No. 11, the carnival hole -hey you, with the face!

The tree on the right of the frame blocks the approach to a green which is sunken and hidden from view. It is just taller than a 60 degree wedge’s ball flight, and snags and deflects balls into a pit below and to the right which is about 10 feet lower than the green. The green tilts away from the fairway making it very hard to stop a low shot. The best shot from the right is a fade with a mid iron which lands at the end of the fairway and rolls onto the green. Needless to say, you’d rather be left, but there is a long bunker and then a row of oaks. I love this hole because success is rare.

Truth or consequence

If life is a metaphor for golf, then all the pitfalls of adulthood are just bad lies, water hazards, and traps. To move forward, we have to get out of the trap, put the ball in the hole, and move on. Our golf score is the sum of the choices that we make on the course. Our life score is no different, and when it comes to life, most of us play with handicaps, and very precious few of us are scratch. 

Tiger’s win and my brain chemistry -too much of a good thing

You always hear people talking about great sporting events they witnessed on TV. I remember Reggie Jackson’s 3 home runs in the 1977 World Series, 1980 miracle on ice Olympics Hockey final, Nicklaus’ 1986 Masters victory, and Tiger’s 1997 Master’s, and last year’s Super Bowl. In fact, Tiger leads the list of things that have inspired me -his Pebble Beach Open, his first tournament win, his Hoylake win, and on and on. The funny thing is that I have become a bit numb to Tiger’s otherworldly greatness. Maybe it is because I am in medicine and can understand his pain and pathology. 

Bottom line is that we’ve seen Tiger do it too many times. It’s like having a regular table at the best restaurant in Manhattan -the extraordinary when it is too frequent, becomes ordinary. Tiger will now have to shoot consistently below 60 per round to impress me. Rocco, now that is impressive. That he could keep pace with a phenomena like Tiger is something that he’ll keep forever, but losing will stand out most in his mind, because he had too many chances to close it out. Even so, how could he?

A thoughtless round

I played today -with Dr. Lee who lives here in my parents’ development. Concentrating hard not to think -to empty myself of wants and desires, to be situationally aware and in the moment, I played 18 holes and notched an 88. I had one 3 putt. It would have been lower had it not been for a quadruple bogey on #3 where I perseverated on trying to smack a fading 6 iron. Even so, I had 6 pars including a sand up and down, and I missed 3 or four more pars by inches. 

I focussed on the process of picturing a shot or putt shape, club selection, wind direction, grip, address, stance, and a mindless swing (which is in there). I also picked up on the importance of rhythm. The ball contact was pure, the putts ended up closer to the hole, and the three putss were fewer. 
Now, to watch the playoff. 

"Thinking instead of acting is the number-one golf disease."

Sam Snead is the source of this quote. I played 18 today on my parent’s course, Summit Green, shot a 96. I hit 12 out of 18 in regulation, and 4 more were chip-ons. I was without any extraneous thoughts tee to green, but putting gets on my brain. I three putted just about everything, and even had a 5 putt! My conclusion is that putting is the one activity that challenges the brain, and the thinking interferes with execution. With the drive and approach, I choose a target line, choose a club, set up a draw or fade, and swing away. I’ve got to stop thinking…

You are the One, Neo

I just saw Tiger’s performance on prime time. He is injured, grimacing in pain with each stroke. Despite this, he makes eagle on 13, chips in for birdie on 17, and then eagles 18. We saw history, particularly if Tiger wins the Open and then retires because of a bum knee. This was like watching a Rocky movie, only without Tiger bellowing “Elin!!!” Maybe tomorrow…

It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing

I have put my 6 year old into golf camp. Not because I want him to play on the tour, which would be nice, but rather to get that good swing going at a young age. A sweet, fully rotated, classic golf swing is a beautiful thing to watch. I just finished watching Tiger, Phil, and Adam Scott finish their round, but the players I enjoy watching are the ball strikers. The sound golf swing is an efficient mechanism for launching the golf ball, and Trevor Immelman (youtube video) is one of the best. As a kid, I read Sam Snead’s golf primer which reduced the swing to very simple, basic elements, and I copied Fred Couple’s swing. What appealed to me was the appearance of minimal effort for maximal energy. After high school, I stopped playing and I took up the game again only three years ago after a nearly 20 year layoff. The swing was still there -unfortunately the pitching and putting wasn’t and I’ve been working on that.

Golfism dictates that the golfist bring new players to the game, and the most important thing to learn first is a sound, good looking swing, and this is easiest when you learn it as a kid.

Virtual fairways in the R.O.K.

In South Korea, there are too many golfers and not enough golf courses. A NY Times article (link here) shows the lengths that people are taking to get swing time. The vitual reality simulators are reportedly in high definition, which is generations beyond what I have seen in my town. Their surfaces tilt to the terrain of the course. There are birds and blades of grass. I saw a simulator at a PGA store in the Detroit airport, and the graphics were primitive compared to playing Tiger Woods 2008 on my Mac. 

I think what the article missed is how Koreans get into fads and how they love all things high tech. They have professional video game leagues which are televised and the top pro’s have rock star status. A top Warcraft pro makes 6 to 7 figures. 
Also, they are fanatical about golf. Most of them will take lessons and practice at a range (usually a lot with a high net visible for blocks around) until their form is perfect. I saw a fellow hitting perfect three irons off the range and when I chatted, he told me he had yet to play “on the field.” The usual reason is limited access to golf courses and unusually high costs. 
A golf outing in Korea involves someone who knows someone who can get a tee time at one of the publicly accessible courses. You have to show up with a foursome. There are no carts -they have crews of uniformed female caddies who size you up from the first tee and basically find the ball nearly all the time, and hand you the right club -no discussion. Rounds take about 5 hours and you end up at the clubhouse where you then take a schvitz in the sauna, hot tub, get a spa rub down, and then go and have a heavy meal with drinks. This all costs around 300 to 1000 per person. 
Here in the US, I can get on a course without calling ahead and basically have the course to myself, I am happy but also a bit distressed in that golf courses should be a little more crowded, and the players a bit younger. 

Golf is good for you!

America’s DNA rejects elitism. If you watched the animated feature, Ratatouille, it’s market appeal is through its anti-elitist stance. “Anyone can cook,” is the motto of Chef Gusteau. But look closely, and you see that it’s message is still elitist in its original sense: that the best qualities are in fact rare qualities that deserve to be celebrated. 


America’s political tapestry is fraught with this uneasy relationship with elitism. It walks hand in hand with America’s uneasiness with class. American political figures sublimate their blue blood and ivory tower schooling to avoid looking “out of touch.” George H.W. Bush looked titanically out of touch when he marvelled at grocery store bar code scanners -this was likely a generation gap issue, but out of touch with the common man (and woman) he looked. George W. Bush, despite the ichor and Yale/Harvard background, talks like an assistant manager at the Wal Mart in Plano and got a second term where his father failed. Both, by the way, are golfers. I don’t know if they are golfists. 


Golf is in siege mode because it is viewed as the sport of the elite, particularly when it applies to politics. In some corners, it fits the same bill as polo, fox hunting, and oil drilling. The fact remains, it is costly to maintain 18 verdant holes, to buy good equipment, and to get lessons during childhood (to get that good swing). The time it takes to play a round on a busy East Coast public course runs up to 5 hours, taking up a whole day. 


Golf is like whiskey -you mostly drink it in private, you don’t talk about it, and your moderate your consumption. The good stuff is basically out of reach of the average bloke, but there is plenty of cheap stuff to make it attainable. Bottom line though, it is a luxury, and fie on the fellow who imbibes daily. As a luxury, it is morally suspect to enjoy it too much. 


Golfism changes that. Read the USGA rules of golf and you see the New England Primer, the U.S. Constitution, and the Rule of St. Benedict: words that bring structure and order to a stochastic universe. Playing golf, then, is a celebration of a way of life. How can you live without it. If you can’t live without it, how can it be a luxury? Any way you look at it, a year of golf is cheaper than a year of Prozac and counseling, and better for you. How is that a luxury? Playing golf means you aren’t flirting with women who aren’t your wife, it means taking the time to think about the meaning of your life and your place in the world, and being a better person. 


On the course, you are a better man than you are off of it. You let people through. You report your sins and assign your own punishment. You keep a respectful silence as other people go about their business. You offer to share your cigars. If all of the world adhered to golf ettiquette, we would have none of the current mess we are in.