. (He received a settlement in the low four figures.)

“I don’t ski anymore, but I still play golf,” Hauck continued. “The compression fracture in my back effectively fused those bones, leaving me much less flexibility and rotation in my torso. The surgeons didn’t fuse the vertebrae in my neck, but arthritis and the loss of the discs have limited my ability to rotate my head. I thought at first that having less movement in my neck would help my golf swing, but I still manage to lift my head too much on the way down. I have a fluid, PGA-style swing only in my imagination, but that doesn’t diminish the excitement I feel when I step onto the tee box.”

Hacker (real name) and Hauck.

Hacker (real name) and Hauck.

Here’s a video of Hauck’s swing, made on my home course a couple of years ago. The voice in the background, toward the end, is Tony’s.

Last year, I wrote a column in Golf Digest about Thomas Tami, another golf buddy of mine who plays despite having broken his neck. You can read about him [here](http://www.golfdigest.com/story/man-about-golf-playing-with-a-broken-neck), and watch a video here:

Our Awesome New Waterproof Scorecards Are Here!

In February 2007, Ray, Tony, and I played golf in the rain for five days at Bandon Dunes. We had the same caddies for all ten rounds, and during an especially troublesome downpour they switched us to waterproof scorecards, which another Bandon caddie, Todd Petrey, had invented. Here are Ray, Tony, two of our caddies, and some other guy during a relatively dry moment on that trip:

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Petrey graduated from the University of Florida 1992 with a degree in sports therapy, and tried to play golf professionally for a while. He began caddying when he was short of cash, and one of the places he worked was East Lake, in Atlanta, where the weather is so disgustingly hot and humid that scorecards sometimes dissolve in perspiration. To deal with that problem, and also with rain, he invented Drycards. (“Like a normal scorecard, only better because you can use it as a coaster.”) Petrey’s company didn’t stay in business for long—apparently, the average golfer doesn’t play in bad weather as often as the Sunday Morning Group does—but he told me how to make the cards, and my friends and I now make our own. You can make them, too. Here’s how they work (my wife lent me a baking pan for this demonstration):

You can write on them with a regular pencil, even underwater, and you can erase what you’ve written with a regular eraser. The secret is synthetic paper, which Petrey first noticed in New Zealand, while caddying at Cape Kidnappers. New Zealand prints its banknotes on polypropylene, which has many advantages over paper made from cotton fibers: it lasts longer, stays cleaner, and is easier to make secure. It’s also waterproof and tear-proof. For our first batch, we used polypropylene card stock manufactured by a company called Yupo.

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Those cards worked great, but they were expensive, so when we ran out we switched to thinner stock, manufactured by Xerox, and had the scorecard part printed on both sides, so that each card can be used twice. The relative thinness of the new stock isn’t a problem, because the stuff is indestructible:

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As always, we had the printing done at PrintWorks, the official provider of graphic services to the Sunday Morning Group. The paper was still expensive — a buck a sheet — but because we got four usable sides out of each sheet our total unit cost was a little less than 30 cents.

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Doug, who runs PrintWorks with his mother, is an old hand at this stuff now. He’ll print waterproof scorecards for you, too, if you ask him nicely. Here he is consulting with Hacker (real name):

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You Have to Play for Something

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“What’ll we play for?” I asked.

“Oh, let’s not play for anything,” he said. “Let’s just play for fun.”

So we played for fun, but it wasn’t fun.

Some people have the idea that placing a modest wager on a round of golf is a desecration of some abstract ideal of recreation, or something. But golf without risk is also golf without reward. In my experience, the guys who insist on playing “just for fun” also tend to slap at six-footers as though the point of the game were merely to get on to the next hole. They never experience the exhilaration of sinking a ten-foot curler with a 25-cent greenie on the line.

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Hustlers aside, the purpose of playing for money isn’t economic; it’s psychological. The parties to a two-dollar nassau aren’t trying to get rich. They’ve merely agreed to suspend disbelief, for the next few hours, in the significance of what they’re doing. Competing for money is one of the few opportunities a grownup has to play the way children do—to increase the pleasure of a make-believe activity by taking it sort of seriously.

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The size of a golf wager doesn’t matter, as long as it isn’t so high that it makes any of the participants worry about the sum instead of the game. In Scotland once, I played a local stranger for a golf ball, and we both played as hard as if we were playing for the Ryder Cup. (And I still have his golf ball.) If we’d played “just for fun,” we’d have had a fine day anyway, but the round would have been less memorable.

P1150520When the same players play together for long enough, their gains and losses tend to be self-canceling, because luck, over time, regresses to the mean. Every fall, the guys I play with on Sunday mornings take a weekend golf trip to Atlantic City. Before we start, we each give Hacker (real name) $100. He keeps track of all our competitions and distributes the winnings at the end.

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One year, he lost his master sheet and stayed up all night recreating it from our scorecards. I told him he should have just handed every player an envelope containing $100 and said, “Here’s what you won.” By that point, the actual money was irrelevant: we’d already had our fun.

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All the Way Inside the Ropes With Annika, Chi-Chi, and the Black Knight

Gary Player Invitational - Pro-AmA couple of weeks ago, three friends attended the Gary Player Invitational, a two-day charity event, at GlenArbor Golf Club, in Bedford Hills, New York. The course was designed by Player, and it’s awesome:

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The field for the event was awesome, too:

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It included Player, Chi-Chi Rodriguez, Annika Sorenstam, Tom Lehman, Retief Goosen, Natalie Gulbis, Ian Woosnam, Jason Dufner, Mark O’Meara, many others.

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Bob G.—an honorary member of the Sunday Morning Group, who also happens to be a member of GlenArbor—sent me these notes:

Way better than any golf tournament. No ropes, could walk anywhere. Players were relaxed and easy to engage. Although there was some press around, they weren’t in the way. It wasn’t like a big media event, so there was no pressure on the pros to be ‘on.’ Just us and these great golfers hanging out. A bit like having Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera over to play a little baseball in your backyard.

Chi-Chi, who is 79, looks 65. On the fairway of No. 16, he comes up and says, ‘Hi, I’m Chi-Chi. Things are so bad in Puerto Rico that the Mafia had to lay off three judges.’

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Annika Sorenstam hits a nice draw with about a 250-yard carry. Ian Woosnam looked grumpy. Mark O’Meara told Grant Gregory, who founded the club, that the greens were faster and better than the ones at Augusta during the Masters.

Lehman drinks beer; Goosen drinks wine. I had a drink with Rich Beem. Nice guy, but called me ‘Sir.’

Hacker (real name) was there, too. He followed Player and Sorenstam for several holes, and walked right along with them in the fairway. There were only about 40 people in the entire tournament gallery, so he was able to get plenty close:

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Peter A. was also there. “It was better than the last U.S. Open I attended, at Torrey Pines,” he told me. “And all the LPGA players are smokin’ hot.”

I couldn’t join them, because my daughter and her family were visiting, and I was busy teaching my granddaughter, who is about to turn two, how to eat goldfish crackers the way the guys in the Sunday Morning Group eat potato chips:

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A Perfect Autumn Buddies Trip

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Every October, the Sunday Morning Group celebrates the approach of the winter golf season by taking a long-weekend golf-only buddies trip to Atlantic City, a little over four hours south of where we live.

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This year was Trip No. 16. We had 20 golfers, two of whom must have been in the men’s room when the bag-drop guy took this photo:

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As always on these trips, we did more waiting than we usually have to do at home. But the waiting was actually part of the fun—including waiting for the sun to come up at Seaview:

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Waiting for J.P. to arrive at Twisted Dune:

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Waiting for the frost to burn off at Renault Vineyards:

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Waiting for Hacker (real name) and me to finish entering the day’s hole scores in the awesome do-everything spreadsheet that Tim created for the trip:

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Waiting for the slowpokes in the group ahead of us to get the hell out of the way on the Bay Course at Seaview:

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Waiting for the guys in our own last group to finish at Twisted Dune:

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Waiting for our pizzas to be delivered to the lobby of the Sonesta in Somers Point:

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Waiting for Tony to realize he was never going to catch the 50-dollar bill that Gary, our terrific superintendent, kept dropping between his open fingers:

Waiting for Reese, on the way home, to attempt a rare cross-lane lit-cigarette hand-off, to Paul, at speed on the Garden State Parkway:

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Waiting to find out which of our favorite meals our wives had spent all weekend preparing to celebrate our return:

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And, in effect, waiting for the thing that no one likes to think about, much less talk about. We all look a lot older than we did during our first A.C. trip, 16 years ago:

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My Super-compact New Pushcart

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So many members of the Sunday Morning Group showed up recently that we had to use almost all our numbered poker chips when we picked teams. A possible explanation for the crowd is that it was Crappy Chinese Wristwatch Day. Hacker (real name) has discovered that you can buy crappy Chinese wristwatches online for $3 each, including shipping from China and “customs,” and he can’t stop ordering them so he has begun giving them away as supplemental prizes to the guys who win our regular Sunday game. Mike A., so far, has won three.

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I didn’t win a watch on Sunday, but I was able to show off my tattoo:

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To be perfectly honest, it’s a fake tattoo. But don’t you think that, if we hired a real tattoo artist to come to the men’s member-guest next year, pretty many guys would decide to get a real SMG tattoo, as long as it was free and they were drunk?

Crappy Chinese Wristwatch Day was also the first day I used my new pushcart, a Big Max Blade+.

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You can tell the company is European, because they call it a trolley instead of a pushcart. The Blade+ has various awesome features, of which the awesomest is that it folds down to virtually the size of a briefcase.

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I also have a Clicgear pushcart, and I love it, too. But getting both it and my golf bag into the trunk of my car requires careful arranging and doesn’t leave much room for my other golf stuff, which I therefore have to cram into the backseat and which causes me to think I should have bought a station wagon or possibly a panel truck instead of a sedan. But I was able to fit my Blade+ into my trunk on top of my Clicgear pushcart and my golf bag. Sliding it in was like sliding a piece of bread into a toaster.

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I’ve also got some excellent Big Max accessories, including a strap-on cooler bag:

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It drips a little, so if you use your pushcart inside your house you shouldn’t fill the cooler bag with ice, the way I do on the golf course. I’ve also got a Big Max storage basket, which straps onto the bottom part of the pushcart, between the wheels. It’s a good place to stash your custom-embroidered Jagermeister sweatshirt and the putter headcover you’re always losing.

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More about pushcarts soon.

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Golf’s Big Three: Beer, Golf, Beer

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I haven’t had a drink more than ten years, but I’m nevertheless one of the world’s leading experts on the effect of alcohol on the golf swing.I’m the originator of the Beer Draw Hypothesis—the difference between a slice and a draw is a certain number of beers—and the author of a lengthy article on the topic which was published in either a distinguished scientific journal (I’m pretty sure) or Golf Digest. I also happen to be a member of the Sunday Morning Group, an all-male golf-club-within-a-golf-club, which contributed to my early research and has made many significant additions to it in the years since I left the field. Among our resident experts are Mike A., in the photo above, and Klinger and Fritz, at this year’s member-guest, in the photo below:

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Recently, the Sunday Morning Group had an opportunity to review the products of GolfBeer Brewing Company, which was founded by a threesome of well-known tour players: Keegan Bradley, Freddie Jacobson, and Graeme McDowell. Their slogan is “Crafting the Perfect Round.”

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GolfBeer sells three products, tailored to the inborn taste preferences of the founders: a “Scandinavian style” blonde ale called Freddie’s (Jacobson is from Sweden); a “Celtic style” pale ale called G-Mac’s (McDowell is from Northern Ireland); and a “New England style” lager called Keegan Bradley’s (would this be an appropriate place to ask Bradley to abandon his bird-looking-for-a-worm pre-shot routine?).

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After golf on a recent Sunday, the boys tried all three. The verdict: big thumbs-up all around, (although Howard wasn’t fond of Keegan Bradley’s).

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Sad to say, GolfBeer isn’t available in our area yet. We had to import our samples from Florida, where the company is based, and to be on the safe side we had them shipped as “salad dressing.” But we hope to be able to buy it here soon—ideally, in bulk, so that we can load it into our clubhouse kegerators.

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