Golf’s Big Three: Beer, Golf, Beer


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:


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.”


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?).


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).


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.



Why Isn’t the Men’s Member-Guest on TV?


I wish the Golf Channel would drop the Champions Tour and broadcast my club’s member-guest tournament instead. Wouldn’t you watch? Among other reasons, there’s way more drama and beer, and the spectators are appreciative:


The putting is less tedious, especially after dark:


Protracer was practically made for it:


The player endorsements are more persuasive, because you know the players really do use they products they promote:


There are always plenty of refreshments:


We get pizza during the putting contest:


Faster foursomes are allowed to play through:


There are moments of high drama—like when the pro has to explain to a member who didn’t read her email that the course is closed all weekend, except for participants:


And you see shots the pros won’t even try:



How to Create Your Own Inexpensive On-course Sound System


At my club’s member-guest two years ago, Fritz and Klinger showed my brother, John, and me that a golf-cart cup holder acts like an amplifier when you place an iPod or iPhone in it and crank the volume—as Klinger is demonstrating in the photo below with “Send Her My Love,” by Journey. They played Journey in their cart during our match with them again this year, too, and when the tournament was over John mentioned the cup-holder trick to his older daughter, who is starting college this fall, because he thought she would be impressed. She wasn’t. “She said it’s common knowledge that cups, cup holders, ceramic mugs, etc., have that effect,” John wrote me later. She also told him about an even more inventive way to accomplish the same thing. It involves these:


According to my niece, if you don’t have a cup you can turn the interior of your head into an amplifier by sticking your ear buds into your nose:


. . .and opening your mouth:


It works, to some extent. And if someone in the next fairway yells at you to turn down the music all you have to do is close your mouth.

Member-Guest News (Part Five): Night Putting, Bloody Marys, and Attempted Man Hugs


The first round of match play in the world’s second best amateur golf tournament—the U.S. Amateur—was on the Golf Channel on Wednesday, but they switched to a boring pro-tour “round-up” before it was over. In the Amateur, some guy had just birdied the seventeenth hole to square his match with some other guy, and the two of them were the only players still on the course, and I was angry because I wanted to know which one of them would advance. I tried to look up the result later, online, but I couldn’t remember the name of either guy. If the Golf Channel ever decides to cover the world’s best amateur golf tournament—my club’s men’s member-guest—stuff like that won’t happen, I promise you. Incidentally, I would happily watch anyone’s member-guest on TV, in preference to, say, the Champions Tour. Here’s Chic, our chairman, smoking one of the cigars that were available for purchase this year for the first time, at a very modest markup:


Until the Golf Channel comes around to my way of thinking, you’re going to have to watch in person, or make do with photographs. My club has many spectator viewing areas, so that when you yourself are not playing golf you can watch other people. We have sort of a terrace, with picnic benches, above the eighteenth green:


And when the benches are full you can stand behind them or sit on the wall or bring chairs down from the clubhouse porch:


The kids who work in the golf shop watch, too:


During the putting contest each year, some guys move several chairs and a couch over to the far side of the practice green. If you had to pay for seats, those would be the most expensive ones. There’s a big drop-off right behind them, but no one has tipped over yet:


The putting contest, like much of the rest of the tournament, is beer-oriented:


For several years, the putting-contest record-keeping has been handled by Katie, who works in the golf shop and is Mike A.’s daughter. She has the most legible handwriting in the club. She’s leaving for college in a week or two:


Putting-contest qualifying goes on late into the night, with illumination provided by C.J. and Jaws:



During the putting final, on Saturday evening, we have pizzas from Nancy’s restaurant. Nancy also does the steak dinner, on Friday, and all the breakfasts and lunches:


We renovated our clubhouse slightly several years ago, and shortly before we did the women decided they would rather have what until then had been the men’s locker room, which was bigger. We said OK, because who cares? After they’d moved in, though, they decided it was too dark and that they wanted to move back. We said OK, because who cares? During the men’s member-guest, however, their toilet is temporarily available for use by men. It’s not in a stall; it’s in a little separate room, which is cleaner than any part of the men’s locker room. Or, at least, it was:


We also used their locker room for golf-bag-and-Bloody-Mary storage. (Les had brought the Bloody Marys from home.)


And we had an improvised beer cart, driven by Page, who is Keith’s sister:

P1140026Lots of people—including some guys’ wives and children — watched the final shootout, on Sunday:

P1140107Some of them also took part in the raffle:


My brother and I were in the shootout, because we had won our flight, but we were (deservedly) eliminated on the second hole. Addison and his guest, whose name is Mike, caddied for us until we flamed out. Addison and Mike were college teammates—they graduated last year—and they were also in our flight. That’s Addison in the shirt with “31” on the back. Katie’s carrying the trophy.


The winners were Ed and his son Nulty.


When Ed chipped in for a birdie on the third shoot-out hole, he and Nulty gave each other a sort of preliminary celebratory man hug:


Then, when Ed sank a long putt for a birdie on the final hole, for the win, they gave each other the real thing:


Here they are with their trophy, along with Nulty’s brother, Clai, who caddied for both of them and probably could have managed a couple of other golf bags, too. The guy on the far right is Corey, our pro.


Corey has a daughter, who was also in the gallery. Her name is Olivia. She’s almost two:


Nothing to do now but wait till next year.


Member-Guest News (Part Four): The Return of Peter P.

Peter P. and Other Gene, 2013 Member-Guest. Photo by Vi Owens.

Peter P. and Other Gene, shootout, 2013 Men’s Member-Guest. Photo by Vi Owens.

A little over a year ago, Peter P. was in a terrible car accident. He was in intensive care at a big university hospital for weeks and weeks, and for a while his doctors worried that he wouldn’t walk again. He obviously couldn’t come along on our regular fall golf outing to Atlantic City, less than two months after the accident, so Reese and I made a life-size stand-in, called Flat Pete, using the color plotter in Reese’s office and a sheet of foamboard. One interesting thing we learned on the trip is that, if you want to make a favorable impression on female bartenders, it doesn’t hurt to be a half-inch thick:


Peter has made a slow but steady recovery since then. We’ve told him many times that we would make any conceivable accommodation to get him into our weekend game again, but he has said that he won’t come back to the Sunday Morning Group until he can play 18 holes without a cart. Many of us have seen him working toward that goal, on the course and on the range, using a 4-iron or his putter as a cane.


Peter did sign up for this year’s member-guest—maybe partly because hardly anyone walks during almost any part of it, on account of the beer-transport issue. At virtually the last minute, though, his guest backed out, for reasons too complicated to go into. Luckily, our pro and the golf committee were able to recruit Bob W., who was our superintendent for 40 years and still lives in a house behind the golf shop. Seeing Bob on the golf course was almost as mind-boggling as seeing Peter. Bob was the best golfer in the club for a very long time, but it’s been years since he played more than a few holes in one day, and it’s probably true that Peter is one of a very small number of people in the world who could have pulled him out of retirement. Here’s Bob with one of his crooked little cigars and the type of button-down shirt he always wears when he plays—or does anything else, for that matter:


Bob has always had a complicated relationship with the game. I wrote about him in Golf Digest in 2003, in an essay called “The Greenkeeper’s Tale.” One of the complications is his back, and another is his feelings about doctors. Once, he suffered an attack of kidney stones, a recurrent ailment of his. Diane, his wife, was out of town, and Bob stubbornly writhed on the floor of his living room all alone for several hours. When he could no longer tolerate the agony, he crawled to the telephone and called Ferris, who is a former chairman of our golf club. Ferris is the only member of the medical profession who has ever won Bob’s trust. When Bob’s back is really killing him, he will sometimes drive over to Ferris’s office and ask him to take a look. Ferris is a veterinarian. Among the records in the files at his animal hospital is a chart on which the name of the patient is listed as “Bob” and the name of the patient’s owner is listed as “Diane.” (On the night of the kidney-stone attack, Ferris took Bob to the emergency room of a hospital for people.) In the photo below, Bob and I are watching the putting contest from the patio above the practice green:


It would be hard to say which was more remarkable: the fact that Peter managed 45 holes in two days, or that Bob did. In a way, they were ideal partners, since each gave the other an incentive to stick it out. They didn’t win their flight, but they did beat Ed and Nulty, who ended up winning the whole thing; that made them the real champions, according to some methods of calculating these things. And Bob played in the unofficial one-club cross-country tournament that followed the final shootout, and even joined the diehards who went to a bar in town after all the Polish vodka was gone — two developments not witnessed previously. Reese joined everyone, too, after remembering, at 8:00, that his wife, Vi, had made a dinner reservation for 6:30.


Peter’s walking isn’t perfect yet, but his hook doesn’t hook as much as it used to (a good thing), and he’s getting better at getting around without a cane:

Member-Guest News (Part Two): Men at the Outer Limits of Fashion

Fritz and Klinger, men's member-guest, August, 2014.

Fritz and Klinger, men’s member-guest, August, 2014.

The day after the member-guest, Addison and I realized that we were still golf-deprived, so we went out at five in the afternoon for a Two-Hour Eighteen™. I played pretty well but felt like a chopper because Addison made five birdies on the front nine alone, even though he was tired from the weekend and from hitting a couple of hundred range balls that morning while getting fitted for new clubs. We had to play through one pair of slowpokes but were otherwise unimpeded, and we finished our round, walking, in just under two hours. Among the topics we discussed was the stuff other people had worn during the member-guest. Some highlights:

Tony and his son, Timo, looked either like members of the Italian Tour de France team or like busboys at Sbarro:


The main issue, perhaps, was their socks:


Ferris and his sons—Matt, Dr. Mike, and Adam—always dress alike, even though they play in two different flights. This year, no plus-fours or hockey uniforms:


Tim and his son Nick, possibly for strategic reasons, usually dress almost alike but not quite:


Les’s regular partner, Duncan, is from England:


Nick P.’s company embroiders stuff on clothes, so he made shirts for himself and his partner:


Reese (Addison’s father, right) and Lance (Addison’s uncle) wore shorts from (I think) Loudmouth Golf, but they took some grief for wearing them two days in a row:



Mike A. (right) and his brother-in-law, another Dave, are football fans:


On Sunday, Rob was one of several players who wore the green FootJoy golf shirt we’d all been given when we registered:


In the photo below, Jaws is rubbing Rob’s head for good luck. (Jaws is called Jaws because when he was a baby he wouldn’t stop talking; Rob is called Catbird for reasons I don’t fully understand.) Before the member-guest began, I ran into Rob’s mother in front of the grocery store, and she told me that she hoped he would behave. He did!


The best-dressed pair, as always, was Fritz (right, in the photo below) and Klinger. They do their member-guest shopping at T. J. Maxx and Kohl’s, and if either or both of those companies would offer us a volume discount the Sunday Morning Group would probably make them official suppliers. Klinger is getting married, in Mexico, in October. He is perhaps slightly heavier than he was when he proposed, but I think it’s wise to establish a comfortable baseline—something I should have done before my own wedding, seventy pounds ago:


My brother, John, and I wore the same thing—khakis and seersucker shirts—to the stag dinner, on Friday night, but that was an accident. The explanation, according to John, is that we both “work from a limited palate,” and he said that it would be interesting to keep track of what we wear on days when we’re not together, to see how often we coincide. On Saturday, he dressed almost exactly as I had dressed on Friday (white shirt, reddish shorts), but that was an accident, too. We’ve talked about wearing the same things on purpose, but I’m not sure that’s a good idea. For at least the past six or seven years, no identically-dressed team has won the member-guest shootout—although he and I did win last year while wearing the same hat. And no one has ever qualified for the putting-contest final with feet that look like these (name withheld):


Member-Guest News (Part One): How to Open a Beer Bottle With a Beer Can


My club held its annual men’s member-guest tournament this past weekend. My brother, John, and I repeated as the winners of our flight but not as the winners of the whole thing, because in the shoot-out we both bogeyed the second hole, which even the guys with strokes seemed to have no trouble parring, if not birdieing. But we had a great time, as we always do, and Brian taught us something no one had ever seen before.  Here he is, demonstrating, in the spectator viewing area above the eighteenth green:

I’ll have more member-guest news soon, once I’ve caught up on my sleep.


News From the 2012 Member-Guest

Amazing member-guest discovery: golf-cart Surround Sound.

My brother, John, and I played in my club’s member-guest tournament this past weekend. One of our five matches was against Fritz and Klinger, whose golf cart you see in the photograph above. That’s Klinger’s iPhone, in the one cup holder that isn’t holding a beer. It’s playing “Send Her My Love,” by Journey, and If you could hear the music you’d be blown away, because Fritz and Klinger have discovered that a golf cart cup holder acts like both an amplifier and a Surround Sound speaker system. Try it with your own iPhone or iPod if you don’t believe me.

Three golfers, nine drivers.

The golf bags in the photo above belong to (from left to right) me, Tim-o, and Tony.  You will notice that the three of us, in addition to apparently being infatuated with obsolete Nike products, carry three drivers each. The lofts are 10.5, 13, and 16 degrees. I’ll have more to say about this club selection in a week or two. (Full disclosure: after the 9-hole stroke-play opener, on Friday—which John and I won, at 7 under—I removed my 13-degree driver, which I’d bought on eBay the week before, to make room for a second 6-hybrid.

Rob and miscellaneous member-guest stuff.

Usually, the so-called gifts you get at a member-guest are pretty crummy, but this year the ones at my club were great: a golf hat, a golf towel with a zipper pocket and a semi-mysterious Velcro strip, and a belt with a buckle that’s also a beer opener. In the photo above, Rob is wearing his belt on the outside, for easier access (although he’s got it upside down). He’s also wearing his give-’em-a-brake safety-yellow golf shirt and carrying a beer, two putters, and a portable cooler.

Jaws, lighting the putting-contest qualifier.

On Friday night, after the stag dinner, so many guys wanted to keep trying to qualify for the putting contest that Jaws drove home and brought back his big workshop lights. That’s him in the photo above, setting up one of the units. My brother and I qualified but were eliminated the next evening, in a four-hole playoff for the last three spots in the final.

Putting-contest qualifier, under the lights.

On Saturday night, after Fritz and Klinger had won the putting contest and a dozen of us had played a five-hole one-club tournament in a race with the setting sun, we held an unofficial supplemental putting contest, using glowing balls and glowing cup inserts—items about which I’ll have more to say in a week or two. The winners were Tim and Chick. Here’s what the putting green looked like in the dark:

Glowing ball, glowing hole.

Also here:

Doc, Jr.

There were thunderstorms in the forecast all weekend, but the rain and lightning held off until halfway through the final shoot-out, on Sunday afternoon. Here’s what the rain looked like when it was coming down:

The gutter in that photo has been clogged for ten or fifteen years, but when it’s raining no one wants to go up on a ladder to unclog it and when it isn’t raining it doesn’t overflow. During most of the rest of the weekend, though, the weather looked like this:

Chick, Rob, putting-contest qualifier.

The overall winners of the member-guest were Ray and Mike. My brother and I beat them, one-up, in our final match of the weekend, but that wasn’t enough to knock them out of first place in our flight. Here’s Ray resting during the lightning delay. (Mike was on the phone apologizing to his wife for already being several hours later than he had said he was going to be.)

Ray, resting in the clubhouse during the lightning delay.

And here’s what the shoot-out field looked like on the first tee. We determined honors by using the Sunday Morning Group’s limited-edition collection of numbered poker chips. Art and Scribby (on the right, with the white hair and the no hair) were the first to be eliminated, when they bogeyed the first hole.

18 Good Things About Golf: No. 7

Strokes: member-guest, 2011.

7. Golf, like all sports, is perfectly meritocratic: If you shoot the best score, you win. At the same time, though, golf is highly socialistic. In fact, it’s the world’s only welfare state that works. The U.S.G.A.’s handicapping system takes strokes from each according his ability and gives them to each according to his need—communism with a human face. Unlike raw capitalism, golf has figured out how to foster individual achievement without smothering the hopes of those who can’t keep up. Like most golfers, I am proud to give strokes yet unashamed to receive them.

Because of handicaps, competitive matches can be played by players of greatly different levels of skill. If Rory McIlroy, for some reason, could find no one else to play with, he could play with me and, after spotting me one or two dozen strokes, still hope to have an interesting contest. Golf is the only sport I know of in which direct competition between pros and amateurs, or between men and women, or between adults and children, or between young women and old men, or between old women and touring professionals, is routinely feasible. The use of different tees makes it possible to adapt the course to the abilities of the players, and the handicapping system allows further adjustments. As a result, you can play golf on an equal footing not only with your wife but also with your kids or grandkids. Thus, golf simultaneously enhances sexual parity (important to liberals) and traditional family values (ditto to conservatives).

You’d think that a system designed to facilitate gambling among strangers would be fatally vulnerable to inconsistencies and abuses. In fact, though, the handicapping system, like the post office, works better than we have any right to expect. I often play nassaus with people I don’t know—people whose ideas about reportable scores may differ wildly from my own—and yet, far more often than the laws of probability would predict, our matches come down to the final press or the final hole or the final putt. How does that happen?

The explanation, I believe, is that human nature makes the handicap system almost magically self-correcting. A golfer with a pop has a mindset different from that of a golfer playing naked. Players with too many strokes inevitably find ways to waste them, and players with too few are often inspired to shoot better than they know how. (Ben Hogan—or was it Sam Snead?—once played a match with an amateur who complained that he wasn’t receiving enough strokes, and Snead—or was it Gene Sarazen?—replied, “Then you’re just going to have to play harder.”) Every club has its sandbaggers, chiselers, pretenders, and poseurs, but, over the course of a season or two, the bets tend to even out. One way or another, most of us manage to live up or down to our innermost expectations.