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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Check Out Our Revolutionary New Rainproof and Sweat-proof Golf Scorecards

Hacker (real name) was questionable for our Friday-morning game, because he’d broken the middle finger on his left hand while using his wood-splitter:

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Also, it was raining. But he played anyway, and so did Barney, Tim, and I. We had the course to ourselves:

Barney and Tim, in the rain, Friday, October 31, 2014.

Barney and Tim, in the rain, Friday, October 31, 2014.

Hacker discovered that his finger didn’t hurt nearly as much if he used a baseball grip. Here’s a perfectly square divot he took on the fourth hole (that’s his tee in the middle of it):

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The rain wasn’t a problem, because we were using one of our new waterproof scorecards. (You can watch a video demonstration at the bottom of this post.) Our waterproof cards look exactly like our regular scorecards, but they don’t get soggy or fall apart, and you can write on them when they’re soaking wet, using a regular pencil—and then you can erase what you’ve written, using the same pencil. In fact, the wetter they are the better they work. Here’s the card we used on Friday, strapped to my pushcart:

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Our field test went great, and I double-checked the result by driving home with the card stuck to my windshield:

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Our waterproof scorecards were printed for us by PrintWorks, the official stationers of the Sunday Morning Group. We didn’t actually invent them; we stole the idea from Todd Petrey, a caddie at Bandon Dunes. 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 also invented Signsocks, temporary road-sign covers used in highway construction projects.

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Ray, Tony, and I first saw Drycards while playing 10 rounds in the rain at Bandon in 2007. Last year, I tried to get in touch with Petrey, to order a batch for S.M.G., but as near as I can tell he’s no longer in business. (He doesn’t seem to be selling Signsocks anymore, either.) So I took an old Bandon Drycard down to my basement and reverse-engineered it —which is to say, I ordered a supply of synthetic paper (the secret ingredient) from Amazon, and Hacker and I took it to PrintWorks. Here’s how it works:

Reader’s Trip Report: Bandon Dunes in a Hurricane

Mike Goldman, a reader, recently spent several days at Bandon Dunes with seven friends. Here’s the local forecast from part of their trip:

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They played every day, naturally, even though the Speed Golf World Championship, which was supposed to be held on Old MacDonald while they were there, was canceled because of the weather. Here’s what the wind did to the speed-golf scoreboards:

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From Goldman’s report:
While the entire trip was a home run (mainly because my team won), the lasting memory will be our trudge through the hurricane on Saturday, on Bandon Dunes. What started as a light mist and a stiff breeze quickly regressed into a wind and rainstorm so dramatic that one member of our group said, on the second tee, “We’ve already passed the point of bringing all the animals inside and duct-taping the windows.” 
 
I’m not an agronomist, but my understanding is that gorse is a hearty plant and that it’s unusual to see it rolling down fairways like tumbleweeds. At one point, on the sixth green, we suspended play and hunkered down in a catcher’s stance, and leaned into the wind to keep from blowing off the cliff. We were a little nervous, but, mainly, we were laughing hysterically at what we were going to have to do to complete the match. Here’s one of our caddies climbing uphill into the wind:
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On the seventh green, as we were trying unsuccessfully to mark our balls, one of the caddies said, “Whatever you do, do not get within 10 feet of that cliff.” No. 9 at Bandon is a straightforward par 5. On a normal day, it’s two good shots and a little pitch, and then you’re putting for birdie. Playing dead into he storm, I hit driver (hard), 3-wood, 3-wood (again), and then a torched 8-iron to the front fringe, 50 feet from the hole. I’m more pleased with that result than hitting it in two on a normal day.
 
At the end of nine holes, much to the relief of our caddies, we suspended play for a burger and a beer, and strategized about how best to complete the matches. We settled on the Preserve, Bandon’s new 13-hole par-3 course. The longest hole is only about 160 yards, but many holes turned out to be unreachable. On others, you’d hit a simple pitch shot and watch the wind whisk your ball over the green and into the gorse. At the end of the day, we were tattered, wind-damaged, and in possession of a golf experience we’ll all remember for a lifetime.  
Here’s the winning team. (Marty Hackel: note the wardrobe.) From left to right, they are Mike Kemmet, Trevor Dyer, Mike Goldman, and Steve Harry. Dyer (a.k.a. The Captain) organized the trip, and kept everyone up to date with a website he created for that purpose —an excellent idea.
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Here’s Dyer during the hurricane. It looks like he’s swinging, but he’s actually just being bent into a pretzel by the wind:
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And here’s a picture of Goldman during a round once the storm had passed:
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And here’s a golf quiz: when you read Goldman’s account of their Saturday rounds, did you wish you’d been there, too? I did. (That means I passed the quiz.) I visited Bandon back in February 2007 with Tony and Ray. We played ten rounds in five days, all in the rain. During lunch between eighteens each day, we parked our rainsuits in some industrial-strength dryers in the clubhouse. Here are Ray and Tony with our caddies:
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During that trip, a starter told me that, several winters before, on a day when the wind blew hard and Bandon received almost seven inches of rain, all eighty-five golfers on the tee sheet played—and so did two walk-ons, who were passing through and thought the day looked reasonable for golf. They were right!
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Reader’s Trip Report: Askernish Golf Club, South Uist, Scotland

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Askernish is on the island of South Uist, in the Outer Hebrides, off the coast of northwestern Scotland. 

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I first visited in 2007, on assignment for Golf Digest, and I went back late the following year on assignment for The New Yorker. Getting to South Uist requires determination. In 2007, I flew from Inverness to Benbecula, which is one island to the north and is connected to South Uist by a half-mile-long causeway: 

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In the air, I looked down, through breaks in the clouds, on the fjord-like creases that rumple Scotland’s west coast and on the waters of the Minch, the stormy channel that separates the Outer Hebrides from the Scottish mainland. The only other passengers were the day’s newspapers and two guys accompanying a load of cash for ATMs in Stornoway, on the Isle of Lewis, where we stopped first. Here are the newspapers, in containers belted into the seats:

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In 2008, I took a ferry from Oban, which is a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Glasgow. The ferry sails three or four times a week and makes a brief stop at Barra, another island. I actually could have flown to Barra, although the flight schedule depends on the tides, because Barra’s runway is a beach:

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The South Uist ferry trip takes about six and a half hours in good weather. We passed the islands of Mull, Coll, Muck, Eigg, Rum, Sanday, Sundray, Vatersay, Hellisay, Gighay, and Stack, among others. We also passed this lighthouse, on a tiny island called Eilean Musdile. It’s just off the shore of a larger island, called Lismore, which has a population of 146. The lighthouse was built in 1833:

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Until 1974, cars on the South Uist ferry had to be loaded and unloaded with a crane, like freight; nowadays, you drive on and drive off. The ferry docks in Lochboisdale, a few miles from Askernish:

Lochboisdale harbor

The original course at Askernish was laid out in 1891 by Old Tom Morris. At some point, probably during the Second World War, most of Morris’s holes were abandoned, and until roughly a decade ago they were essentially forgotten. Since then, a plausible version of the old course has been restored, by a group that included Gordon Irvine, a Scottish golf-course consultant; Martin Ebert, an English golf architect and links-course specialist; Mike Keiser, the founder of Bandon Dunes; and Ralph Thompson, who used to be the manager of the island’s main agricultural supply store and now works full-time as the golf club’s chairman and principal promoter. Here are Irvine and Ebert, discussing the routing in 2008:

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My New Yorker article about Askernish caught the attention David Currie, a reader and retired investment banker who lives on a small farm outside Toronto. (He’s front-row-center in the photo below.)  He first visited Askernish in 2010, and has since joined the club and returned two more times—most recently in June, for the first annual gathering of its “life members.” (I’m one, too, but couldn’t make it.)

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Currie also sent two photos of the course. Here’s the eighth hole:

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And here’s the sixteenth, Old Tom’s Pulpit, which is one of my favorite holes anywhere:]

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Currie writes:

I had always known that my roots were in the west coast of Scotland. Although my paternal grandparents came from the Glasgow area, I was aware that the Currie DNA was scattered along the coastal shores north of Glasgow. (Apparently, my ancestors slept around.) Other than that, I had little family history to go by. In 2011, Ralph Thompson mentioned that a Robert Currie had traveled to South Uist from New York to meet with the local council about erecting a memorial cairn acknowledging the contribution of Clan Currie to the cultural development of the island. I was present at the dedication of the cairn, in 2012:

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MacMhuirich was our original name centuries ago. And here’s a shot of my opportunistic wife, Liz, who never could resist a handsome man with his own whiskey bottle. Actually, the handsome man is Alasdair Macdonald, the owner of the croft where the cairn was erected:

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The Life Members Challenge was a Stableford. Currie came in second, one point behind Eric Iverson, an associate of the architect Tom Doak (who also played).

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Currie continues:
The initial six holes at Askernish can cause one to question what the fuss is all about. They are certainly quite nice, but nothing unusual or special. However, the WOW factor kicks in as you climb the dunes from sixth green to seventh tee and you stand there gazing out over the Atlantic Ocean. I thought I had died and gone to heaven, but I wasn’t about to allow that to happen, at least until I finished my round!

If you visit South Uist, drive carefully. Most of the roads are single-lane, and you have to share them.

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Reader’s Trip Report: Bandon Dunes

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A bunch of us were supposed to play in a tournament today, but the rain started last night—over an inch so far—and everything was called off. Tony and I decided to play anyway, and because we couldn’t talk anyone into joining us we had the place to ourselves for a Two-Hour Eighteen™ (which actually took two hours and fifteen minutes). The golf shop was locked and empty, so we had to handle our own photography:

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The rain came down sideways for a while, and we were both reminded of a trip we took to Bandon Dunes with our friend Ray in February, 2007. On that trip, we had rain every day for five days, but still managed to play ten awesome rounds.  And although we got wet we didn’t get as wet as we might have. A starter told me that a few years before, on a day when the wind blew hard and the resort received almost seven inches of rain, all eighty-five golfers on the tee sheet played, as did two walk-ons, who were passing through the area and thought the day looked reasonable for golf. Like them, we had a great time, and ever since then we’ve been talking about going back.

Pacific Dunes, February, 2007.

Ray, mystery person, Tony, caddies, Pacific Dunes, February, 2007.

Coincidentally, last night, just as the rain began, I heard from Tim Miles, a reader, who is at Bandon Dunes right now with a group of friends. He began his trip report with a quotation from my first golf book—an effective way to get my attention:

I suddenly had a vision of a sort of ideal community of golfers: a golfing monastery, or golfastery. Men who worship golf living humbly with other men who worship golf. Simple food. Lots of putting practice. A big driving range with well-spaced target greens. Excellent video-taping facilities. Careful study of the rules. Pilgrimages to the great courses of the world. Beer making in the evenings. Who wouldn’t want to live like that?

I’ve changed my mind about some of that—no more range balls for me!—but I agree with Miles that Bandon Dunes comes close to my monastic vision. Here’s Miles’s report, with photos taken by him and his friends:

Tim Miles, our Bandon correspondent, June, 2013.

Tim Miles, our Bandon correspondent, June, 2013.

Bandon Dunes gets everything right for golfers. There’s not an ounce of pretense in the place (save for the occasional jackass, pink-plaid-panted golfer). The food and lodging are not fancy but perfect in every way. The staff is shockingly good. Every employee of every course in America should be required to witness the level of kindness, engagement, and  service delivered throughout the resort. My caddie, Paul, said employees are trained to consider Bandon Dunes Golf Resort to be Disney for Golfers. It shows, except unlike Disney it’s not loud, flashy, or overstimulating. Bandon lets the courses and their settings overwhelm you. 

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It’s not the easiest place to get to, and it’s not the cheapest (though big discounts on a second 18 each day are perhaps the best bargain in all of golf), but it’s worth it. Oh, is it worth it.

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One final note for your visit: when you’re there, do not dismiss Bandon Preserve, a thirteen-hole par-3 course whose net profits go to charity. In its first short season, in 2012 (it opened last May), our starter told us, Preserve donated more than $510,000 to local non-profits. Its goal for this year is more than $750,000. With great ocean views and an opportunity to play 100-yard 7-irons and 160-yards wedges, you’ll never laugh or experience more sheer joy per hole than you will at Preserve. Be sure to try the final hole—a 109-yard downhiller— with your putter.

The Miles party: Chris, Rush, Tim, Steve, Carolyn, Paul, Gerard. Bandon Dunes, June, 2013.

The Miles party: Chris, Rush, Tim, Steve, Carolyn, Paul, Gerard. Bandon Dunes, June, 2013.

What’s In My Bag: Jack Chesnutt

Royal Birkdale, May 19, 2013.

Royal Birkdale, May 19, 2013.

Today, I played Royal Birkdale with Paul Jones, a young member and a terrific golfer, whose swing finish you see here:

P1060461Before we teed off, I bought my wife a sweater in the golf shop and decided not to buy myself an enameled ball marker. Then, during our round, I found an enameled ball marker that was even nicer than the one I had decided not to buy. The exact same thing (except for the part about my wife) happened to me a year ago, at Cruden Bay, in Scotland. The ball marker I found there turned out to be one of the luckiest I’ve ever owned, for about a month. Fingers crossed!

And that brings me to Jack Chesnutt, a reader in Colorado, who recently wrote:

I found the ball markers below (along with one from a course in Ireland I have since lost) on a fairway at Pacific Dunes in 2008. They did not seem to have been dropped accidentally from someone’s pocket. They were arranged in a small triangle with a well-worn repair tool in the middle. The last act of a frustrated golfer after watching one more drive arc toward the rocks and surf? Or maybe a little memorial to a departed golfing buddy? The view from that point in the fairway was wonderful.

photoAs I do with all the markers I keep in my golf bag, I rotate the Arrowhead marker in and out of my game. The first three-putt sends it into time-out. But I never use the Old Course marker. I don’t want to lose it. Maybe I will find the owner or his/her son/daughter someday.

Before claiming that these are yours, be prepared to reveal some telling piece of information that only you and Chesnutt could possibly know. Meanwhile, here’s what Chesnutt has to say about his own game:

I caddied for my dad back in the early sixties, but a huge banana slice and indifferent putting convinced me that tennis was more my game. When I turned fifty, my brother-in-law the pilot-golfer (what else do they have to do when they are not driving a 737?)  persuaded me to play a round. I shot 99. I was hooked. My wife (hey, it was her brother who got me into this) made fun of my golf habit. “Why would any human being need more than ONE pair of golf shoes?” Luckily for me, she took up golf, became a 9-handicap, and soon bought her third pair of golf shoes. The trip to Bandon was our first big golf vacation together. The first round, at Pacific Dunes, was memorable not only for the stunning setting but also for finding the ball markers. It was so windy that my stand-bag blew over—twice. I’m now sixty-two years old, and my index is 4.5, and I keep about ten ball markers and three repair tools in the rotation. The repair tools don’t seem to have the same cosmic effect on my putting as the markers. I’m also up to four pair of golf shoes. 

I’ll put up more What’s In My Bag items as soon as I’m back in the States. I’ve got several in the hopper, but there’s room for more. Keep ’em coming—and include at least one photo and a golf-oriented description of yourself.

My Close Personal Friend Mike Keiser and his New Golf Course, in Nova Scotia

Back in May, I went to dinner in Chicago with my close personal friend Mike Keiser, the founder and owner of Bandon Dunes. The restaurant was Moto, which serves a four-hour tasting menu (see above) accompanied by fifteen different wines. Our “Spring Lamb” course was actually a tasting menu in itself: a thing of lamb paté, a thing of lamb sausage, a thing of smoked lamb shoulder, a thing of “baconized” lamb, a thing of leg of lamb, and a couple of other lamb-based things, all served on a chef’s cleaver. “Explosion” was a stick of dynamite made from white chocolate and filled with a syrupy liquid that I wouldn’t have minded drinking a quart of, plus a cherry-stem fuse—and the waiter made it explode by dropping it on its plate. He said that my explosion was the best one he’d done so far, and that he was still working on his technique because the dessert was so new. “After Dinner Menu” was the actual menu printed on a slab of marshmallow, which was brought to the table in a saucepan of liquid nitrogen, then placed on top of three kinds of fruit and three kinds of mint and broken to pieces with spoon. Most surprisingly good thing: beet meringue.

Moto’s famous Cuban pork sandwich, which looks like a cigar and is served in an ashtray. It wasn’t on the menu the night Keiser and were there, I’m sorry to say.

The next day, Keiser and I played a round at Chicago Golf Club, which was built in 1895 and is the oldest eighteen-hole golf course in the United States. (The club was founded in 1892, on a different site.) The course was designed by Charles Blair Macdonald and later tinkered with by Seth Raynor, among others. There’s a convent next door, and one of the guys we played with told a funny story about a golfer who took a whiz in the bushes next to it, but I didn’t write the story down and now I don’t remember any of it. Take my word for it, though: that story was funny. C.G.C.’s motto is “Far and Sure,” which is also the motto of Royal Liverpool Golf Club, where Macdonald had lots of friends. In fact, when Macdonald’s new Chicago friends realized how much they loved golf he had his old Liverpool friends send him six sets of clubs.

Keiser’s newest course is Cabot Links Golf Course, in Nova Scotia. Ron Whitten, who is Golf Digest’s architecture editor, has written an article about both it and Donald Trump‘s newest course, which is in Scotland. Whitten’s article will be in the February issue, and while you wait to read it you can watch this video:

The video was made in October by Don Snyder, whose company is called World Golf Movies. Snyder worked as a caddie at the Old Course, among other places, and one day he had the idea of creating video tours of the world’s best courses. Several of his videos are available as apps in the iTunes store, and more are coming. Perry Golf, the tour company, is a partner of his. “Starting next season,” Snyder told me in an email recently, “we will also shoot little fifteen-minute movies of Perry Golf’s clients out playing on their journey, and then sitting down in a pub and talking about what their trip has meant to them.”

Chicago Golf Club, Wheaton, Illinois.

My Close Personal Friend (a Different) Tom Watson

Nick and Hacker (real name), Dyker Beach Golf Course, Brooklyn New York, 2006. That’s the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in the background.

As soon as our home course closes for the season, my friends and I pack up our clubs, say goodbye to our wives and children, and head south for a while, to a place where golf can be played on real grass even in the middle of the winter. Which is to say, we go to the Bronx.

Many people don’t realize that there is a golf course inside the New York City limits, but there are more than a dozen, and almost all of them are public courses that are open year-round. Our favorites are probably Pelham Bay and Split Rock, in the Bronx, and Dyker Beach, in Brooklyn, but there are others and, because there’s no such thing as a bad golf course, we sometimes play them, too. (You can read more about winter golf in New York here and here.)

The drive south takes us down I-684 and the Hutchinson River Parkway and past still more golf courses, most of which don’t stay open all winter. One of those is Saxon Woods, which is one of six public courses owned by Westchester County, New York. Saxon Woods is so close to Winged Foot and Quaker Ridge that some people figure A. W. Tillinghast must have designed at least part of it, too. The evidence for that isn’t strong, to say the least, but as we drive by I look at it longingly (which is how I look at all golf courses).

Not long ago, I received an email from Tom Watson, a Saxon Woods regular, who wanted me to know about a game he had invented. Here he is:

Tom Watson (real name) playing in a charity outing at Westchester Country Club, Rye, New York, 2012.

Tom wrote:

“I simply keep my best score for each hole for the entire season, and add them up for a season’s best net total. So it allows a 19-handicapper to post a ‘score’ that’s closer to the pros than to guys who put their shoes on in the parking lot. And it gives you some real rooting interest as the season wanes. I was sitting on 68 last week when I stepped up to one of the only two holes I haven’t parred all year. A good drive, a yanked three-wood, a big flop shot over a bunker, and an easy three-footer later, I was writing down par and dropping my Season’s Best to 67. It’s a number I’m not usually acquainted with—and it made the round. I didn’t quite go all Ian Poulter on the green, but there was a discreet fist pump involved. It’s the only golf game I know of where your score always goes down over time!”

Tom’s invention is actually a re-invention. A cumulative score like the one he compiled is called a ringer score, and there are lots of clubs and leagues and groups that run season-long ringer competitions. (One of them is Wethersfield Country Club, in Connecticut, where Rick and I played in a state senior four-ball tournament this year.) Ringer scores are also fun to use as a side bet on golf trips, over multiple courses. Ray, Tony, and I did that during ten rounds on three courses at Bandon Dunes, not quite six years ago. I’m pretty sure I won, although I don’t recall collecting any money.

Push Carts on Tee Boxes? On Greens?

Push carts on putting green, Victoria Golf Club, Melbourne, Australia, June, 2010.

During the women’s member-guest at my club, a couple of weeks ago, a few guys from my Sunday Morning Group played a travel round at our enemy club, on the other side of town. (We have a reciprocal arrangement for tournament days, etc.)  A member strode up at some point and told them to stop rolling their push carts onto the tee boxes—and later he strode up to again and told them not to put their golf bags on the tee boxes, either. (Hey, maybe they should remove their golf shoes, too.)

I took the photos above and below at Victoria Golf Club, near Melbourne, Australia, in 2010. (The Australian Masters was played at Victoria that year and the next.) Players there are asked to roll their push carts and pull carts not just over the tee boxes but across the greens, to keep the fringes from being beaten up by concentrated foot traffic. Other Sandbelt courses have the same policy—including Royal Melbourne and Kingston Heath, which are ranked No. 22 and No. 11, respectively, on Golf Digest’s list of the 100 Best Courses Outside the United States.  Ditto Bandon Dunes (although at Bandon golfers with carts are asked to cross the greens only, and not to park their carts on them).

These practices makes perfect sense, because a push cart weighs much less than a greens mower. Or a tee mower. Or any of the guys that you or I play golf with. So lighten up, enemy club.