Problem Solving

Managing a course and managing a swing   

by TOM ABST

“That which is lacking in the present world is a profound understanding of the nature of things.” I wish that was my quote ... but it’s from Frithjof Schuon.

We’re not very good at cause and effect because we’re not very good at getting to root causes.

Life is short so we usually don’t have the time to really figure things out ... we usually just take what seems to help. Yet, so often that keeps us from getting to the source of the problem.

Here’s an example: Lots of golf courses are struggling, so some companies are offering quick fixes to add some more rounds and/or revenue. But, the fix doesn’t really solve the problem. They need a lot more revenue to survive and the “fix” only adds a little. But, is a little better than none? Not if it’s not enough and they go out of business.

Same with the golf swing. A little fix might help for a few holes, but might make things worse by not getting to the root of the problem.

Most people’s golf swing comes over the top with an open clubface and they slice the shot. They need to come at the ball from the inside and rotate their hands to hit the ball properly. However, a quick fix is to put the right hand more on top of the shaft and smother the ball with a high right arm and shoulder. That’s a terrible way to hit the ball, but that “fix” might work for a few holes. But, it is not solving the problem.

Ironically, some of the fixes Tour players use are the worst possible fixes for the recreational player.

Remember, everyone is trying to make a great golf swing. And make it repeatable. Tour players all have great golf swings. But, they’re constantly making adjustments to allow for personal tendencies that get them in trouble. But, they all have very good golf swings.

Recreational players seldom have a good golf swing. They hit at the ball - they do not swing the golf club very well. I highly recommend training aids like the Orange Whip that are all about swinging. If people practiced with an Orange Whip - it would solve most of their problems. That’s because their main problem is that they do not have a golf swing.

Most golf courses that are struggling do not have a plan. They haven’t identified who their market is and how to get that market to their golf course. Little gimmicks to bring in rounds and/or revenue will not solve the problem.

Like a Tour player, a well run golf course that knows its market, might still have to make adjustments to keep going - nothing is perfect. However, making sensible adjustments after developing a solid business or a solid golf swing ... is not the same thing as adding quick fixes to a fundamentally bad golf swing or a fundamentally bad business.

We have to know the difference.


Five Ways to Improve TV Golf Coverage

Viewers are tired of the same old thing

By JIM ANULDA

   As an enthusiastic watcher of golf on television, well enthusiastic might be well, a little too enthusiastic; I don’t exactly jump out my chair after a great shot the way I do when, say Case Keenum finds Stefon Diggs with 2 seconds to go. But, anyway, I watch a lot and appreciate what a herculean effort it is to cover a tournament.

   This game takes place over four days offering up to 8 hours of golf each day. That’s a lot of air time.  Unlike every other sport taking place in a small, usually enclosed, circumscribed rectangular patch, golf covers acres and acres of winding, rolling and forested terrain. With so much ground to cover, there are miles of cable, scores of cameras and tons of support gear, which, by the way, has to be trucked cross country from venue to venue. Unlike Tony and Jim in the booth and an ex-player on the field, golf tournaments have personnel on the ground, in the air and in the booths across holes. Even the sounds are complex yet covered; birds tweeting, balls dropping, clubs thwacking, F-Bombs tossed. This logistics are an order of magnitude more difficult.

   Let’s call a spade a spade – the game is slow; more than once, I have accidently hit pause or slow-mo and not noticed any change in the pace of play but for a creeping suspicion that something was amiss. Yet, there are never dull moments. The director switches cameras among golfers and holes and angles and replays and interviews and commentary to keep the pace of play almost frenetic.

   While the visuals bounce from scene to scene, the announcers, with their mellifluous voices, soft tones, and perfect cadence maintain the dignified pace that we have come to expect. And they are as varied as the golfers they cover, spanning the spectrum of personalities from the serious – Koch, to the hysterical – McCord, to the friendly – Nance, to the call-em-the-way-see-em – Miller.

   Over the years, the coverage has gotten better. Tracer technology, a dose of humor, better sound, the worm cam, and super slow-mo have all made viewing, what my kids call, watching the grass grow, all the more enjoyable. But there is room for improvement.

   First, the powers that be have to eliminate the annoying feed of information crawling across the bottom of the screen. Not only is it distracting as hell but almost always blocks the view the ball, the cup or both. If we really need to know the standings of the Ottumwa Middle School semi-finals, well that’s what the web is for.

   Second, is there anything fresher or more entertaining than hearing the snippets of conversation between player and caddy? They are insightful and revealing, but more than anything they humanize these guys who are so good. As Oliver Twist once said, more please.

   Third, change up the camera angles every now and then. For example, every chip or pitch is shot down the line. Who among us wouldn’t benefit from a side angle so we could see ball position and have a better perspective on the length of the swing?

   Fourth, a shout out to the advertisers. When you are shooting a commercial shoot a couple of extra scenes, assemble two or three versions and throw them into the rotation. Any regular watcher of golf will see your spots more than 100 times in a season and tune them out after three. And while you are at it, insist that your spots run alongside a concurrent airing of the action. That way your audience stays tuned in even if they’re watching the recorded version.

   Fifth, enlighten us with something new. You are forever telling us about the grain and the different kinds of grass. So, give us a close up, give us an agronomy lesson, show us how the ball reacts. There’s no concurrence on which way the ball will fly when there is mud on. It can’t be that difficult to tape a few experiments. We love and need the swing tips, give us more, but keep it simple. Give us a feel, even just a little taste of a tour pro’s life outside the ropes. Some of us really want to know if they drive themselves to the course.

   Here’s the bottom line, most of your viewership is the same people week in, week out. Reward their loyalty with something new.

The Consistency of Inconsistency

No room for error

By Mike Pile

Sometime during the first couple of holes, but only if I am striking the ball well, my pick-up partner may ask me my handicap. Knowing an avid golfer would not use the term handicap, but instead index, my usual reply, always with a smile, is “my swing.”

It’s funny because it is true. Like every mid-teen index player, my swing changes round to round, hole to hole, shot to shot, hell it even changes within the swing itself. Early in a round, I’ll be fresh, free of trying to score or following up a birdie without a big miss and so strike the ball well. Or not. Later in a round, I may be warmed up with the confidence that comes from hitting fairways, GIR’s and racking up some pars. Or not. Sometimes the zone hits around 8 through 12 while still fresh but warmed up. Or not.

My driver, or better said, my tee box swing is sometimes on, most times not so much.  But I stand over every ball perched on its peg with high expectations and springing hope eternal and imagine the high fade I know I can hit. When it works the reward is a walk down the center of the fairway. And that’s it, that’s all there is. Because any shot hit from the fairway is not going to produce a GIR. At best it will miss the target with plenty of green to work with, at worst it will be short-sided, sandy or wet. Usually all three.

The only way I can hit the green is from the rough after a crappy drive and a pretty good second shot which because of my crappy drive I am still short. Now I am on in three and can make the occasional putt for par because the rest of that hole has already gone to shit.

Or worse than anything, the driver is straight and the mid irons are on target but I can’t putt to save my life. I can’t make a putt, because the long and mid game is working and I am poised to post a decent number but the golf gods conspire against me. Again.

See here’s the thing. It is near impossible to fire on all cylinders. When the driver is working and you split the fairway all you can see is a tap-in bird and therefore you completely foozle the second shot. When the tee shot goes haywire, all hope is abandoned and you can swing freely and get on or at least chip and putt and hope.

Firing on 4 or 5 of a V-6 gets you an 85 and if you make a few bomb putts, you can get to 82/83 which is pretty respectable by most mid-handicap measures. But to get to 81 or 80 or the holy grail of breaking 80, you need to be firing on 5.5 or all cylinders. Drives need to be on or just off the fairway, approach shots must finish on the green and those that don’t are not sphincter-puckering. Long putts need to result in tap ins, medium ones need to drop and those within the circle of trust need to be swept away to eliminate any last chance of throwing up on yourself.

And among the 138.5 different things that separate the mid-handicapper from the single digit is that the six hits pretty decent shots with all clubs almost all the time. The six may not be able to hook it around a tree, fade it over the water, make it back up from 100 yards out, or hit it dead, solid perfect more than once a round, but all the shots across the range of clubs are generally solidly struck most of the time. When he splits the fairway, he does not get intimidated by the perfect lie, angle and distance left to the green. When she misses a putt, she doesn’t take it out on the ball on the next tee.

And among the 138.5 things that make this game so infuriating (and rewarding I suppose) is that there is just no room for error, no accommodations made for inconsistency. To post a sub 85 (the generally acceptable goal for a mid-handicapper) requires every shot be decent, every shot be consistent, every shot remain in play.

But boy, when the stars align and 80 is threatened, is there anything better?

 


An Affair of the Cart

A writer comes clean, sort of

 By BIT 'BERGIE' BERGLUND

My wife thinks I am having an affair.  The signs are abundant; working late, unexplained absences, a marked increase in meetings, an inability to be reached despite pocketfuls of communication gadgets.  My appearance betrays me. My hair is frequently mussed, my face flush, my breath is sometimes just a bit too fresh, and my clothes usually rumpled.  I have even caught myself returning home in the evening in a different shirt than the one I left with.  And when confronted with questions about any of these, my responses are hesitant, ambiguous and evasive. 

Yes, I am having an affair.

But my adultery is not with another woman.  It is with the game of golf; a far more demanding mistress.  I am not proud of this.  It tears me apart, the cheating, the lying, and the misdirection.  My heart is heavy with guilt and my mind is taxed keeping this web of deceit from unraveling.  But the sick thing is, I mean the really twisted part is that I would rather have my wife think that I am having an affair than uncover my link slinking.

The little clues that could be my undoing require almost daily vigilance.  Pulling money from my pocket at the checkout line reveals a scramble of tees, ball marks, repair tools and other detritus of golf.  I must diligently police my pockets to retrieve a scorecard before it goes through the wash, pluck the receipt peeking from my wallet, or toss a stubby pencil before it can rattle through the drier.

I no longer wear cuffed pants.  They fill up with sand and grass.  The same goes for light colored trousers.  Try explaining the grass stain on your behind.  I have done it but I’m not proud of it.  When she starts to wonder why the rubber bottom is separating from the upper leather at the right toe of every pair of shoes I own, I’m done for.

My car must undergo a regular cleansing of the game’s flotsam and jetsam.  Loose balls roll around the deck; tees are wedged into the crease of every seat; range tokens clutter my cup holders; score cards, yardage books, and empty ball sleeves litter the back seat.

The ATM near my local course knows my name but the pro-shop does not.  I haven’t paid a green fee with a credit card since I have been married.  There is not a golf course in the county that knows my real name.  At one, I am Mike Palmer, another Mike Watson and less often since I got a quizzical look, Mike Trevino.  The guys at the counter comment on my apt name.

Last year I took a set of six lessons from a local pro; paid cash.  He still greets me as Mr. Kite.

Enter “g” on my cell phone, press “search,“ and it will display every golf course within skulking distance.

I clear the calls made as a regular part of my commute and panic if I forget to erase the history of golf web sites on my computer.

I regularly exceed the speed limit sneaking off to make my tee time

And the deceptions are not limited to my spouse.  With my kids I reference the game as a model of behavior for life. Not just the obvious values involving honesty but importantly the skills of resiliency and focusing on the moment.  Then I tell them Daddy’s got to run some errands and shoot over to the range for a large bucket.  To the strangers I partner with as a single, I hold various cool entrepreneurial jobs that allow me to play in the evening.  Even to my regular playing partners, I cannot share the great shot I made last week or yesterday when I lipped out to miss my first sub 80 round.  I have come close to an ace more than once during my surreptitious rounds and wondered what the exposure could bring.

In a game where you are your own umpire, where integrity and honesty are valued above all else, I am a cheater. Not on the course but to get to the course.  I’ll hit a practice ball after a muff just to keep my confidence up during the round but I’ll play the original ball.  I only post online so I can lie about the date. I have been known to pick and clean in the winter, play a leafy in the fall, nudge a ball from casual water in the spring, but never when there is money involved, when in competition friendly or otherwise and never without announcing my intentions to my partners.  In anything more than a friendly round, I am meticulous about the rules.  But with my wife, I lie and cheat like a sociopath.

From tee to green I am as good a partner as you could want.  But on the links of relationships, I would be blackballed from the club.


The Clicking of Cuthbert

The benefits of always hanging in there   

By P. G. WODEHOUSE

THE YOUNG MAN CAME into the smoking-room of the clubhouse, and flung his bag with a clatter on the floor. He sank moodily into an arm-chair and pressed the bell.

  “Waiter!”

  “Sir?”

   The young man pointed at the bag with every evidence of distaste.

   “You may have these clubs,” he said. “If you don't want them yourself, give them to one of the caddies."

   Across the room the Oldest Member gazed at him with a grave sadness through the smoke of his pipe. His eye was deep and dreamy-the eye of nan who, as the poet says, has seen Golf steadily and seen it whole.

   “You are giving up golf?" he said.

   He was not altogether unprepared for such an attitude on the young man's part: for from his eyrie on the terrace above the ninth green he had observed him start out on the afternoon's round and had seen him lose a couple of balls in the lake at the second hole after taking seven strokes at the first.

   "Yes!" cried the young man fiercely. "For ever, dammit! Footling game! Blanked infernal fat-headed silly ass of a game! Nothing but a waste of time."

   The Sage winced.

   “Don't say that, my boy."

   "But I do say it. What earthly good is golf? Life is stern and life is earnest. We live in a practical age. All round us we see foreign competition making itself unpleasant. And we spend our time playing golf! What do we get out of it? Is golf any use? That's what I'm asking you. Can you name me a single case where devotion to this pestilential pastime has done a man any practical good?"

    The Sage smiled gently.

   "I could name a thousand."

   "One will do."

   "I will select," said the Sage, "from the innumerable memories that rush to my mind, the story of Cuthbert Banks."

   "Never heard of him."

   "Be of good cheer," said the Oldest Member. "You are going to hear of him now."

 

   It was in the picturesque little settlement of Wood Hills (said the Oldest Member) that the incidents occurred which I am about to relate. Even if you have never been in Wood Hills, that suburban paradise is probably familiar to you by name. Situated at a convenient distance from the city, it combines in a notable manner the advantages of town life with the pleasant surrounding and healthful air of the country. Its inhabitants live in commodious houses, standing in their own grounds, and enjoy so many luxuries-such as gravel soil, main drainage, electric light, telephone. baths (h. and c), and company's own water, that you might be pardoned for imagining life to be so ideal for them that no possible improvement could be added to their lot. Mrs. Willoughby Smethurst was under no such delusion. What Wood Hills needed to make it perfect, she realized, was Culture. Material comforts are all very well, but, if the summum bonum is to be achieved, the Soul also demands a look in, and it was Mrs. Smethurst's unfaltering resolve that never while she had her strength should the Soul be handed the loser's end. It was her intention to make, Wood Hills a centre of all that was most cultivated and refined, and golly! how she had succeeded. Under her presidency the Wood Hills Literary and Debating Society had tripled its membership.

  But there is always a fly in the ointment, a caterpillar in the salad. The local golf club, an institution to which Mrs. Smethurst strongly objected, had also tripled its membership; and the division of the community into two rival camps, the Golfers and the Cultured, had become more marked than ever. This division, always acute, had attained now to the dimensions of a Schism. The rival sects treated one another with a cold hostility.

  Unfortunate episodes came to widen the breach. Mrs. Smethurst's house adjoined the links, standing to the right of the fourth tee: and as the Literary Society was in the habit of entertaining visiting lecturers, many a golfer had foozled his drive owing to sudden loud outbursts of applause coinciding with his down-swing. And not long before this story opens a sliced ball, whizzing in at the open window, had come within an ace of incapacitating Raymond Parsloe Devine, the rising young novelist (who rose at the moment a clear foot and a half) from any further exercise of his art. Two inches, indeed, to the right and Raymond must inevitably have handed in his dinner-pail.

   To make matters worse, a ring at the front-door bell followed almost immediately, and the maid ushered in a young man of pleasing appearance in a sweater and baggy knickerbockers who apologetically but firmly insisted on playing his ball where it lay, and, what with the shock of the lecturer's narrow escape and the spectacle of the intruder standing on the table and working away with a niblick, the afternoon's session had to be classed as a complete frost. Mr. Devine's determination, from which no argument could swerve him, to deliver the rest of his lecture in the coal-cellar gave the meeting a jolt from which it never recovered.

   I have dwelt upon this incident, because it was the means of introducing Cuthbert Banks to Mrs. Smethurst's niece, Adeline. As Cuthbert, for it was he who had so nearly reduced the muster-roll of rising novelist by one, hopped down from the table after his stroke, he was suddenly aware that a beautiful girl was looking at him intently. As a matter of fact, everyone in the room was looking at him intently, none more so than Raymond Parsloe Devine, but none of the others were beautiful girls. Long as the members of Wood Hills Literary Society were on brain, they were short on looks, and, to Cuthbert's excited eye, Adeline Smethurst stood out like a jewel in a pile of coke.      He had never seen her before, for she had only arrived at her aunt's house on the previous day, but he was perfectly certain that life, even when lived in the midst of gravel soil, main drainage, and company's own water, was going to be a pretty poor affair if he did not see her again. Yes, Cuthbert was in love: and it is interesting to record, as showing the effect of the tender emotion on a man's game that twenty minutes after he had met Adeline he did the short eleventh in one, and as near as a toucher got a three on the four-hundred-yard twelfth.

   I will skip lightly over the intermediate stages of Cuthbert's courtship and come to the moment when-at the annual ball in aid of the local Cottage Hospital, the only occasion during the year on which the lion, so to speak, lay down with lamb, and the Golfers and the Cultured met meet of easy comradeship, their differences temporarily laid aside proposed to Adeline and was badly stymied. That fair, soulful girl could not see him with a spy-glass.

   “Mr. Banks," she said, "I will speak frankly."

   “Charge right ahead," assented Cuthbert.

   “Deeply sensible as I am of-"

   “I know. Of the honour and the compliment and all that, passing lightly over all that guff, what seems to be the trouble? I love you to distraction."

  “Love is not everything.”

  "You're wrong," said Cuthbert earnestly. "You're right off it. Love-" And he was about to dilate on the theme when she interrupted him.

  "I am a girl of ambition."

  "And very nice, too," said Cuthbert.

  "I am a girl of ambition," repeated Adeline, "and I realize that the fulfillment of my ambitions must come through my husband. I am very ordinary myself-"

  “What!" cried Cuthbert. "You ordinary? Why, you are a pearl among women, the queen of your sex. You can't have been looking in a glass lately. You stand alone. Simply alone. You make the rest look like battered repaints."

  “Well," said Adeline, softening a trifle, "I believe I am fairly good-looking-"

  “Anybody who was content to call you fairly good-looking would describe the Taj Mahal as a pretty nifty tomb."

  “But that is not the point. What I mean is if I marry a nonentity I shall myself be a nonentity forever. And I would sooner die than be a nonentity.”

  “And, if I follow your reasoning, you think that that lets me out?"

  “Well, really, Mr. Banks, have you done anything, or are you likely ever to do anything worth while?"

  Cuthbert hesitated.

  "It's true," he said, "I didn't finish in the first ten in the Open, and I was knocked out in the semi-final of the Amateur, but I won the French Open last year."

  "The-what?"

  “The French Open Championship. Golf, you know." “

  “Golf! You waste all your time playing golf. I admire a man who is more spiritual, more intellectual."

  A pang of jealousy rent Cuthbert's bosom.

  “Like What's-his-name Devine?" he said, sullenly.

  “Mr. Devine," replied Adeline, blushing faintly, "is going to be a great man. Already he has achieved much. The critics say that he is more Russian than any other young English writer.

  "And is that good?"

  "Of course, it's good."

  "I should have thought the wheeze would be to be more English than any other young English writer."

  "Nonsense! Who wants an English writer to be English? You've got to be Russian or Spanish or something to be a real success. The mantle of the great Russians has descended on Mr. Devine."

  “From what I've heard of Russians, I should hate to have that happen to me.” “

  There is no danger of that," said Adeline scornfully.

  “Oh! Well, let me tell you that there is a lot more in me than you think”

  “That might easily be so.”

  “You think I'm not spiritual and intellectual," said Cuthbert, deeply moved. "Very well. Tomorrow I join the Literary Society."

  Even as he spoke the words his leg was itching to kick himself for being such a chump, but the sudden expression of pleasure on Adeline's face soothed him; and he went home that night with the feeling that he had taken on something rather attractive. It was only in the cold grey light of the morning that he realized what he had let himself in for.

   I do not know if you have had any experience of suburban literary societies, but the one that flourished under the eye of Mrs. Willoughby Smethurst at Wood Hills was rather more so than the average. With my free powers of narrative, I cannot hope to make clear to you all that Cuthbert Banks endured in the next few weeks. And, even if I could, I doubt if I should do so. It is all very well to excite pity and terror, as Aristotle recommends, but there are limits. In the ancient Greek tragedies it was an ironclad rule that all the real rough stuff should take place off-stage, and I shall follow this admirable principle. It will suffice to say that J. Cuthbert Banks had a thin time. After attending eleven debates and fourteen on vers libre Poetry, the Seventeenth-century Essayists, the Neo-Scandinavian movement in Portuguese Literature, and other subjects of similar nature, he grew so enfeebled that, on the rare occasions when he had time for a visit to the links, he had to take a full iron for his mashie shots.

   It was not simply the oppressive nature of the debates and lectures that sapped his vitality. What really got right in amongst him was the torture of seeing Adeline's adoration of Raymond Parsloe Devine. The man seemed to have made the deepest possible impression upon her plastic emotions. When he spoke, she leaned forward with parted lips and looked at him. When he was not speaking-which was seldom-she leaned back and looked at him. And when he happened to take the next seat to her, she leaned sideways and looked at him. One glance at Mr. Devine would have been more than enough for Cuthbert; but Adeline found him a that never palled. She could not have gazed at him with a more rapturous intensity than if she had been a small child and he a saucer of ice-cream. All this Cuthbert had to witness while still endeavoring to retain the possession of his faculties sufficiently to enable him to duck and back away if somebody suddenly asked him what he thought of the somber realism of Vladimir Brusiloff. It is little wonder that he tossed in bed, picking at the coverlet, through sleepless nights, and had to have all his waistcoats taken in three inches to keep them from sagging.

   This Vladimir Brusiloff to whom I have referred was the famous Russian novelist, and, owing to the fact of his being in the country on a lecturing tour at the moment, there had been something of a boom in his works. The Wood Hills Literary Society had been studying them for reeks, and never since his first entrance into intellectual circles had Cuthbert Banks come nearer to throwing in the towel. Vladimir specialized in grey studies of hopeless misery, where nothing happened till page three hundred and eighty, when the moujik decided to commit suicide. It was tough going for a man whose deepest reading hitherto had seen Vardon on the Push-Shot, and there can be no greater proof of the tragic of love than the fact that Cuthbert stuck it without a cry. But the strain was terrible and I am inclined to think that he must have cracked, had it not been for the daily reports in the papers of the internecine strife which was proceeding so briskly in Russia. Cuthbert was an optimist heart, and it seemed to him that, at the rate at which the inhabitants o: that interesting country were murdering one another, the supply of Russian novelists must eventually give out.

   One morning, as he tottered down the road for the short walk which was almost the only exercise to which he was equal, Cuthbert met Adeline. A spasm of anguish flitted through all his nerve-centres as he saw that she was accompanied by Raymond Parsloe Devine.

  "Good morning, Mr. Banks," said Adeline.

  "Good morning," said Cuthbert hollowly.

  “Such good news about Vladimir Brusiloff."

  “Dead?" said Cuthbert, with a touch of hope.

  “Dead? Of course not. Why should he be? No, Aunt Emily met his manager after his lecture at Queen's Hall yesterday, and he has promised that Mr. Brusiloff shall come to her next Wednesday reception.

  "Oh, ah!" said Cuthbert, dully.

  "I don't know how she managed it. I think she must have told him that Mr. Devine would be there to meet him." “But you said he was coming," argued Cuthbert.

  “I shall be very glad," said Raymond Devine, "of the opportunity of meeting Brusiloff."

   “I'm sure," said Adeline, "he will be very glad of the opportunity of meeting you.

   "Possibly," said Mr. Devine. "Possibly.  Competent critics have said that my work closely resembles that of the great Russian masters."

  "Your psychology is so deep."

  “Yes, yes."

  "And your atmosphere.”

  “Quite.”

  Cuthbert in a perfect agony of spirit prepared to withdraw from this love-feast. The sun was shining brightly, but the world was black to him. Birds sang in the tree-tops, but he did not hear them. He might have a moujik for all the pleasure he found in life.

  “You will be there, Mr. Banks?" said Adeline, as he turned away.

  “Oh, all right,” said Cuthbert.

  When Cuthbert had entered the drawing-room on the following Wednesday and had taken his usual place in a distant corner where, mile able to feast his gaze on Adeline, he had a sporting chance of being overlooked or mistaken for a piece of furniture, he perceived the peat Russian thinker seated in the midst of a circle of admiring females. Raymond Parsloe Devine had not yet arrived.

   His first glance at the novelist surprised Cuthbert. Doubtless with the best motives, Vladimir Brusiloff had permitted his face to become almost entirely concealed behind a dense zareba of hair, but his eyes were visible through the undergrowth, and it seemed to Cuthbert that there was an expression in them not unlike that of a cat in a strange backyard surrounded by small boys. The man looked forlorn and hopeless. and Cuthbert wondered whether he had had bad news from home.

  This was not the case. The latest news which Vladimir Brusiloff had had from Russia had been particularly cheering. Three of his principal creditors had perished in the last massacre of the bourgeoisie, and a man whom he owed for five years for a samovar and a pair of overshoes had led the country, and had not been heard of since. It was not bad news from home that was depressing Vladimir. What was wrong with him was le fact that this was the eighty-second suburban literary reception he had been compelled to attend since he had landed in the country on his lecturing tour, and he was sick to death of it. When his agent had first suggested the trip, he had signed on the dotted line without an instant's hesitation. Worked out in roubles, the fees offered had seemed just about right. But now, as he peered through the brushwood at the faces and him, and realized that eight out of ten of those present had manuscripts of some sort concealed on their persons, and were only waiting for an opportunity to whip them out and start reading, he wished that had stayed at his quiet home in Nijni-Novgorod, where the worst thing that could happen to a fellow was a brace of bombs coming in through the window and mixing themselves up with his breakfast
egg.

 

  At this point in his meditations he was aware that his hostess was coming up before him with a pale young man in horn-rimmed spectacles at her side. There was in Mrs. Smethurst's demeanour something of the unction of the master-of-ceremonies at the big fight who introduces the earnest gentleman who wishes to challenge the winner.     “Oh, Mr. Brusiloff," said Mrs. Smethurst, "I do so want you to meet Mr. Raymond Parsloe Devine, whose work I expect you know. He is one of our younger novelists."     

   The distinguished visitor peered in a wary and defensive manner through the shrubbery, but did not speak. Inwardly he was thinking exactly how exactly like Mr. Devine was to the eighty-one other younger novelists to whom he had been introduced at various hamlets throughout the country. Raymond Parsloe Devine bowed courteously, while Cuthbert, wedged into his corner, glowered at him.

  "The critics," said Mr. Devine, "have been kind enough to say that my poor efforts contain a good deal of the Russian spirit. I owe much to the great Russians. I have been greatly influenced by Sovietski."

   Down in the forest something stirred. It was Vladimir Brusiloff's mouth opening, as he prepared to speak. He was not a man who prattled readily, especially in a foreign tongue. He gave the impression that each word was excavated from his interior by some up-to-date process of mining. He glared bleakly at Mr. Devine, and allowed three words to drop out of him.

  “Sovietski no good!"

  He paused for a moment, set the machinery working again, and delivered five more at the pithead.

  "I spit me of Sovietski!"

   There was a painful sensation. The lot of a popular idol is in many ways an enviable one, but it has the drawback of uncertainty. Here today and gone tomorrow. Until this moment Raymond Parsloe Devine’s tock had stood at something considerably over par in Wood Hills intellectual circles, but now there was a rapid slump. Hitherto he had been greatly admired for being influenced by Sovietski, but it appeared now that this was not a good thing to be. It was evidently a rotten thing to be. The law could not touch you for being influenced by Sovietski, but there is an ethical as well as a legal code, and it was obvious that Raymond Parsloe Devine had transgressed. Women drew away from rim slightly, holding their skirts. Men looked at him censoriously. Adeline Smethurst started violently, and dropped a tea-cup. And Cuthbert Banks, doing his popular imitation of a sardine in his corner, felt for the first time that life held something of sunshine.

   Raymond Parsloe Devine was plainly shaken, but he made an adroit attempt to recover his lost prestige.

   “When I say I have been influenced by Sovietski, I mean, of course, that I was once under his spell. A young writer commits many follies. I have long since passed through that phase. The false glamour of Sovietski has ceased dazzle me. I now belong whole-heartedly to the school of Nastikoff."

   There was a reaction. People nodded at one another sympathetically. After all, we cannot expect old heads on young shoulders, and a lapse at the outset of one's career should not be held against one who has eventually seen the light.

   "Nastikoff no good," said Vladimir Brusiloff, coldly. He paused, listening to the machinery.

  "Nastikoff worse than Sovietski." He paused again.

  "I spit me of Nastikoff!" he said.

   This time there was no doubt about it. The bottom had dropped out of the market, and Raymond Parsloe Devine Preferred were down in the cellar with no takers. It was clear to the entire assembled company that they id been all wrong about Raymond Parsloe Devine. They had allowed him to play on their innocence and sell them a pup. They had taken him his own valuation, and had been cheated into admiring him as a man who amounted to something, and all the while he had belonged to the school of Nastikoff. You never can tell. Mrs. Smethurst's guests were well-bred, and there was consequently no violent demonstration, but you could see by their faces what they felt. Those nearest Raymond Parsloe jostled to get further away. Mrs. Smethurst eyed him stonily through a raised lorgnette. One or two low hisses were heard, and over at the other end of le room somebody opened the window in a marked manner.

   Raymond Parsloe Devine hesitated for a moment, then, realizing his situation, turned and slunk to the door. There was an audible sigh of relief as it closed behind him.    Vladimir Brusiloff proceeded to sum up.

  “No novelists any good except me. Sovietski-yah! Nastikoff-bah! I spit me of zem all. No novelists anywhere any good except me. P. G. Wodehouse and Tolstoi not bad. Not good, but not bad. No novelists any good except me."

   And, having uttered this dictum, he removed a slab of cake from a near-by plate, steered it through the jungle, and began to champ.

  It is too much to say that there was a dead silence. There could never be that in any room in which Vladimir Brusiloff was eating cake. But certainly, what you might call the general chit-chat was pretty well down and out. Nobody liked to be the first to speak. The members of the Wood Hills Literary Society looked at one another timidly. Cuthbert, for his art, gazed at Adeline; and Adeline gazed into space. It was plain that he girl was deeply stirred. Her eyes were opened wide, a faint flush crimsoned her cheeks, and her breath was coming quickly.

   Adeline's mind was in a whirl. She felt as if she had been walking gaily long a pleasant path and had stopped suddenly on the very brink of a Precipice. It would be idle to deny that Raymond Parsloe Devine had attracted her extraordinarily. She had taken him at his own valuation as an extremely hot potato, and her hero-worship had gradually been turning into love. And now her hero had been shown to have feet of clay. It was hard, I consider, on Raymond Parsloe Devine, but that is how it goes in this world. You get a following as a celebrity, and then you run up against another bigger celebrity and your admirers desert you. One could moralize on this at considerable length, but better not, perhaps. Enough to say that the glamour of Raymond Devine ceased abruptly in that moment for Adeline, and her most coherent thought at this juncture was the resolve, as soon as she got up to her room, to burn the three signed photographs he had sent her and to give the autographed presentation set of his books to the grocer's boy.

   Mrs. Smethurst. meanwhile, having rallied somewhat, was endeavuring to set the feast of reason and flow of soul going again.

   “And how do you like England. Mr. Brusiloff?" she asked.

   The celebrity paused in the act of lowering another segment

   “Dam good,” he replied, cordially.

   “I suppose you have traveled all over the country by this time?"

   "You said," agreed the Thinker.

   “Have you met many of our great public men?"

   “Yais-Yais-Quite a few of the nibs-Lloyid Gorge, I meet him. But-" Beneath the matting a discontented expression came into his face, and his voice took on a peevish note. "But I not meet your real great men your Arbmishel, your Arreevadon-I not meet them. That's what gives me the pipovitch. Have you ever met Arbmishel and Arreevadon?"

   A strained, anguished look came into Mrs. Smethurst's face and was reflected in the faces of the other members of the circle. The eminent Russian had sprung two entirely new ones on them, and they felt that their ignorance was about to be exposed. What would Vladimir Brusiloff think of the Wood Hills Literary Society? The reputation of the Wood fills Literary Society was at stake, trembling in the balance, and coming up for the third time. In dumb agony Mrs. Smethurst rolled her eyes bout the room searching for someone capable of coming to the rescue. She drew blank.

    And then, from a distant corner, there sounded a deprecating cough, and those nearest Cuthbert Banks saw that he had stopped twisting his right foot round his left ankle and his left foot round his right ankle and is sitting up with a light of almost human intelligence in his eyes.

  “Er-" said Cuthbert, blushing as every eye in the room seemed to fix itself on him, "I think he means Abe Mitchell and Harry Vardon.

  “Abe Mitchell and Harry Vardon?" repeated Mrs. Smethurst, blankly. “I never heard of-“   

   "Yais! Yais! Most! Very!" shouted Vladimir Brusiloff, enthusiastically. Arbmishel and Arreevadon. You know them, yes, what, no, perhaps?"

   “I've played with Abe Mitchell often, and I was partnered with Harry Vardon in last year's Open."

   The great Russian uttered a cry that shook the chandelier.

   “You play in ze Open? Why," he demanded reproachfully of Mrs. Smethurst, "was I not been introducted to this young man who play in open?”

  “Well, really,” faltered Mrs. Smethurst. “Well, the fact is, Mr. Brusiloff-"

   She broke off. She was unequal to the task of explaining, without hurting anyone's feelings, that she had always regarded Cuthbert as a piece of cheese and a blot on the landscape.

  "Introduct me!" thundered the Celebrity.

  “Why, certainly, certainly, of course. This is Mr. -." She looked appealingly at Cuthbert.

   "Banks," prompted Cuthbert.

   "Banks!" cried Vladimir Brusiloff. "Not Cootaboot Banks?"

   “I your name Cootaboot?" asked Mrs. Smethurst, faintly.

   “Well, it's Cuthbert."

   “Yais! Yais! Cootaboot!" There was a rush and swirl, as the effervescent Muscovite burst his way through the throng and rushed to where Cuthbert sat. He stood for a moment eyeing him excitedly, then, stooping swiftly, kissed him on both cheeks before Cuthbert could get his guard up.

  "My dear young man, I saw you win ze French Open. Great! Great! Grand! Superb! Hot stuff, and you can say I said so! Will you permit one who is at eighteen at Nijni-Novgorod to salute you once more?"

   And he kissed Cuthbert again. Then, brushing aside one or two intellectuals who were in the way, he dragged up a chair and sat down.

   “You are a great man!" he said.

   “Oh, no," said Cuthbert modestly.

   "Yais! Great. Most! Very! The way you lay your approach-putts dead from anywhere!”

   "Oh, I don't know."

    Mr. Brusiloff drew his chair closer.

   "Let me tell you one vairy funny story about putting. It was one day I play at Nijni-Novgorod with the pro against Lenin and Trotsky, and Trotsky had a two-inch putt for the hole. But, just as he addresses the ball, someone in the crowd he tries to assassinate Lenin with a rewolwer-you know that is our great national sport, trying to assassinate Lenin with rewolwers-and the bang puts Trotsky off his stroke and he goes five yards past the hole, and then Lenin, who is rather shaken, you understand, he misses again himself, and we win the hole and match and I clean up three hundred and ninety-six thousand roubles, or fifteen shillings in your money. Some gameovitch! And now let me tell you one other vairy funny story-"

   Desultory conversation had begun in murmurs over the rest of the room, as the Wood Hills intellectuals politely endeavoured to conceal the fact that they realized that they were about as much out of it at this re-union of twin souls as cats at a dogshow. From time to time they started as Vladimir Brusiloff's laugh boomed out. Perhaps it was a consalation to them to know that he was enjoying himself.

   As for Adeline, how shall I describe her emotions? She was stunned. Before her very eyes the stone which the builders had rejected had become the main thing, the hundred-to-one shot had walked away with the race. A. rush of tender admiration for Cuthbert Banks flooded her heart. She saw that she had been all wrong. Cuthbert, whom she had always treated with a patronizing superiority, was really a man to be looked
up to and worshipped. A deep, dreamy sigh shook Adeline's fragile form.

   Half an hour later Vladimir and Cuthbert Banks rose.

   “Goot-a-bye, Mrs. Smet-thirst," said the Celebrity. "Zank you for a most charming visit. My friend Cootaboot and me we go now to shoot few holes. You will lend me clobs, friend Cootaboot?"

   "Any you want."

   "The niblicksky is what I use most. Goot-a-bye, Mrs. Smet-thirst."    

   They were moving to the door, when Cuthbert felt a light touch on his arm. Adeline was looking up at him tenderly.

  "May I come, too, and walk round with you?"

   Cuthbert's bosom heaved.

  "Oh," he said, with a tremor in his voice, "that you would walk round with me for life.

   Her eyes met his.

   "Perhaps," she whispered, softly, "it could be arranged."

   "And so" (concluded the Oldest Member), "you see that golf can be of the greatest practical assistance to a man in Life's struggle. Raymond Parsloe Devine, who was no player, had to move out of the neighborhood immediately, and is now, I believe, writing scenarios out in California for the Flicker Film Company. Adeline is married to Cuthbert, and it was only his earnest pleading which prevented her from having their eldest son christened Abe Mitchell Ribbed-Faced Mashie Banks, for she is now as keen a devotee of the great game as her husband. Those who know them say that theirs is a union so devoted, so-“

  The Sage broke off abruptly, for the young man had rushed to the door and out into the passage. Through the open door he could hear him crying passionately to the waiter to bring back his clubs.


Flirting with 79

For the average golfer Is there any better number to post than one starting with seven?

By TIM PALMERO

I am 47 years young, and I have been working golf since I was 10.  I am a respectable mid-teen index.  I know the etiquette, I know the rules, I know when to keep my mouth shut and I know when to pick up the pace.  In other words, I am a golfer.  What I don’t know is the joy of breaking 80.  All those who can empathize slosh your beers.  Yes friends, that sound is a tsunami.

I have had my moments; confident over the ball, swing grooved in, a sense that every putt had a chance.  I have had that great but all together too rare feeling that a good round is possible because my bad shots are still good misses – they are in the rough, not the trees.

Despite the inevitable boogies, I am managing the course smartly, taking the percentage shots, laying up, aiming for the middle of the green, taking the risky shot only after a precise risk/reward calculation.

Even on the last hole with south of 80 in striking distance, I keep my mind focused on the shot in front of me, not the last one, not the next one.  I have my mantra, “what’s my target, what’s my target.”  I keep it loose, swing without fear, and crush a high soaring driving that carves the sky like a broad sword as it sails sharply right and out of bounds.  And of course, with 79 gone, I tee up, swing with resigned abandon and split the fairway.  A mid-iron, a chip close and a tap-in leaves me with an 81.  Curses, foiled again.  Still a great round for me.  Just not great enough.

If I start the round with a couple of pars, I can see 79.  I have played enough to maintain focus on the shot that is before me.  I have read enough books to know that it is me and only me that controls things.  Not my partner, not my competitor, not my equipment, not the rub of the green.  Just me and my swing.

If I start with a couple of bogies, especially if they result from duffs, not near misses, I know this is not the round to score, but a round good for other things.  Like experimenting a bit with one of the hints from last week’s golf rag; working on tempo, keeping my head still.  Nothing drastic, mind you, just swing tweaks or mental imagery since this is not starting off as a career round.

But mostly after a start like this, I remind myself, usually unsuccessfully, that golf is not a game of perfect.  It is a game of recovery.  The real skill, I know, is overcoming adversity by making smart decisions and staying in the moment.

The golf swing is complex; there is no doubt about it.  It is a difficult game.  But this is not my problem.  I can point to two and only two things when my shots go awry.  One is I swing too hard.  I am impatient to get to the ball and swing furiously, ferociously.  The other is a lack of mental focus.  The club head is not two inches into the backswing before I begin thinking about work, my spouse, how this ball is going to land on the green like a butterfly with sore feet.  I know I am doing a thousand other things wrong, but they all bud from these two thorns.

But then of course, 79 has become such a bugaboo, I can’t get out of my own way.  I can only hope for years to pass and patience to grow.  Yet hope springs eternal and there is not a day I tee it up that I don’t think this will be the day.

 


 

The Story of My First National Championship

an oldie but goodie

 

BY FRANCIS OUIMET

   The 1910 Amateur Championship at The Country Club, Brookline, where I saw Mr. Herreshoff make the drive above mentioned, was the first national event I ever entered, my age at the time being seventeen years. I did not qualify, but my failure did not make me feel very badly, considering all the circumstances. My total of 169 in the qualifying rounds was only one stroke worse than the top qualifying figure; and among those who, like myself, failed to get in the match play were such noted

Golfers as Robert A. Gardner, then the national amateur champion, and H. Chandler Egan, a former champion.

   Furthermore, I played under circumstances that were a handicap in themselves. The championship field was inordinately large, and I was among the late starters for the first round, getting away from the first tee at 2:44 in the afternoon. This would have been ample time to get around before dark, had it not been an extraordinary congestion at the third tee. Some one of the earlier starters was exceedingly slow, not to mention the time taken to search for a ball, and other little things that helped to cause delay and hold the players back. When my partner and arrived at the third tee, there were ten pairs then waiting for an opportunity to play that hole, and there was nothing to do but wait. An hour and ten minutes of waiting at one tee in a championship is not conducive to best efforts; at any rate, it was not in my case.

   While waiting at this tee, I remember having watched W. Chick take eight for the sixth hole, and, while mentally sympathizing with him, I did not dream that I would get a similar figure for my own card, when I finally did play the third hole, for I had started most satisfactorily with four for the first hole, the same figure for the second. When it came my turn to drive from the third tee, I drove into a trap, lost a stroke getting out, put my third in the woods, was back on the fair green in four, on the green in five, and then took three putts for an eight. But from that point, I was forty-four strokes for the first nine holes. By this time, the afternoon was pretty well gone, and my partner and I had to stop playing at the fourteenth, because of darkness. As my card showed even fours for the first five holes of the inward half, I was beginning to feel better able to complete the round that day, I think I might have been around in seventy-nine or eighty.

   Along with several other pairs who were caught in the same dilemma, I had to go out the following morning to play the remaining four holes, and the best I could get for them was a total of nineteen strokes, whereas I would do those same holes ordinarily in sixteen strokes, at most. My score of eighty-three for the first round was not bad, however, and a similar round the second day would have put me in the match play.

   But I had made one serious mistake, as I learned in the course of the second round. My supposition had been that, after playing the last four holes of the first round on the morning of the second day, I would have ample time to go home to breakfast and then return for the second round, my home being in close proximity to the grounds. What actually happened was that, after completing the four holes of the first round, I was told to report immediately at the first tee for my second round, in which I was have the pleasure of being partnered with the then president of the United States Golf Association, Robert C. Watson. For the first nine holes I had reason to feel satisfied, doing them in forty-one strokes, with every prospect of doing even better in the scoring for the last nine, which are less difficult. But by this time the pangs of hunger had taken a firm hold, and I feel myself weakening physically, which was the result both of my failure to get breakfast, and the strain of a week hard practicing. The consequence was that I made a poof finish, took forty-five for the last nine, eighty-six for the round, and had one hundred and sixty-nine for my thirty-six-hole total, or just out of the match-play running. The moral is to be properly prepared or competition.

   About that "week of hard practicing" I would like to add a little. My experiences of practicing for the championship of 1910 taught me a good lesson, it practicing may easily be overdone. My idea of practicing for that event was to get in at least thirty-six holes a day for the week prior to the championship. This was based partly on the idea that, with so much play, the game could be brought to such a point of mechanical precision that it would be second nature to hit the ball properly. The thought of "going stale" from so much play never occurred to me. Probably one reason was that I never had had a feeling of physical staleness in any sport up to that time. I always had been keen for golf, from the time of becoming interested in the game, and could not imagine a state of feeling that would mean even the slightest repugnance for play.

   This is, perhaps, an error natural to youth and inexperience. It was not for me to know that a growing youth of seventeen years is not likely to have such a robust constitution that he can stand thirty-six holes of golf a day for a week, not to mention fairly steady play for weeks in advance of that, and still be on edge for a championship tournament.       

   It was not only on the Saturday previous to the championship (which began Monday) that I noticed this feeling of staleness. It did not come on all at once, by any means, and I did not realize what was the trouble, for on the day that I first noticed that I was not so keen for play as usual, I made a particularly good score. That day I was playing in company with H. H. Wilder, R. R. Freeman, and W. R. Tuckerman. This round was more or less of a tryout for places on the Massachusetts State team and I was fortunate enough to get in the best round, a seventy-six. Incidentally, I might add that this performance did not land me the coveted place on the State team, for Mr. Tuckerman reached the semifinals of the championship the succeeding week, which gave him precedence. That year I did play one match for the state team however. It was against Rhode Island when the Massachusetts team found itself one man shy on the day set for play, which also was at The Country Club. Somebody discovered that I was in the vicinity, looked me up, and I played with a set of borrowed clubs, and also won my match.

   To revert to the physical strain of too much practice, I found that on Saturday of the practice week my hands were sore, and I was playing with unwonted effort, though not getting any better, results that when hitting the ball with normal ease. It was my first lesson in the knowledge that when the game becomes a task, rather than a pleasure, something is wrong physically.

   My advice to any golfer preparing for a championship is, therefore, not to overdo the practice end. To my mind, the wise thing is to play thirty-six holes a day for perhaps two days a week in advance of the championship. Then spend a morning in practicing shots with the irons, the mashie, and putting, followed by round of the course in the afternoon. This might be done for wo or three days, with special attention given to the club which perhaps is not getting satisfactory results. One round of golf, without special exertion, the day before the tournament, after such a program, ought to put the player in good shape for the real competition. As for the superstition of some golfers that a particularly fine round in practice means so much less chance of duplicating it in tournament play, I hold a different view, which that an especially good round gives an inspiration to equal it when the real test comes. I always feel after such a round that if I
can do it once, there is no reason why I cannot again.

   Elimination from the championship, in the qualifying round, had its compensations. It gave me the opportunity to watch he championship play for the remainder of the week, to see in action those golfers of whom I had heard so much. That in itself was a treat. Some of the matches, moreover, gave me some new ideas about golf as played in competition by men in the foremost ranks. For one thing, it was rather startling, if such a word can apply, to see a golfer like Mr. Herreshoff literally “swamped” in

is match with Mr. Evans. Mr. Herreshoff had made the lowest score of the entire field in the qualifying round, yet here was the same man unable to put up anything but the most feeble opposition to the young Chicago golfer. Such a match only goes to show that the best of golfers occasionally have their bad lays, days on which they find it seemingly impossible to play satisfactorily. That is a good thing to bear in mind—no match is lost before it is played. When a golfer possessed of such ability as had Mr. Herreshoff can be defeated eleven up and nine to play, it simply shows that golf is a game or uncertainties, after all; that, in fact, is one of its great charms.

   In that same championship, the uncertainties of the game were shown in another match, and again Mr. Evans was one of the factors, though this time on the losing side. He had been playing in form which made him a distinctive favorite for the title, and, in the semifinal round, he came to the sixteenth hole two up on W. C. Fownes, Jr., of Pittsburgh. The sixteenth is a short hole, just a mashie pitch. Mr. Evans reached the edge of the green with his tee shot, whereas Mr. Fownes made a poor effort, and put his ball in a sand-trap.

   The match appeared to be over, then and there. But a match in golf never is over until one player has a lead of more holes than there are holes to play, a fact which was demonstrated anew in his match. Mr. Fownes played out of the trap, and holed a long putt for a three, while Mr. Evans, using his mid-iron instead of his putter from the edge of the green, was well past the hole
on his second shot, and failed to get the putt coming back. Hence, instead of winning the hole and the match, as he seemed bound to do, he lost the hole. Then, as so often happens when a man apparently has a match absolutely in hand and loses an opening to clinch it, Mr. Evans lost the seventeenth, likewise the home Instead of winning the match and the championship, as nearly everybody figured he would, he only got to the semi-finals. It is true that Mr. Fownes made a wonderful recovery at the sixteenth, to get his three; he played a remarkable shot at the seventeenth, too; but a man is apt to do that after recovering from an almost hopeless situation.

   It was in that championship that I was astonished to see such a great golfer as Mr. Evans using his mid-iron instead of his putter most of the time on the greens. He was then following the same practice that was true of his play in the middle west, notwithstanding that the putter is a much superior club for greens such as are found at The Country Club. He could not be expected, of course, to come east and learn to get the best results from the putter in such a short time as he had for practice.

   To see him use the mid-iron on the greens, and then practically lose his semifinal round match, and possibly the title, because he could not lay a mid-iron approach-putt dead at the sixteenth, helped me to form one resolution for which I since have been thankful. That was to use my putter from any point on the green, provided there was no special reason for doing otherwise. Of course, there are circumstances when the mid-iron is better for an approach-putt than the putter, as, for example, when there is a little piece of dirt on or in front of the ball, casual water, or uneven surface to go over. But under normal conditions, nowadays, I would rather use my putter and take three putts, than take a mid-iron or another club. By adhering to that policy, I think I have gained more confidence in my putting, and confidence is a wonderful asset in this branch of the game. Watching the good players in that championship gave me one distinct ambition, which was to try to steady my game down to a point where I would not play four holes well, say, and then have wo or three poor ones before getting another three-or four-hole streak of satisfactory play. The steadily good game is better than the combination of brilliant and erratic. It is something like the hare and the tortoise.  


The Fifteenth of Clubs

A case for one more arrow in the quiver

By MIKE PILE

I am the average golfer. Not an average golfer, the average golfer. I am the mean, the mode, the medium, and the middling. The typical, the ordinary, the run-of-the-mill. By every demographic and golfing metric, I am the guy the public pictures in their mind’s eye and the target customer of every club maker and training aid manufacturer from Carlsbad to Quanzhou. With one exception.

I am getting better. I say this not to brag but to establish my bone fides as a golfing everyman. Every regular golfer has his or her ups and downs but over the last 12 rounds I have gotten better. That doesn’t mean I am scoring lower with every subsequent round, it means that my scores got lower than they were before and they have kinda stayed there. It means that now, when I stand over the ball, I feel pretty confident I am going to put a serviceable swing on the ball. I don’t expect a towering draw, a frozen rope or a power fade, but I expect and get a ball that is almost always in play at worst and positioned for par at best. How have I achieved this?

Patience. But this isn’t a story about that. I’ll let you in on that secret later. See, a little test of your patience with that tease right there.

This is about the tools of the trade and an argument to increase the number of clubs one can pack from 14 to 15. My epiphany came to me like this.

I finally, finally, started to hit the driver in play. At least when I exhibited some patience, i.e. stopped exhibiting the desire to crush the ball in to submission. But sometimes I need a tee shot that while still long enough to give me a fighting chance at a GIR, I could count on to be a little straighter, a little more reliable. For me that’s a three iron. Don’t ask, it just is. Irons look better to my eye. I hit it low and it runs to an acceptable distance on any fairway that doesn’t suck the cleats off your feet.

From long to middle-long distances for the second shot (this is not a driver/wedge story), the sticks in my bag are adequate. A long second with a generous, hazard-free landing area is addressed with my three-wood. A longish shot requiring some height is accomplish with a hybrid while mid irons cover the area up to wedge distance.

The short game, as every golfing pundit will tell you, is where the scoring is done. I have a handful of clubs including the putter, wedge, gap-wedge, sand-wedge and a 64-degree trouble-wedge because my natural ball flight, even with lofted clubs, is pretty low. I like to chip the ball more than pitch it because it is a safer shot. But on more occasions than I would like, a semi-heroic, (I am hesitant to say flop) high, soft shot is called for, thus the 64.

And this should be enough clubs, right?  Except it’s not. I am not even that good, and I’ll switch out a long club for a short one if the course has more holes than not where I can land short of the green and hope to run it up. I’ll pack another wedge and leave the long hybrid in the trunk if most of the greens are protected in front on today’s track. Why do I need to make this choice? Isn’t golf hard enough?

Clubs are generally designed for 10-yard increments. The length between one club and its immediate neighbor can vary anywhere from a quarter of an inch to a full inch. Lofts between clubs change from three to as many as five degrees. So, having the club to match the distance (and using the same swing) makes perfect sense. Up until inside 100 yards that is.

Around the green, where most of us end up on their second shot, the scoring zone, the choices are limited to one, maybe two clubs for the entire range of 100 to zero yards. That is, every increment of ten yards has to be addressed with the same club or two requiring you to vary the loft and distance either by chocking down, opening the face, hitting it off the toe, or varying the length and speed of the swing. It bears repeating; some eight – very important – shots must be accomplished with a single club.

I am not suggesting a set of 10 wedges but there should be legal to carry another club to help fill in the gaps between 100 and 0 yards. Or to fill in any other gap for that matter. While not necessarily making the game any easier, allowing a fifteenth club in the bag does carry the possibility for lower scores. And happier golfers. And if customer satisfaction is not motivating enough to the USGA and R&A, how’s this:

The economic impact is obvious and huge. And needed. Let’s face it, the industry is struggling to remain relevant and viable.

Every manufacturer, both major and minor, is given an opportunity to sell one more club as is every retailer and reseller.

Designers and manufacturers might be motivated to create an innovative hybrid, a specialty club, a super-draw bias driver. Creativity would be unleashed. Whole sets could get tweaked.

A fifteenth club generates more demand for heads, shafts, grips, head-covers, glue, tape, shipping materials and shipping services benefiting the entire supply chain.

Old bags are at once obsolete as consumers run to golf shops everywhere for bigger bags with 15 slots. Will they be a little pissy? Yes, at first, but every golfer loves to buy golf stuff almost as much as they love to play.

Course owners and managers benefit too. The golfer now has another tool. It could be a specialty chipping club, a long iron to cheat the wind off the tee, a trouble wedge for getting out of, well, trouble. Scores go down, golfer is happier, plays more rounds, buys more rounds, puts more money in course owners’ pockets.

What’s not to like?

 


Alone in a Sea of Humanity

A team of one

By MIKE PILE

Golf is a lonely sport.  This may seem counterintuitive if the only golf you play is on daily-fee tracks and the only time you watch it is 12:00 to 3:00 Pacific Standard Time.  But if you are among the chosen few to whom golf is a calling then you know just what a stupendously lonesome game it is.

A survey in a national golf magazine asked men about their favorite part of the sport. The majority stated that it is the camaraderie, time spent with buddies, that is most enjoyable.  This is response that pollsters refer to as a socially acceptable answer. Meaning that this is the response you give because it sounds right, plausible and somehow acceptable.  Yet any player worth his green fee knows that the true, unmitigated joy of the game is out driving your buddies, out scoring your pals and flat out spanking that little dimpled orb as far and as straight as humanly possible.  And these all too rare joys are achieved irrespective of your playing partners.

That golf is a lonely hunter is no more evident than at the practice rounds prior to the traditional Thursday commencement of a professional tournament.  For it is on these Mondays, Tuesdays, and early misty Wednesdays, that one can observe the grinders alone with their thoughts in an undulating emerald sea.  On these days the players, who are only slightly better known than their caddies, but significantly better groomed walk alone, play alone, and live and die alone.

Preferring solitude to crowds myself, I spent Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday watching the nameless and faceless prepare for the AT&T National Pro-Am on the Monterey Peninsula.  Prior to the antics of a Bill Murray, the 15 handicap swing of a professed scratch Dennis Quaid, and the wind-cheating two-irons of “these guys are good” tour pros, walk the near great, the dare to be great, and the I wish but know I never will be great.

They walk, and I follow, among the most dramatic landscape ever created by nature and enhanced by man.  Yet the sum-total of their attention is on a common white ball and a four inch hole in the ground. They care not for natural beauty but only for the physical beauty of launch angle, spin rate, swing speed and moment of inertia. I am, but tell myself I am not, awed by an azure ocean, breaching whales, and homes bigger than the Inn at Spanish Bay. But none of this really matters to the lonely wanna-be. What is truly inspiring is the silky poetry of a golf swing generated by even the most common of aspiring tour players.

I cannot watch golf for more than a nano-second before wanting to swing away myself so I wave down one of the ubiquitous Buicks trolling 17-Mile Drive. A very old and very nice volunteer drives me at three-miles an hour to the closest course a struggling writer can afford.   And although I am partnered with three other golfers, I am alone as I would be in the middle of the desert. 

With visions of the senior tour, I flail, I thrash, I slash. The ball hooks, ducks, slices, worm burns, drop kicks, tops, chili dips, skulls, teases and taunts. My playing partners feel for me. But once, once in 87 swings, I attain the solitude that only a golfer can enjoy.  My swing is effortless, smooth, fluid.  The ball sails against the blue and drops on the green just as me and Mr. Titleist intended.


 

Patience is a Virtue

And a key to lower scores

By ROBERT BENNETT

If you’re at a bit of a loss for a tip, trick or swing thought, here’s a timeless idea: Patience. This is decidedly not a tip, trick or swing thought but an approach to the game that tenders very real and tangible improvements. You see, golf is a time-consuming activity and unless you are among the lucky few who can spend all the time in the world playing and practicing, you are inevitably pressed for time. Now this time pressure can be real or simply illusory, but is pressure nonetheless.

If you’re successful at all in any endeavor; parenting, business, exercise, etc., you must possess some degree of urgency, some degree of meeting the goal, some degree of competitive drive. But these qualities, for the most part, are antithetical to a good golf game. I cannot tell you the number of guys I play with (and myself on more occasions than I wanted) who rush through the round either just wanting to be done or to make a meeting or simply to not be away for that long. This git-er-done-itus is not conducive to scoring. Here’s how a little patience can benefit you.

Most mid-index golfers, i.e. the vast majority, wants to hit the ball far. This means speed. This means a rush to get the club head to the ball. And this means swinging from the top because using the arms to start the downswing is faster. Using the hips to trigger the downswing takes time and patience. But that’s what is required for a better strike. Think about pausing at the top and swinging from the bottom.  Hideki Matsuyama does that. Maybe too much for some but not a bad approach for most.

You can groove this by swinging in slow motion and exaggerating the pause to ensure the transition from backswing to downswing is initiated by the hips.

Patience is also a great tool throughout the round. When you hit the clunker on any given hole, the natural tendency is to race to the ball, hit fast and erase the memory. But of course, the opposite is true. While sometimes just swinging away is the best course of action, it helps to bear in mind that one bad shot per hole does not mean purgatory. Even if it is a big miss, maybe par, likely bogie, maybe double is within reach. And here’s the next thing about patience.

A bad hole or even a couple of bad holes don’t kill around for the mid-indexer. In my endless quest to break 80, I used to just give up after an early round double. But as I settled down (it only took 10 years) I was able to regroup and make a few pars and get back on track. Did I break 80? No, but I hovered around 85 and south and have learned to be happy with that.

Patience is also an effective game strategy. You hear Nick Faldo speak to that all the time. There are holes to score on and holes to do as well as you can and get out of there. There are pin placements to attack and ones to avoid. Simply stopping the aggressive, caveman, flag hunting approach and opt for the fat of the green on just a few holes can be the difference between a score you’re content with and the desire to quit for life.

Patience doesn’t mean slow, it means mindful and deliberate. Remind yourself before the first tee. Walk at a pace right for you. Approach the ball and ready the shot at a pace right for you. Breathe. Enjoy the surroundings.  Patience; swing to swing and hole to hole.


 

A Guide to the PGA Tour

Bigger than the NFL

 

By ROBERT BENNETT

Who generates more annual income the NFL or the PGA Tour? If you were a high school student taking the college boards and didn’t know the answer you would puzzle it out through simple test taking strategies. To wit: this is a golf site for one and the obvious, common-sense answer is the NFL so clearly that’s not it.

Yes, it is the PGA Tour and as an avid golfer you’d know that but what is staggering is the size differential between the two.  Per IRS schedule 990 the PGA Tour generated income of nearly $1.1 billion in 2014.  The NFL? Almost $300 million.  That’s right the PGA Tour is nearly 4x the size of the NFL, reputedly the most powerful and certainly the most visible American sports league in history.

$1.1B in income doesn’t get you on the Fortune 500 but as a nonprofit you are ranked in pretty good company just ahead of the YMCA and Goodwill.  And that’s only what’s reported as a nonprofit.  Its actual income is bigger, considerably bigger.  Though truth be told a little harder to tease out.  A big organization comes with a big spreadsheet.

The Tour’s income is generated through a diverse, and more importantly steady, set of revenue streams.  It owns six other Tour properties: the Web.com Tour, the Mackenzie Tour (Canada), The Champions Tour, PGA Tour, LatinoAmerica, and PGA Tour China.

It manages plenty of events, no surprise, but none of the majors.  The closest it comes is the President’s Cup, the WGC’s and the Players.

It is in the golf course business owning or licensing 32 resort and private clubs through its TPC Network.

It is in the software business with EZLinks, a golf course management platform, and has recently launched a TeeOff.com, a tee time reservation system.

It is in retail, licensing its brand in dedicated superstores, store within store concepts and restaurants familiar to most airport visitors.

It is in the partnership business maintaining marketing relationships with virtually every significant golf-related nonprofit from the First Tee to the World Golf Hall of Fame.

While it is now among the most profitable of non-profits it was not always so.  Like all sports franchises the Tour is an advertising driven endeavor and more to the point television advertising. But televising a golf event is a herculean task requiring more cameras, more announcers, more travel, more equipment, more staff, and more to the point, more money.

From its inception through the late 1970’s the business model depended on selling broadcast rights to the networks. And while it worked for a time, it was becoming increasing untenable.  It was then that commissioner Deane Beman developed and executed a strategic plan worthy of Harvard Business School Case Study.

Instead of selling the broadcast rights and placing the burden of peddling the advertising space on the networks, the tour packaged the events and sold them as sponsorships to the advertisers themselves.  It was a brilliant win-win deal all around.

The broadcasters loved it.  They received a pre-sold inventory of advertising and little trouble filling the balance of time slots because they were now a limited and thus more valuable commodity.

Corporate marketers loved it.  They purchased high quality exposure to an affluent demographic and the positive halo that comes with being associated with a charity.  They reached new customers and feted current ones.

The players loved it.  Purses grew then soared with the professional debut of a certain golfer who just happened to born around the time the first deals were struck.

It is hard to see this business softening anytime soon.  While the other leagues face their own set of hurdles; NFL and concussions, baseball and boring to name two, the PGA Tour is uniquely positioned to thrive.  It is the only franchise where its fans actually play the same game as the pros. Not exactly the same, obviously, but every fan has the opportunity to play the same courses and once in a great while hit shots with similar results.

This aspect is a significant competitive advantage to the Tour as it competes for eyeballs. Avid golfers are an addictive lot and will scoop up new equipment, lessons, gadgets and experiences to feed their need. They are also an affluent lot purchasing insurance, financial advice, luxury automobiles and cruises.  And this does not begin and end with the coveted millennial demographic of 18-34. Golfers golf and buy stuff as long as they can still drive a cart even if they are no longer allowed behind the wheel.

It is a perfect storm of a business: happy fans, happy players, and happy marketers all bathed in the soft sweet light of a charitable enterprise.