Every Golf Club’s Men’s Locker Room Should Have Urinals Like This One

The best pizza within half an hour of my house comes from Bohemian Pizza, in Litchfield, Connecticut. One of the keys to the greatness of the pizza is that they bake the crusts ahead of time. (My favorite combination, a creation of my own: bacon, chicken, andouille sausage, caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes, and artichoke hearts, with olive oil instead of tomato sauce.) I’d always simultaneously loved the restaurant and wondered how they passed their health inspections. Then, last summer, the owner demolished virtually the entire structure and rebuilt it with new everything, including plumbing (see photo above). Why would any man ever want to pee into anything else? The only way to improve it would be to fill it with shaved ice from the bar.

The photo above, from someone’s Instagram, is a little fuzzy. Here’s the same idea implemented at another restaurant not far from here, El Coyote. I haven’t peed there, but Hacker (real name) has, and he sent me this:

And here’s a truckload of raw material, which I spotted at Ballybunion, in Ireland, on a buddies in May, 2016. If we go to work now, we could have a complete inventory ready by spring:

May Was Hole-in-One Month, Apparently

I was contacted recently by a lawyer who was looking for someone to serve as an expert witness in a lawsuit involving a hole-in-one prize. After last month, I almost qualify.

Eleven friends and I played Ballybunion, in Ireland, in early May. On the third hole, Addison made a hole-in-one from the back tee: 230 yards, downhill but into a stiff wind. My group was just leaving the fourth tee, and we watched his ball roll into the hole. There’s a plaque on the third tee commemorating a hole-in-one that Payne Stewart made from the same spot in 1998, the year before he died, during a buddies trip with Mark O’Meara and Tiger Woods. Here’s Addison:


We returned home a week later, and in an effort to outsmart jet lag I pretty much went straight from the airport to my home course (after stopping by my house, briefly, to reintroduce myself to my wife). There were five of us, and on the seventh hole, which is slightly more than half as long as the third hole at Ballybunion, I made a hole-in-one:

P1180521-001Two weeks after that, Chris, during his first round ever with the Sunday Morning Group, made a hole-in-one on our twelfth hole, which is 185 yards long. Nobody in his group could see that far, so they weren’t sure his ball had really gone in until they got to the green. In the photo below, which was taken by Mike B., he’s retrieving his ball from the cup:

And in the photo below, which was taken by me, Mike B. is taking the photo above:


You can’t document these things too thoroughly (I learned from the lawyer who contacted me). Here’s my scorecard:

DLO Hole in one 5-11-2018.jpg

One thing to note: Chris is beaming in his photograph because if you make a hole-in-one during our regular Sunday morning game you receive $500 from the Slush Fund. And Addison is smiling in his photograph because if you make a hole-in-one during an SMG-sanctioned event (meaning one that everyone on the email list was invited to participate in) you receive $250 from the Slush Fund. And I’m sort of frowning in my photograph because that post-Ireland round of mine was a last-minute thing that nobody bothered to invite everyone else to—so my Slush Fund prize was $0.


Reader’s Trip Report: Ballybunion in Winter

Dan Tani, an American reader, joined Ballybunion as an overseas member in 1998, when the cost was next to nothing.

Two years later, he married a woman from Cork, and so now he’s obliged to visit twice a year. (He proposed to his wife at the stroke of the millennium, after playing Ballybunion in the afternoon and rehearsing his lines on the drive home.) Ever since, he’s made a point of playing at least one round on the Old Course very late in the year. In 2013, he played on New Year’s Eve Eve—December 30 —with three Irish guys whose fourth had exceeded the legal limit on showing up late. Last month, he played again. Excerpts from his report:

This year the weather was beautifully clear and calm, but a bit chillier than last year: the car reported a temperature of -2C when I pulled into the car park. In my attempt to maximize my golf, I had left Cork in pitch dark, at 7:00 a.m., and I pulled into Ballybunion at 9:30—perfect timing, I thought. There were very few cars in the lot, and just a few people milling around.

The empty parking lot turned out to be a bad sign: frost delay. Tani continues:

As we waited for the greens to thaw, I sat in the clubhouse and had coffee with several members, including the club co-captain. More than half the guys in the bar were named Costello, although they were not all related. We all became amateur meteorologists: looking out the windows, studying weather maps on our cell phones, estimating sun angles, analyzing temperature gradients.

The delay lasted two hours. When the superintendent gave the all-clear, the co-captain put Tani in the first group, with two older guys. Tani had forgotten his golf shoes, so he had to improvise:


Back to Tani:

The only real concession the club makes to winter is to take the fairways out of play. Last year, you had to lift any ball in a fairway (rare in my case) and drop in light rough. That let the fairways to rest over the winter, but I guess it ate up the light rough, so this year we had to use mats. A positive aspect that I did not initially appreciate is that, when mats are used, winter rounds are considered “official” for tournament purposes, and so count toward handicap.


Ballybunion’s Old Course has two alternate greens that are used in the winter, on holes 7 and 8.  They’re just as challenging and beautiful as the regular greens, and if you didn’t know any better you would have no idea they were replacements. Here’s one of my playing companions teeing off on No. 8:


This winter, there was also a temporary green on the 18th. It made the hole disappointingly shorter and easier—although in my case I plugged my approach shot in the face of the huge “Sahara” bunker and had to play backward, into the same bunker, just to have a shot out.

One of the things that make Irish winter golf extra dramatic is the long shadows. Ballybunion is roughly 60 degrees north latitude, and when the sun at its southernmost position the highest it ever gets is about 7 degrees above the horizon.


That makes for extra-long shadows even at noon.


Failte Ireland, the Irish tourism authority, has created what it calls the Wild Atlantic Way, a 2,500-kilometer motor route along along some of the most beautiful coastline in the world. It passes through most of the country’s most famous western and southern coastal sites: the Burren, the Cliffs of Moher, Connemara, the Ring of Kerry, and many others. It also connects some great golf courses: Ballyliffin, Carne, Rosapenna, Donegal, Sligo, Lahinch, Doonbeg, Tralee, Waterville, Old Head—and of course Ballybunion. I’m sure it will bring many more tourists to this out-of-the-way part of Ireland, for good and bad.

bally15 As a matter of fact, my friends and I may be traveling part of that route a year from this coming spring—for good only, of course.

Reader’s Trip Report: Ballybunion on New Year’s Eve Eve

Seventh hole, Old Course, Ballybunion Golf Club, Ireland.

Seventh hole, Old Course, Ballybunion, Ireland.

American golfers often speak of the Old Course at Ballybunion as though it were the only golf course in Ireland, so when I first visited, in 2006, I was predisposed to be underwhelmed. After actually playing it, though, I realized that it belongs right where it’s always listed, with Royal County Down and Royal Portrush and, therefore, with the greatest golf courses not only in Ireland but also in the world. At least half the holes would stand as the best hole on any number of very good courses. I could have played Ballybunion until immigration officials (or my wife) came to drag me away.

Dan Tani, seventeenth tee, Ballybunion, December 30, 2013.

Dan Tani, seventeenth tee, Ballybunion, December 30, 2013. That’s Jeremy and Anthony on the bench. (Dara took the photo.) Rainbows are officially disallowed in golf-course photos published on this website, but every once in a while one slips past the censors.

Dan Tani, an American reader (photo above), joined Ballybunion as an overseas member in 1998, when the cost was next to nothing. Two years later, he married a woman from Cork, and so now is obliged to visit twice a year. (He proposed at the stroke of the millennium, after playing Ballybunion in the afternoon and rehearsing his lines on the drive home.) Ever since, he’s made a point of playing at least one round very late in the year. This past December, he played on New Year’s Eve Eve—December 30, 2013—with three Irish guys whose fourth had exceeded the legal limit on showing up late.

Seventeenth tee, Ballybunion, December 30, 2013.

Seventeenth tee, Ballybunion, December 30, 2013.

Highlights from Tani’s trip report:

Golf in Ireland in December can be wet and cold, but it can also be surprisingly mild. I’ve played in short sleeves and in full winter rain gear. This year, it was cool—about forty degrees, but dry, clear, and sunny—and the wind was only about ten miles an hour. I joined Anthony, a local publican, hotelier, and landscaping-company owner; Dara, a former assistant pro at Ballybunion, now an accountant in Dublin; and Jeremy, a greenkeeper currently working on a new course in Finland. They were old friends from years ago, getting together over the holidays. Dara is from Newcastle, Northern Ireland, and he grew up as a member of Royal County Down. He had a beaten-up golf bag with the R.C.D. logo on it.

Dara, seventh tee, Ballybunion, December 30, 2013.

Dara and his R.C.D. golf bag, seventh tee, Ballybunion, December 30, 2013.

One thing I have noticed when I play Ballybunion is that I am always the oddly dressed golfer on the course. If I  wear beaten-up clothing with various golf clubs’ logos, I end up playing with three guys in full Ballybunion gear: jackets, hats, etc. This time, I wore my Ballybunion sweater, and, of course, the other guys were dressed like they’d just rolled out of bed: tattered pullover sweatshirts, Converse sneakers, jeans. I envied them and wished I could be cool enough to shoot even par in sneakers and pub wear, too. 

Eighteenth tee, Old Course, Ballybunion, Ireland, December 30, 2013.

Eighteenth tee, Old Course, Ballybunion, Ireland, December 30, 2013. That’s the seventeenth green in the foreground. The eighteenth fairway is at the far right, receding into the distance, toward the clubhouse.

After the round, we went to the clubhouse for a lunch of “toasted specials,” which are the real national dish of Ireland. We finished at three. I had about ninety minutes of sunlight left, so I went out on the Cashen Course [which was designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., in 1984]. I played the first seven holes, teed off on the eighth (a six-hundred-yard par 5), then picked up my ball and went to the fifteenth tee and played in from there: eleven bonus holes. I saw only an occasional golfer, on a distant hole. My only regret is that I didn’t have any light-up balls, as I did in 2010. That year, after thirty-six holes and a full dinner in the clubhouse, we went out again, at eleven p.m.:

Tani indirectly makes a point that I myself have made before: rather than going to Myrtle Beach for winter golf, why not go to Scotland or Ireland? The weather is often worse in Myrtle Beach. Anyway, here’s one more rainbow shot, as long as we’ve broken the rule. Tani took this one from his car on the way to the course.


In Love With Ireland

Portstewart Golf Club, Northern Ireland, April, 2012.

Six friends and I returned this afternoon from eight days and fourteen rounds of golf in Northern Ireland and Ireland, and earlier this month I spent a similar week, by myself, in northeastern Scotland. I’ll have more to say both trips as soon as I’ve reintroduced myself to my wife and gotten caught up with the pile of stuff on my desk. In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about an earlier Ireland trip, back in 2006, and something that happened on the evening I arrived in Shannon (from Dubai!).

The baggage carousel was still revolving, but several minutes had passed since the last suitcase tumbled onto the conveyor. A young woman in a green Aer Lingus uniform walked over to me. “Is your bag missing?” she asked, her eyes radiating concern. I looked around. The other passengers had departed. The truth sank in. “My g-golf clubs,” I said.

It’s the traveling golfer’s nightmare. I had come to Ireland to spend a week playing southwestern seaside courses, and now, I thought with horror, I was going to have to play Ballybunion with rented equipment—with battered, mismatched irons and woods contaminated by the bad-swing juju of who-knew-how-many anonymous choppers, shankers, and honeymooning beginners. How could I face Waterville without my very own Banzai-shafted 10.5-degree jumbo driver, not to mention my humiliatingly extensive but indispensable collection of hybrids?  I followed the Aer Lingus woman into her office, where she helped me file a claim.

Fifteen minutes later, I was sitting numbly in a taxi, on my way to the tiny resort town of Lahinch (which is famous in Ireland not only for golf but also for surfing, of all things). Three Golf Digest colleagues would be joining me there the following afternoon, along with two rental cars. I was trying hard to appreciate the lush landscape on either side of the road, but I couldn’t stop thinking about my clubs. Why couldn’t the airline have lost Jodie Foster’s daughter instead? Then the driver’s cell phone rang.

“Right,” the driver said, after a brief conversation. “You’ll have your golf clubs by noon tomorrow. I’ll probably deliver them myself.” The young woman in the lost-baggage office, it turned out, had located my bag, in London, and had then taken the time to locate me, by telephoning the taxi dispatcher and asking if a Mr. Owen had been sent to Lahinch. I leaned back against the seat and smiled, finally able to relax. The next morning, I borrowed a set of clubs from Robert McCavery, just the fourth head professional in Lahinch’s 120-year history—he succeeded his father, Bill, who got the job in 1927—and played eighteen holes with two middle-aged women from Switzerland, who were traveling without their husbands.  My golf bag arrived just as we finished.

A week later, I was back at Shannon Airport, killing time before my flight home. And sitting at a table on the other side of the coffee shop, I suddenly noticed, was the young woman from the lost-baggage office—the woman who, a week before, had tracked me down in my taxi. I rushed over, and thanked her for her kindness.

She looked startled for a moment, then smiled. “Mr. Owen,” she said.

We have a responsibility, as golfers and as Americans, not to abuse the hospitality of this gracious, enchanting country.

Tony, Tim-o, Dave-o, Tim, David W., Howard, Jack: Enniscrone Golf Club, Ireland, April, 2012.