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.


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.

The Honorable

My Golf Processor and Workstation

I played a wonderful round of golf with my early morning golf friends, BF, BR, and DH. My score of 44/50 from the blue tees at Wakonda was not so great, but in that round were some shots that were of such perfect shape and trajectory that my interest in this game was reinvigorated. Good company, I realize, is as much a part of the game as the game itself. The rules of golf dictate how we play golf, but it also imposes standards of behavior that harken to a different time where honor meant something.
Which brings me to this afternoon’s playoff results from Harbour Town’s PGA tournament. Jim Furyk, a perrenial winner on tour, ended up tied with Brian Davis, an Englishman who currently is 162 in the world rankings. If he could pull out a win, it would change his career in a dramatic way. His approach ended up on the beach, literally. His ball was surrounded by litter, and as he took his backswing, his clubhead touched a reed ever so slightly. If no one noticed, and usually the people in the TV booth would call it if they saw it, Brian could have kept mum and had a chance at par and staying alive in the playoff.
Much to his credit and to the credit of golf, he called the penalty on himself. He even argued with a rules official and asked to have it reviewed on video. With the two stroke penalty, he was done. Having lost the tournament though, he won the admiration of many fans, including myself, at his adherence to the rules of golf, placing honor above reward. This is the true spirit of golfism.

The Circle of Certitude

The circle of certitude is the area defined by the radius within which you have a 90% chance of making it into the cup within 2 shots. For the average bogey golfer, this is about 10 feet. For the single handicapper, this is anywhere near the fringe. For a tournament pro, this circle is out at the wedges. To win major tournaments, this circle spans the 150 yard marker.

In daily life, we have many such circles of certitude where results are likely to occur. It may be only as far as the arm’s reach, or the driveway. Careful cultivation of friends and communication skills brings this circle out to across town, state, nation, and globe.

Cast your circle of certitude wide. Live with no doubt.

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:


Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom

flowersSpring approaches and the sap rises from the root. The days are noticeably longer, and golf approaches. I feel ready this year, more than any other year. Two things are different -I have practiced through the winter and my swing is groovy when I keep my head down. The other is my mental outlook is different. I am dreading the putter far less this year than any other year because I am approaching it no differently than any other club in my bag. 

My experience on Sunday is illustrative of both my past and hopefully my future with the putter. On more than a few occasions, I got on in regulation at the tough Redstone course, site of the Shell-Houston Open Tournament in a few weeks. I three putted, but the reason I missed was mostly because of distance errors and not complete misreads, hurried slapdash efforts at shoving the ball in. The proof was in several putts made from over ten feet, and many 4-5 footers were made as well. 

The real secret sauce though was a mental trick picked up from Chopra’s book. It is based on yoga, and brings about the stillness that you need to execute shots. Good golf to all -I am vacationing in a secret location this coming week, but hopefully will be able to squeeze in a round if weather permits. 

PS -We saw several snakes during the round at Redstone including a poisonous water mocassin. I think that these fellows will likely come into play in the marginal areas around the water hazards. The course has few OB’s but is ringed in red hazards.

Live Forever

The hyperbaric chamber reached mythical status when it was found that Michael Jackson slept in one at the height of his fame. Once the patient is sealed in the tank, the pressure in the tank is sent up to several atmospheres with increased levels of oxygen. This is useful in treating decompression sickness (the bends), carbon monoxide poisoning, and maybe some nonhealing wounds.

It sits in an unused part of the hospital, but I can understand its charms. It has a sci-fi movie feel to it, and the only way to talk to the person inside is via a telephone -COOL! It makes you think of pharoahs, pyramids, and immortality. It’s just a plexiglass pressure tank. 

Why do people want to live forever? It’s a supreme form of egotism. I rather like the view that being subjected to life is much like playing a round of golf on a municipal course on a sunny Saturday in the spring. It takes patience, a bit of smiling when you don’t want to, and the reflexes to duck when you hear “fore.” If this is life, then heaven is an championship caliber course in prime condition empty behind and ahead of you, with your favorite chosen companions, your stalwarts, playing by your side.