Monday, April 23, 2012

Ordeal By Golf

I did not hesitate a moment. I held strong views on the subject of character-testing.

"The only way," I said to Alexander, "of really finding out a man's true character is to play golf with him. In no other walk of life does the cloven hoof so quickly display itself. I employed a lawyer for years, until one day I saw him kick his ball out of a heel-mark. I removed my business from his charge next morning. He has not yet run off with any trust-funds, but there is a nasty gleam in his eye, and I am convinced that it is only a question of time. Golf, my dear fellow, is the infallible test. The man who can go into a patch of rough alone, with the knowledge that only God is watching him, and play his ball where it lies, is the man who will serve you faithfully and well. The man who can smile bravely when his putt is diverted by one of those beastly wormcasts is pure gold right through. But the man who is hasty, unbalanced, and violent on the links will display the same qualities in the wider field of everyday life. You don't want an unbalanced treasurer do you?"

Bending the Rules


As people are fond of saying: golf is a game of integrity.

But what if the notion of policing ourselves is itself a transient, unfixed golf principle? Who actually makes up the rules, especially if we are policing ourselves?

For many years and for most golfers, the standard code of playing conduct has, in theory at least, been the Rules of Golf as governed in this country by the United States Golf Association. In competitions sanctioned by the U.S.G.A., on the professional tours, in club championships, most other tournaments and organized leagues, golfers do their best to play by U.S.G.A. rules — or the common interpretation of them. In the worst case, someone usually has the slim, handy U.S.G.A. rule book tucked away in a golf bag. Golf courses often have a rule book behind the bar or in the pro shop.

Still, it is a categorical fact that many golfers wouldn’t know a U.S.G.A. rule book from a United States Coast Guard manual. Golf’s official rule book might be a slim tome, but truthfully, a Slim Jim is more common to most American golf bags.

What rules, if any, do those golfers play by? Are the rules decided on the first tee and do they change from group to group?

In other words, it’s O.K. to roll the ball over in the fairway, one mulligan per nine holes, no four-putt greens and never let the beverage cart pass without ordering more Slim Jims.

And, oh yes, I’m also playing with an illegal ball. That’s right, the kind that is engineered to neither slice nor hook.

I always go back to the Wodehouse quote: “in no other human endeveaor, is the cloven hoof revealed so quickly” .


Just so we’re clear, I, in my Calvinistic Approach to Golf, do NOT approve of:


1)   “Broom” putters

2)   Square grooves

3)   Range finders

4)   “adjustable” drivers

5)   Hot balls, or balls engineered to fly straight

6)   over-engineered equipment of ANY kind


not even in casual play, much less in Tournaments, where I have indeed seen all of these things . . .

I think balls & clubs should be standard equipment for a pro tournament, let the sponsors show off their wares, and may the best golfer win . . . and I’d like to see tournaments where the pros have to use 60s or 40s or 20s equipment, too . . . and even for amateurs  . . .  as in baseball: you can’t use an aluminum bat at the pro level . . . there’s a danger to players, but also, it changes the game too much . . . like graphite tennis racquets

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Think Positive and Ace It

Psychologists at Purdue University have come up with an interesting twist on the old notion of the power of positive thinking. Call it the power of positive perception: They've shown that you may be able to improve your golf game by believing the hole you're aiming for is larger than it really is.
Jessica Witt, who studies how perception and performance are related, decided to look at golf — specifically, how the appearance of the hole changes depending on whether you're playing well or poorly.
So she took a large poster board to a golf course with circles of different sizes drawn on it. Some circles matched the size of the golf hole, some were larger and some were smaller. As golfers finished their rounds, she showed them her poster board and asked them to select the circle that matched the size of the hole.
After she got the golfers' scores, she did some math: "The golfers who did better and had a lower score selected larger circles as matching the size of the hole," Witt says. The good golfers overestimated the size of the hole by 10 to 20 percent.

Monday, April 9, 2012


How do you define the yips?

The yips is a term used by golfers to describe an involuntary movement — a twist, a jerk or a shake — that usually happens when putting, although some people will describe it when doing other activities like chipping.

What makes you think there's more to this than golfers choking at a crucial moment?

There are a number of people who have a neurological illness called dystonia, which can cause cramps or pulling in the fingers or wrist while doing a specific task. It's known to occur in writers and musicians — in many cases the only time that they have a problem is when they are trying to perform a task related to their writing or music. In between they are completely normal.

We're trying to determine if there are some golfers who have a golfer's cramp that would be equitable to writer's or musician's cramps.,0,1483249.story

Friday, April 6, 2012

Zen and the Art of Golf-Course Design

BILL COORE spends weeks tramping around a work site. He always wears hiking boots; occasionally, if the underbrush is thick or thorny, he dons chaps. On a new project, his first task is to identify the easiest, most natural ways to move around the land, often guided by the paths that deer and other native animals have created.


In the year-and-a-half-long construction process at Streamsong, Mr. Coore and his team have made scores of similarly subtle tweaks, from adding 2-inch-high undulations to a putting surface to reorienting a fairway so that the distant peak of a dune can serve as an aiming point. The best courses work on many levels, including subconsciously. "It's like a really good essay or poem," he said. "If you get all nuances the first time through, well then, it wasn't very good."


Yes, Bandon Dunes in Oregon, Sand Hills in Nebraska, and We-Ko-Pa in Scottsdale, would be enough to cement the reputation of any Golf Architects.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The bunkers at Augusta are filled with mining waste


You know those pristine white bunkers?

They're actually composed of waste product from the mining of aluminum, according to

Basically, there's this company that mines feldspar (rocks) for aluminum. This process produces waste in the form of really bright, pure quartz — that's what Augusta uses.

Read more:

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Royal Balaton Golf & Yacht Club - Hungary

6223M, Par 72, Slope 131, by Hans-Georg Erhardt...
It has been said: "The first 18-hole golf course on Lake Balaton suitable for organizing international championships is awaiting golf lovers in a picturesque, Mediterranean-style environment. The course, built on 67 hectares, including more than 30 000 m2 water surface, based on plans of the internationally recognized golf-architect, Hans-Georg Erhardt, brings a new dimension of recreation to the shore of Lake Balaton. The golf course lies in a unique natural environment next to Tihany, between Balatonudvari and Örvényes, offering a splendid panorama over Lake Balaton. Four fairways are surrounded by forests and the beauty of the landscape is accented by natural lakes and vineyards. The course is adjacent to the Balaton-Uplands National Park and includes the old quarry of Örvényes which is meanwhile qualified as a nature reserve. The 13th hole bordering the quarry will challenge the best golfers."

I had a sorta package deal that had us staying in Budapest (for the sight seeing) and playing golf in "nearby" golf courses . . . turns out, getting to and from Balaton from Budapest was a 12 hour travail . . . it might not be for everybody, but it was for me . . . getting the car, getting out of Budapest, getting to the ferry with an outdated GPS, 

getting across the ferry that leaves only once an hour now, getting my excellent golf, and getting back, thru the streets of Budapest which resemble Prague's in their intense circumnavigtation on a Jumping Friday Night. My daughter had said she knew nothing about Budapest and neither did we, tho' her expectations of livestock in the streets was over-pessimistic . . . I did see such a thing on the other side of Lake Balaton . . . 120 klics out of city-centre . . . 8^D

So I wasted no time getting from the parking lot to the first tee. . . 8^) . . . which is a long par 5, my personal favorite for a starting hole . . . 

My first tee shot since xmas was a usable, if weak slice into the right 1st cut, but I foozled 2 straight shots after that. Wedged uponto the green, 2putt bogey. Ok. Only to be expected.

The second is a short par 4, dogleg left around some bodacious bunkerage, with water on the outside of the dogleg. yeowwwww. So I skillfully faded a half 7wood into the fat part of the fairway, right of the bunkers, short of the water, then hit a half9 uponto the green, 2 putt par. . . . these greens, as I would discover repeatedly were contortured and difficile!

It's kind of an unusual start for holes 5-4-5-3, not only for the 2 par5s, but the short par4 and a par3 interleaved . . . very skillfully done, I tho't . . .  I ripped a good drive down the right side right at my target bunker. . . I tho't I might've gone in, but it was just short . . . by concentrating entirely on solid contact I laid up with a 5iron with a baby hook, short of the bunkers . . . unfortuneately, the slope of the fairway runs right-to-left down into a marshy area, so my 3rd shot was just to clump it out of the weeds at the edge of the hazard and then wedge on, and 2putt for another bogey.
I hit a sinfully weak 7iron at this short flag that found the bunker . . . then, with unexpected competence, I hit the exact runner I'd planned off that hump behind the flag in the picture that rolled down to a foot within.
So I started bogey-par-bogey-par, with a missed birdie and a sandy . . . felt like I was coping really well.
#5 is not so long a par 4,  but the tee shot is perplexing, so in doubt, I fanned my drive over into the hazard on the right, worrying too much about the bunkers on the left. Then chunked my 9iron to the green off the hardpan, chipped up and 2putted for a 6.

The pro at Balaton had joined me on this hole -- Wilhelm Istvan -- what an ace, nice guy too . . . I was so nervous, I made 3 straight 6s with him playing with me, in the shadow of his expertise . . . 8^D . . . 

Like here on #6, a shortish par 4. . . I managed to get my drive into a good place, about 20yds behind Wilhelm's, but then I foozled my shortiron on one hop into the creek . . . when I dropped a new ball, I was sorta behind that big tree, so I hit a scottish skinker low to the left side of the green . . . too hard, it rolled over, so up and 2 putt for a 6. 
Now I was a little shaky even on the tee, hit one of those drives that rattle the bones in your hand, where the shaft is vibrating like an out-of-tune tuning fork -- bad timing/tempo, is what I reckon . . . the ball flight was a high hook that I figgered was in the bunker, if not OB, but it wound up on top of the last knob around the bunkers, pretty good distance, actually, and not a bad lie . . . so naturally, I foozled my 7iron into the bushes in front of me, raked it out, pitched onto the green and 2putt for a 6 . . . I mean . . . all three of those holes made me want to go back and replay, to show I could do it right . . . rustiness, I hope. 
Against all odds, I managed a good drive on #8, but then bladed my 8iron low over the sandtrap in front of me . . . I tho't it was in . . . the inevitable followed on our trek towards the green. Will had hit his drive, from the tips, OVER the big tree on the right . . . he'd seemd concerned about it, but it wasn't even really close . . . 8^D . . .so he says, "Y'know, I can help you with your swing, tell you what you are doing wrong." "I know, I know," I said, "but it is no use, I am the kokopelli! I bend my arm, I jump out of my shoes, I crouch, I use a baseball grip . . . it is what it is . . . " He shrugged good naturedly, but with the pained expression of the gifted in audience of the, um, not-so-gifted . . . Turned out my ball was pin-high, had rolled thru the swale up behind the trap onto the green, like 40 yds . .. the luck of the kokopelli! another 2 putt par.

Oh, #9 is a par3, one of my least favorite architectural choices . . . I wussed out and pulled my 4iron way left, up and 2putt, bogey. Phooey.
I think Will expected trouble for me on #10, an uphill monster with a tight fairway surrounded by growing pines . . . but this is my home . .. they were half the size of the loblollies at Walden . . . 8^D . . . Had no trouble hitting a decent drive onto the right side of the fairway. Then hit a half7wood the rest of the way uphill, almost pin high on the left side . . . pretty proud of that. 3putt bogey. . . not so proud.
#11 comes back down the same hill. I pulled my drive leftish, near a tree but with no trouble. I had trouble picking a club, against the wind, downhill, to a narrow green . . . I tried to be aggressive, but still came up short. counting that greenside chip, a 3putt bogey . . . Hey! My Game!
#12 is a short par5, but uphill, and I just mangled it. Thot my drive had hooked OB, but we did find it, in jail in some trees. "Just get out onto the fairway" said Will, like I didn't know that, but, like a duffer, I didn't. Tried to get too much out of it, then chickend because of the trees not-quite-interfering with my swing, and just pouched the ball 75 yds still in the left rough. Topped the next one, too. I had to look at Will with the knowing look, "Dang, just get  it back onto the shortgrass!" He sorta laughed. 
I should have said along here that he was burning edges like a pyromanic, musta had like 9 tapin pars. On this hole he hit a monster driver/3wood to come up Just Short of the green in 2, chipped up and burned this edge too . . . 8^D . . . 
Oh, we hadda talk about #13 -- his favorite hole -- for a while . . . Very difficult for a first timer, without a guide, I would say . . . He said it was 297 meters as-the-crow-flies, which is I suppose driveable for the Pros, but risk-reward wise, because of the total carry over the quarry, not such a good idea. He drove (3wood(?)) at such an angle as he said would do for me . . . and oddly enough, I followed him.
These are our two balls, I had hit the wholly *** out of mine, and was afraid it would run thru, but he was confident we would find them here.

So he hit his ball first, and came up short -- twice . . . neither was a bad shot by my reckoning, just a foot short . . . he did a very american thing there and didn't play anymore that hole, just looked for his balls on the treacherous, precipitous slope in front . . . found one, anyway.

I OTOH, hit one of my few good shortirons all day that landed on the middle front of the green and released down the slope towards the pin . . . I tho't it might go in, but it rolled 6ft past . . . I made Will stop looking for balls to watch my putt, in case it went in, but I was another total mis-read, straight and even breaking right where I had read left. One of those misbegotten greens that slope away from the fairway. . . 8^/ . . . 

 The architect sure made full use of this old quarry . . . 8^D . . . This is an amazingly difficult shot psychologically, didn't bother Will, he hit a bullet down the right side  . . . My tee is off on the left, sortof around the quarry, a much easier shot . . . I think that bothered me . .. .8^D . . . so I totally hashed this hole. Hook drive, couple of foozles, I don't remember what-all, figger on a missed-green and a couple of putts, and call it a 7.

 #15 oughtta be relatively easy, a short par3. we both hit two balls into the quarry. then dropped up by the edge and hit up. . . I was miles away from the hole, but then hit an amazing chip that got me close enough for a double bogey.
I told Will here. Geez, I'm tired, not in training yet, and this course is a tough walk -- and I told him about Austerlitz, another tough walk -- but, I said, I like to finish strong, even if I'm tired . . . so I meant to par in . . . well, a duffer's reach SHOULD exceed his grasp, like the old pro Browning said . . . 
 Hit a good drive on  the par 5 #16, then adjudged it kinda toothless, tho' not featureless, and hit a 7wood straight at the pin . . . missed the bunkers and just came to rest in a little tufty rough . . . Pitched up well past the pin tho' out of fear of the short bunker in front, and 3putted for another 6 . . . so 5over on the 4 par5s. . . All of 'em I think should be easy birdie chances for me, in training . . .

 On #17 par 3 uphill mother, I hit a half 7wood, pulled it left, and it was long, but it's such a bodacious hole I could be unhappy about that . . . Almost made the chip, which broke at least 9 feet . . . 8^D . . . tap in par.
 #13 is Will's favorite hole, but I think he likes #18, too . . . He wasn't happy with his first drive, which went left of the big tree in the middle of the fairway, so he hit another that caught the trap on the inside of the dogleg. Since he hit 3wood I did too, I missed the bunker he was in, and my ball almost ran downhill thru the dogleg.
 Will came up short of the green, but I hit my short iron perfektly, onto the front middle of the green, I tho't . . . then it rolled all the way across the green into thefringe . . . another of those @#%@#%@% greens that slope away from the fairway . . . I just don't put enough spin on the ball to hold such a green, I guess. . . 8^D . . . My putt climbed up the sharp tier to the pin on the left side of the green, and veered sharply right in ways I hadn't foreseen, then I missed the 6ft putt for par . . . only to be expected. . . Will had chipped up onto the green to the back, almost the same line as my putt . . . but he made his par putt, up that same slope to the right tier. Awesome.

Will says he believes his is the best course in Hungary, and I'm willing to believe it . . . I wish my photos were better . . . in the spring and summer, it must be a hugely bucolic location, there by the largest lake in Europe. I think the layout is super, intelligent, fair, and challenging, with some amazing holes, and no dogs. So many holes here left me with the disquiet that I wished I could replay them right away to do better than I did . . . Given that Will putted so well, I don't think I could criticize the greens . . . 8^D . . . The bunkering and mounding are gorgeous. . . . So I would say a 2 ranking on the Scottsdale scale . . . As good and interesting, in perpetuity as Austerlitz.
But I would stay over near the Golf Course, rather than Budapest, to take some of the anxiety out of the experience. I think in Summer the place would be a madhouse with all the tourists, and crossing the ferry might take even longer. Maybe in the Merleghaz -- the scale house, which looked very comfortable from the 14th tee . . . 8^D