What’s In My Bag, Part Three: Let’s Have a Look Inside Those Pockets

Will, Brent, D.O., Ben, Liberty National Golf Course, Jersey City, New Jersey, May 5, 2013.

Famous building, Will, Brent, D.O., Ben, famous statue. Fourteenth tee, Liberty National Golf Course, Jersey City, New Jersey, May 5, 2013.

On Sunday, I had the tremendous good fortune to be invited to join a twelve-man outing at Liberty National Golf Course, in Jersey City, New Jersey, directly across the Hudson River from lower Manhattan. I employed a labor-saving technique I’ve often used during visits to other rich-guy golf clubs: I wore my sorriest-looking pair of shoes, knowing that the locker-room guy would fully resuscitate them while we were playing. During a multi-day trip Pine Valley ten or fifteen years ago, I took three sorry-looking pairs of shoes and left them outside my door sequentially. I went home feeling like a new man.

Cool clubhouse.

Cool clubhouse–and that statue again.

Liberty National was designed by Tom Kite and Bob Cupp, and it was built, in 2006, on a desolate industrial site. (I’ve seen a variety of cost estimates, all of which have nine digits.) The Barclays—which used to be known as the Westchester Classic, and then as the Buick Classic—was held there in 2009, and it will be held there again in August. Tour players grumbled about the course the first time. Since then, Kite and Cupp have made many changes, and either the changes have been effective or I don’t know what I’m talking about, because I liked the course a lot. And the clubhouse is the only starkly modernistical one I’ve ever been in that I fully approve of.

The bar, post-round.

The bar, post-round.

Partway through our round, I apologized to my caddie for having forgotten to remove a couple of nonessential items from my golf bag. (I’ve gotten a little lazy about on-course housekeeping in recent years, because at home I now almost always use a pushcart.) The bag can’t have been too bad, though, because I still occasionally carry it myself. Here is some of what was in it:

Ball markers

The photo above shows my selection of lucky ball markers for that day. Clockwise from lower left: a souvenir marker from Royal County Down, a necessity because of the sublimity, transcendence, immanence, etc., of that course; a souvenir marker from a casino in Connecticut, useful because it has four colored pointy things, any one of which can be aimed at the hole; a Norwegian coin with an actual hole in the middle of it; a Moroccan coin featuring King Hassan II, who loved golf, wore golf gloves on both hands, and was accompanied during golf rounds by a servant whose only job was to use a pair of silver tongs to hold the king’s cigarette while swung; a one-something coin from Dubai, which I often use when I absolutely have to one-putt; a big old Mexican coin with some guy on it; a Colombian coin featuring what appear to me to be balls, holes, and “aiming chutes.”

When I wrote about (a slightly different selection of) lucky ball markers, last year, I said that when I used a coin with a guy’s head on it I aimed the top the head at the hole. Michael Clark, a reader, wrote to say that, on the final day of a three-day-tournament at his club, he had discovered a better way. “The eyes of the coin had to be looking at the hole,” he wrote. “When the eyes lined up to the hole the putts were dropping! Also, it had to be the same coin. So, if the coin has eyes, line them up!” Since then, I have field-tested Clark’s method, and adopted it.

Morefar green repair tool

The photo above is of what is probably the luckiest green-repair tool I’ve ever owned. I got it at a super-secretive golf club called Morefar Back O’ Beyond, which straddles the border between Danbury, Connecticut, and Brewster, New York.

The course on the left is Morefar. The course on the right is Richter Park, which is owned by the city of Danbury, Connecticut, and is one of the best munys in the country.

The course on the left is Morefar. The course on the right is Richter Park, which is owned by the city of Danbury, Connecticut, and is one of the best munys in the country.

Morefar

Morefar used to be owned by the disgraced insurance company A.I.G. I played there a dozen years ago as the guest of one of the club’s handful of local members. Only a tiny number of golfers are allowed out each day, and the only other group on the course on the day we were there was that of the Sultan of Brunei, who teed off before we did. He and his retinue were almost comically slow, but, it turns out, you don’t play through the Sultan of Brunei. On an airplane recently, I saw a guy (in first class) who had a Morefar attaché case in his lap. I gave him the secret sign of brotherhood (by showing him my green-repair tool) as I walked past him on my way to the back of the plane, but he cut me dead.

coppertone

The item above is roll-on sunscreen, which I use as “lip balm.” The tube is at least half again as big as a ChapStick tube, and the stuff is waterproof. It’s especially handy in cold weather and in wind. I don’t carry ordinary sunscreen in my golf bag because I don’t believe in applying sunscreen in situ. I once told someone that if I ever ran for President my platform would have just three planks. I don’t recall what the first two were, but the third was that everyone would have to put on their sunscreen at home, before they went to the golf course, the swimming pool, or wherever. Sunscreen is much easier to apply when you aren’t wearing clothes, and it works better if it’s had some time to soak in. When I see young parents at the beach trying to squirt sunscreen onto squirming, uncooperative children, I think: “An hour ago, your children were naked and not covered with sand; why didn’t you think of doing this then? When I’m the President, we’ll have no more of this nonsense.”

Several readers have sent me descriptions of what’s in their own bag. As promised, I will soon create a new section and post several of them permanently. If you’d like to add your own bag to the pile, send an email to myusualgame@gmail.com. Include a golf-related description of yourself and at least one or two photos of your golf stuff.

(Read Part One and Part Two.)

What's In My Bag?

What’s In My Bag?

The Best Way to Watch the Ryder Cup

No, that’s not a medical office building. It’s the premium grandstand beside the eighteenth green at the 1993 Ryder Cup, which was held at The Belfry, in England.

The best way to watch almost any golf tournament is on TV. That’s especially true of the Ryder Cup, because at any moment there’s hardly anything going on. I’ve been to just one Ryder Cup in person—in 1993, on the Brabazon course at The Belfry, in England—and it was a spectator’s nightmare. The most coveted seats, initially, were in an enclosed multistory grandstand beside the eighteenth green, and people who had passes for it began arriving long before the first match teed off. They then waited for almost twelve hours with nothing to watch except one another getting drunk, because on the first day only one of the eight matches—the afternoon four-ball between Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie, for the Europeans, and Paul Azinger and Fred Couples, for the United States—made it to the eighteenth hole.

The Belfry, like most of the courses where the Europeans hold the Ryder Cup, is a dud. The nicest thing that Ron Whitten could find to say about it, in Golf Digest’s 1993 Ryder Cup preview, was that its blandness would prevent it from intruding on the golf—perhaps the faintest possible praise for a championship layout. It’s also the opposite of a stadium course. There are no hillsides or mounds for spectators to stand on, and in 1993 the trees  were way too small to climb. I saw one man standing on a paint can, which he had somehow smuggled past the guards at the gate, and I saw many people standing on small stools, also smuggled. Because the viewing opportunities were so meager, there were crowds surrounding the few available television sets. There was one in the Lloyd’s pharmacy tent, and one in the exhibition tent, and one in a rowdy refreshment tent near the tenth fairway. Medinah Country Club is far more spectator-friendly, but if you’re watching from home you should still count yourself lucky.

You should also be grateful that the broadcast isn’t being handled by the BBC. In 1993, Tom Kite would be putting for eagle somewhere, but on the screen you would see Colin Montgomerie practicing a putt he had just missed, or Nick Faldo standing by his golf bag, chatting with his caddie. The camera operators couldn’t track balls in the air and had trouble finding them when they were on the ground. The producers would suddenly cut to Barry Lane, picking him up in mid-follow-through, and the sound equipment on the course looked like Second World War surplus. The BBC has improved since then, but not enough. In the TV Cup, the USA wins every time.