The Golfavore’s Dilemma

I’m not a survivalist, but I sometimes wonder whether I could get by as a golfavore: a person who eats only foods available on his golf course. There are fish in the pond and turkeys in the woods, and I’d always have plenty of venison. Berries near the fourth and fifth tees. Corn in the field you drive through to get to the driving range. And, if the alternative was starvation, tons of acorns.


Recently, I made Golf-Course Apple Crisp, using apples from a tree at the bottom of the second fairway and crab apples from a tree between the seventh green and the eighth tee. I gathered the raw ingredients in the optional “shelf” of my Big Max Blade + pushcart:


And I adapted the apple-crisp recipe from the first edition of my wife’s first cookbook, Beat This, which the novelist Elizabeth Berg once described on NPR as “the book I have probably recommended more than any other”:


I tested it on my wife and me first. It was really, really good: the crab apples, which in our area have been superabundant and enormous this year, added the perfect amount of tartness. Then I made it again, for the old ladies I play bridge with, at our regular Thursday-night potluck dinner and bridge game.


As the bridge ladies and I were getting stuff ready in the kitchen, one of them knocked my apple-crisp pan, which I hadn’t cooked yet, onto the floor, and it landed upside down. So we did exactly what my golf buddies and I would have done: we used spatulas to scrape up the sliced apples and the brown-sugar-and-oatmeal topping, along with unknown quantities of dirt, sand, rug fuzz, dog hair, spilled dishwasher detergent, and who knows what else, and dumped everything back in the pan. Then we baked it and ate it anyway, with Ben & Jerry’s vanilla ice cream, and it was really, really good.

My golf group and my bridge group aren’t all that different, even though in my golf group I’m kind of old and there are no women, while in my bridge group I’m the youngest and there are usually no other men. The language is essentially the same. Carol, who is my mother’s age, was a schoolteacher many years ago. One day, she went to work in a white blouse, red slacks, and blue-and-white spectator pumps. A little boy ran into her in the hall, looked up at her in awe, and said, “Miss, you look like a fuckin’ flag.”


Rangefinders, Ivan Lendl, Lawyer Feet, a Lazy Thirty-Year-Old, a Hole-in-One, and Vegan Burgers for Dinner


My ancient laser rangefinder, a Bushnell PinSeeker 1500 (above, left), finally stopped working. The low-battery warning began flashing and wouldn’t stop, even though I replaced the battery, twice, using fresh spares from my golf bag. As soon as I got home, I ordered a new Bushnell Tour Z6 (above, right), for three hundred dollars. The Z6 is quite a bit smaller than the PinSeeker, and it weighs almost four ounces less—a potential advantage in competition.


The day after the Z6 arrived, I was rummaging in my desk and came across an unopened package of the kind of batteries the PinSeeker used to use. Out of curiosity, I popped one in, and—what do you know?—it worked just fine. I guess that carrying two nine-volt batteries in your golf bag for more than a year isn’t a good idea, as far as the batteries are concerned. So I now have two perfectly functioning laser rangefinders, and I’ll thank you not to mention that to my wife.

I used the Z6 for the first time on Friday, in a match at home. The match was Addison and me against Ray and our Close Personal Friend Ivan Lendl, who belongs to a couple of clubs in our area, including our Enemy Club. I won’t bore you with the details, except to say that I had a short birdie putt on the eighteenth hole to square the match, and missed it. But Addison had a slightly longer birdie putt to do the same thing and made it, so good for us. We’re all square for now, and we will play a rematch at a time and place to be determined.

lendl hybrid

In the photo above, Ivan is using his own rangefinder, which is Bushnell’s “hybrid” model. It has a laser, like mine, but it also has a GPS unit, which is sort of grafted onto the side. I asked him whether he ever used the GPS part, and he said he didn’t because the GPS part (like all GPS yardage devices) is so power-hungry that if you use it you have to recharge it after every round.

bushnell hybrid

About thirty minutes after our match was over, Addison and I played again, in the Friday-afternoon edition of the Sunday Morning Group. During that round, several unusual things happened. First, Other Gene joined us late and played without shoes or socks, giving the rest of us a close look at something you don’t see on a golf course every day: lawyer feet.


Second, Austin, who is thirty years old and was the second youngest person playing that afternoon, took a cart after nine holes:

austin cart

Third, on the third hole—a 185-yard par 3—David W. hit a gorgeous 4-iron shot, which landed on the green, rolled toward the flag, and disappeared. Nobody in our group, including David, could see well enough to be certain what had happened, but we had a feeling. 

Because this was an S.M.G.-sanctioned outing, David will receive $250 from the Slush Fund. (An non-Sunday-morning outing is considered sanctioned if an email inviting everyone to join goes out in advance over the S.M.G. Listserv.) If David had done the same thing on a Sunday morning, he’d have received twice as much.

burger mix
That evening, my wife, Ann Hodgman—who has written several cookbooks, and is currently writing one for strict vegetarians—made vegan burgers for dinner. They contained chick peas, barley, leeks, and other stuff. (That’s the mixture, in the photo above.) They didn’t taste like burgers made from beef, but I liked them. And when I got home from playing golf the next morning I ate two more of them, right out of the fridge.

vegan burgersNow who’s a good husband?

Gaining Spousal Approval for Golf Trips, Plus the Night My Wife Ate Dogfood on the Tonight Show

That's my wife in the net. Some son-of-a-bitch is about to fire a puck at her.

That’s my wife in the net (wearing the Grateful Dead jersey). Some son-of-a-bitch is about to fire a puck at her!

The wife of one of my regular golf buddies not only encourages him to take golf trips but actually makes his plane reservations and packs his bags. Quite obviously, she’s having an extramarital affair and wants him out of the way—so his golf trips are win-win at their house. For the rest of us, though, the issue of spouse-free golf travel is usually more contentious.

My pals and I at Hillside Golf Club, Southport, England, May, 2010.

My pals and I at Hillside Golf Club, Southport, England, May, 2010. Hacker (real name) is third from the left.

My kids are grown now, so I can no longer be accused of doing them permanent emotional harm by abandoning them for a week in order to play golf in another country with my friends. But my golf trips nevertheless retain some of their old power to engender domestic resentment. The best approach, I’ve discovered, is direct negotiation, which is both more productive and less emotionally taxing than the simmering psycho-battles that husbands and wives usually engage in. If my buddies and I are hoping to take a spouse-free trip to Myrtle Beach, for example, I might say to my wife, “Honey, this trip is extremely important to me—what’ll you take for it?” (Before trying this yourself, have an attorney vet the wording.)

Same guys, more or less--this time at the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland. May, 2008.

Same guys, more or less–this time at the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland. May, 2008.

The best thing that ever happened to me, golf-trip-wise, occurred when my wife, at the age of almost-forty, took up ice hockey. She now goes on buddies trips of her own—to goalie school in Vermont, to an international tournament in Montreal—and she and I have achieved a sort of unspoken sports-travel parity. A few years ago, she visited her brother, who was living in Russia. She took her skates, and one afternoon she joined a pickup game on a frozen pond in central Moscow.

Moscow, March, 2006.

Moscow, March, 2006.

That, in my opinion, turned a family visit into a hockey trip, and therefore entitled me to spend a compensatory week in Ireland with my pals. (Before trying this yourself, have an attorney, etc.)

black widows

Speaking of my wife, Jay Leno’s retirement from the Tonight Show this past week reminded me that the first guest on the Tonight Show on June 1, 1989—when Leno was subbing for Johnny Carson, three years before Carson retired—was my wife. She was on by herself for two entire segments, and for the first of those segments she got to sit in The Chair and chat with Leno. Here’s the first segment:

And here’s the second:

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.