Hilton Head, o beautiful muddy island.


Hilton Head is in the news this time of year because of the golf tournament on the Harbour Town course with the iconic light house on the 18th green. It made the news yesterday because an alligator interfered with play -the golfer unfortunately didn’t take the free drop being ignorant of Hilton Head and alligator rules.

The gators on Hilton Head are hogs -fat, mean, and not shy. All the courses have gator rules as well as poisonous snake rules, and the smart golfer takes the free drop. Hilton Head is not the place where you let your toddlers roam free or they might end up free lunch. It’s only a few steps from being a malarial swamp, but it’s blessed with a strange lack of flying vermin. Few mosquitos is very nice, but the island has hedge fund managers infesting the palmettos like velociraptors clad in Tommy Hilfiger. New Yorkers it has in spades like bed bugs on a transient’s hairy knee. It’s Aspen on the tidewater, the Hamptons unburdened by its Long Island umbilical to Manhattan, a New Yorker’s semitropical Hong Kong on the South Carolina/Georgia sea coast. Hilton Head, like Boca Raton, Austin, and Charlotte, is in the South but not of it.

Hilton Head’s isolation proffers it automatic business class status compared to the economy class experience of jitney creeping to the Hamptons on a Friday evening, but really it takes about the same amount of time to get to either place from midtown. Once you arrive, you will notice that Hilton Head is culturally indistinguishable from 78th and Lexington. Sunday mornings, you would be hard pressed to tell the difference between Harbor Town and Southhampton as you hunt and gather for coffee, bagels, and the New York Times.

The sea air is a hint saltier off Montauk and Southampton. The terroir of Hilton Head is a twee riper with more ferment of low tide than is available in Long Island. The aborigines on both islands have been pushed out -on Hilton Head, the once Gullah speaking inhabitants and their white confreres commute from the mainland, unable to afford their island and its taxes. In the Hamptons, the aborigines are long gone, and the more recent inhabitants, the establishment WASP -an endangered species, survives by intermarrying with the new money like the English did with the Normans, only the invading hordes today sport last names like Cohen, Freeman, Chen, and O’Hanlon (the ethnic stereotypes, not the law firm).

When you see Harbour Town on the TV, you think about some kind of tradition, a deep south Cape Cod, but it’s all a pleasant sham. Look hard as you want for the humble shacks out of Conrack -they’re buried beneath the rusticated mini mall around Publix. You might even think the Harbour Town course is super exclusive like Augusta, but au contraire, you just need enough bank. The irony of the Masters getting annually harangued for their peculiar institutions is in the fact that Shinnecock out on Long Island, while no less exclusive and hidebound, gets off the hook because the USGA moves the target around like a 3 card Monte dealer. While it is unlikely that I will get to play on either Augusta or Shinnecock in this life, I can swing Harbour Town once every few years. That is great.

And I’ll finish with this. The Ayn Rand/Gordon Gekko creed of “Greed is good” does work in America because we lack the education and sophistication to dedicate ourselves to political ideals more sophisticated than “less taxes, less government, more God,” but once you get there, once you have arrived, after all the striving and self improving which can take generations from broken English immigrant green grocers to graduate school educated doctors and lawyers, to pretensions to establishment, you are equally bound by the other great American rule voiced by Marx (Groucho, not Karl), “I would never join a club that would have me as its member.” We’re happy to be on Hilton Head, but we know there is something better. Specifically, it’s a helicopter ride to Fisher’s Island.

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.

More Golf Transparency -I really suck at golf, except when I don’t

scoreI played a speed 9 today after work and before dinner. Some people love to go to the gym and get on the treadmill for an hour. I prefer to play a quick nine. After my recording a 76, a score lowered by the format of the tournament, but listed on GHIN for the sake of completeness, I played today and had a reasonable round of golf -more in line with how I usually play.

I hooked my first drive into the woods. I spent about 15 minutes looking for it, and found it. It’s a luxury to play with nobody behind you, and in finding the ball, I didn’t have to go back and hit another one. I hid a beautiful fading 7 iron over an obstructing oak tree back onto the fairway, and fluffed my pitch, with a subsequent long and short putt, I made double, which on #1 is a common score even when you’re on the fairway. #2 was fired with the 10mph right to left wind -I shot a perfect fade which straightened out, but was short because of how high I hit it. I pitched short, but made a remarkable 15 footer for par.

#3 was a bogey of not much note -I missed a 5 footer for a par save. #4 was a great sand save, with an up and down for par. On #5, the trouble began. I couldn’t hit an approach shot for anything and ended with a triple. #6, I hooked OB and struggled to get a triple. #7, lost ball and a triple. #8, OB left and subsequent triple.

The stretch of four triple bogeys gave me some perspective. I was swinging away without much purpose, and the purpose of the game is to make physical a mental and even spiritual plan of action. Keeping my thoughts in the moment, I had the same hard 10mph wind now left to right and slightly from behind. I took a 6 iron and played my natural draw. It almost hit the flagstick and landed 15 feet behind. I visualized the line and executed -dropping the putt for birdie.

This game is at first a purely physical one for the 90+ shooter. In the 80’s, it is a game of processes -pars and bogeys. To get the the 70’s and closer and even under par, you have to get spiritual.

I left #9 thinking I could reel off five or six more birdies. I was quite sure of it, but didn’t feel overly pressured to do it. I went home for dinner. Not all that unhappy about my 4 triple bogeys, but contemplative about my one birdie.

Addendum: By slowing down my swing over the weekend,  I managed to hit over 70% of my fairways, and reach 60% of the greens, but was troubled by putting -this was because the Stimp meter was running out at close to 12 feet! At Oakmont speeds, I was rolling the ball over the holes or lipping out. Earlier this week, after work, I played after the greens were a more manageable 10.5 feet on the Stimp, and I shot a 41 and 47 for an 88 -the back nine was done in a rush and I had three triple bogies due to errant tee shots. Slowing down the game, visualizing -trying to see the ball lying in the grass, the terrain, the sky, the wind, the trees, the green, and above all the target, really does pay off.

Also, my putting improved after copying Wie’s putting changes -hand press forward, no slap, athletic spine posture.

Golf Transparency -what to do with the 76?

scorecard818Submitted for you consideration is a recent quick nine holes played yesterday evening. Though not as dramatic as my recent 76, it does show an important trend for me -that I’m putting better and I am hitting some very nice approaches. Number 7 was a bogey that shouldn’t have been -I drove right, topped an intended punch in to the fairway bunker  138 yards out, and landed an 8 iron to 6 feet -missed par by millimeters. Felt very comfortable in my skin throughout -even after the topped punch -I breathed and moved on. In retrospect, I had no business trying to fade punch out of deep rough.

I thought about the 76 and whether to submit it to GHIN. I think because of the format, it basically takes 12 strokes off your likely score. 88 is definitely in my wheelhouse. But in fairness, I certainly don’t feel like a 22 handicapper, and think my game has turned around. So is GHIN something you gin up, something to spin to an “appropriate” level?

I think you just have to report everything, unedited. The Handicap is designed to reflect your average, but also your potential. I know my potential is there from where I’ve been and where I want to go. There is nothing to gin up -you report your score. That is golf transparency.

Here it is:


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.