A Sudden Noise

I was in the yard the other day, praciticing Move 1 with a folding mirror.  It would, I often muse, be easy to dismiss the takeaway as a mystery of the universe.  But, determination is wonderfully oblivious.  In a full sweat I was doing takeaways in slow motion, over and over and over.  Out of nowhere, a loud noise stopped me cold.  It was the screech of an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus).  The Fish Hawk is a common fixture here on the Chesapeake.  Once, nearly extinct, today the birds are so common that they will make a nest on nearly any elevated horizontal platform near the water.  During the summer, they are ubiquitous.  A neighbor has a  platform nest about 300 yards away.  Their screeches are continuous all summer long.  You get to where you don’t hear them.

But, I heard this one.  Why?  It slowly dawned that I hadn’t heard one for a week.  So, I walked to the pier, 7-iron still in-hand to see this bird.  Perched high in a dead Red Oak, the victim of lightning, sat this lone bird.  He was a traveler.  Passing through from some place north, he was headed south when he dropped in to check out this creek.  We all have our internal and external calendars:  School starts back, Football starts, or the birds of summer leave.  Whatever we anchor it to, the seasons tell us they are changing.  This hawk had a message for me; “Fall is on top of you, son.”

Golf has been an odd lot this summer.  The void from the course closing down last winter hasn’t been completely filled.  The swing, although greatly improved, is not ready for prime time.  The work on it is continuous, and pleasant.   The “learnings” come frequently.  But, there are miles to go.  The fault lies not in RST, but in years of building, and reinforcing a really bad move.  RST is an exercise in building.  What a joy it would be to build on bare ground.  Still, the days on the links with the wife and friends are the best of times.  There are more good shots, less bad ones, and the error band has shrunk tremendously.   Online lessons with Al have been awesome.  Time and patience and persistence are the orders of the day.  Winter will give the opportunity to improve.  In some ways, I’m looking forward to it like never before.

The hawk started screeching again, shaking me from my drifting.  Way off in the sky was a dot that was no doubt another Osprey.  My creek visitor screamed for his buddy to come down and visit this new place with him.  Within a minute, the dot was overhead and circling.  The two talked to each other in their high-pitched and penetrating voices.  It was summer all over again for a few minutes.  But, the tilt of the earth and the photo-period were not to be denied.  South America was a long ways off.  The Osprey in the tree grew more restless until it jumped and flew up to be with his southbound kin.  I watched them head relentlessly south until the dots on the horizon disappeared.   With them, they took summer.

Venus was starting to show.  There were mere minutes left of daylight.  Time enough to get in a few more reps in front of the mirror.

Of Father’s Day and Golf

Numerous times today the broadcasters at the US Open will discuss golf and Father’s Day.  In the collective national memory, we are supposed to have many fond memories of schlepping around the course with Dear Old Dad.  Of course, that’s not the case for all of us.  I only have one.

Pop has been gone for 20 years.  I came late in life to him.  He was truly the product of a different age.  As a young boy he went to the Train Depot to watch Uncle George and the Upper Marlboro contingent of the Doughboys come home from the Great War.  So he was there for the Depression, and the Second World War, and all the manifestations of the Cold War that followed.  Saturdays weren’t meant for golf.  They were meant for the farm.  I didn’t find golf until my Navy years.

Home on Leave from the submarine one day I was headed to the course.  The Old Man looked up and asked where I was going.  When I told him he asked if he could come.  “Sure.”  It was more shock than anything.  He never seemed to approve.  Men who lived through the Depression tended to take a dim view of leisure.  He was no exception.  But, he was interested.  So he walked the course with me.  Twin Shields was the name of the course.  It’s one of those courses that used to be fairly common; privately-owned, downscale, and a couple of notches above muni.  It’s still there, celebrating 40 years of business despite the annual rumor ritual that it will be sold for development.         http://www.twinshields.com/history.html

The wife and I were walking that course last week at twilight.  June 14’th was the anniversary of Pop’s passing.  Walking the course I found myself drifting back to that one day.  When we were on the back, away from everyone he asked for a club.  I tossed a ball on the ground.  He took a swing with that old 7-iron and hit it fairly straight for about 100 yards.  He handed back the club with a big, toothy grin:  “I could see where this would be fun.”  There wasn’t a lot of chatter.  But, walking up Eighteen he unexpectedly put his hand on my shoulder: “You need to stay with golf, Son.  It looks good on you.”

Of course, I didn’t listen.  The new bride was not a fan.  Golf went on the shelf for a number of years until SHE got bit by the bug.  Life comes full circle sometimes through unforseen avenues.  Walking up Eighteen with her the other day towards sunset against broken sky it was impossible to forget that day with the Old Man long ago.  It was a golf memory; singular.  But, it was one to remember.

Happy Father’s Day to all of you out there.

Late Winter

I came home from night work late one day last week.  Daylight had broken.  It was cold.  Bitter.  A North wind was blowing down straight from the Arctic.  The bare trees moaned under the assault.  It was early March and winter was still in control.   Our little creek was still frozen as it had been since before Christmas.  There have been breaks and flaws.  There was even a complete melt.  But, it only lasted a day or so.

Something caught my eye off to the left.  It was a Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) standing on the ice up near the lee offered by some battered marsh grass.  The elegant bird was huddled, scrunched into a compact oblong statuette.  Facing straight into the wind he stared unfazed.  Somewhere out to the North was the tale end of this infernal, biting wind.  He stared as if he was intent to find it.  Always wary, he saw me.  His head barely turned, though.  The lee from the wind was too valuable to give up.  He went back to his important work of waiting and conserving energy.  He was going to look into that wind until some ice melted and he could go on with life.

There was something familiar in the bird.  I could relate.  Golf winter started with the unexpected closing of my Course.  I hadn’t played golf except at the Clinic since.  Golf itself was different.  RS 2.0 was a matter of conversion, learning, and “Neuromuscular Re-education.”  The Clinic was followed by a month of Alison’s exer-gyrations and medicine ball swings.  I didn’t hit a ball for a month before Florida.  I hadn’t hit one in the month after.  One thing was for sure: The golf year was going to be different in many respects.

I looked at the bird one last time before heading in for bed.  He and I were both staring North.  Looking for the end of the cold wind.  Both wondering what it would bring.

Aeschylus would have been proud

It’s been three weeks since the jolt came about my golf club closing.  Enough time for some of the film to develop.  Enough time for some prospecting for a new course.  Enough time to get really, really mad and then cool down.  And, enough time to realize I had witnessed a Greek tragedy up close and personal.

On Monday, December 1’st the course was open and running when the CPA for the course entered the Pro Shop at nine in the morning and declared that it was closing immediately.  The Assistant Pro looked up to see a locksmith changing the locks on the front door.  People on the course were allowed to finish their rounds.  Staff members not at the course were called at home and told not to report to work.  The Head Pro was told to e-mail the members that the course was closing and told to leave with two-weeks of severance.

By Friday, the course was stripped.  All the markers, driving range dividers, everything…gone.  There was a four-hour period to buy out the pro shop.  70% off of everything.  No special consideration for members.  There were 50 people there.  I recognized, maybe, five or six.  Seagulls swooping in for cheap gear.  It was a sad chore to stay there and witness it.  I waited in line for an hour and a half to buy a few things…mostly logo items.  The whole time, this gorgeous course, in pristine shape, and full of memories was right outside the window.  On the porch was the maintenance crew.  The Superintendent was being retained to mow the grass at turf height through June so that it didn’t turn back into a field.  He was hugging his folks one-by-one.  I remember the smile on the face of his Assistant.  They had done a great job over the years.  And, they had just finished a tough chore in stripping the course.  It was the last time I’d ever see the Assistant.  He passed away four days later from a heart attack.

Since then, they’ve sold off all the equipment, carts, tables…you name it.   A General Manager at one club told me that if I joined, I’d recognize the yardage plates.  He had bought them from my old course.  Nothing left behind.  Not even the lights in the parking lot.

The great Greek Tragedy playwrights would have nodded in appreciation.  Sophocles, Euripides, and Aeschylus would have been hard-pressed to do better.

Life moves on, however.  The search for a new course continues…

A Death in the Family (sort of)

I received an e-mail on Monday from the Head Pro at our home course.   The title was one word, “Closing.”   With all the suddenness of an accident our course had closed, effective immediately.    No warning.  Gone.

The principal owner died.  The partners said, “Close it.”

It’s a tough pill to swallow.  This was a course that fit.  It was a walker’s course, strictly golf, no houses or swimming pools, fabulous conditions, wonderful Staff, and the best greens in the area.   Over time it came to be a sort of home.  It spoiled us.  And we knew it.  We’d travel to some up-scale coure and critique it to death on the way home:  “It was good.  But, it ain’t Upland.”

Golf course ownership is a tough gig now according to An August piece in the WASHINGTON POST:  golf-course-communities We interact with the Pros and Staff without really seeing the financials and the real power behind that front.   A few years ago, a lot of courses were worth more as housing developments.  Today, new-construction housing is dead.  My course was a soybean field that received millions of dollars of infrastructure.  There’s simply no demand for it in its current state as a pristine golf course.  And, it won’t make for much a bean field anymore.  It’s caught in some Rod Serling-esque Twilight Zone.

Working through the mourning stages, Acceptance feels a ways away.  But, the world moves on and these are tough times.  The e-mail box is suddenly full of offers from courses in the area looking for new members.  We’ll find one and move on.  No doubt, it’ll be good.  But, it won’t be Upland.


“The Geese is Here.”

Growing up I spent most of my late summers cutting tobacco in the fiels of Southern Maryland.  It’s an industry consigned to History now.  But, it was a big industry at the time.  “Housing” tobacco was as much a cultural touchstone as it was an economic pursuit.  And, oh Brother, was it ever hard work.  One particularly hot day I was spearing plants alongside a great, big, strapping powerhouse of a man inprobably named George Washington.  He could out-work any three other people.  He’s long-gone now.  Cancer.  But, I remember talking to him that one day in particular.  It was just one of those stifling high heat, humidity, no-wind killers.  “George Washington, I cannot wait for fall and get away from this heat.  Fall’s my favorite time of year.  I like it better than the other three.”  “Mista’ Ray, they ain’t but two times of da’ year:  The geese is here, and the geese is gone.”

This week, “…the geese is here. ”   Here in Chesapeake country, the geese come in the big numbers on the Hunter’s Moon, the full moon of October.  These aren’t the nuissance “Resident Birds” that so many golf courses seem to be clueless about…that soil up greens and get under foot.  These are the migrators…”Nothers” we call them.  And, they’re back here in big numbers again.  My home course is dead in the middle of a dense concentration of them.  But, birds don’t sit on the ponds there.  The Superintendent has a dog that he takes to whichever pond as soon as birds settle down.  Dog chases geese…geese leave pond.  But, they fly overhead much of the day trading from water to field.

Their sights and sounds add much to days of golf during the cold months.  It’s a rare day that birds aren’t over head.   They become part and parcel of the golfing experience.  A wonderful bit of background, if you will.  Here at the house, the West River supports a fair number.  Sneaking in some swings in the yard after work, their sound is a pleasant break from the jargon of work.

This week, they’ve come back.  It’s great to see them as we work into long-pants, long-sleeve golf.  Soon, they’ll blend into the background and will be just a part of the equation.  The only thing louder than their plaintive cries is the silence they leave behind when they go North in the spring.   Much like the birds, there are two golf seasons.  This colder version has its own solitary charm.  Days afield are more rare, precious somehow, and in some ways more satisfying.  “Getting in the round” is often the primary goal.  Hours outside, with friends, chasing a pursuit, against odds to a point, and with the beautiful noise of the geese for company.  It’s golf, if not at its best, then certainly at a uniquely fine level.

George knew what he was talking about.

The Agony of Da’ Feet

    “Tight Shoes is a Mutha’ (Lover), Jack.  Ain’t nothin’ worse than tight shoes.  You wouldn’t never have to torture me.  Put me in tight shoes, and in twenty minutes I’d confess to anything.”  Richard Pryor

     I enaged in an annual golf ritual over the weekend that I hate above all others: Buying a new pair of golf shoes.  Some of you are wondering, “What’s so tough about that?”  All I can say back is, “You don’t have these dogs.”  They’re 10&1/2-Double E and finding shoes that fit is never much fun. 

    But, over the years, certain models and makes have emerged.  I can walk into a New Balance store and buy their gray running shoes model 900-something and they always fit.  Clark has a shoe called “The Tracker.”  In 10.5-wide, that baby is money.  Golf shoes are different.  Models stay on the market for as long as Tulips flower.  Here today, gone this afternoon.  Of course, I don’t make this any easier by eliminating many possibilities.  I walk the course if at all possible…At the end of the day, at least I can claim to have gotten some exercise.  I won’t buy tennis-type shoes…the usual course has “drainage issues”…ok, it’s a “mudball.”  And, the colors are fairly limited, black, brown, or some combination of the two.  I know white shoes are fairly standard.  But, I can’t help but think they’re best reserved for cute nurses…and, even if, they’d be mudballs on that course.  Then there is the whole genre of white/whatever saddle shoes.  This is where life experiences scar the child for life.  I went to an All-Boys Catholic High School a few miles away from the All-Girls Catholic High School.  Guess what the girls wore?  Oh, yeah, white/black saddle shoes.  We’d go over there when they were dismissed for the day in what was affectionately named, “Cattle Call.”  The Kid?   He ain’t wearin’ no Saddle Shoes!  He ain’t wearin’ no plaid kilt either!

  So, into the store we go.  It’s a ritual.  Grab every model and make in 10&1/2 Wide.  Sales Clerk is staring: “Can I help you?”  “Well, frankly, no…this is a procedure.”  Puzzled look: “Let me know if you need anything.”  Find one that has the least amount of “Hot Spots.”  Nothing fits everywhere on the foot.  Of course, Nike made a shoe for a half an hour that did.  It was the SP-5.  Nike was famous in running circles for making a narrow shoe.  The SP-5 was a mistake that felt like a million bucks right out of the box.  They discontinued it only after making various sequel models that narrowed the shoe right off of my foot.  Had I known…

  After three pairs, I had one on my left foot that felt promising.  It was brown, but the one on my right was a white/black saddle shoe (the store was empty, thank God) that was the right size.  “I could order that baby online if…”  The wife walked around the corner: “That’s an interesting pair.”  “I’m looking for my brighter side.”  New Sales Clerk shows up, “Can I help you?”  “Not unless you’re licensed by the State to practice Psychiatry.”  Concerned stare: “Let me know if you need anything.” 

  Right about then, I remembered Bob the Bootfitter.  In my skiing days, I never had a pair of boots that fit.  I stumbled into Ski Chalet over in Arlington one day and got caught looking wistfully at a pair of boots.  Having usually a set of bruises on the lower legs and feet to show for a day’s skiing, new and shiny boots always had a certain appeal.  A Sales Clerk pounced.  “No, no, I’m sure you have great fitters here in the store.  But, these feet…”  “Sir, we have Bob the Bootfitter…and Bob is a Wizard.”  Well, I’d never even met a certified wizard before.  So, what the heck?  Bob, it turned out was a very nice, bald, bespectacled gentleman who took some measurements on my feet…lots of measurements.  Then he simply took them in his hands one at a time.  Getting a little nervous, “Hey, Bob the Wizard, could you turn those puppies into 11D’s while you’re there?”  He grinned, scratched his head and left.  Out he comes in a few minutes with a sheet of paper: “If you want boots that will fit, you have to go to Salt Lake City, Utah and see the boys out at Daleboot.  They’ll thermoset a boot to your foot.”  “But, I thought you were the wizard.”  “I don’t have enough magic in me to fit those feet.”  The next season, I did what he suggested.  The boys at Daleboot knew what they were doing.  Too bad they don’t make golf shoes.

   So, now I’m on pair number ten.  The one on my left foot has been there an hour.  Nothing is numb yet.  I’m hopeful.  The third Sales Clerk arrives: “Do you need help?”  “Do you have a bottle with a Tax Stamp on the neck you’d be wiling to share?”  Puzzlement: “Call me if you need anything.”  I commit to putting the right shoe of the pair on just in time to see the wife round the corner:

“There’s nothing in here I want.  I’ll be next door when you’re done.” 

“What’s next door?” 

“A furniture store.” 

“You know what?  These shoes are ‘it.'” 

   Maybe they are.  I’ll break them in and hope that the best part of the coming golf days is not the part where I get to take off the golf shoes at the end of the day.  We’ll see.  At least the ritual is over for another year.  Now, if that “Gorilla Glue” will hold on those old SP-5’s for just a little bit…

How Slow Can You Go?

That was the question my playing partner and I were asking last Saturday.  It was a marginal golf day here in Maryland: 42 or 43 degrees with a Northwest wind of about 6 to 10 knots…enough to remind you that you were living.  There couldn’t have been more than 20 people on the course. 


The two of us were walking.  The Clubhouse Pro told us we had at least three open holes ahead of us when we started.  Sure enough, though, we caught up to the group ahead on Number 7.  Four guys in two carts with combined handicap (if they kept handicaps) of about 120.  They were hitting left and hitting right, but mostly hitting short.  And, that was all well and good…but, they wouldn’t let us through. 


So, standing on number 10 tee box, we waited fifteen minutes for them to scurry around like so many water bugs until we could hit.  “Let’s pick up our fairway balls and go to 11.”  We passed them on the green at 10 and wave.  Hard stares came back. 


“Well, at least we’re by them.”  Not quite.  12 and 13 have fairways that adjoin.  I’m over my tee ball on 13 when my partner stops me.  Here comes one of their carts into my fairway.  We’re waving, they’re ignoring.  And the whole time, they’re walking around.  Ten minutes.  Then they leave the cart behind and return to their fairway.  We look through the trees and there are three groups bunched up behind these guys.  Twenty people on the course and we were all together.


Finally, we got to hit and move on.  But, it does make one wonder what in the world people think on a course.  I can understand not being able to play well.  But, to take the carts, ride hither and yon, and then just gum up the flow…that makes no sense.  Playing 7, 8, 9, half of 10 and waiting on 13 took almost 2 hours.  What should have been a sub-four hour round took over five.  And, it was too chilly for all that waiting. 


Golf rounds have definitely slowed down over time.  But, from what I can see, they’re going to get slower.

A Reminder

Today was one of those unique opportunities.  It’s a week of vacation.  (Don’t you just love “Use or Lose?”)  And, it was a bit of a “Throw-away” day.  There were no hard-and-fast plans.  Tommorrow we’re going to a very nice tract.  It’s a super golf course.  So today was a home day.  Just an opportunity to wake up late on a Monday and grin.

   The weather here has been busy.  This weekend, we had a Front blow through on Saturday.  Friday night it blew hard Southeast about 30 knots and rained about 2 inches.  Saturday, the wind went West and blew for all she was worth;  40-45 knots at times.  It blew all day yesterday as well.  This morning, it “broke clean” as the old Watermen used to say.  Clear-blue sky and no wind.

   Half way through coffee, it hit me.  I looked at the wife:  “It’s too pretty to not be on a golf course.”  I never have to twist her arm to get her out on the course.  Today was no exception.   The local course is an old Parkland layout through the trees.  It’s agronomically-challenged on a fairly chronic basis.  But, with gums and maples in full color, it’s a mighty pretty tract.    

  This just turned into one of those days that ends too fast.  “Indian Summer” they call it.  A last chance to wear short sleeves while ticking off the list of “Winterizing” that remains.  For today, at least, they will keep.  Part-way through the round, I hit a bad shot.  Maybe in the height of summer, I’d have given out a bit of a groan.  Today the line was, “Aw, Man, I could be at a meeting.”  We both laughed out loud. 

  Somehow in the rhythm that is golf, where improvement and achievement predominate, we don’t get lots of reminders of why we’re there in the first place.  Under a crystal-clear blue sky in the middle of yellow/red-lined fairways one gets to have that good walk that Mark Twain said was “spoiled.”  That man was simply not a golfer.

   Days like this go too quickly.  Blooms don’t stay on roses but for a short time.  That knowledge is what helps make their scent so sweet.



One Tight Tee Ball

  My regular foursome plays one course that has a particularly tough par-5.  Most 5-pars have some room for error.  Not this one.   It’s only 543 yards, but, it’s a three-shot hole.  Three good shots, that is.

  The last time we were there, this hole kicked us all.  In the odd way that golf does things, this hole sits near the entrance.  Driving in, one of the players looked out at it and said, “I’ve got something for you today, Sweetie.”  I didn’t repeat it.  That didn’t mean the thought was absent. 

  A couple of hours later I’m trudging up the steep hill to look out on this hole.  I could see it in my mind before I got there, though.  The fairway appears through a gash in the woods.  “When they built the place, this was a good bit wider” my colleague said.  It can’t be 12-yards wide.  A ball right is dead in the woods.  To the left are more woods in the form of a lateral hazard.  Straight ahead, about where a Driver would land is a bunker, with water just beyond that.  Hit is dead straight at 240 and the fairway lays straight ahead…water on the left, a ski-slope hill with 4″ fescue on the right.  At it’s narrowest, it’s 11-paces wide.   Hit it 220 and that second shot goes blind.  Up ahead, if all goes well is a six-iron into a green guarded on three-sides after carrying water.  Par is a very good score.  I was still looking for it Saturday after about a half-dozen attempts in the last two years.

  By the time I got to the top of this hill I had told myself one thing: “Look at where this thing is going to land.  Ignore the trees.  Ignore the bunker.  Ignore the 15 knots of Northwest wind in your face.”  Still huffing and puffing a little I put the tee in the ground.  Took one practice swing.  Went through my address procedure.  And, then stared at that landing spot…for more than a few seconds.  With that I ripped off a frozen rope three-wood right down the pipe.  In flight it was a beautiful study of light and tree shadows headed out towards the bunker and pond. 

  It was then I noticed the whole picture: That was one narrow, little chute. 

  Walking down the hill towards the fairway my partner said, “Man, that’s one tight tee-ball.”  “Oh really?”  I replied.  “I hadn’t noticed.”

The Iceman Retuneth

(With apologies to Eugene O’Neill)

There are messages that arrive from time to time that demand attention. Today came one of them:



317 PM EDT THU OCT 12 2006









The Mid-Atlantic is a more than a bit schizophrenic when it comes to weather.

The British military in World War II declared Washington, DC to be in the “Tropical District.” There are more than

a few pictures of British Naval Officers, touring the Capitol grounds in their impossibly white shorts,

impossibly creased white shirts, and the inexplicable Pith Helmet. Anyone venturing about town in August would

be hard-pressed to argue the Admiralty on their assessment.

Winter is less a season than it is a ragged, vagary six weeks. It moves from year to year. Much to the

chagrin of local meteorologists, it can start on Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or even Washington’s Birthday.

It isn’t a proper winter. People don’t build fishing huts on the ice. Some years there is no ice. Some years

one could drive on it. What precedes and follows winter is a leafless, cold and brown period of reduced

sunlight and very marginal golf. It arrived this evening at 6:38 p.m. on the back of black, scudding clouds

cinched down tightly with one hand on the rope, the other high overhead and riding a Northwest wind for all

it was worth. Notice was served. It was here for a visit. It would be back for real very soon.

Fall is the period here of highly mixed emotions. There is the delivery of truly the best golf the region can

offer. Cool days and colorful leaves on tracts that have grown out since aerification and over-seeding are the

highlight of the golfing year. After a summer of voracious mosquitoes and full-body sweats that started a week

ago, a day on the links in long pants and a sweater vest is a form of materialized dream. In the way that

is life, this yin is set against the yang of ennui. The leaves falling in but a few precious weeks will mark yet

another passage. Dreams and aspirations don’t always materialize. The trip into winter is a tough one on the

addicted golfer. There are dead dreams to bury.

“The lie of the pipe dream is what gives life to the whole misbegotten mad lot of us, drunk or sober.”

Eugene O’Neill-The Iceman Cometh

Golf is unique among sports for a variety of reasons:

§ It’s one of the few sports where one can improve beyond middle age.
§ It’s one of the very few sports where improvement effort does not routinely translate into

improved performance.

§ And, it’s probably the only sport that is completely counter-intuitive.

The winter, then, becomes a time to digest those truths and balance them against the dreams.

A very marketing-wise teaching golf professional stood on a television set last winter and declared

that Northern golfers have an innate advantage over Floridians: Northeners have winter. Ostensibly, his

fortunate Northern students would work on swing changes; flexibility, weight loss, and muscle tone while

his irresponsible Floridian pupils would simply play golf at every wisp of a turn and not improve. He didn’t

bat an eyelash, didn’t have a hair out of place, and was standing arm-to-arm next to Kelly Tilghman.

I had been shoveling snow all day from one of our freakish snow storms. How the TV survived the

evening is still a mystery.

Still, hope is the essence of the equation. In a few weeks, the departure and return from work will

be in darkness. I’ll be fighting for a spot on the machines at the gym, performing Professor Hayes’

“Body Rotation Experiment,” and watching Fred Couples win yet more money playing Silly Golf in some

irrigated desert. Golf outings will be an odd mix predominated by finding the right clothes to wear, all the

while keeping one eye on an irascible sky with the other on the hand-warmer supply. In the end,

“Winter Golf” is a bit of an oxymoron.

Pipe dreams or no, spring will return as well. Borne on the heels of a warm Southern breeze over

courageous Crocuses, it will come as softly as winter arrives loudly. Lost somehow in the excitement

of the new season will be the retrospective that is so inescapable in the fall. Tonight, with the windows

moving a bit in the casings against the first “Blue Norther,” one set of dreams dies only to be replaced

by new ones. Crocuses, put in the ground only this week, wait for their turn to judge the winter’s solitary efforts.

Woodrow Wilson, himself a golfer, understood this and has the last word. Welcome back, Iceman.

“We grow great by dreams. All big men are dreamers. They see things in the soft haze of a

spring day or in the red fire of a long winter’s evening. Some of us let these great dreams die,

but others nourish and protect them; nurse them through bad days till they bring them to the

sunshine and light which comes always to those who sincerely hope that their dreams will come true.”

The most important shot in golf is…

…Well, there are some options here:

-The Putt.  We all know you drive for show, but putt for dough.  Dave Pelz says that the 50-50 line for a putt is somewhere around six feet out.  And even a three-footer isn’t automatic.  So, if a putt is longer than three feet, success looks like leaving it inside a 3-foot radius circle.  Hmmmn.  

But, there’s the drive:

-In a moment of rare clarity I muttered something once that “It’s hard to scream with the Eagles and chirp with the Birdies when you’re in the woods scratching with the squirrels looking for your tee ball.”   I think I was taking stock of Chigger bites after attempting to find Robin Hood, err…tee balls all day. 

-Of course, there’s the approach.  But, it turns out the pros miss a third of those on average.  Nonetheless, it’s hard to make Birdie putts from the bunker.

-It can’t be a sand shot…how many of those can one have in a round?  Ok, how many SHOULD one have in a round.  More than four? 

-Which leads to my candidate: The Chip.

I had a good round the other day on a tough tract in the rain and the wind and on purely saturated ground.  Greens were still fast, though.  Hit only 5 greens and shot an 80.  Six out of eight chips were gimmes.  27 putts.  It literally made the round.  75% is the number I see for Tour Pros on those shots.  I’m not sure I’ve ever had 75% success on chips before…but, I could get used to it in a hurry. 

In fact, I’ve been a dreadful chipper of the ball for years.  So much so that I talked Chuck into using me for the guinea pig at the Williamsburg Clinic.  It’s slowly gotten better.  But, last Saturday was the breakthrough…or at least a welcomed spike in performance. 

The approach was simple: “See the shot, make sure to turn.  (as opposed to wristing it)”  I wouldn’t chip it until I ‘saw’ it.  The two I missed were because the ball reacted differently than I thought it would, but the ball and flight were right where I wanted them.  That’s golf.  I made notes in case I run into those shots again. 

One of Chuck’s videos talks about a “no-brainer chip.”  I never had one of those until last Saturday.  Literally “No-brain.”  See it, Chip it…score.  Just like putting.

Best Ball Tournament

My very eclectic team played in an annual charity “Best Ball” tournament last Friday.  This is a highlight of the golf year as it’s always a lot of fun.  Last year we came in third place out of 36 teams.  This year, we were going to win. 

Tropical Storm Ernesto had been through the area a week before and left us with almost a foot of rain.  This course, which is one of the few Bermuda tracts up this way was long and waterlogged.  And, as seems to be the case more and more up this way, the greens were not good at all.  Summer seems to tear up the Bent greens with fungus. 

The team drove beautifully all day, but the approach shots were not up to snuff.  Inevitably the balls were coming up short.  I’d put the ball back a bit, but it didn’t seem to help. 

In retrospect, what I should have done was try to “Shallow” out the swing into more of a sweep.  What I ended up doing was taking enormous Ian Woosnan-sized doormat divots while watching ballon balls settle on the front apron.  Very discouraging.  Tee balls on par 3’s were fine.  It was out of that wet, long bermuda fairway that was giving me and the team fits. 

  Nonetheless, the team made a fair jag of birdies.  The hardest part of a Super Ball tournament is that they last forever.  At the five-hour mark, after an early wake up and a long drive, the team just lost all its energy.  We could feel it and commented on it, but energy bars didn’t seem to fix the issue. 

  So we limped home with only one birdie on the last five holes.  62, which tied for third, two strokes off the lead.  Of course, we “Lost on the Card” as they say when you lose a tie-breaker.  It was a quiet drive home.  I thought the others were stewing until I looked around and saw they were all asleep.  Beers on the deck finished the afternoon.  All in all, a good day.  “Two lousy putts” was a common refrain. 

  But, we’ll get ’em next year.  You can put that in the book!