Rain Gloves Are Also Sweat Gloves

Sweat-soaked rain gloves, July 7, 2013.

Sweat-soaked rain gloves, July 7, 2013.

It’s been so hot and humid around here that we’ve had to make some adjustments. I’ve started wearing rain gloves even when it isn’t raining, because regular gloves feel slick and slimy when they’re soaked with perspiration. We’ve also tried bracketing the worst parts of the day by playing at the five-thirties: a Two-Hour Eighteen™ at 5:30 a.m. followed by a Two-Hour Eighteen™ twelve hours later, at 5:30 p.m. The course is empty and relatively cool both times, and you have room for a full workday in between, assuming you don’t fall asleep at your desk. And after the second eighteen you get home in plenty of time to ask, “Hey, what’s for dinner?”

Tony, Ian, Other Gene, Tim-o, Rex, eighteenth green, dawn patrol

Tony, Ian, Other Gene, Tim-o, Rex, eighteenth green, dawn patrol, July 3, 2013.

Kevin, Addison, evening session.

Kevin, Addison, evening session.

Sunday Morning Group met at the regular time—7:30—and the temperature was around 90 by the time we finished. Doug got so hot that he had to cover his head with a towel:

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Corey (our pro) wore shorts, and for the first time in living memory we ate lunch on the porch, to get out of the sun.

Settling up at lunch: Corey (our pro), Hacker (real name), Tom, Tim.

Settling up at lunch: Corey, Hacker (real name), Tom, Tim.

There were only three skins, and Tim got two of them. He was also on the winning team, so next week it will be his turn to bring lunch. Doug had a wife situation at home, so he left as soon as he had eaten. He doesn’t live very far from the course, so in decent weather he usually commutes by motor scooter:

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That’s a dual-purpose helmet he’s wearing: turn it the other way and it’s a golf cap.

New Playoff Format: From Bag Room to Practice Green

Brendan (third from the right, in the bag-room doorway) is about to pitch to the practice green in the Sunday Morning Group's most recent playoff. Sunday, June 30, 2013.

Brendan (third from the right, in the bag-room doorway) is about to pitch to the practice green in the Sunday Morning Group’s most recent playoff. Sunday, June 30, 2013.

On Sunday, two teams finished at 14-under, so we held a playoff—a form of competition in which, I think it’s safe to say, my club leads the world. The format was a pitch shot from the bag-room floor to the farthest pin on the practice green, a distance of a little more than sixty yards. The shot had to carry the ball washer, the first tee, the first-tee fence, and a small tree, and in order to count it had to stay on the putting surface. As always, closest to the pin wins.

Young Nick, Mike U. (officiating), Gary (our superintendent), and Reese. Gary has teed his ball on a Coca-Cola bottle cap.

Young Nick, Mike U. (officiating), Gary (our superintendent), and Reese. Gary has teed his ball on a Coca-Cola bottle cap.

Several non-competitors, including me, watched from behind the first-tee fence, which we had to add to the first tee because somebody’s guest in the Men’s Member-Guest once hit a tee shot that ricocheted off the pay phone that used to be on the clubhouse porch. A couple of shots in the playoff hit the fence, but not very hard.

Addison, Peter A.., Rick, Hacker (real name).

Addison, Peter A.., Rick, Hacker (real name). The target is off to the right.

The first shot to stay on the green was Mike A.’s. The second was Reese’s. When Reese’s ball was in the air, I was sure it was going to finish closer to the pin than Mike’s, but it was spinning so much that it skidded to a halt and maybe even backed up a little. The reason is that Reese hit his shot directly off the crappy bag-room carpet, rather than teeing it up on a bottle cap, as almost everyone else did. Live and learn.

Reese, about to hit. Quiet, please.

Reese, about to hit. Quiet, please. Notice the tight lie.

Here’s how Mike A.’s and Reese’s balls ended up (if your eyes are good enough to see the tiny white dots on the far side of the green). I’m not sure who hit the yellow ball in the fringe. It may be the one that hit the tree.

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The best thing about Sunday, for those of us who didn’t finish in the money, was lunch, which was provided by Slade. Slade is old-school, lunch-wise, and Sunday was the first time in many years that we had burger patties shaped by human hands—in this case, Slade’s wife’s.

Lunch, Slade, Hacker.

Lunch, Slade, Hacker.

Also, we had twenty-nine guys, if you include Rick and Addison, who were playing a match in the Governors’ Cup, which is our handicap championship. Addison won, and I will now play him in the final as soon as he has returned from a summer trip with his family. Also, several of the guys washed down their burgers and dogs with a new Sunday lunch beverage, which we have (tentatively) called an S.M.G. The main (but not the only) ingredient is beer. I’ll have more to say about it later.

Mike U., Coca-Cola cap, Gary.

Mike U., Coca-Cola bottle cap, Gary.

Reader’s Trip Report: Merion (as a Spectator) and a New Game

Moe Dweck (left).

Moe Dweck (left).

Moe Dweck, a reader in Maryland, who (like me) writes a golf blog and (also like me) probably has a real job of some kind, wrote recently to describe his experience at the U.S. Open, which he attended with friends:

A bunch of guys traveled up to Merion on the Friday of the Open for some spectating and a cheese-steak. (By the way, the cheese-steak at Mama’s Pizzeria in Bala Cynwyd is off the charts. Went classic: white cheese, green peppers, and grilled onions. It is the Philly bread that makes these unbelievable.) The course looked the same to me as it did twenty years ago, but with much narrower landing areas. I think the U.S.G.A. overdid that aspect of the set-up more than slightly. But, overall, the presentation of the course was just awesome to witness in person.

(Parenthetically, let me add that I agree with Dweck about the severity of the set-up, and that I don’t share the U.S.G.A.’s crippling anxiety about birdies. Bubba Watson’s recovery from the pine trees on the first playoff hole in the 2012 Masters would be at or near the top of almost any golfer’s list of the coolest meaningful shots in majors in recent years, but nothing like it would be possible in an Open, because if Watson had missed an Open fairway by the same margin he would have been up to his knees in fescue.) Back to Dweck:

The truth is that the course stood up to the challenge, like it did in 1971 and 1981, because of the greens. One of the writers in Golf World pointed out that it is not the undulations of the greens at Merion that make it tough but the tilts. Could not agree more. On the short eighth, it was nearly impossible to get a ball to stay close, even with a sand-iron in the hands of a pro. Nothing more needs to be said about tilt than the lean on No. 5. I hope the U.S.G.A. continues to present the men’s and women’s Opens on classic old courses like these. Taking the driver out of the hands of a pro is not a federal crime, so I am not sure what all the whining is about. 

Back in April, Dweck wrote to describe a game that he and his regular golf buddies had played on their home course during Masters weekend—a game they called Virtual Pro-Schmo. What they did was take the best Masters rounds from the previous day and treat the guys who shot them as virtual partners in their own game. They transposed each Master’s competitor’s hole scores, in relation to par, onto a scorecard from their own course, then put all the cards into a hat and picked. If a schmo’s virtual pro partner had birdied Augusta’s first hole the day before, for example, then the only way the schmo could improve their best ball on the first hole would be to make an eagle; if the virtual pro had made a bogey, then the schmo had work to do. My friends and I meant to try Dweck’s game during the U.S. Open, but we forgot. We’re going to try to remember during the British.

Actually, we might use another format Dweck told me about, which he and his friends used during the Open. “We called it Beat the Pro,” Dweck said. “Thirty-two guys participated. Each one picked a pro-opponent scorecard from a hat. (We used eight guys’ scores, in relation to par, from the Thursday round at Merion.)  We gave our guys 110 percent of their handicap, and they played a quasi-skins format, in which they got three points for every hole on which they beat their pro and one point for every hole they pushed. Winners were the guys who had the most points against the field. I got to knock around Luke Donald. The guys who drew Sergio had to deal with an eagle on No. 2 (which is a par-3 on our course, so they needed a hole-in-one to push) and a quad on No. 15 (a par-5 for us, so a net nine or better scored points there.) Lots of fun.”

My friends and I are going to try this, too, sometime, if we remember. Here’s a picture of Dweck and some of his friends:

Alan Levine, Josh Tremblay, some guy, Rusty Minkoff, and Moe Dweck at some point in the past, during a buddies trip to Laurel Valley Golf Club, Ligonier, Pennsylvania.

Alan Levine, Josh Tremblay, some guy, Rusty Minkoff, and Moe Dweck, during a buddies trip to Laurel Valley Golf Club, Ligonier, Pennsylvania.

Back-Roads Scotland: Cullen Golf Club

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In 2007, I traveled to Scotland on an unusual Golf Digest assignment. I landed in Glasgow without tee times or an itinerary, and I rented a car and set out in a more or less random direction, with the goal of playing only courses I’d never heard of before. You can read my article about that trip here or here.

The bent flag shows how hard the wind was blowing. Cullen Golf Club, Scotland, May, 2007.

One of my favorite stops was a quirky course called Cullen, in Aberdeenshire, on the southern coast of the Moray Firth. The original nine holes were laid out by Old Tom Morris, and the course has blind shots, crossing fairways, otherworldly topography, and a cool tee shot that you hit from the top of a cliff.

Looking down from the top of the cliff, Cullen Golf Club.

Looking down from the top of the cliff, Cullen Golf Club.

Partway through my round, I joined (as the fifth player) a group of older golfers from a club called Hopeman, about thirty miles to the west.

Hopeman Golf Club, Scotland, May, 2007.

Hopeman Golf Club, Scotland, May, 2007.

They were on a golf outing, and this was their second round of the day, and they were playing a scramble, in competition with three other groups from their club.

The boys from Hopeman. That’s Cullen’s eighteenth green in the distance.

Most of them were carrying flasks, from which they were sipping a mixture of something and Drambuie—I couldn’t quite make out the recipe—and their golf bags were so full of empty beer bottles that they clanked when the wind, which was fierce, knocked them over. They urged me to have a swig from one of their flasks. I declined, because I’d quit drinking about a year before, but they were so relentless that I eventually decided it would be better to risk falling off the wagon than to come to blows. (The other ingredient turned out to be scotch.)

The boys from Hopeman and some of their beverages.

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As soon as I’d drunk a capful, though, they began to worry about their supply. “Are you driving?” one asked. His brow was furrowed with concern. When I said I was, he and the others concluded that offering me another swig or a beer would be unwise. Toward the end of the round, one of them asked, in a slurry brogue, “Wha hoe wah noo?” and only I could understand him: “What hole are we on now?” (It was the seventeenth.) A year later, I went back with friends.

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The specialty in the clubhouse—at left in the photo above, behind the big rock—is Cullen Skink, a fish soup that has its own Wikipedia entry.

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Here’s where my friends and I stayed in Cullen when we went back the following year. It’s my favorite kind of hotel, because you are never in danger of thinking you are in a Holiday Inn.

I’ve had dreams about both the golf course and the hotel. Someday, I will go back.

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Did Bobby Jones Use an Illegal Putting Stroke?

Bobby Jones Putting

Last week, the U. S. Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews adopted Rule 14-1b, which prohibits so-called “anchored” putting strokes. (The rule will go into effect in 2016.) Nate Burns, a reader in New York City, writes:

In their recent rules decision, the U.S.G.A. and R. & A. claim that “the essence of the traditional method of golf stroke involves the player swinging the club with both the club and the gripping hands being held away from the body,” but I question whether that is actually the case. If you look at video of golfers in the nineteen-twenties and nineteen-thirties, you see that many of them anchored a hand or forearm against their leg to create a hinge (a technique that will become illegal under the new rule). It makes me wonder how the stroke has evolved over time and whether there really is an “essence” of the traditional stroke. (It seems to me like the U.S.G.A. might be making stuff up.)  Is it possible that anchored putting is actually more “traditional” than non-anchored putting? 

To see what Burns means, compare the photo above with the photo below—which is from the U.S.G.A.’s website and depicts a putting technique that will be banned under the new rule. (To see a U.S.G.A. album of prohibited putting strokes, go here.)

USGA photo

As Burns observes, putting techniques like Bobby Jones’s, in which one or both hands were held against a leg during at least part of the stroke, were common in the old days. Here’s Jones demonstrating how to do it:

Burns has found additional evidence in old film clips on the U.S.G.A.’s own website. In an email to me, he called particular attention to the ones showing “Bobby Jones winning the 1930 U.S. Amateur, Tommy Armour winning the 1927 Open, and Lawson Little at the 1940 Open.”

What do you think?

Burns, incidentally, is a student at Columbia Business School. He has a handicap index of 3.4, and plays mainly at Knickerbocker Country Club, in Tenafly, New Jersey. “I played all my golf out at Bethpage State Park until I got a junior membership at K.C.C., about a year ago,” he told me. “I grew up in Northern Virginia playing junior golf with Steve Marino (he was awesome), and I was in the same class at Wake Forest as Bill Haas (although I wasn’t on the golf team and didn’t really know him). I don’t currently use an anchored stroke, but I have tried pretty much every type of putter and grip, in casual rounds and in club and Metropolitan Golf Association competitions. Unfortunately, none has worked particularly well.”

Never, Ever Take One of These on a Golf Trip to the British Isles

You won't need one of these if you travel to the British Isles to play golf. Royal Lytham & St. Annes, England, May 13, 2013.

You won’t need one of these if you travel to the British Isles to play golf. Royal Lytham & St. Annes, England, May 13, 2013.

I’m in northwestern England playing golf this week. I didn’t bring an umbrella, and I’m glad I didn’t, even though there’s rain in the forecast for every day from now until the end of time. The trash can on the second tee on almost any links course in England, Scotland, and Ireland often looks like the trash can in the photo above, because American golfers typically come to the British Isles prepared for the rain but not for the wind. One hole is usually enough to destroy almost any umbrella. And carrying a “wind-proof” model isn’t the solution, because if your umbrella can’t be turned inside out it will carry you to sea, assuming you’re strong enough to hang on. Here’s why:

Wind-sculpted trees, thirteenth hole, Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

Wind-sculpted trees, thirteenth hole, Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

The wind was blowing hard yesterday, but the trees in the photo above look that way on calm days, too. Even scrubby little bushes get squashed in the direction of the prevailing wind. (I first wrote about the terrific golf courses of northwestern England almost twenty years ago. The opening sentence of my article was “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.” A Golf Digest copy editor, who apparently had never heard of Bob Dylan, changed “weatherman” to “weather report”—and that’s the way it ran.)

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Not carrying an umbrella will lighten your luggage by a couple of pounds, and it will spare you a lot of annoying housekeeping while you play. And you won’t miss it at all, if you have a rain suit, a rain hat, and a pair of rain gloves. The rain gloves are especially important, because if you have a pair of those you won’t need to even think about trying to keep your grips dry. In fact, if you have rain gloves you almost don’t need to carry a towel. And after my first trip to Scotland, in the early nineties, I stopped carrying an umbrella at home, too. Way too much trouble!

What’s In My Bag, Part One: Where are the Irons?

wimbI’ve been asked by many readers—well, actually, by just one reader, but he asked twice—to publish a poor man’s version of my favorite regular feature in Golf Digest. I’ve been somewhat hesitant to do so, for who-asked-you reasons, but I also know that most golfers enjoy snooping in other golfers’ bags, and my own assortment may be peculiar enough to be of interest. So why not?  Furthermore, if at least two readers will send me descriptions (with one or more photos) of their own equipment, I will create a permanent What’s In My Bag department, and publish them there, along with any future contributions. Send all that stuff to myusualgame@gmail.com.

The first thing you will notice, if you have read this far, is that my bag doesn’t contain any conventional irons. My friend Tony and I now lead what we call the Hybrid Lifestyle. It consists of playing as much golf as possible while other people are at work, and not using normal equipment. It was Tony who introduced me, six or seven years ago, to what we both now think of as a magic golf club: a 34-degree 7-hybrid, made by Nike, which a single-digit friend of his had urged him to try. As Tony promised, I hit it longer, higher, straighter, and more consistently well than my 7-iron, which I’d had custom-fitted in Arizona a couple of years before, and as soon as I got home I ordered one just like Tony’s. Not long after that, Tony and I played a round with a visiting friend of his, and we used our magic clubs on a 150-yard par-3. We both hit high draws to within six feet of the hole, and the friend said, “Gee, you guys could play on the L.P.G.A. Tour.” He meant to be devastating, but I’ve adopted his remark as a swing thought.

This is the magic golf club. Nike not only doesn't make it now, but also, according to Nike, never made it the past. (Tony Dabbs told me the company had never made a 34-degree hybrid.) Tony and I know better.

This is the magic golf club. Nike not only doesn’t sell it now, but also, according to Nike, never sold it the past. (A Nike rep told me the company had never made a 34-degree hybrid.) My friend Tony and I know better.

Almost everyone now agrees that low-numbered hybrids are easier to hit than the corresponding long irons. That’s true even for pros, who stopped carrying 1-irons years ago, and now often don’t carry 2-irons or 3-irons, either. But Tony’s and my experience has convinced me that the hybrid advantage extends deep into the bag, and that hardly anybody carries enough. I would bet that’s true even of many tour players, but it’s definitely true of golfers who aren’t paid to play. Today, Tony’s longest iron is a 9. Mine—now that I’ve supplemented my six Nike hybrids with two Cleveland HB3 “hybrid irons”—is a pitching wedge. As a result, I’m convinced, we’re both now playing our best golf ever.

(I’m not sure I like the HB3s; they make a weird noise when you hit them, causing even pure shots to sound like chunks. But I like being able to say I don’t have any irons. Tony calls his 9-iron his 1-iron, because it’s his one iron—get it?)

The great Karsten Solheim.

The great Karsten Solheim.

Almost twenty years ago, I got to spend time with Karsten Solheim, the founder of Ping, who invented the modern, perimeter-weighted golf club. Solheim told me that hitting a ball with an old-fashioned club, in which the weight of the head was uniformly distributed along the blade, was “like hitting a tennis ball with a Ping-Pong paddle.” A similar principle applies to hybrids. Tony Dabbs, a Nike product line manager, told me, “With a hybrid you’ve got a lower and deeper center of gravity, so it gets your launch angle up—more than what an iron can possibly do. A hybrid is essentially a mini-fairway wood, or a small driver.” The weighting and the shape of the head also make a hybrid easier to hit well out of the rough, since the club is less likely to twist. Dabbs told me that the advantage is greatest for slower swing speeds, but I think stronger players gain, too, and that that benefit compounds over time because once you begin hitting decent shots with a comfortable swing you’re less likely to lash at the ball from over the top with any of your clubs.

Tragically, from my point of view, Nike no longer makes SQ Sumo2 hybrids, which I prefer to all subsequent models. (I do carry a second 2-hybrid, a Nike VR S model that Nike also doesn’t make anymore. It goes farther than my other Nike 2-hybrid, although I find it harder to hit well. I think of it as a fairway wood, which it resembles.) And Nike no longer makes even a 6 hybrid. (Dabbs told me there’s “a point of diminishing returns” as lofts get higher. Hmph.) If you’re a seller—right hand, steel, stiff—please speak up.

To be continued. (I’m going to stretch this out for quite a while. Next, I’ll explain why I’ve got two drivers.)

The Last Unscrewed-up Major Event in Sports

Let’s take a moment to remind ourselves how lucky we are to have the Masters, the last unscrewed-up major event in sports. I spent much of Sunday afternoon switching between my TV-watching glasses and my household-appliance-degunking glasses. The dishwasher had developed a bad smell, which my wife had asked me to eliminate, but the big kitchen TV is all the way on the other side of the room, so I had to keep running back and forth. Masters commercial breaks are so short that I barely had time to take a whiz, much less to figure out how to disassemble the main spray arm, and I ended up needing almost five hours to do a chore that ought to have taken ten or fifteen minutes—although I was glad to have an outlet for my nervous energy. What a tournament! And the next one is just fifty-one weeks away.

Now for some idle speculation. If Tiger Woods, despite his extraordinary troubles on Saturday and his putting problems on Sunday, had played the tournament’s final three holes in four under par, he would have been in the playoff with Angel Cabrera and Adam Scott. Plausible? Well, I can’t speak for Woods, but it’s happened before. The weekend before the 1998 Masters, Warren Stephens (whose father, Jack, was Augusta National’s chairman at the time) and Hootie Johnson (who succeeded Jack a month later) played a tense five-dollar nassau against Lance Barrow (the producer of CBS’s tournament broadcast) and me. I was on the grounds doing research for my book The Making of the Masters, and the most important element of that research (in my opinion) was becoming intimate with the golf course.

ANGC DLO 2-3-2

The match went back and forth, and things looked dark for Barrow and me. But then I birdied the sixteenth (eight-iron, six-foot putt). And then I birdied the seventeenth (driver, lob wedge, fifteen-foot putt). And then I eagled the eighteenth (three-wood, pitching wedge). That’s four under par on the last three holes—2-3-2—and I have the scorecard (above) and the plaque (below) to prove it. If Tiger had managed the same on Sunday—well, who knows? I didn’t see my final shot go in the hole, but Ernie Els and Lee Janzen, who had been playing a practice round just in front of us, did. Then they joined us for a beer.

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That round was fun, obviously, but on a regular basis I actually have more fun playing golf with my friends at home. This Sunday, we did what we always do during the majors: we used the scorecard from the tournament course (available online) instead of our own. The only effect that has is to make the handicap strokes fall in unexpected places, but it’s our way of participating vicariously. We had four foursomes, and we counted two best balls from each group. My team came in last, by fifteen shots. Hacker (real name) brought lunch:

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Two teams tied, at sixteen under, so we had a playoff, just like at the real Masters. We didn’t use sudden death, though; we used a backwards throw to the practice green from a chair balanced on top of one of the tables on the patio, closest to the pin. Here’s Stan, at the top of his follow-through:

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And here’s Fritz, on the practice green, pacing off the winning throw (which turned out to be Reese’s):

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Then home for a one-hour nap. Then sublimity.

Bobby Jones’s Father Makes a Masters Rules Decision

The Colonel.

The Colonel.

In the early years of the Masters, the club sometimes had trouble finding knowledgeable volunteers to serve as rules officials. “On one occasion,” Clifford Roberts, the club’s co-founder, wrote in 1970 in a letter to Lincoln Werden of the New York Times, “the shortage was such that we appealed to Bob Jones for suggestions as to whom we might enlist. Bob said that we might in a pinch request his dad.” Jones’s father, who was known as the Colonel, was accordingly posted to the twelfth hole on the final day of the tournament. There had been a great deal of rain during the night, and the course was very wet. One player hit a poor shot that landed in a soggy area near the creek. The player spotted the Colonel, called him over, and asked whether he was entitled to relief from casual water. The Colonel asked him where he stood in relation to par. “Eighteen over,” the player said. The Colonel demanded, “Then what in the goddamn hell difference does it make? Tee the thing up on a peg for all I give a hoot!” [The word “hoot” may not be historically accurate.]

In the early years, a small pot bunker was originally positioned in the center of the eleventh fairway at roughly the distance of a reasonable drive. The bunker, which could not be seen from the tee, was Bobby Jones’s idea. He had wanted the course to have a hazard that could be avoided only with good luck or local knowledge—the sort of seemingly arbitrary booby trap that is plentiful on the Old Course. The Colonel drove into the hidden hazard during his first round on the course, in 1932. When he found his ball in the sand, he shouted, “What goddamned fool put a goddamned bunker right in the goddamned center of the goddamned fairway?” or words to that effect. His son, who was playing with him (along with Roberts), had to answer, “I did.” The bunker was eventually filled in.

The Colonel was one of the club’s most colorful personages. Roberts, in his book about the club, wrote, “When I first knew the Colonel, he could play to a handicap of about eight. When he played worse than that it was the fault of the ball, the way some green had been mowed, a divot hole, an unraked bunker, or some bad luck demon. On such days he was prone to express his feelings with swearwords; not just the usual kind of swearing, but original, lengthy, and complex imprecations that were classics. Numbers of people who were regular companions felt disappointed when the Colonel played well, as they always looked forward to a prolonged blast of cussing that they had never previously heard.” On a trip to Philadelphia for the 1934 U. S. Open, Roberts and Bobby Jones lost track of the Colonel in the hotel where they were staying. After a lengthy search, they found him in the ballroom. Roberts wrote, “The Colonel, baton in hand, was directing the orchestra, and at the same time singing the words for the music that he was conducting.” The Colonel died in 1956.

Golf and Sinkholes

golfer in sinkhole

A week ago, Mark Mihal disappeared into the fairway of the fourteenth hole at Annbriar Golf Course, in Waterloo, Illinois, a suburb of St. Louis. “I felt the ground start to collapse and it happened so fast that I couldn’t do anything,” he said later (as reported by his wife). “I reached for the ground as I was going down and it gave way, too. It seemed like I was falling for a long time. The real scary part was I didn’t know when I would hit bottom and what I would land on.” You can read a longer account on Mihal’s fantasy-golf website.

As it happens, I have a long article about sinkholes in the current New Yorker. (You won’t be able to read it online unless you’re a subscriber, I’m afraid.) The sign in the photo below, from a state park in Florida—which has even more sinkholes than Illinois does—explains what they are:

sinkhole signMost of the lakes in Florida were formed by the same processes that form sinkholes, and if you do a quick flyover of the state on Google Earth you will see lots of bodies of water that look similar to the one in the photo below, which is in another state park. It’s called Big Dismal Sink, and an old swinging rope overhangs it. If you decide to jump in, you won’t need to worry about hitting bottom, since it’s more than eighty feet deep.

big dismalWhen I was working on my New Yorker article, I spent a couple of days with these guys, whose specialty is diving in sinkholes and subterranean caves:

turner sink

I also visited Lake Jackson, just north of Tallahassee. It’s a four-thousand-acre natural body of water that occasionally disappears down a sinkhole, like a bathtub emptying down a drain. When it goes, it takes everything with it—fish, turtles, alligators, range balls, everything. You can read more about that in my article, and you can actually watch it happening here: