Etiquette–Doing is Being

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When my son turned 8, we enrolled him in an etiquette course at our country club. He was one of only two boys in that class, which had four times as many girls. Etiquette is as popular among boys, it seems, as ballet or gymnastics. So how is it that we teach our children, especially our boys, manners? In my experience in the Midwestern suburbs, for the presumptive future alpha males, it is through football that parents teach their boys how to behave in society.

The cult of football, which recently took a hit in the Penn State scandal, is very much the secular religion in the US, and its principles of individual sacrifice, self improvement, and group effort are laudable. The American ideals are poured into the public ethos of football. Much of America’s recent history can be viewed in a football context, explained in football metaphor, and historical events remembered like games and seasons. If you are a space alien needing education in American culture, you need only to review the past five Super Bowls’ worth of half-time shows and commercials. Football is America’s vernacular.

In watching an etiquette class, I realized that the forms and routines –how a table is laid out, how you approach the chair, which side the drinks are, which side is the meal served, what the utensils are for, etc., create the physical input to dial in behavior and ultimately etiquette. Dressing and behaving like a gentleman makes you a gentle man. Let me explain. The mind can be changed based on what you do physically. It has been shown that simply smiling increases the dopamine levels and changes your brain patterns to one that matches happiness. Yes. Smiling can make you happy.

The mind can be changed based on what you do physically… Smiling can make you happy.

Martial arts like Tae Kwon Do or Kung Fu focus a lot on forms –series of rote maneuvers that are memorized which to me as a student seemed tedious but retrospect have the effect of shaping the mind. Focusing on the forms of courtesy eventually makes you courteous. So where does football and football parenting leave us?

As far as I can tell, it teaches impressionable young boys how to dominate the weak. It confuses narcissism as self-esteem. By its nature, football cannot teach empathy, courtesy, or thoughtfulness. There is nothing wrong with this if your goals for a society are to create a core group of warrior that will fight wars, conquer nations, and pull down an eight figure salary in free agency. The unintended side effect is that you readily miss the opportunity to prevent the development of psychopathic bullies and date rapists. You only have to watch parents at football practice to understand why this is so. It is why figures like Tim Tebow are such an anomaly not only because he seems to outwardly practice courtesy, respect, and reverence. It is why Penn State was allowed to happen, because football is more important that a few little boys.

If you want to teach your child how to compete while being civilized, you can try etiquette lessons, but more practically, you can do no better than golf. The first section of the USGA Rules of Golf is focused on etiquette, but in fact, you teach your child important lessons by having them accompany you for a round on the cart. You learn to wait your turn staying respectfully silent. You learn to be timely and considerate of others in your group and in the groups ahead and behind you. You learn to be honest and to be your own referee. You learn to impose penalties on yourself for transgressions and be transparent about it. You learn to post your scores (like submitting tax returns when running for president). You learn to behave in a way that would make you proud and not ashamed.

As a nation, we need more mediocre golfers than we do washed out football players. We will be far better off for it.

The Eater of Golf Balls

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Steam rising from the beast

The HAC was played at the Tournament Club of Iowa (TCI -link). After 27 well fought holes, the South of Wilden crowd has won their first trophy in several decades. In my matches, paired with the stalwart MS, aka Cutter, we fought hard against our opponents, RT and TB, but driving accuracy, length, and good looks cannot match laser wedges and dropped twenty foot putts. My hat’s off to our opponents.

I have one comment to make about TCI. Designed by the inimitable Arnold Palmer, it is an anomaly in Iowa. Unlike much of Iowa which is flat as a tabletop, this area around Polk City above the dam is topographically more like the moderately hilly parts of Pennsylvania farm country. There are ravines and low buttes. Arnie, using his deep experience with golf as an instrument of pain, has created a monster that demands to be fed golf balls.

These are not subtle tricks of the light that cause golf balls to wink out into moderate rough like at Wakonda. No, its craters are like giant salad bowls filled with knee deep vegetation that swallow up those Titleists, Bridgestones, and Nikes like grains of table salt shaken into a green shag carpet.

Golf is about the mind. Each of us have fears that certain golf courses use to guide us away from our purpose of reaching the hole. I grew up playing golf in Florida, and I welcome water and sand. Florida, like Iowa, is usually flat, but water and beach sand are rare commodities here in Iowa and are usually my allies in matches against the land locked. Hills and elevation changes add a third dimension that I often find confounding on approaches, and the penalties of a lost ball are much higher than for water or sand.

But despite all this, everything is trumped by the ability to get the ball close and dropping that putt, and that is where I failed. It’s back to the lab.

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dropping putts is the whole point of golf

Updated Golf Transparency

GHINThe HAC, our neighborhood tournament, is coming up and to insure complete transparency in the handicap process, I again offer up my card. I have been struggling while I fix my short game using the books by Stan Utley available on Amazon. Occasionally, I will hit a pitch that defies all reason but it could be really really good or really really bad. I carry a 20 course handicap at Wakonda. The anomalous 76 taken under shamble/scramble/individual conditions was posted after some deliberation, again for the sake of transparency.

The HAC 2009 -and a breakthrough

montageThe 2009 HAC was played yesterday with the highest attendance ever. The teams were composed of an A, B, C, D level player and played on a 6/6/6 format of individual, shamble, and scramble format based on the difficulty of the hole. Waveland offered a challenging, classic layout and it was spiced up by a torrential downpour around midday.

waveland scorecard

My round of 76, with help from my team on the shambles and scrambles, was a bit of a revelation. I had six birdies, four of which occurred on an individual or shamble hole. I was playing in a different place with no fear or thought. I was possessed of a great awareness and presence, but had no definite perception of space or time. It was just ball and myself, and a pleasant time moving through the grass. Every component of my game was functioning, and even the triple and double bogies that occurred during the downpour were snap hooks out of bounds with a slippery grip, and I played after stroke and distance bogey and par on those holes. The putting was just simply perfectly dependable with an occasional long putt going in.

I hope this lasts through the rest of the season. I attribute some of this to a book I read the night before the tournament -Zen Golf: Mastering the Mental Game by Joseph Parent (link). Will keep you updated.

We won by the way, thanks to the efforts of MD, TB, and TW. Thanks to all!

Addendum: 8/16/2009

Here is the HAC trophy, also known as the Wedgie, sitting alone among my wife’s numerous tennis trophies.

SNC10525It is known as the wedgie for its features below:

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Golfshot GPS-a new program to rival View Ti Golf? -mini-blog update

IMG_0252While playing in the recent HAC, my good friend JN showed me his new iPhone 3GS which was pretty cool. What was even cooler was his golf round management system. It is an iPhone app called Golfshot which in terms of design and features matches up and exceeds View Ti on many counts. He showed me how each shot can be stored for statistical analysis, how yardages to different spots on the fairway can be graphically demonstrated along with distances for the next shot.

I downloaded the app and was immediately disappointed to see that Wakonda hadn’t been loaded. I went to their website (link), and requested the course. This requires taking a picture of your scorecard and emailing it to them, or as I did, scanning it and emailing it. The process is described on the website as requiring a week to map a new course, but to my pleasant surprise, I got an email within 24 hours that my course was now available.

What’s great was that all the tees were available -except for black which are the tips. I’ve emailed the support team. As with View Ti, I will post this review as a mini-blog -and I have a free weekend coming up!

August 1, 2009

Playing at Wakonda, I found it to be of limited utility as I make it a practice to know my own course. For this reason, View Ti Golf is rarely turned on as well. Yesterday, I was invited to play with WW at DMGCC, and this was the moment I was waiting for to try Golfshot -playing on a new or rarely played course. I also tried out the scoring and stats function.

The GPS accuracy is not too bad -no different from View Ti Golf. The one convenience is the little GPS status icon which goes from red (seeking) to green (satellite captured). With it green, it takes anywhere from 5-10 seconds to settle on a read, and it is very close to the pacing off fixed markers on the course.

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WW lines up his drive

On the tee -facing a blind shot over four bunkers, I really had no idea where or how far I needed to hit. The picture is to the right -the green was about twenty feet below on a dogleg right. It looked like I needed at least 200 to clear the bunkers, and a safe bailout to the left would probably leave me far away from the hole. Golfshot trumps View Ti in its graphics and interface particularly for planning approaches. I brought up the aerial view and moved the target bead to various trajectories over the bunker (below).

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Carrying the drive over the second bunker 250 yards would set me up very nicely. I aimed over the rightmost bunker and set up my draw which had been behaving most of the front nine and I clocked the drive and ended up on the left fairway about a 100 yards from the pin, setting up sand wedge approach from a downhill lie which i placed 10 feet from the pin. Unfortunately, I two putted for a par. The greens at DMGCC are all tricked out because the property is build on cornfields and feature false fronts and anatomically correct curvatures, apertures, nooks, and crannies.

The scorecard function works very nicely -I didn’t notice you can also log your tee off club, but the stats don’t lie -my drives worked well when I was controlling a mild draw, but failed when I blocked out and faded -a disaster when you’re set up for a draw. Also, some of the greens gave me fits and 3 and 4 putts put the nail in my coffin.

scorecardI was very impressed that finalizing the score resulted in an email of the scorecard to my inbox. One notable difference from View Ti is the GIR is autocalculated -if you two putt for a par, it is assumed you hit the green in regulation. It takes about 3 to 4 clicks to put in your scores and stats which is a real step up from View Ti Golf with their really awful X’s and O’s which only a professional caddy would love.

Other features, which I will expound on in later entries, include the distance of last shot feature -works okay but not if your call is interrupted by a phone call or if you leave the program to check email -not the programs fault but the way the iPhone OS is set up -something that they have to address in their next tablet, and listing of yardages to hazards and important landmarks -very useful.

In comparison to View Ti Golf, this program is very well thought out and clearly not a flurry of hurried addons and upgrades which View Ti Golf has been suffering from. I think View Ti Golf was the early leader, but Golfshot GPS trumps them in interface, utility tee to green, and in statistics which weren’t too difficult to track.

That being said, I do have to say that View Ti N’s no nonsense yardage to hole only feature at rock bottom pricing offers a cheap, functional alternative to both View Ti Golf and Golfshot GPS.

The only shoutout I have to both software houses is why with all the fancy GPS do I have to select the course that I am on. When I am on the first tee of DMGCC’s North Course, the iPhone has that information, but I still have to wait and get the list of “nearby courses” and then select the correct course. Also, the scores should be dumping into the USGA handicapping database along with course, slope, and handicap.

I like Golfshot GPS a lot. I think View Ti folks will have to seriously hunker down and change the way they record their courses to bring on the features that Golfshot GPS pwns even as they revamp the interface -a lot of geek work which will take about 6 months to a year.

August 11, 2009

Golfshot GPS proved its worth on this blind shot. number6 approachIt’s on number 6 at Wakonda, a longish par 4 made longer by moguls. The drive which nice and long set me in the valley behind a hill beyond which is another valley that collects approaches that are short of an elevated two tiered green. When the pin is on the left, upper tier, you have a 10 foot strip to land on or end up on deep rough to the left or on the lower tier to the right -both pretty much means double bogey is a good score. This tree blocked any high approaches and I needed to cut a medium length iron starting to the left, having the wind lift the ball and land it softly on the upper tier, but which club? The nearest marker was far away, and this is where Golfshot shined. After locating the pin from top of the hill, I was able to get a distance to all the possible hazards. IMG_0343This let me choose an 8 iron which when I open the blade goes about 133. I reckoned the pin to be about level with the ball. I hid a hard fading shot that avoided the limb but the wind didn’t cooperate and the shot went long and slightly left of my intended target. Being in the rough to the right meant a very delicate chip. It took me five more strokes to finish out the hole with a triple bogey. The club selection was correct, but the left to right wind in the face was not there.

The real strength of Golfshot GPS is in the scoring and stats department. It runs beautifully and well on my second generation iPhone. At the end of the round, I emailed myself the card for later analysis.

scorecardThis round revealed the problem that I need to address going into this weekend’s HAC tournament. My driving is very much off -I hit only 35% of fairways, and this resulted in a lot of needless scrambling. As I was playing by myself, I took unnecessary risks and mostly they did not pay off -I will decrease the risk reward spread by keeping triple bogey off my scorecard this weekend. I made 5 triple bogeys and three double bogeys -if they were merely bogeys, I would have shot 83. My short game was streaky. I have been working on chipping and putting and it has paid off in the two birdies I had -it’s been a while since I had two birds in one round.

Golfshot lets me identify my problem -that is my driver has to not duck hook and I have to work harder on my mid-irons. My putting has to be less aggressive in spots where bogey is better than double, and double is better than triple.

I’m really beginning to like this program primarily for the scoring.

Addendum: 8/16/2009

I used the program at Waveland yesterday during the HAC. The scorecard from that is in my HAC 2009 entry. There was a hole where the program really showed its usefulness. I sighted a blind uphill 165 yardish approach with both the yardage and trajectory to the trees behind the green which I could see from where I was. I squared up a 5-iron, put my shoulders in line with the slope of the hill, lined up on the tree that Golfshot predicted, and swung away after a final exhale. The shot which I did not see land, was reported to have landed in the front of the fringe and rolled up to 8 feet from the cup. I put this putt in for birdie.

The stats function is by far the coolest feature of Golfshot which works well with the flow of a round of golf, much better than View Ti, and the layout and graphics of the emailed scorecard speaks for itself. GPS on iPhone and basically in the US is only so-so accurate and it takes about 10-15 seconds to get a lock.

Battery usage wasn’t terrible -this while I was skimming the PGA tournament. BTW, it was a great weekend for golfers of Korean extraction. I got down to red by the end of the round, but never worried it would blinker out.

Addendum 8/19/2009

Played around with the stats segment. IMG_0424It goes to a mobile Safari link that shows you your stats broken down by major category and over 5 or 20 occurrences. For example, my driving accuracy is pretty mediocre at 36%. I miss more the the left (draw) than the right (blocked out). There is also GIR, Putting average, Recovery Performance, Scores by Par, and Scoring. I am happy to report I am averaging 1.9 putts per hole which has been my goal since beginning of summer. Scores by par tells me that I play bogey on par 3’s and 5’s, but tend to play slightly over bogey on par 4’s.

This is all very nicely presented in a tidy fashion. Golfshot keeps your database available over the web and on the iPhone -nice.

Golf Transparency -mid summer slump and the HAC Qualifier

handicapHave been playing crappy this summer except for a bright round of 91 at the Legacy in 15 mph winds with my neighbors. My index drifted up to 18 which is where I was last year after dipping to a low of 16.5.

I believe I am playing injured -my left hand knuckles are sore and the right wrist is tender and will have to dial back my swing. I believe it is a consequence of not playing enough golf.

The HAC qualifier was a lot of fun and I look forward to the HAC Open.

HAC played in rainstorm

MS twirled the low round on our team

MS twirled the low round on our team

The HAC event was played out at River Valley in Adel, Iowa. It is a gem that is privately owned by the original farmer (who is usually out on his tractor maintaining and will gladly stop for a chat). The weather was drizzly to monsoon downpour-ish.

We happy few

We happy few

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Me wearing a half a gallon of water

We pressed on knowing that without rain nor wind, it’s not golf (the original Scots is too barbaric for these pages). Everybody finished except for the fellows following us. After we clamored up to the 19th hole soaked to the bone (see picture below left), we were surprised to meet them happily imbibing and chatting. BK gave up on a back nine that found him 1 over through 6 holes, including an incredible series of chip-ins. They saw the rain and felt that it was not worth the trouble -there was lightning in the next county.  They were surprised to hear that we finished out, sitting drinking beers dry as kittens and grandmothers. We fought a good fight bringing it in with our heads up -I shot a 90 for the day which is great because of the conditions. The ball was rooster tailing on the greens. In the midst of the worst of the downpour, facing a 180 yard par three, being unable to see more than 3 feet ahead, I launched my 220 yard club in the general direction of the hole and made it center vector, on the fringe. Not seeing anything but the ball is a great experience. Overall a great half day off from work.

So who won? Does it matter? It was a randomized aggregate team best ball over clusters of 6 holes. Teams and post game accounting determined by Mr. A, who emerged victorious! Congratulations!

^o^

HAC tomorrow, and Wakonda Club Opens

IMG_0207Our match played among 20 of our esteemed neighbors is tomorrow afternoon. Its suppose to be fine weather. Game format and rules? -haven’t a clue. Too excited to start playing at all.

I have hit more practice balls this winter than all my previous years -here’s to hoping it paid off.

Wakonda Club opens with its newly resurfaced greens and fairways. Many old growth trees have been felled. I was at the practice tee this evening and it was a line of very happy golfists. Which lead me to think, what fine wives we have who let us enjoy this greatest of activities.

While golf marriages don’t have to be legalized, they really need to be recognized as a double plus good positive thing. When a friend fretted about playing on Friday, then Saturday, then putting in our matchplay event on Sunday morning, I pointed out that our dear club won’t be having such another grand reopening again for a long, long time, and so it would be cruel to have him not participate in what is surely an historic event. Deny that man golf, and he’s sure to start fantasizing about other women and Porsches.

High Expectations

IMG_0205There is a golfer who has written a book about breaking par (link) in the span of a year from a state of hack. I am a fan of windmill tilting, and I have preordered the book. The author is on Twitter probably by order of his publicist, but his genuine reticence to go full tilt shill convinced me of his genuine qualities.

I think for someone with a reasonable swing, going from bogey to par golf is an achievable goal if it is dissected as a process, much like making a good pot of coffee, a perfect pancake, or repairing a ruptured aneurysm. I fancy that I can make my swing work on occasion.

Of course, unlike the previously mentioned procedures, golf involves a great deal of emotional baggage. A round of golf can reveal emotional subtext like nothing else except for maybe Thanksgiving dinner with the family.

You see the flashes of perfection like the fluttering of angel wings at the periphery of your vision. The ball sometimes flies as if guided by Providence. These shots out of our dreams are glimpses of our better selves.

As much as I try to put bad shots out of my mind, I think the key to the next level is getting the good shots out of my mind -or at least the most recent good shot. I will concentrate on blocking out the past and on facing the present situation -it’s natural as breathing in my profession, so I must strive to apply it in my avocation.

If you double after a birdie, you’re still one over for two holes where typically you’d be two over, so what’s the problem? I think the birdie is as much the problem as the double bogey, and my goal for this year is to focus on the present -the address, the stance, the takeaway, the rhythm, the swing, the follow through, and keeping my head still. The cosmic injustice of double bogeys following birdies will have to be stowed away for discussion after the match.

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” -Master Yoda.

Competition is an integral part of golf. Keeping an accurate handicap is the only honorable way to level the playing field. I proudly carry my most recent handicap card and keep a USGA Rules of Golf in my bag. It also means competing with my neighbors in our annual HAC series of tournaments, and entering in the tournaments in my club. Will keep you posted.