Friday, June 26, 2015

What Tiger could learn from Harvey Penick

   Been a long time since a post here.  My bad.
   So I’m working on a chapter that is about the beginnings of big-name teachers, and more on that after the break.  What seems relevant right here is that I’m going back over one of the seminal works of golf literature, Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book, and the first — the absolute first — bit of advice he gives seems almost unbelievably poignant concerning some former No. 1 player in the world who seems utterly lost right now.
   The subhead reads, “Golf Medicine,” and underneath is this:

   When I ask you to take an aspirin, please don’t take the whole bottle.
   In the golf swing a tiny change can make a huge difference.  The natural inclination is to begin to overdo the tiny change that has brought success.  So exaggerate in an effort to improve even more, and soon you are lost and confused again.
   Lessons are not to take the place of practice but to make practice worthwhile.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

R.I.P. Ben Doyle


A bedrock of golf instruction died on Monday evening, as Ben Doyle passed away at the age of 82.  Ben's daughter, Suzie, said she was driving up to San Francisco with her husband, along with her son, Bentley, and his wife, Tuesday morning when she got the phone call.

Ben had attended Bentley's wedding in October for what Suzie described as "two wonderful-filled days with his family. Such a great, tender memory for all of us."  Now, Ben joins his wife, Joanna, which can only bring solace to a sad time.

Here's how I once made Ben smile -- a story that sits with me always, and especially heavy on this day.  Reprinted from this site, Nov. 6, 2012:

Monday, August 11, 2014

The lost courses of NYC

Four summers ago, I pitched an idea to my editors at the New York Post about writing a consistent golf column with a bunch of niche-y stories.  It didn't exactly take off, but a few of them ran, including one where I saw all 13 public courses of the city in one day.  That followed the next week with a story about all the golf courses of New York City that had disappeared.  It was a fun story, and unfortunately, it got cut for the paper.

I happened to be searching Google today looking for an old photo of Harry Vardon from 1900, and I stumbled upon a photo the paper had purchased from the USGA to run with my story.  (Above.)  It's of Vardon and Walter Travis at a place called Oakland Golf Club, which was in Bayside, Queens.

I reread my story, decided to find the uncut version in my computer and reprint it here.  I had also written a sidebar about Gene Sarazen and Fresh Meadow Country Club, in Flushing, Queens, and the two major championships it held.  It's all below.  

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Thinking about Prestwick, and the most "fun" in golf

I'm working on a part of the book which goes briefly back into golf's history, starting with Allan Robertson and Old Tom Morris, into Young Tom Morris, then Harry Vardon, Bobby Jones, and onward and upward.  But rereading a lot about Robertson and Old Tom, I'm brought back to a place that still means a lot to me.

On my one trip to Scotland, we played a magical little place called Prestwick Golf Club, on the Western shores of South Ayrshire.  It held the first 11 Open Championships in succession, starting in 1860, won when Willie Park, Sr., from the hated section of Musselburgh, took the tournament by going around the 12 holes three times in 174 shots.

Below is a reprinting of what I wrote for, with the full story of the trip (all 12,000 words of it) being accessible HERE.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Best Thing the USGA has done in a long, long time

            There were complaints from people who didn’t understand, and that’s OK.  There are always going to be people who can’t see the forest for the trees.
            Because what Mike Davis and the USGA did by having back-to-back U.S. Opens at a revamped Pinehurst No. 2 was the execution of the best idea they’ve had in . . . well, maybe since choosing Bethpage Black as a U.S. Open site . . . or maybe ever.  Honestly, it sounds like hyperbole, but in 30 years from now, this single event might very well be considered the watershed moment (no pun intended; keep reading . . .) for the governing body of the sport.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

On statistics and hating probability

            In the throes of a hockey season, and hours before one of the NHL’s showcase games outside at Yankee Stadium, I’m brought back to an essential question:
            Do you root for the probable outcome?
            In the age of advanced statistics, ones that go well beyond the realm of sports and into things that actually matter, like science and politics, there is a deep divide that separates two distinct types of people – those wanting the numbers to be proven true, and those that want the inexplicable.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Fred Shoemaker, TrackMan, and interpretation of reality

            One of the joys of reporting this book has been meeting Fred Shoemaker.
            He is the man behind Extraordinary Golf, and wrote a terrific and successful book called Extraordinary Putting, along with a broader work, Extraordinary Golf.
            Fred is very smart, and kind, and engaging.  His philosophy is based on being present, and relying on the intuition of human beings.  He is far from a swing mechanic.  The way he approaches life is fascinating, and it translates to his coaching.
            So I ask him about science and technology and how he deals with all of the modern equipment to measure and calibrate the golf swing.  He gives me an answer that is part anthropology, part neuroscience, and part new-age existential philosophy.  Here is some of what he said, with the bolding as my choice, obviously.