Chasing The Stoke in Ballyneal

One of those moments of stoke came during an impromptu trip to the Northeastern corner of Colorado in the middle of July 2018.

But first, let me backup for a moment. “Stoke” is an enduring surfer slang expression that originated with California surfers in the 1950s meant to capture the feeling of euphoria when catching a wave big or small. It's that euphoric moment of connectivity between your surroundings, mind, and body. If you have felt it, you know. If you haven’t, it’s hard to describe this feeling in your gut and mind that’ is unmistakable. It's a weightlessness in time where everything seems to stand still and you daydream about recapturing.

Golf and chasing stoke isn't a common pastime for most of us. Hell, most anyone in the world would never really associate the two. I'm not here to say one way of playing the game is superior over another but I do hope this record of events inspires a shift in mindset. After my trip to Ballyneal, I know I’ll never be shifting back.

So, take a moment to forget about scores, GIR, fairways hit and all of that. Strip away the noise and layers. I've left behind the common frustrations of golf and started searching for the stoke by implementing a new approach to golf but a familiar one to my life. I seek out courses that foster an environment that’ is conducive to creative, fun, and inspiring golf. I surround myself with people whose chief golf goals are about fun and comradery more than sulking over a poorly struck shot.

Ballyneal seemed to fit this mold of fun above score on paper but so have a dozen other courses that turned out to be nothing more than long slogs around bland target golf courses. Nonetheless, I jumped on a plane, traveled for 12 hours between airports, and then drove another three hours east of Denver. There we found what the locals, however few they may be, call the Chop Hills. Dunes rippling up from the plains of Eastern Colorado in all directions. As we barreled down the dirt roads, the club's humble wood sign was a small welcome that's easy to miss. Had we not been semi-dangerously, tailgating our host's SUV wed would easily gotten lost twenty turns ago.

Pausing like tourists, we stopped outside the gate where my anticipation steadily built looking up at the enormous dune. Its broad ridgeline shielding what waited on the other side made it felt like we were "in the know" of some remarkable experience about to take place while every dusty truck that passed the gates could never understand. Just the right feeling to start this trip.

Hitting the crest of the dune is like being transported through a wormhole across the Atlantic into Western Ireland or original Scottish linksland. The awesome dunescape bubbles up out of the earth before crashing into itself creating random snaking waves and contours. Shades of brown and tan are juxtaposed with flashes of verdant greens that weave across, up, and down the dunes. As a stiff, swirling breeze blows from the south the pin flags are starched against the horizon. Dotted across that same horizon are wild, chaotic but artful bunkers and sandy waste areas.

Inside of 15 minutes on the property I had already embarked on the Mulligan course. A par three course that while consisting of 12 greens quickly melded into a golfing playground. So, we set off along the 1st fairway before diving into the unknown. Greens so devilish yet entertaining they begged to be played repeatedly. I could have camped out on some holes, like the 8th green, and never gotten bored. The Mulligan course requires you to think and play outside of your comfort zone. The contours surrounding the greens rejected many of my golf shots when not played just right. Mere inches separated heroic shots from your ball dying an abrupt death

As I followed the bare feet traversing the sandy walkways in front of me, I recall getting lost in the experience. The Dead thumping from a speaker cinched to a friend’s golf bag was the soundtrack to our day. Standing on a tee perched above a 150-yard shot with seven friends, new and old, I let the sense of this place, these people and the experience wash over me. Transfusions flowed, people teed off in unisone without a worry, wind whipped voiding the otherwise unbearable heat and relentless sun pounding down on us. This is golf stoke. These are indeed my kind of people.

After our dinner, conversation, and a little hang we decided a putting contest was in order. Equipped with some AutoCorrect™ putters, a few glow balls, and questionable decision making we traversed the outer limits of the putting complex. Each time we moved away from the green towards a set of stairs, getting more audacious each with each step, we asked our hosts “Is this cool?”.

Their response never changed. “Are you sure?”

“Yep” came the reply multiple times. “You can do whatever you want. Just don’t be a dick.”

This single, simple rule is all anyone needs to live by. Do your thing, be cool to other people and all is good. This motto only exacerbated my infatuation with Ballyneal as I lept into bed.

4:35 am comes quickly when your putting shenanigans last until that time of day that’s definitely past late-night but before what’s considered early morning. But as any halfway decent photographer will tell you the chance to get the right light outweighs the need for sleep. Packing up my cameras and tripod I marched out into the near darkness. Armed with a headlamp to spot any snakes my only real line of defense was a the tripod. Sleep deprived, sore, and potentially warding off snakes with a tripod in the dark wasn't, in retrospect, one of my best ideas.

Like many of my decisions, this started off poorly before taking a turn for the better. Just as I was about to return to my cottage I reached the 4th tee box. Standing on the highest point of the course the sun started its slow, steady rise over the horizon while thick clouds rushed passed like cars speeding on the freeway. Off in the distance I could see lights starting to flicker. Some humanity finally caught up to me on this morning.

Sometimes not taking a photo is the best part of the journey.

I sat up there for a few minutes thinking about life and counting my blessings before I started back. But at this point light started to flash and for the second straight attempt the light wasn’t cooperating with me. So, with sandy shoes and tired eyes I headed back to my room and passed out for an hour before breakfast. Our second day featured the 18-hole championship course which is the centerpiece of this middle of nowhere property. Its tee-less yardage can be as little as 5,100 yards or stretch to its brawny maximum at 7,200 yards With no tee markers it was up to the first group of friends to leave the equivalent of breadcrumbs in the form of twigs, dead bushes or anything else for the trailing group to follow and play the 'same' hole. Sometimes we went back as far as possible while at other times we’d hit our tee shots just feet from the green. Check another box on the “List of shit I absolutely love about golf”. Fixed teeing areas are boring and kill the creative capacity of golfers.

Our round started on the now familiar 1st hole and shockingly I fired off a few decent shots on the uphill par 4. The wide fairways gave way to almost infinite angles and lines of play that seem to either confound the golfer or unleash their inner shot maker. On the 2nd hole, from and elevated tee, we barreled into our round chasing shots up, down, and over hillocks that laid in front of us. Hitting golf shot after golf shot to our own soundtrack we bounced across the sunbaked fairways just like our golf balls. With that steady breeze at our backs mediocre shots at times were followed by heroic ones. Tired and, a little dejected at some of my poor swings, I now faced that same perched view on the 4th tee.

Dropping down the fescue chute into the fairway I’m all smiles. It’s funny how a good landscape brightens my spirits.

Just as we strolled over the rolling fairway Erik Anders Lang turned to me and said “Don’t you feel loved sometimes?”. A simple question I know he was half joking about and probably half sincere about as well. His way of acknowledging the moment and how cool it was to be there. However, that passing question struck a chord. I started to answer that very question in my head. I realized the fact that all these people trekked out to the middle of nowhere to play a game and hang out was incredible enough. Then I started to think about the friendships and bonds I have made through golf. My journey and the role its played. As we played our way up to an elevated green, that question still lingered in my mind. Funny how it goes. Something so simple can last so long in the mind.

My new daughter, June, at home with my wife and older son Austin. How lucky, how loved, I was to be standing on this patch of grass playing a game, documenting the experience, and seeing unfamiliar places with friends. I’d jump on a late flight in a few days with zero sleep and a marathon or two under my feet. And at home waiting was a loving family and ahead of me was only thousands more miles and more of these adventures. Erik’s simple question left a mark on me. It poured gas on the fire. That fifteen-minute walk from tee to green was meditative and a truly profound moment for me. Which is weird.

June & Lindsay the day I left for Ballyneal

It’s strange how big an impact this game can have but then again that’s why we play it. Or at least why I do. In that small stretch of golf, I couldn’t tell you a single shot I hit or even what the hole was like. I was transported. Everything washed away and I was left with just emotions and thoughts that will last a lifetime or more. The gratitude for everyone in my life and the ability to live it as I have. That is the feeling I chase.

We as golfers have a few moments of adrenaline like surfers, but if we remember to stop for a moment we can find something spiritual. I had my spiritual moment. And again, as I watched twelve people walking down the 15th fairway playing golf as one big family. But standing on that greenish-brown fescue, for a sliver of time, golf was more than a game we play. Threads in my life converged on that question

“Don’t you feel loved sometimes?”

Chunked approach shots from the middle of the fairway, putts so bad they induce laughter, cheers for the remarkable recoveries. These moments are what we should seek out on the course. Maybe not always but sometimes our score is irrelevant. As the saying goes, no one cares what you shot.

When I’m older I already know the type of golf stories I’ll bore my kids with. Maybe they’ll include my lowest round but more likely they’ll be vignettes about life that transpired largely on a golf course.

Here's to chasing the stoke.

The Dell - Unexpected Greatness

I’ve been lucky to play some amazing golf courses in my life in some picturesque places. Ireland, Scotland, The Hamptons, California its all been what most people would cut out a kidney for. And I am grateful for every experience and all those walks I have been able to enjoy.

But it seems sometimes the unexpected things in life turn out the most impactful. As goes the story of “The Dell”, Conocodell Golf Club tucked off I-81 in Pennsylvania is a 9 hole course loaded with scruff and possibilities. Off Coldspring Road you’ll find an old house turned “clubhouse” and a few red dots in the distance marking greens. The crooked sign out front would probably turn most away in search for manicured greens. For some of us its like a beacon drawing us in with the potential promise of a hidden great.

As I pulled up I noticed a few friendly faces and a few new but everyone looked filled with genuine excitement. Typically when Ian from Sugarloaf Social Club throws out his bat signal people show up. And true to form a group posted at this little unknown 9 hole layout with the promise of interesting golf, discussion, beers and uncrustables. As I walked into plop down my $16 down the old hickories and dusty cobwebs made me grin ear to ear. The clubs steward, Jim Gordon, looks slightly unsettled as our eightsome starts checking in. From what I can tell he doesn’t get this much traffic on a cold Fall afternoon. But as often times with golfers the conversations start taking over about courses played and comparing notes.

Jim warmly greeted our merry band of misfits and chatted us up about the course, its origins and where he envisioned it going. We hadn’t even teed off and already this course was driving as much excitement as any I’d played. As we huddled around the first tee, just steps from the counter, one of the guys in our group made a discovery. His father used to build clubs in the area and as it turns out Jim’s last persimmon driver he ever used was made by his dad. It wasn’t moments later that a red logo’d Balata showed up and the ceremonial first tee shot was struck.

The Dell isnt mowed to perfection and the drainage in spots isn’t the best. Bunkering isn’t plentiful but the ones we encountered truly acted as hazards. Objects to be avoided at all costs much like those you find in Scotland or Ireland. There is no pretension or worry as we took off as 8 we played that way the entire day. Most courses, even horrific bland public tracks, would shuttle you off the course so fast your tee shot would still be in the air. Not at The Dell. Its not because the course isnt busy but rather guys like Jim get it. He and his friend Mike Davis, yes that one, had a dream and saw the potential in this flat piece of land. Trying to pay the note on the place and keep in golfing shape is a fools errand to some.

For me the fact they bust it trying to make a course they’d want to play despite all the odds is something I’ll support as long as I can. Its these little gems that Ian has a knack for finding that grow my love of golf more than the Top 100s of the world. By no means are we playing the mot architecturally significant course yet to be uncovered. Its just one of the most fun days I have ever had on a golf course.

As we walked the course it dawned on me how lucky I was to be able to see people experiencing their first eight-some on a golf course. The initial trepidation as you wonder if you are making a mistake playing out of turn. Are you standing in the right spot? Is that even my ball? After two holes the worry wears and the fun of playing golf with your gang sets in. Not every round can, or should be, this way but damn if we shouldn’t do it a few times a year at least.

Our talks circled around how cool a tee box would be over there. If we put a bunker in here or teed off a towards that pin or the other. Creativity is the life of golf - not competition. Eight adults playing in their big sandbox with their toys making it up as they went. I know we are nerds and I am fine with that. I love golf what its given me and to spend a day with friends and dream up a golf course is memorable.

I think we as golfers seek out an experience more than anything. We want stories to tell, inspiration to waft over us and memories to hold us through the winter months. The Dell provided that for me. I’ve sketched over the holes time and time again thinking about what could be. I’ve found myself staring at an empty field in my town wondering “how much is that? wonder how many holes I can fit on it?”.

So next time you see that crooked worn out old sign for some golf course out of the way maybe take a minute and stop in. You might meet a guy like Jim who ends up running to the store to grab hamburgers and beers for your group because he knows you all are the same after all. Or maybe you’ll remember what it is to day dream, laugh and enjoy your walks.

Whatever you find out there I promise it wont be expected.

Conocodell Golf Club is in Fayetteville, Pa and if you are ever driving past on your way north or south take a little detour and thank me later. For more gems check out the handy dandy Sugarloaf Social Club Hidden Gem Map - a list worth completing.

Scotland - Ayrshire

Scotland is full of golf is like saying the sun is hot but still I said it. By my count nearly 600 courses dot the landscape from small nine holers in Edinburgh to 18 holes perched on the northern most outcropping of land in Shetland. Few places in Scotland can boast the quality of golf in such a small space as that of Ayrshire. With nearly 50, yes 50, courses to pick from and with the longest drive from the two courses furthest away only being an hour you’d be hard pressed to fit in more golf than Ayrshire. Then you have the option of taking a ferry to the Island of Arran to play golf and stay within an easy day trip of your hotel.

Royal Troon, Prestwick, Western Gailes, Turnberry are all the power players in the region. Prestwick the home of the Open Championship and one of the most quirky, fun filled and challenging courses you’ll ever play. It boggles the mind that in the mid 1800’s 8 men could play 36 with lunch in the amount of time it takes most Americans to play 18. And shoot near par with hickories. Blind shots, walls, wind, BUNKERS and some of the most incredible ground movement I’ve ever seen on a course. Did I also mention the bunkers? They are a sight to be seen like on 17 the famous Alps hole. Unchanged since it was “made” (found?) by Old Tom Morris where you tee off over the Cardinal bunker to a narrow fairway. Let the record show that Cardinal bunker is the most expansive I’ve ever seen. Your second at the Alps shot must cover a massive hill to a blind punchbowl green protected by the massively deep and angry Sahara bunker. This is the oldest hole in Open Championship history and largely unchanged since the first playing.

While Prestwick has the quirk Royal Troon has the pedigree. It’s a stout Open Rota links course with a classic seaside links routing and immaculate conditioning. However, places like Western Gailes fly way under the radar. I was the only one in my group that knew anything about it when we turned up. As the recommendations proved it to be it would end up one of our favorite courses of the entire trip. The out and back routing and mix of quirk and refined links set the stage for a memorable round. The 6th hole at Western may be one of my all time favorite holes. A Par five that narrows as you approach a “neck” in the fairway that obscures the view of the green. The position off the tee and on your approach is critical to attack the large sloping green. Partially blind I decided the prudent play was a 100 yard putter with the AutoCorrect which ended up rather favorable. Or at least better than my wedge would have. The staff and members at Gailes are extremely welcoming and accommodating. We played as five with some friends joining us for the walk on the back. 10/10 would play again.

Right next door is Dundonald Links which hosted the 2017 Scottish Open. This Kyle Phillips designed course opened in 2004 but you’d think it was found way back when golf was just starting to grow. Just across the railroad tracks from Western Gailes this links course weaves across the rather inauspicious land to create a really well routed and challenging course. The wind can dominate this courses and your aspirations quickly and with such a clever routing you’ll rarely experience the same wind for more than two holes. Jump the fence on the other side of the course and you’re at Kilmarnock (Barassie) with it’s 27 holes of golf that boasts three different 18 hole routing and a stellar nine hole course. One of the prettiest and most challenging par threes on our trip and is the definition of a hidden gem. Just play fast the locals don’t mess about…

Golfing on the West Coast

The east gets the acclaim most times in reference to golfing around Scotland. The highlands are discussed in a sort of magical lore but the Western Coast is the perfect way to start or end a trip. We all know you’re going to journey to Fife - as well you should. But don’t overlook the rich history, value and amazing golf in such a small area as Ayrshire. The weather can be amazing in fact we only saw rain for about 9 holes. The sort of rain that was more a mist than anything for most of it. And golf is largely played year round in this part of Scotland making it extremely affordable during the off season.

If you’d like to learn more about the area, golf courses and where to stay I’d recommend visiting Golf Ayrshire to get a lay of the land. As always you can shoot me a note and I’d be happy to answer any questions as best I can.

Planning Ayrshire

When planning a trip to Ayrshire I’d recommend the following. And keeping in mind that flights to Glasgow from the eastern seaboard make it accessible and way more affordable than one would think. I landed at 7am after a direct flight and was off to golf within a few short hours. If I had three days of golf in Ayrshire here’s how I’d plan my trip:

  • Fly into Glasgow International Airport

  • Stay

  • Golf

    • Day 1 (Knock off the Jet Lag)

      • Dundonald Links

        OR

      • Killmarnock

    • Day 2

      • Prestwick AM

      • Western Gailes PM

    • Day 3

      • Killmarnock AM

        Or

      • Dundonald AM

      • Royal Troon PM

  • Eat

    • Red Lion Inn

      • The location where the Open Championship was born. Right across the street is now a Pharmacy that used to be Old Tom’s home. For fun ask anyone if they know that fact….

    • Lido

    • Wie Hurrie

Whatever you do just go. Get to Scotland. As soon as you can.

Getting And Keeping Kids In Golf

A lot of dads fret over the potential that their kids are not going to love golf as much as they do. I was one of those guys for sure. So wrecked with nerves over the concept that Austin wouldn't be playing golf in High School, College and beyond that I study up on how to get him interested. Reading, listening and philosophizing about what drives children to love a certain thing over another. 

And then I stopped. Looked down and asked him if he liked golf. His answer was simple "Yeah its fun. Sometimes we get to hit driver off the deck. Sometimes its too hot." Kids have this ability to tell you how it is with no bullshit. What he said was yeah its fun sometimes but other times its not. Pretty simple. Keep it fun. Don't pontificate on the virtues of golf to someone that has a loose grip on the concept of not peeing all over the toilet seat every morning. Keep it simple and remember that kids biggest motiviator is how fun something with be. 

Simple Rules

Start with games and the shortest club they use. Using the putter and working back is an age old, tried and true approach to golf. As they grow add in clubs and keep it simple. Austin started with a putter very early on and like most of you all it wasn't by accident. But frustration from not making putts or getting bored can be counter productive to your overall agenda. 

Start with a limited time on the green. 15 to 30 minutes is more than enough for young guns and kids new to the game. As they grow add more time little by little and if they ask to stay longer - listen. Conversely if they want to leave or show signs of boredom - leave. Like anything we are here to make our kids enjoy the world around us and they are not likely to keep with anything that doesn't make them happy.  

More important than anything is how much enjoyment they get out of it. Play games! Austin went through a massive Pokemon phase so I would buy large packs of mystery decks off ebay. Every hole was worth a card and either fewest putts or closest won the card. The few dollars invested in cards I'd have otherwise just given away was awesome. The return made him ASK to go putt or chip. Figure out little games like that for candy, ice cream or just high fives. Play golf with them don't just coach them!

 

Listen To Them

When they ask to play - go. But before you march them down to the course ask them if they'd like to go. After the first few times they will likely say yes but do not push them. If they don't want to go that time ask another time and they will come around. You aren't likely raising the next Tiger, sorry just reality. And if that is your motivation then please have your head examined because that's just not going end well for your expectations. If you actually just want to teach this game to your son or daughter and be able to spend quality time with them then be in no great hurry. 

Why rush them into something at a young age? It takes time to learn this game and the upside is it takes a lifetime to fully enjoy it. I had a club in my hand before I could walk then after my fourth birthday it was another ten years before I'd pick one up. I dropped it for a few years then picked it back up again. Golf, like life, just has to run its course for some people. Was that a pun? I don't know. 

Make sure to listen when they want you to stop being their coach. Actually, just don't be their coach and save yourself the headache. If you are serious about them being a golfer then actual lessons from a Pro would be a worthwhile investment. I've worked with Austin and had some success but he jumped leaps and bounds when he started getting real lessons. I'd meet with the Pro after each lesson to talk about what they went over and what I needed to reinforce. And being able to say "Remember what Gibby told you" is SO MUCH BETTER than "What did I say?!"

 

The Checklist 

Here is what essentially I could have made this blog post say without any of the filler above. This makes me look way more put together though so:

  • Limit their time to start 
    • Remember they have short attention spans 
    • Add more time as they grow 
  • Make it a game (it is)
    • Pokeputt, putt for a reward 
      • What are they into? Use that as a tool to motivate them
    • Match play for Icecream
    • Closest to the pin
  • Don't Be Their Coach
    • Be their friend and parent 
    • Encourage and reinforce their coach's plan
  • LISTEN!
    • Ask them if they want to 
    • Listen when they don't
    • Encourage them when they are frustrated 
    • Congratulate them when they are excitied 

Above all just have fun. I asked Austin what advice would he give and he suggested "Hit trick shots and have fun."

Walkers Only Club - The Guide

As many of you know I am a walker of the golf course. I am a strong advocate for for walking and all that, for me, it brings into the game of golf. But this is all well known and documented on my Instagram

I get asked A LOT about what bags is right or how many clubs, what speaker or no speaker, what shoes. How can I walk when my course is designed for carts. So I figured I'd start a little series about the ins and outs of walking. 

Let's start with the bag...

Aside from footwear the bag is the most important piece in your arsenal as a golfer who walks. Any old bag will do if you slap it on the back of a cart. For a walker though the bag can break you or make you. How's the strap? The weight? The hang? The pockets? All of it matters.

The most overlooked part of the bag is the design and style hands down. Majority of golf bags are not for me. Maybe if I was a college kid as a walk up on the golf team playing 5th man but I am an aging Father of two that grips desperately to what is left of my coolness. I don't want it emblazoned with logos and buzzwords about the tech on the bag. I want something that can tastefully standout. Something that shows off either craftsmanship, style or both while being light, bomb proof and comfortable. 

 

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The Fescue Project 

Hand crafted by Seamus Golf is a bag for true minimalists.  

The Fescue bags are made in Portland by hand and to order. Much like everything else Seamus does this has been thought out and tested to get it right. My favorite feature is the way the bag lays flat against the body versus a traditional circular opening. This allows the simple design to shine and the clubs to rest in a more natural vertical position. With this design they have not tried to reinvent the wheel just strip the bag down to what you need and make it really damn well. While they call them Sunday bags I've stuck the max club quota in there with no issues at all. Play a Sunday set, half set or full bag and these bags will keep up. 

Waxed canvas, veg tanned leather, brass rivets and reinforced stitching stand out along side the nuances of a handmade bag. A bungee system allows for the storage of a jacket while a large bottom pouch lets you stash tees, balls, libations and whatever else you need. This bag has one zippered pocket, one stash pocket, one scorecard pocket and a bungee cord and it has never been to little for me. I have taken this bag across Ireland, Wisconsin, California and countless other places and its stood the test. Shit it's gotten better with age. The leather darkened, the creases in the waxed canvas formed and the miles on the bag shine like tattoos. 

 

Check out the Seamus Fescue Bags jump to the link HERE to learn more. Or as always give me a shout. 

 


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Mackenzie Walker

Timeless style and premium products result in the OG

For many the Mackenzie Original Walkers are the definitive walking bag. The silhouette is synonymous with this brand of golf. Their waxed canvas bags feature a 8" opening which easily houses a full set. White only bringing two pockets I can tell you these pockets are more than enough space for what you need. If it cannot fit in the Mac - you do not need it. Little feature like clips for you keys and leather zipper pulls are what set this bag apart from most. The details are so well thought out and stripped down to the necessities. 

As a photographer I always have a camera if not two and I can easily stash them in my Mac with balls, pouches and whatever else I need. But my all time favorite feature is the shoulder strap. It's the softest and best looking in the game and the way the bag rests makes for easy walking. At only 3.5LBS this thing is lighter than most burritos I order. A Mackenzie is an investment that improves overtime its a bag that builds character the more you loop it. 

Head over to Mackenzie to learn more. https://www.mackenziegolfbags.com/

 


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Jones Golf Bags

The everyman bag

What makes the Jones Bags so perfect is the affordability and simplicity. At $140 the Original Jones mixes that retro styling with updated materials. The result is a tank of a bag but clocking in at 3 lbs. This was my first true carry bag and it checked all the boxes at the time. Water resistant nylon keeps the dew out while the injection molded base stands up to the beat down I impose on my bags. 

While the Jones doesn't have the flair of the Seamus or Mackenzie it surely is worth the money. A true value and the gateway drug into Walking ONLY.  


Why no stand bags? 

Well they add weight and frankly I am not a fan of the look to be honest. And I am fine laying my bag down or resting it against a tree, bench or sign. But all of that said sometime you just want or need some legs... enter the Trestle Sticks. These lovely legs are hand made by Tim Alpaugh AKA Claret Dreamer. He can be reached on his Instagram @ClaretDreamer or via email at Claretdreamer@gmail.com.

Why Junior Golf Isn't Fun

I'm not your average Soccer (Golf) Dad that is for sure. My opinions are often times counter to what my brethren in the fatherhood alumni think. And with that preface I give you the following...golf for kids sucks. It is too slow, boring and stressful to keep any more than a tenth of the young guns out in the PGA Jr League interested in the sport for the long run. And the hot term is growing the game. In order to grow the game I propose that we dont strangle the fun out of the game for kids. 

 

Imagine being 7,8,9,10 or even an elder at 14 and having to walk around the golf course in near silence for 9 holes over the span of 3-4 hours. Seriously, 3-4 hours. Kids do not make for speedy golfers on their own. When left to their own devices they are more concerned about snacks, snacks, pokemon and hitting their driver on every shot. They often times forget to take a club let alone the right club. They sometimes pick the harder shot and leave themselves in a tough spot adding 2+ strokes to their hole - easily. All the while the parents are supposed to just sit and watch. Even as a scorer for the groups I cannot intervene and remind a player to take a club to his ball that is 40 yards right of his partners ball. If I do this I am given the evil eyes and more times than once get tattled on by a do gooder of a parent that has nothing much else going on. 

Pro Cool Dad Tip - Do not be this insufferable human being. Also do not be the one that counts their score like this is the US Open. Relax in short. For my sanity out their and yours. 

 

Of all the horrid things happening with JR golf at this level there are some upsides. Learning this game, accountability, honesty, sportsmanship and all the other AD words used by golf's governing bodies to get parents to want to sign their kids up to GROW THE GAME! But kids want none of that noise. They want to run around like maniacs and hit golf shots with their best buds in the summer heat.  They want to laugh and have fun and if that's for 3-4 hours then they will be all about it. They don't want or NEED to be beat down with rules, rules, rules and procedures. They could care less if the ball mark going in front of the ball or behind at this stage. And they surely

Why 9 holes when it takes them 3-4 hours? Make it 6. Or make it a modified course with one par five and shorter par 4s. Get creative and have holes with a bonus area to get an extra point for a chip in or something! 

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We should be encouraging kids to play quickly and to score well. Why would anyone want to subject themselves to this sort of mental slog when they can go play soccer or ride bikes or play Pokemon Go (that's actually all they do). 

Oh and for the folks that think you need to challenge a kid. You are incorrect. Golf is not a battleground to harden one's self for the cold brutal reality of LIFE. It's a game and to a kid they associate games with fun not misery. So make the pins easier to get at, shorten the holes, encourage help from parents. Oh and maybe encourage these kids to play alternate shot so they talk to each other for once. I've never been around four children so quiet for three hours. Not even in church or when I was always in detention. 

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Oh and let me address practice. They need to actually work on aspects of the game not just pound balls or go play mini slow matches. They need drills but in a light hearted and fun way. They should do relay races with putters or break targets on the range. Hit above and below funoodles Let them play music! Let them LIVE!

What are your thoughts? Does your child golf and if so, does he have fun? Could they have more fun.  

Cypress in Black and White

Cypress Point
Cypress Point 3rd

Pinehurst - History Evolves

Few places can boast a 123 year history rich with great golf and hospitality. Fewer places can say they've taken the lead in ushering a Renascence, of sorts, for the game of golf. 2014 was an eye opening year for the public of what Championship golf could look like. The resort and USGA fully embraced the natural features of the sand hills area. Coore and Crenshaw set out to retrun No2 to what it would have looked like in Ross's era. Wiregrass replaced perfectly manicured Bermuda and irrigation systems removed resulted in a much less water consumption. The results provided a great championship test and a polarizing debate or two was sparked. 

Fast forward four years and The Cradle has captured the hearts and minds of the guests and locals alike. A short nine hole loop on the storied clubhouse's front lawn serves as an outlet for youthful energy and old ingenuity. In my hours on the Cradle I watched countless golf teams playing as one group cheering and jeering their friends in good nature. Father's led their sons around the track. Their bags as big as they are but the energy was boundless. It is not only common but encourage to bring a gangsome and make a couple well natured bets. Enjoy some drinks and take in the music playing on the course. 

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The Cradle isn't great just because it is a short course. It's greatness lies in its design and presentation. Gil Hanse laid out the Cradle and it's evident that his imagination was firing on all cylinders. I couldn't help but image a shot from this spot to that or over this green to that green. And I can safely say without hesitation I am one of many that have dreamt up their own shots on this tiny parcel of land. The best thrill is standing on #9's tee box and watching people play into the 3rd hole. A punchbowl played up the hill results in all kinds of hopeful anxiety of an ace. I hope more courses take the lead set by Pinehurst and find ways to make golf fun again. Short courses or their putting course, Thistle Dhu, are templates for sustaining our game. 

 

 

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Now, Pinehurst could rest on the remarkable success of The Cradle and Thistle Dhu but instead they keep moving forward. My sense of the place is that they not only respect but cherish their past. They want to carry those traditions into the modern era and make their own mark. The continuation of this is evident in Pinehurst No. 4 which is currently under the knife of Gil Hanse. What is being done is nothing short of amazing. Having played the course a few years ago and seeing the return of the land's natural corridors I am left dumbfounded. How could such land actually lay under all those bunkers? Gone are cart paths and narrow chutes to play down in a hit and chase fashion. Replaced are open areas with sweeping views of holes just played and those yet to attack. Short walks from tee to green. Blind tee shots, heroic carries, ground game and principles that define golden era courses have returned. 

 

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As Pinehurst continues to evolve it carries a bright torch. People will follow the lead of our great public venues and I am hopeful that more local courses see the value in naturalness, playability and FUN.