Celebrating Latino Culture at Fiesta DC (photos)
Wandergolf: Getting a Grip
Wally Greeves • April 11, 2014
The last false start to the end of miserably wretched seasonal affectation disorders that have prohibited Washingtonians from golfing may finally be water under the bridge. While Mother Nature’s final green light to swap out the snow shovel for the sand wedge may mean the season is ready for you, are you ready for the season? Consideration of the age-old basics, a little cash, some good karma and a new tuna recipe may be just what you need to break into the seventies this season. So here we go:
Size matters and flash inspires. Have someone industry-knowledgeable confirm you are using the right clubs. It makes a difference. Buy a shiny new bag, sporty new shoes, some Pro V1’s with a picture of your dog on them and replace cadaver-ready golf gloves. Replace the nine iron you cleaned the gutters with, and ditch whatever you were hiding in your golf bag all winter in the garage.
Bust a move. Exercise will ensure a safe couch-to-course transition, and low poundage correlates to low golf scores. Walk, do push-ups, ride to work, do backyard tai chi in your underwear, but do something. Pre-golf movement will spike your moods and help with injury avoidance.
Want birdies, eat bird food. Stop eating poor bratwurst imitations and buffet tacos at the clubhouse. Go to the bulk food section at Whole Foods and design your own nut and berry mix for the season. Google spicy Asian tuna fish on the internet, and finally use that insulated pocket on your bag for something other than warm beer. Have wasabi-flavored almonds for a snack after the seventh hole.
“Wax on, wax off.” Seek out wise and enlightened counsel to design a three-lesson plan that smooths out some rough edges in your game and gives you some direction for practice time. The cost of a few lessons is probably a hundredth of what you spent on the game last season and will pay dividends.
Know a 97 from a 79. The rules of golf read like a 33-part real estate transaction between three generations of four non-NATO participating countries, but there are crib notes available almost everywhere, and you should read them and know them. You do not have to always play by them but you should know how to. When you do shoot a 70s game, it will mean something.
Home on the range, home on the course. You are what you do, so squeeze in meaningful range time. Sequentially practice shots that mirror your favorite golf holes, and spend equal amounts of time on the putting and chipping greens. Sometimes take only two clubs to the range. Putt for quarters. Have the humility and diligence to play a par three course to work on your short game, but make it a competition.
Carrier pigeons are obsolete. Embrace technology and computerize a list of all the people you know that play golf, complete with phone numbers and emails, then send it to every one of them. This says you are open for business. Pulling off the Tuesday afternoon ad-hoc game becomes an easy reality. Having a co-conspirator on the fly will diminish “helpful suggestions” from others about how you spend your valuable free time.
Get out of Dodge. Be a leader and plan a long golf weekend for later in the season. Do it now, get it on the books. Myrtle Beach, Kohler, Bandon Dunes and the U.K. are all a phone call away. A healthy, natural, competitive fear will force you to play enough to pass muster on the trip. Who cares how many people go? You will have fun. That one phone call may turn into your club’s annual event.
Pass it on, pay it forward. Introduce the game of golf to a young person by taking them out to play a round or to hit some at the range. Somebody did it for you. If the idea of footgolf (or any other multi-land use ideas for golf courses) nauseates you, than man up and teach the incoming generation to appreciate the status quo. This advice nugget can be the one on this list that doesn’t even necessarily have to involve golf. Spending an afternoon a week in an old folks’ home cheering people up will put your poor golf shots in perspective.
Crack a book. Read a golf classic by John Updike, Jack Nicklaus or Dr. Alister MacKenzie. If you have attention-span issues, then just replace whatever magazines are in your bathroom with the golf classics organized in “snippets of sense” fashion. Harvey Penick, Hogan and Bob Rotella books are all ideal for ADD golfers, and the haphazard lessons will find a way into your game.
Have a stake in the game. Throw a hundred bucks at a fantasy golf league. Pick one that doesn’t require a statistician’s background to play. This participation will prompt phone calls, emails and wisecracks about the game, making for pleasant white noise during the work week.
Man vs. himself. Go play by yourself once in a while. The same foursome all the time will eventually suffer from “cellmate mentality” issues. One-word jokes, out-of-date bathroom humor and obscure music and movie references might creep into your professional vernacular or domestic conversations. Fun people play golf. Go meet them.
Record outstanding occurrences. A golf diary or journal is not necessary, but if you hit an outstanding shot on a sunny day in a cool place, write it down. An encounter with someone memorable, a treeful of rare birds, mid-fairway solutions to a problem or the end of a midlife crisis may all surface during frequently scheduled four-hour activities – and are worthy of remembrance. Paragraph them on three by five cards, punch holes in them and keep a flip chart of noteworthy thoughts nearby to remind you of the little things that make life worthwhile.
I hope this year’s golfing season brings you much joy, and that the rocks, trees and greens conspire to send your balls bouncing in their intended directions. I hope you remember to tell your spouse and family about the wildlife you saw on the course and the interesting people you met (not just all about which irons went where). I hope to see you as you trudge the happy fairways of destiny. Most of all, I hope you play fast.
My arrivals to Scotland’s heralded eighteen hole tracts located within the towns of Carnoustie and St. Andrews could not have been more different. When I pulled into the diagonally striped, beach-adjacent parking lot of Carnoustie Golf Links, I could have been arriving at Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware. The simplicity of the clubhouse serving the Burnside, Buddon, and the Championship Links course that made Sergio cry and Padraig fly reminded me of a friendly ranger station somewhere in the Midwest. Post-play building renovations I could suggest might include signs saying things about entrants abandoning hope or devils appearing in sheep’s clothing.
I played the tamer Burnside course before tackling the beast, and I truly enjoyed the round. Burnside was the course Ben Hogan qualified on in 1953, before winning the Open on the Championship Links. The two Scot members I was paired with were a retired police officer and civil servant, and they played the golf ambassador roles consummately, not withstanding my barrage of questions. The biggest problem for me on these courses was the ever-present, daunting, howling, massive amount of wind. Teeing off on the 460 yard #4 hole “South America” maybe felt like sticking your head out the window of a moving car and trying to spit a watermelon seed on to the hood. One of the ambassadors explained that in order to survive these conditions on the course you have to hit the ball below the wind and that the harder ground will allow low trajectory shots like this to travel a long way. I felt like a pitcher might feel who throws only fastballs being exposed to major league hitters for the first time and realizing he has to learn some junk to survive. The necessity of shaping shots to overcome the elements, probably the very heart of the game of golf, really rooted itself in me on this trip.
One thing I like to tell other golfers to do when golf balls start to go sideways (and never do myself) is to put away the scorecard and just enjoy the day. I actually did this on the Championship Course, not even cheating by keeping the score in my head. It made the par on “Hogan’s Alley” #6 hole a pleasant surprise, the famous spectacle bunkers on #14 more fun to examine, and allowed me to get out of myself enough to imagine what it would have been like to be Van De Velde and blow the three shot lead on the 18th hole in the 1999 Open.
The arrival at St. Andrews was more like arriving at a sports arena, with the prices of the famous Old Course golf shirts going down the further you got from stadium row. Since it is also home to the third oldest English-speaking university in the world, dating back to the 1400s, the American feel to it might be like Charlottesville. Throw a bit of Duke University into the mix, due to the presence of St. Andrews Cathedral, and presto: you have the town that introduced the game of golf to the world over 600 years ago.
Without planning a year in advance, winning a last-minute ballot entry, or being part of a very expensive full service golf tour package, the only way to get a tee time on the Old Course is to walk on the morning you wish to play and ask the starter. It might seem risky but if you are alone and show up early the odds are that the starter will be able to fit you in. How we, as a country, seem to have made our best golf courses aloof, I view as somewhat depressing, when compared to the Scottish community’s pride in making its golf courses accessible to golfers of almost all levels. One of the best comments I heard on this trip came from one of the golf ambassadors I played with at Carnoustie when he pointed to a woman strolling nearby on the course and said, “Wally, that woman walking her dog over there. She may not play golf, but this is her course, too.”
I spent the time waiting to tee off on the Old Course listening to priceless stories from famed Starter, Rod Sturrock. Part of his humble duties as gatekeeper to the most famous golf course in the world include standing quietly behind golfers teeing off, as a significant number of golfers that have traveled from far and wide to this golf mecca get wobbly kneed and pass out on the tee box. Laughing out loud at the expense of other golfer’s exploits at the famous links course was sure to have been what caused me to duff my tee shot, but I still managed to bogey the first hole.
My caddie at St. Andrews, Neil Crate, was the only caddie I have ever had that threatened me for potentially failing to execute golf shots. His threats and humor coerced me out of the “Bobby Jones” bunker on 13 in one shot, guided me away from “Hell” on the 14th hole, delivered me past the “Valley of Sin” below the 18th green, and on to hole out for my best round of the trip.
The levity with which I approached the round pegged me as the target for the exploding golf ball routine the caddies occasionally trot out. I even met Oliver Horovitz, author of “An American Caddie at St. Andrews,” an amusing coming of age memoir, written by a Harvard student about “Growing up, Girls, and Looping the Old Course”.
While not scheduled to play them, I managed to get in rounds at the Jubilee and Castle Courses at St. Andrews also. They were picturesque, and the time spent there worthwhile. Since this was my first trip to Ireland and Scotland and was a family adventure, golf was not the only agenda, but it could have been. I ogled castles, kissed the Blarney Stone, black-taxied through Belfast and bought sweaters in Edinburgh, but destinations like Old Head, Royal Dornach, and Ballybunion will ensure my return to the area of the world that spawned the game of golf.
Wandergolf will be a frequently appearing golf column in The Georgetowner that will be reporting on the golf interests of Washingtonians. If you have suggestions for columns or comments, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org [gallery ids="101431,154580,154588,154585" nav="thumbs"]
Fall at Kiawah Island, S.C.
Wally Greeves • September 25, 2013
Leaving the world-class accommodations at Kiawah Island, S.C., after five rounds of golf, stellar food, and service with a smile that required no finger lifting whatsoever, the thought occurred to me as the exit gate was closing that vacating the womb as an adult male had its merits and its downsides. While operating a motor vehicle and hunting for food came quickly to me once again, detachment anxiety set in a whole lot sooner than the first time the cord was cut. The arrival at the Sanctuary four days earlier was something straight out of “Gulliver’s Travels”: the mammoth-columned entryway doors leading to a multi-storied lobby, full of murals and memorabilia. I immediately felt the genuine warmth of the staff when checking in and barely had time to change clothes before my uncle and I were scheduled to tee off at Jack Nicklaus-designed Turtle Point.
Turtle Point has my vote for the Kiawah golf course that most leaves you wanting to golf more. The first nine holes of somewhat narrow tree-lined fairways are set back from the ocean and reward straight shots with good scores. Holes 14-16 were spectacularly fun, windy, beautiful and challenging golf holes along the beach that rewarded straight shots with pathetic scores, but left me smiling. Two picturesque par fours end the feast, but leave you maybe wanting to ask for the menu back.
We had dinner outside at the Sanctuary’s Jasmine Porch, where we safely watched lightning bolts and heat charges sashay across the island during an evening rain shower. The food and service were exemplary. The quality of service at Kiawah was of a special variety to me that felt extremely personal yet not invasive. It left me feeling somewhat like Jim Carrey in “The Truman Show,” where behind every door were people that wanted to see me do well.
The Ocean Course and Osprey Point were scheduled for the next day, and it was sub-par service that allowed us to just wander out from the Sanctuary and see our clubs waiting for us and shuttle ready to go. The famous Dye-designed Ocean Course lived up to its name and then some, and I was glad I walked it. It gave me a chance to have the Ryder Cup and PGA tested grounds all to myself at times in a way that just doesn’t happen from a cart. I got a chance to scratch my head and wonder how Rory’s ball got caught in a leafless tree that looks more like driftwood harpooned into the ground, and I took the time to walk up to the pro tees and survey the view from hole 14. The very serene round had a pleasant sense of surrealness to it that felt like a mix of meditation and connect the dots, inside of a watercolor painting. Lunch at the Ryder Cup Bar, overlooking the eighteenth green, was a great way to spend time.
If the Ocean Course was the runaway classic, then Osprey Point had the most comfortable interior and got the best gas mileage. Birds were everywhere, alligators rampant along the lakeshores and good scores followed us around the player-friendly Fazio layout. Five sets of tees on every course makes even wagering with your uncle possible, and lets you decide how masochistic you want to be. Whichever you choose, playing this course after the Ocean was a welcome massage in a good environment.
Dinner at the Ocean Room at one of the few steakhouses to have a Forbes four star and AAA four diamond rating prompted me to try an aged Wagyu steak with a marble rating exceeding 10. When asked how it was I honestly answered, “Wonderful,” but what was really going through my head and would have flown was the old George Carlin line “I never had a ten, but one night I had five twos.” (Okay, okay, sorry.) The epic atmosphere present in the restaurant spawned a conversation between my uncle and I, where I learned multiple things about my mother and grandparents that I never knew. Kiawah is just that kind of place. I saw it in the pediatric dentist, celebrating an anniversary with his wife and newborn, staying next to us. I saw it in the apartment broker there to represent his firm in the First Tee charity event that Friday on the Ocean Course. I even saw it in the price of my yogurt parfait the next morning at Beaches and Cream before we set out for one more day of golf, and it still tasted great.
Oak Point is the only Kiawah course that is actually outside of the resort gates, and as I was exiting the morning shuttle I have to say I felt vulnerable. The feeling that I had stepped off the safari train only deepened when we were visited at the driving range by a bobcat still on the prowl from the night before. It was way cool. We also saw a heron stab a fish out of the water, decide not to eat it, and carry it around like a stuffed animal for as long as we watched. The par three 15th hole along the road was a signature hole for me, and the par five 17th hole was one of my favorites of the trip.
The last round, Cougar Point, was my solid second-place choice of the five courses we played. A Gary Player design, I thought it was a great example of what a landscaped golf course should look like. In that sense, it was the opposite of a natural layout like the Ocean Course, and so, for that, I vote it best car in its class. Some of the expansive marshland views were so Serengeti that I almost started humming tunes from “The Lion King.”
I came to Kiawah Island to play golf, and golf was there for the taking in splendor fashion, but I left with a lot more than that. I left as a more experienced traveler, diner, bobcat watcher, nephew and critic. [gallery ids="101468,152926,152923" nav="thumbs"]
Wandergolf: Spring at Pinehurst
Wally Greeves • April 25, 2013
The clicketty-clack of ?rubber tires hitting? highway cement ?separations is the only thing ?that I was really thinking? about when, after hurtling ?through a couple of still-?confusing, identical looking roadway roundabouts, ?the charming and mystical ?town of Pinehurst, North ?Carolina, appeared from? the clouds out of nowhere.?“Field of Dreams,” “Bagger ?Vance,” and the two golfers? (I mean hunters) that found ?Brigadoon came to mind. Far away-sounding French horns tapered off as we drove into the charming golf village that is busy readying itself for back-to-back men and women U.S. Opens in 2014. Non-chain bookshops, clothing boutiques and eateries line the streets of the small village business district, surrounded by stunning Carolina homes that busy local realtors rent for as much as $75,000 a week during the Open. On our visit, the Holly was our resort home away from home.
Christened in 1895, with dark oak passages and suck-you-in cute creaky hallways that cause women to grab you by the arm, the Holly was consummate in its décor down to its two restaurants that offer collar-only steak at night and mouth-melting banana strawberry smoothies in early a.m. pre-golf or spa attire.
Boasting nine golf courses, the Donald Ross designed Pinehurst #2 is, by far, the most infamous and will host the Open in 2014. Teeing off at 8:40a.m. in 39-degree rain weather may make it hard for me to recognize the audience-flocked fairways come Open time, but I will know that’s where they are by watching the momentarily grief-stricken amazed looks on the faces of pro-golfers as they watch their balls roll off perfectly groomed, innocent-looking, turtle-backed greens. Showering after my humbling round, the thought occurred to me that I had more of a chance of standing at the back of the tub and successfully tossing a wet bar of soap onto the elevated bathtub corner than I did of hitting any kind of iron shot that the #2 greens would hold. Fortunate to play my round with a member of the 106-year-old, Pinehurst-based golfing fraternity, the Tin Whistles (think well-dressed, philanthropic Hell’s Angels of golf), I was treated to warm and funny stories in the history-laden clubhouse, complete with walls sporting action pictures of every who’s-who and who has been in the game of golf.
Creamy crab and sweet corn bisque with lightly toasted fritters floating in it, and the cheerful one-liner-offering staff at the resort’s anchor facility, Carolina Dining Room, helped me feel better about the damage #2 did to my permanent record and my golf-battered ego. Bellboys, shuttle drivers, caddies and other good time co- conspirators can play Pinehurst courses at their leisure with few restrictions, which says a lot to me about a golf resort. It serves as a reminder to me that whatever multi-starred and architecturally crisp resort you may wander into, it will be the people that dictate carefree afternoon naps or the cause of unsettling heartburn.
Encouraged by the staff at the clubhouse the next morning and heartily welcomed by the threesome and caddie I was paired with, my wife rode with us as we teed off at 8:27 a.m. on Pinehurst #4. The threesome we were golfing with was at Pinehurst celebrating one brother’s victorious bout with leukemia from the other brother’s marrow donation, and the son’s recovery from a double hip operation. This inspirational dynamic, our scratch-shooting caddie Bradley’s witty repartee, my wife’s presence and the sunny day all made up for the amount of time I spent in the course’s legendary Fazio-created 180 sand traps. This winter was a long one in Pinehurst, and I just missed seeing the blooming azaleas and dogwoods that #4 usually boasts at this time of year. Nevertheless, the appealing monochromatic-magic created by pine needle boughs every- where satiated my aesthetic appetite and made it easier to find wayward tee shots.
Manufacturing empathy and sensitivity for the non- golfer are wasted efforts at Pinehurst because of the number of other activities avail- able to engage in as well as the interesting historical nature of the resort. My wife is still showing off a pedicure she received from a choice of more than 50 treatments at the spa, and there are sinful amounts of money-spending opportunities that include clothes, tennis, food, real estate, antiques, alcohol, pottery and any item you ever thought of with the putter boy logo spawned the weekend long laughable request for “more putter butter, please.” Just the fact that you find yourself requesting extra butter is relaxation recognition. The front porch of the Carolina in the early evening is a loafer wearing, cigar-smoking, pre-dinner drink eruption of laughter experience dotted with expert bag pipe tunes, proffered by kilt-wearing musicians. In the early 1900s, Annie Oakley lived at Pinehurst for almost 10 years, gave shooting exhibitions at the Carolina and taught shooting to more than 125,000 persons. The Town of Southern Pines is five miles away, has a railroad track right through the middle of it, quaint cafes, antiques stores, many latte places, and little benches in the middle of town with non-stressed-looking people sitting at them and smiling at each other’s stories.
Pinehurst #8 is a full seven minutes away from the main clubhouse by pleasant shuttle and lays out where the Pinehurst Gun Club once did. Even in all its regalia and splendor, with en- trance roads to Pinehurst nearby and abundant housing, the proximity of courses 1 through 5 can be overwhelming. Views of the adjacent fairways from the clubhouse showcase meticulously groomed areas of green expanse dot- ted with golfers swinging their clubs like bees beating their wings, expeditiously being herded toward green pollination by white-uniformed “bee-keeping” caddies. I had the first tee time of the day at #8 on Sunday, and I enjoyed all 420 acres of it. Paired up with the resort requisite cigar smoking, beer drinking, long-ball hitting, loud Texan and his equally enjoyable Coloradan brother-in-law, we made shots that would have made Annie Oakley proud. The Natural wet- lands combined with rolling hills through expansive pines and positively alone feel to this tract made it the favorite for me of the three courses I played in my weekend at Pinehurst.
Thanks to a certain colonel and his wife hailing from Pinehurst #7, we had a genuine Carolina barbecue open house to stop by after showering and checking out of the Holly. What a pleasurable way to end a great trip. I overheard the host say to my wife “Look at Wally, he is perfectly happy and doesn’t want to leave,” and at that moment he was right. I was truly lost in too much of a good thing.
For more information, visit Pinehurst.com. Pinehurst Resort, 80 Carolina Vista Drive, Pinehurst, N.C. 28374 — (855)-235-8507
Wandergolf will be a frequently appearing golf column in The Georgetowner that will be reporting on the golf interests of Washingtonians. If you have suggestions for columns or comments please email them to email@example.com
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