A Year in Two Seasons



There are two seasons in a year, winter and golf. This past golf season just came to a close as the Wakonda Club and Des Moines Golf and Country Club covered their greens this past Monday. The season opened for me with cold rainy rounds at the Legacy GC where snow banks could still be seen in the rough. It took a miraculous 2 weeks to go from three feet of snow to lush green fairways and greens at Wakonda as the past three years’ investment in turf paid off. Despite the spring rains, the grounds crew somehow managed to groom the course into playable condition day after day. As the weather stabilized, the course blossomed in mid summer and Wakonda became a destination as it hosted multiple outings and events. What impressed me was how the course recovered after heavy usage. I credit this to favorable weather, knowledgeable members, and the grounds crew under Mr. Temme.

The weather mostly favored us in the latter summer and fall, creating a bumper crop of turf. The deep root systems, now several years old, allow for nearly instantaneous recovery if properly repaired. This is where the membership came through. Despite the unrepaired ball marks and unfilled divots after bouts of heavy play, the majority of members took it upon themselves to repair all the defects they came across and not just their own. Personal observation of the #10 green showed after an outing, the green had multiple unrepaired ball marks, which after a few days of play by membership and grooming by the grounds staff was basically tournament quality within several days. This was not possible in the older greens where heavily trafficked areas were susceptible to permanent damage requiring direct returfing.

This did nothing good for my handicap because the greens rolled very fast all season. At the Broadmoor for example, they were in the process of a yearlong grooming for the Ladies’ US Open next year, and this resulted in slower greens that I could hammer at –I shot an 86 there on the high course with no 3 putts, playing with three strangers who became good friends at the end. Wakonda gave no such quarter this year.

My favorite away-course this season? DMGCC –after many years, I am beginning to appreciate some of the lumpy bumps, and more importantly the friends I have to play a round with over there. This year included discovery of a no longer used set of Maruman irons in my dad’s garage. They are very light but launch the ball very high and long. Along with these came vintage Taylormade steel hybrids with the Raylor sole plate in 15 and 19 degrees. I have hit the 15 degree as far as my three wood on occasions but can land it with sore feet on long par threes. There really is no need to buy the latest and greatest but rather stick to what works. That said, my happiest moment came with my new set of Taylormade Burner irons, a birthday gift from my wife. I was 216 yards out on Wakonda #4 after fluffing the drive. After considering my choices, I had a great feeling about my 4 iron –I was on a slight downslope and there was wind at my back. I aimed left and set up for a smidge of fade. The pin was mid green to the left. I landed on the flat on the left of the fairway and the ball rolled on and came to a stop 2 feet from the cup. The shot of the year.

Golf manners, and a bit about DMGCC’s Pete Dye greens

Waiting for the faster group behind to play through

I was recently invited to play at Des Moines Golf and Country Club by my neighbor down the street. It was over the July 4th holiday, and I expected a crowded course, but rain kept everyone but the most serious golfers away. I played with JD, and we invited two other friends to join us, and the round was memorable for this.

A twosome came up to us on what had been an empty course, and we let them pass with a smile and wave. They thanked us, and played on with little delay, bothering us not at all. This little interaction speaks volumes about golf etiquette and why I’m so passionate about golf. Everyone there understood the rules and the conventions of play -the faster group is allowed to play through. When playing through, you understand that it’s a gift, and you play briskly and thank the group you’re playing through.

This is all taught, and universally understood. If only the world at large played in this way. It used to be that everyone went to the same schools and had a common civic culture that emphasized the importance of public life of the citizen. Then things became atomized and it’s difficult to find the same levels of socialization. Today, the country is split along socioeconomic class lines that make collective action for the public good difficult or in some cases impossible.

Life really is no different from golf -for a society to function well, there have to be not only laws but unwritten rules.

Addendum:

I am finally getting the Pete Dye greens. Where old line courses like Wakonda’s will have one general slope split by a secondary slope to the terrain, Dye placed topography creating miniature maps of mesas, plateaus, lowlands, and valleys so that two changes in slope will occur not within 30 feet which is typical of most courses, but within 5 to ten feet. He also emphasized the artificial organic -think avant garde white plastic furniture from the late sixties. Wakonda is art deco like the Chrysler building, while Des Moines Golf and CC’s Pete Dye layout is decidedly modernist like 2 Columbus Circle before it’s renovation.

Nothing wrong with it. The important thing was, after this epiphany, my putting improved because I looked for the giant beach ball buried in the green above the buried giant banana.

Speaking of which, putting has become the center focus of my efforts this summer, and it is beginning to pay off. I started a miserable 9 holes earlier today at Wakonda, going 10 over through the first four holes, and finished the latter 5 holes at 2 over after I turned on the putting. The key today was emphasizing the putting stroke as a stroke, with putting as a process, and focusing on seeing the line.