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Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Yawn, another Eagle for Mr Science

One of my golf buddies from Connecticut retired to Sun City Grand, so when I moved out here I looked him up. We played one weekend morning with two of his new cronies. We had a small 6-6-6 match going, and Tom was my partner for the first 6 holes. He birdied the first. On the second, I hit my drive into the desert on the left side. Tom told me about the "desert rule", in case I didn't have a "desert club" to hit. I said "They're all desert clubs". I had a decent lie, so I played it. It was a blind shot, 150 yards to the center. I made solid contact, sending the ball in the general direction of the green. Our opponents were in their cart at the top of the hill, watching, and as we approached they said "We have to talk about this match". I asked, "What, did it go onto the green?". That's when they told me it was in the hole for an eagle. It wasn't my first eagle, but it was the first one not on a par 5.

Tom won all the money that day, I lost only a little after we won the first 6 holes.


One of Many Eagles

Outside the tee box, but inside the ropes, I volunteer as a walking scorer on the PGA and LPGA tour. In the late 1990's at the Canon Greater Hartford Open, I had an unknown young player named Chris DiMarco in an early round. At the tough 14th, he hit a solid 3-wood to the top of the hill, some 60 feet above the tee, on the right side, avoiding the huge maple tree that blocks the approach from the left, and finding the only flat lie on the fairway. The second shot is 60 feet downhill to a long, narrow green guarded by that tree and traps right and left, that slopes fairly severely from back to front. After some discussion, he selected a club and hit a beautiful, high 7-iron that landed not more than 10 feet right of the pin, which was all the way back, bounced high in the air as if it had hit a cart path, went over the green, down the slope, and stopped 20 yards away next to the small stream, in foot-high fescue that mower blade has never touched. Finding the ball was an accomplishment, as the gallery is not allowed back there, but the next shot was a minor miracle. It floated high in the air, landed gently on the fringe, and trickled slowly, slowly down the hill, stopping 20 feet below the hole. His uphill putt broke ever so slightly to the left, crossed the cellophane bridge on the right side of the cup, and came to rest 6 inches dead behind the hole. He tapped in his bogey, and as he left the green he turned to his caddy and said quietly, "I hit 5 good shots on that hole".

Epilogue: the next time I played the TPC at Cromwell, I hit a drive the best I could up the middle, hit a blind 3-wood shot over the hill, and as we walked to the green I could see my ball 3 feet short of the front pin placement. I made the putt. Yes, Chris, it is a funny game.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Wigwam Blue Course

6000 yds, Par 70, Slope 126, by Robert Trent Jones


They Say: "A Tricky Challenge Among Robert treat Jones contributions to the world of golf was the concept of the “signature course.” His work at The Blue Course is testament to the ability of a great designer to create courses with such different character. The Blue has been described as tricky and subtle. Playing to a length just over 6,000 yards, but a par of 70 the test can be a bit deceiving. Here is a creative course: one full of decisions and thought-provoking strategy. The hallmark of Mr. Jones’ design can be found in the array of deep and perilous bunkers, ponds and dog-leg fairways."

As we hiked over to the vacant Blue 1st Tee, I noticed the queue of carts 3 4somes deep to play the Gold course -- maybe they know something, maybe they don't . . . on paper a 6000 yd course will not have much to offer, especially when it is visibly flat-ish. But knowing that it has been designed by Robert Trent Jones should be warning enough! I wound up disappointed, more with my own inadequacies than with the course . . . I should have been better prepared, mentally, to deal with what I knew to expect, but flush with my near-success at Tuscany Falls, I got frustrated with the severely elevated and TINY greens, to the point that it just debilitated my game.

That's the main defense of this course, as you might imagine, these tiny greens, that rolled true, but proved impossible for me to read -- I missed several putts with the right speed but 4 feet offline -- that does wear a boy out. I scored something worse than double-bogey golf in toto . . . even Mr Science staggered to the low 80s, instead of his benchmark 79.

Some holes are just unfair, I think . . . like the 200 yd par 3s with tiny elevated, turtle-back greens with bunkers in the line of flight. The par 3s are the signature holes, I think, for that reason, plus the short par 3 15th, that is just a wedge long, but it is all water carry and the green slopes away from the water to the back of the green, which borders a trench thru the property. I hit a perfect shot that rolled past the pin to the fringe, from where I 3putted. Or the short #4 par 3 that's like a flat redan, the green is so elevated . . . I missed the green, the flopped a perfect shot barely on the green, but it rolled all the way off the other side.

Frequently, the greens slope away from the front, usually from a middle-ish hump in the green, which get nerve wracking on those fairway approaches. #14 was a kind of interesting hole, short and flat, but with a huge semi-visible bunker complex on the left side where the fairway might have been. Mr Science laid up short with his 3iron, but I, past caring, simply hit my drive as far as I could. 260 yds found the middle of the giant bunker. I like to think my youth in west Texas has prepared me for fairway bunkers, but I still semi-chunked it only to the front of the green. Then I hit a lag putt over the middle hump into the bowl on the back side of the green, so that my ball broke at least 20 ft toward the hole. I still missed the par putt. Mr Science, meanwhile, semi-chunked his short wedge, seeing that crazy pin position, then left his lag putt still at the top of the middle mound, but two good putts later he got his bogey.

#16 sticks in my head too, as one of the semi-unfair shots. That trench that backs up to #15 runs along the left side of #16, then cuts across the fairway just in front of the landing area, then pinches the landing area from the right. A large tree that guards the left side of the fairway and a heart-shaped pot bunker, 10 feet wide in the dead middle of the fairway tempts the driver to play right, despite the trench, which BTW has to be the single Ugliest Design Feature in the valley -- what could RTJ have been thinking? Is it to emulate the birns on scottish courses?

So I wound up left of the trap, behind the tree, with only a wedge left to the green, but when I say that tree is guarding the green, I don't mean that it is standing their passively in all its Regal Arboreality, but rather that it was fiercely standing between us and the green like a hockey goalie in a particuarly ugly mask. I reclubbed at second tho't opting for more loft, and came up short, down thru the branches that tossed me gently onto the froghair. Mr Science hit his best drive of the day, 265 dead center of the fairway, straight as an arrow and beautiful to watch, but it rolled into that heart-shaped pot bunker.

Such a cute touch . . . Probably looks great from a helicopter . . . Must be the "signature" feature of the course. If only that tree blocking the left side of the green were closer to the middle, it would be a double signature. . .

Mr Science's 95-yard gap wedge was a little fat, came up short of the green. Pin front left. He hit a nice chip that almost stopped in the center of the green, maybe 10 feet right of the pin, but it rolled off the left side of the green thru a giant swale. I nudged my ball towards the hole, and missed the hole by 20 feet, as it raced to the bottom of that swale, next to Mr Science. Sigh. Another Triple Bogey for Cactus, a bogey for Mr Science.

#18 is a 496 yard par 4 -- another sort of unfair hole, IMVHO . . . given the overall length of the course . . . I swung from my heels, slicing into the trees. Next I hit my best shot of the day, 125 yard knock-down 7 iron between two trees. Next I hit a 3 wood trying to reach the green that hooked way left, and I had been aiming at the wrong green, left of the proper target in the first place. Just hit a wedge from the other fairway without thinking about it then one-handed a couple of putts, relieved the ordeal was over.

"What'd you have there?" queried the ever-punctilious Mr Science.
"Agggh. Put me down for an 8", I said dismissively.
"But Wait!" objected Mr Science, then he recounted my strokes for me, "That's only a 6!"
"By all means," I said drily, "put down a 6 if you think it makes any difference."
So it was a combination of my overconfidence to start out, then my frustration to finish up, and the course's inherent difficulty that made for such disappointment . . . I really don't know what we shot, or which hole, exactly was which, since I tore up my card in anger.


Tuscany Falls

Falls / Palms, 6640 yds, Par 72, Slope 126, by Dick Bailey


They Say: "Tuscany Falls was designed by Dick Bailey, noted golf course architect, and showcases dramatic mounding, rolling fairways and strategically placed bunkers. This 18-hole course features the White Tank Mountains as a backdrop to its rolling fairways and palm trees. The signature hole is number 13, where golfers must carry more than 100 yards over water from the tee box to the green. In fact, ten lakes come into play around the course, so bring those water balls!"

We enjoyed our round here, the course is not at all uninteresting -- a solid 3 -- even tho' it's a little strange how the first holes of each 9 are long, but the middle holes are very short, then each 9 finishes with a par 5. I almost had a good round, 46-44=90 while Mr Science had his standard 79. I tho't I was going to set a new personal best for missed birdie putts, but it was a day where tho my fairway woods were excellent, around the green I constantly flubbed like a stooge, especially on the Par 5s.

Honestly cannot remember any holes there, just snapshots of some of my great shots -- the course is not memorable, but it is very walkable and challenging enough.


Tennyson & Thoreau

From The Golf Omnibus, P.G. Wodehouse, "Sundered Hearts", a quote from Tennyson:

My bride, My wife, my life.
Oh, we will walk the links Yoked in all exercise of noble end,
And so thro' those dark bunkers off the course
That no man knows.
Indeed, I love thee: come,
Yield thyself up: our handicaps are one;
Accomplish thou my manhood and thyself;
Lay thy sweet hands in mine and trust to me.

Tennyson Played Golf?!? Then, how about Thoreau?

I am wealthy in sunny days, and I have spent them lavishly. (from Walden)

(If there were any sentiment that would succinctly encapsulate the spirit of the amateur golfer, I should think this would be it)

I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours
a day at least--and it is commonly more than that--sauntering through the woods
and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.
(from Walking)

(A pleasurable round of golf rarely lasts more than 4 hours, and if we all had our druthers, we would surely spend 4 hours a day sauntering around our home course, heedlessly bearing the burden of 14 clubs and an extra ball or two over our shoulder.)

I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood
the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks--who had a genius, so to speak, for
SAUNTERING, which word is beautifully derived "from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretense of going a la
Sainte Terre," to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, "There goes a
Sainte-Terrer," a Saunterer, a Holy-Lander. (from Walking)

(So few Golfers these days understand that walking is an essential part of Golf, not only does it gratify the Scottish prudence, not to say, parsimony, inherent in Golf, but it also materially adds to the experience of Golf. If you carry your own bag, the only proper way to walk is to saunter. You can strut from your electric cart, or, you could rabbit around with your pull-cart, but the best way to reach the "Holy Land" is to saunter.)



Describing the aptness of Wodehouse's Golf Omnibus to the Paganican Lifestyle is a formidable challenge, sort of like a 3 iron shot over water to a tiny green . . . in a Joycean way, his golfing ouevre represents the compleat paradigm, if you see what I mean.

How he achieves this is specifically the writer's art, how he documents the tension between Celtic Savagerie and Roman Civilisation, how he illustrates so convincingly the whole array of emotions and situations that range from low burlesque to quotidian High Drama . . . in his life he experienced all these things and can represent them, all with the casual off-handedness of Freddy Couples.

But underneath, the building blocks of his triumph, the foundation of his Shakespearean profundity, are the fundaments of language:

  • Golf, like measles is a disease that should be contacted when one is young. If Contacted in maturer years, the results can be dangerous, and sometimes fatal.

  • I suppose their feelings were rather what those of a golf professional would be, if he had to submit to seeing people dancing on his putting greens in high heeled shoes.

  • Until now Sir George Capatone had addressed his ball rather in the manner of Lot's wife the instant after she was turned into a pillar of salt. He now started behaving rather like a Ouled Nail dancer in throes of Colic.

  • Agnes Flack, crossing the links like a mastodon striding across the primeval swamp.

  • He waggled like Hamlet.

The Shakespearean allusions are plentiful in Wodehouse, and so subtly expert they bring tears to my eyes when I unexpectedly recognize them in their plus-4s. I myself now commonly refer to certain errant shots as Othello Balls, "struck well, but not wisely".

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


















It cannot be doubted by the fair-minded that golf is derived from Paganica, nor that it is fair to refer to Golf and all persons and things associated with Golf as “Paganican”.

It is also patently true that the final modern evolution to the game we know now necessitated the fusion of Roman Leisure and Gaelic Rancor, for the solitary competitive nature of Golf clearly has relatives in other Celtic past-times, such as the Caper Throw and Stone Toss, but the final product reflects the pastoral urbanity of Roman Civilization.

Simmering away in the Collective Unconscious are multitudinous references, direct and indirect, to this Paganican Ideal in the writings of P.G. Wodehouse’s The Golf Omnibus. In that weighty tome are found dozens of examples of Paganican Behaviour. The complex subtleties that make up the Paganican Ideal can only be found in the potent tension between Blue-Faced Savagerie and Elegant Courtly Behaviour.

I am trying to convince the nouveau snobs at Wikipedia that this is so, without luck, so far.

Monday, January 01, 2007


The Kokopelli Golfer Wall Ornament

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