The Local Knowlege

My Usual Game

Did Donald Trump copy his hairstyle from nature?

We played Spyglass and Pebble last Sunday, at Maggie McFly's. Here’s Mike B., holding the stick for me on the second green at Pebble: 

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The weather had been so bad that playing anywhere but on the simulators wasn’t a possibility. Then the weather got worse. The snowstorm that the Weather Channel had such a cow about earlier this week turned out to be a dud in our part of New England, but we still got six or seven inches Then on Friday morning we got a few more. As a consequence, I’ve spent a lot of time staring at a bird feeder my wife gave me for one of the windows in my office -- which our dog has also been interested in. Anyway, I think I’ve figured out where my close personal friend Donald Trump got his hairstyle: nuthatches.

 

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I mentioned in a recent post that Jagermeister’s official sponsorship of the Sunday Morning Group had had a measurable impact on sales because Other Gene’s wife had ordered some in a restaurant and a non-golf-playing bridge partner of mine in Mississippi was thinking about buying a bottle. I’d now like to update those results: my non-golf-playing bridge partner in Mississippi not only did buy a bottle; he also served it to three people he has been teaching to play bridge:

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"Each of the guys said he hadn't drunk any since college," my friend reported. "The one with the baseball cap said his first and only experience with it had been at a Cornell fraternity party he went to his freshman year. He drank so much that night that he ended up throwing up from a balcony at the front of the fraternity house, and a crowd gathered below to cheer him on. The other guy said his story was similar, but he didn't tell it." They're grown-ups now, though, and I think I can safely put all four of them in the plus column, along with Other Gene's wife.

Let's check that bird feeder again:

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Is this idea so crazy that it just might work?

Not long ago, I received a promotional email from a golf course my friends and I have often played during the winter, called Lyman Orchards. That got my hopes up -- but the email wasn't an announcement that the course had re-opened; it was an invitation to celebrate "National Pie Day" with "a Free 6-inch Pie." And the pie wasn’t really even free, since you had to buy $25 worth of other crap in order to get it. And then the weather turned almost vengeful: driving rain and sub-freezing temperatures. And then we got snow.

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I’ve been passing this golf-free period by working -- or "working" -- and, when I think of it, throwing birdseed onto the hill outside my back door. And one day I noticed something interesting: the birds, with all their frenzied wing-flapping and hopping-around as they pushed and shoved each other to get at the seed, had cleared almost all the snow from the area where I’d been feeding them:

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That made me wonder: could bird power be harnessed to keep golf courses open during the winter? Spread birdseed with crop-dusting planes, which can’t have anything better to do until spring, and let birds take it from there? Fairways and greens only, to keep costs down? I don’t know; I’m not an ornithologist. But let’s try it.

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When my wife was in third grade, her Brownie leader didn't believe her when she said there was a bird with "tit" in its name, but my wife was right, and the photo above is proof. Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, on a day when there was no functioning golf course within a hundred miles of where we live, the Sunday Morning Group went out to dinner, at a sports bar called 1st and 10

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Hacker (real name) ordered something that isn’t on the menu anymore but that the chef will make for you if you know to ask for it:

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It's two hot dogs split the long way and wrapped in a tortilla with chili, bacon, cheese, and some other stuff, then dipped in batter and deep-fried -- and it comes with fries. I asked our waitress why it wasn’t still on the menu, and she said they took it off because no one but Hacker had ever ordered it.

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Quite a few guys showed up that night. One who didn’t was Stanley. The day before, he had reported, by email: “Had a golfer’s knee installed on Monday. Now rehabbing. Legs the same length.” Hacker visited him a couple of days later:

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Golfers who have knee replacements often figure they ought to get more handicap strokes. But shouldn't they actually lose strokes, to make up for how much better they feel? When I suggested that to the group, Stanley disagreed. "I have no doubt that the U.S.G.A. will soon ban this device,” he wrote from the rehab center. "However, my knee was installed prior to the change and is therefore grandfathered." We'll see.

The other thing we've been doing this winter is working on our relationship with our first (and, so far, only) official sponsor: Jagermeister. Our sweatshirts are at the embroidery shop right now, because we're having our names and some other stuff added to them. Even so, we've had a measurable impact on sales. A bridge partner of mine in Mississippi, who doesn't play golf but does read my blog, wrote to say that he is seriously thinking about buying a bottle. And Other Gene's wife, Diana, recently ordered some in a restaurant.

Just the beginning, my friend. Just the beginning.

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Golf among the zebras: reader's report from Kenya

Jeff Mwangi is a reader in Nairobi, and, starting today, he is the official East Africa correspondent of this blog. He took up golf two years ago, at the age of 40. That’s him in the photo below, at the Great Rift Valley Lodge and Golf Resort, in Naivasha: 

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He wrote to me recently to ask about golf simulators, for which he believes there is a large potential  market in East Africa: “I am looking for commercial ones to install in a shopping mall, and also in some of the golf clubs, for range training," he said. I told him I would try to help put him in touch with some manufacturers. Do you hear that, manufacturers? I’ve got a couple of other ideas, too. In the meantime, I asked him to tell me a little about golf in Kenya, and about himself. From his report:

Golf in Kenya used to be reserved for old men (rich geezers), but times have changed. Tiger Woods has been an inspiration to many young Kenyans -- who, incidentally, think that golf is an easy game. I thought so, too. I bought a second-hand kit, because kits are quite expensive here. I struggled on the the range, but a little training by the range-handlers gave me the confidence to try nine holes. I took countless strokes in my first game, but I managed to finish. I kept going, and for a while I played three times a week. But that was not sustainable, because it took up business time. Still, I did upgrade my kit, from a pro shop in South Africa.

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Now I play golf for leisure, and I am working on reducing my handicap. (Don’t ask me what it is.) I have won several prizes, including one called PIGA MINGI (which is Kiswahili for "hitting too many strokes"). I wish I had started at an early age -- and that is what I want for my children, who have started playing, too. The two photos below were taken at Milnerton Golf Course, in Cape Town, South Africa, which has the best views on the planet. The sound of the Atlantic must have made me miss the ball, but I guess I am still learning the swing.

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Golf in Kenya can be challenging, and animals have the right of way. But the trends that will shape the future of golf are the same trends that are shaping the future of the planet: urbanization, the spread of digital technology, and resource and sustainability pressures. The middle class in Kenya are now looking at golf as leisure, and I am looking for a reliable supplier of golf simulators who wants to help encourage a golf explosion in Eastern Africa. Golfers here want a place where they will not be required to abide by an archaic, denim-phobic dress code, to speak in whispers in the clubhouse, or to be snubbed by the committee. They want to play fun golf on simulators that work! 

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Mwangi took the photo above at Lost City Golf Course, designed by Gary Player, at the Palace of the Lost City, in South Africa. "I drove there for miles," he told me, "but I was turned away because it was invitation-only. So the only thing I could do was take a photo of the beautiful course from the clubhouse and cool down with a few pints." Mwangi is still working on his game, and, if he keeps at it, maybe he'll qualify for Kenya's team in the East Africa Challenge Golf Tournament, which was held at Rift Valley in 2013 and at Entebbe Golf Club, in Uganda, in 2014. Kenya's team won both times -- its eleventh and twelfth victories since the tournament began, in 1999.

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2 golf-trip travel tips

Tip No. 1: If there’s anything I can’t stand, it’s intrusions of light and noise into hotel rooms in which I’m trying to sleep. I felt angry and exasperated recently when I realized that the intermittently loud refrigerator in my room (I forget where I was staying) could not be silenced: it was bolted into its cabinet, which was bolted to the wall, and the control knob inside the refrigerator had been removed. There was no way I could unplug or disable it, short of tearing the cabinet apart, but I did invent a simple new way to fully close the curtains, by using the clips on the caps of a couple of cheap hotel-room ballpoint pens:

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Tip No. 2: eBags, one of a select group of companies for which I am an unpaid shill, makes several of my favorite travel accessories, among them Packing Cubes, which are zippered fabric bags that keep the contents of a suitcase from becoming a chaotic, wrinkled mess.

 

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My wife, when she travels, likes to take all her stuff out of her suitcase and arrange it neatly on hangers and in drawers, even if she’s staying for just a night or two, but to me that seems like a waste of time. When I pack, I divide my stuff by category and put it in color-coded Packing Cubes, which I then leave in my suitcase for the duration. They’re easy to repack, and my stuff never gets away from me.

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In the photo above, you see a week’s worth of golf-trip gear -- all of which will fit into an eBags TLS Mother Lode Mini 21” Wheeled Duffel, which in turn will fit into the overhead compartment of an airplane. Upper left: medium orange Packing Cube containing a tee shirt (for sleeping) and a pair of lightweight fleece pants (for in-room apres-golf lounging). Lower left: my eBags Pack-it-Flat Toiletry Kit, which is actually not a Packing Cube but is fully Packing Cube-compatible. Center: two large festive Packing Cubes containing shirts, pants, and a sweater. Upper right: large orange Packing Cube containing underwear, socks, handkerchiefs. Lower right: two empty large gray Packing Cubes, for laundry. If I’m traveling with a rainsuit, I’ll put it in one of the gray Packing Cubes and stuff that into my golf-bag travel cover. And if I know I’m going to need a sports coat somewhere I fold it inside out and put it in a Packing Cube of its own. That keeps it from getting wrinkled, even if the other stuff in the suitcase squeezes it flat.

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Reader's Trip Report: Ballybunion in winter

Dan Tani, an American reader, joined Ballybunion as an overseas member in 1998, when the cost was next to nothing.

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Two years later, he married a woman from Cork, and so now he's obliged to visit twice a year. (He proposed to his wife at the stroke of the millennium, after playing Ballybunion in the afternoon and rehearsing his lines on the drive home.) Ever since, he’s made a point of playing at least one round on the Old Course very late in the year. In 2013, he played on New Year’s Eve Eve -- December 30 -- with three Irish guys whose fourth had exceeded the legal limit on showing up late. Last month, he played again. Excerpts from his report:

This year the weather was beautifully clear and calm, but a bit chillier than last year: the car reported a temperature of -2C when I pulled into the car park. In my attempt to maximize my golf, I had left Cork in pitch dark, at 7:00 a.m., and I pulled into Ballybunion at 9:30 -- perfect timing, I thought. There were very few cars in the lot, and just a few people milling around.

The empty parking lot turned out to be a bad sign: frost delay. Tani continues:

As we waited for the greens to thaw, I sat in the clubhouse and had coffee with several members, including the club co-captain. More than half the guys in the bar were named Costello, although they were not all related. We all became amateur meteorologists: looking out the windows, studying weather maps on our cell phones, estimating sun angles, analyzing temperature gradients.

The delay lasted two hours. When the superintendent gave the all-clear, the co-captain put Tani in the first group, with two older guys. Tani had forgotten his golf shoes, so he had to improvise:

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Back to Tani:

The only real concession the club makes to winter is to take the fairways out of play. Last year, you had to lift any ball in a fairway (rare in my case) and drop in light rough. That let the fairways to rest over the winter, but I guess it ate up the light rough, so this year we had to use mats. A positive aspect that I did not initially appreciate is that, when mats are used, winter rounds are considered “official" for tournament purposes, and so count toward handicap.

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Ballybunion’s Old Course has two alternate greens that are used in the winter, on holes 7 and 8.  They’re just as challenging and beautiful as the regular greens, and if you didn’t know any better you would have no idea they were replacements. Here's one of my playing companions teeing off on No. 8:


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This winter, there was also a temporary green on the 18th. It made the hole disappointingly shorter and easier -- although in my case I plugged my approach shot in the face of the huge “Sahara” bunker and had to play backward, into the same bunker, just to have a shot out.

One of the things that make Irish winter golf extra dramatic is the long shadows. Ballybunion is roughly 60 degrees north latitude, and when the sun at its southernmost position the highest it ever gets is about 7 degrees above the horizon.

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That makes for extra-long shadows even at noon.

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Failte Ireland, the Irish tourism authority, has created what it calls the Wild Atlantic Way, a 2,500-kilometer motor route along along some of the most beautiful coastline in the world. It passes through most of the country’s most famous western and southern coastal sites: the Burren, the Cliffs of Moher, Connemara, the Ring of Kerry, and many others. It also connects some great golf courses: Ballyliffin, Carne, Rosapenna, Donegal, Sligo, Lahinch, Doonbeg, Tralee, Waterville, Old Head -- and of course Ballybunion. I’m sure it will bring many more tourists to this out-of-the-way part of Ireland, for good and bad.

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As a matter of fact, my friends and I may be traveling part of that route a year from this coming spring -- for good only, of course.

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Beating the snow, plus exclusive footage of a rare 86-stroke penalty

The forecast for Sunday was terrible, but the one for Saturday was pretty good -- “snow and ice, then rain; fog” -- so we shifted our Sunday game to Saturday.

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There were several guys standing around outside the golf shop at Candlewood Valley when we arrived: never a good sign:

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The problem was that the temperature was only a few degrees below freezing, and the superintendent was worried that the greens might not be frozen solid enough for him to ignore the frost. He went out to inspect the course, and we went out for breakfast, at a diner down the road. Then we came back and hung out in the golf shop, to await the superintendent's verdict:

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We also chatted up some of the other guys who were waiting. This guy, whose name is Greg, showed me a gadget called a PutterDart, which he sells and may have invented. It has lots of uses. There’s no PutterDart webpage, and Greg doesn’t seem to be on Facebook, but if you’re interested in learning more you can get in touch with him at PutterDart@aol.com.

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We got the all-clear, finally, at 10:00. Ed Slattery, the head pro, said we could play as a fivesome. He also let us start on the tenth hole, so we had plenty of empty golf course ahead of us. 

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Addison was wearing shorts, so, in accordance with our winter rules, he got to be a 2 instead of a 0. But his socks were so tall that they functioned almost like pants, and to keep them from sliding down to his ankles he was holding them up with the rubber bands from two bunches of asparagus -- which provided exactly the right amount of tension, he said. At some point, I guess, the Committee will have to rule on maximum sock height, as well as on artificial support.

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The Housatonic River, which runs through the course, was flowing, but the puddles and ponds were all frozen:

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On our ninth hole, Other Gene incurred a rare 86-stroke penalty, for repeatedly grounding his club after hitting his tee shot into a hazard:


We kept a weather eye on the weather with Raindar, my favorite Android precipitation monitor:

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And, luckily, despite our one-hour frost delay, the snow didn’t reach us until we were making our way up the fairway on our seventeenth hole:

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Even on our eighteenth, putting was still possible:

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A final swig of Jagermeister, the official cold-weather intoxicant of the Sunday Morning Group, in the parking lot:

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Then lunch at the Cookhouse -- where, once again, we ran into the PutterDart guy. He was hard to recognize without that hat:

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Can ski gloves cure the yips? How to dress for sub-freezing golf

On New Year's Day, 15 of us played the Red Course at the Wheel. The temperature was 20 when I woke up and 25 when we teed off, and it never got to more than a degree or two above freezing. The sun was out, though:

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Our cars were virtually the only ones in the parking lot when we started, so the guy at the desk (who took the photo below) said we could play as five threesomes, three fivesomes, two seven-and-a-halfsomes, whatever. We played as three fivesomes.

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The festive cardboard glasses that everyone's wearing in the photo above were a seasonally appropriate gift from Chic, who is the chairman of our golf club:

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The ground was so hard that getting tees into it was a problem. Shouldn't there be a power tool for this?

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We always award two extra handicap strokes to anyone who wears shorts after December 1. Only Fritz did on New Year's -- a seemingly reckless decision, but a profitable one, because his team won:

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Fritz said later that only has face had been cold. If I'd worn shorts, I'd have gotten a handicap stroke on the Money Hole, so dressing rationally cost me ten bucks. I don't regret that, though, because I was comfortable for the entire round. After many years of playing golf in bad weather, I’ve figured out what I need to wear to stay warm. As always, I dressed in layers, so that I could take stuff off if I got hot and put it back on if I got cold again -- although on New Year's I didn't take anything off until we were finished.

I wore three long-sleeve shirts, the first of which was very thin and two of which were turtlenecks. All three were made of synthetic stuff. Here's the one I wore on top, by Under Armour:

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On top of that, I wore my brand-new Sun Mountain Tour Series Rain Jacket, which I love. There was no rain in the forecast, but rainsuits are good for wind, too, and we had plenty of that: 20 miles per hour all day:

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My Sun Mountain rain jacket reminds me of my Galvin Green rain jacket, which I also love, but the Sun Mountain jacket sells for less than half as much. One of its best features is that it’s extra long, so that it can’t ride up, We've had a fair amount of rain so far this winter, in addition to the other stuff, and I've happily worn the jacket many times. I like everything about it:

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On top of the rain jacket, I wore a Uniqlo Ultra Light down vest. Wearing a down vest over three shirts and a jacket made me look like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, but the vest really is ultra light, and because it doesn't have sleeves it doesn't get in the way of a golf swing. I keep it in a Ziploc bag in my golf bag all winter, for emergencies. It squishes down to such a tiny package that last year I forgot to take it out when the weather got warm again:

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I own long johns in three different "weights." On New Year’s Day, I wore the mediums. They aren’t really long johns; they’re actually running pants, or something, for men who don’t mind being seen in public in tights. They work like long johns, though:

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On top of those, I wore rain pants. One of the keys to successful rain-pants-wearing, I think, is to wear them as pants -- over bare legs if it’s warm, over long johns if it’s not. Another key: suspenders. Wearing suspenders with rain pants keeps the pants from sliding down when you stuff a gloved hand into your pocket to retrieve a tee or a ball marker. In fact, rain pants should have built-in straps. My suspenders have plastic grippers, which I think are gentler on expensive waterproof fabric than metal grippers are. They also supposedly won't set off airport security equipment, should you choose to adopt a totally suspenders-based lifestyle:

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On my neck and part of my head, I wore a Gore-Tex Buff, which may be my single favorite cold-weather accessory. A Buff is a tube of fabric. You can wear it in a million different ways, and if you get really cold you can pull it up (or down) over your face. The guy who invented it got the idea after wearing a pair of underpants on his head to keep his ears from freezing while he rode his motorcycle:

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On top of my head I wore a regular golf cap, and on top of that I wore a bright orange knit cap from Cabela’s, which sells stuff to hunters. Hey, don’t shoot!

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On my feet, I wore two pairs of wool socks, one of which was pretty thick. The kind I like best are made by SmartWool. The great thing about wool, whether it's smart or not, is that it keeps you warm even if it gets wet:

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I had room for both pairs of socks because I was also wearing my super-comfortable True Linkswear Chukka golf shoes -- a style the company seems to have dropped, I'm sorry to say. (True Gent Chukkas, which the company does sell, are not the same.) I now own eight or ten pairs of True golf shoes. I love them all, and the Chukkas are among my favorites, except when I'm wearing shorts:

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On my hands I wore two pairs of golf gloves: a pair of FootJoy Rain Grips, which are thin, and, on top of those, my favorite winter golf gloves ever, HJ Winter Xtremes.

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You might think that wearing two pairs of gloves would reduce your so-called “touch,” especially on the greens, but if it does anything it probably has the opposite effect. Debbie Crews, who is the sports-psychology consultant for the women’s golf team at Arizona State University and the chair of the World Scientific Conference of Golf, sometimes tells golfers with the yips to try putting (in her lab) with ski gloves on. They usually putt so much better that it’s amazing,” she told me, “because they can’t manipulate.” I wrote about Crews and her research last year, in an article about the yips for The New Yorker. You can read it here.

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MyUsualGame


Happy 2015.

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Late-December bonus days

On the Saturday after Christmas, the weather was so mild that a couple of courses in our area reopened. Joe, Mike B., Todd, and I played at Candlewood Valley Country Club, about 20 minutes from where we live. The greens were fast and the fairways were fairly dry, and the course was so crowded that we had to stand in line at the first tee, even though we had a tee time:

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As you can see in the photo below, three of the four of us own Clicgear pushcarts -- in different color schemes, so that we can tell them apart. Now that the Sunday Morning Group is shamelessly pursuing corporate sponsors, I can say that we would be happy to field-test any Clicgear prototypes or accessories or anything else that anyone at Clicgear or anywhere else might be interested in shipping to us. Is anyone listening?

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Mike had to go to a party with his wife that evening. To maximize his golf time, he had persuaded her to pick him up at the course on the way to wherever they were going. (He planned to leave his own car in the parking lot, and retrieve it on the way home.) That was smart, but he still didn’t get to play all 18. Here he is, in the lower right-hand corner, trudging back to the clubhouse to meet his wife, with three holes still to play:

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It rained during the night and the following morning, and that tiny bit of mildly unpleasant weather was enough to make almost everyone except us decide to say home on Sunday morning. There were nine of us, and when we teed off, beginning at 9:03, we had the course essentially to ourselves. At the turn, we ran into these guys, who showed no sign of being bothered by the weather:

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We saw them again later, too:

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They were too young, too well-dressed, and too well-behaved to be mistaken for members of our group, and they appeared to have had better luck than we have had at working a sponsorship deal with Titleist, but I admired their obvious disdain for weather forecasts. Or maybe they were orphans, and had nowhere else to go. Anyway, we finished in no time, then went to lunch at the Cookhouse:

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The Cookhouse is where we used to eat back during our winter bowling years, before we discovered that a few golf courses in our part of the country stay open right until spring, as long as they aren’t covered with snow. In fact, our primary adaptation to climate change, so far, has been eliminating bowling -- a plus.

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Golf-gear innovations from a U.S. Marine

Mike Shelley spent five years in the United States Marine Corps. Among the pieces of equipment that he and his buddies found indispensable were slender lengths of nylon kernmantle rope, known popularly as 550 cord, paracord, or parachute cord. (That's Shelley on the left in the photo below.)

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“I was in a special operations unit,” he told me recently. “We’d carry a compass in one pocket, a knife in another pocket, fire starters in another pocket, whatever. And to keep all that stuff from getting lost we had our combat utility uniforms retrofitted so that every pocket had a little loop sewn inside it. You’d tie a length of parachute cord to your gear and another to the loop in a pocket, and that way you would know that, when you jumped from a helicopter into the ocean in the middle of the night, your gear couldn’t fall out and sink to the bottom.”

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Shelley entered an MBA program when he got out of the Marines, and in 2010, as a class project, he founded an online company called SGT KNOTS. “I bought five spools of parachute cord, and I tried to think of everything I could possibly make from it, to put it out there and see what would sell,” he said. “I was really only trying to teach myself about e-commerce, but about three days after I launched SGT KNOTS a catalog company that supplies police departments all over the country contacted me and said they wanted to start buying parachute-cord survival bracelets, 500, 1,000 at a time. So there I was, in my basement, sitting on my couch, making these things as fast as I could for three weeks straight.” 

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He rapidly expanded his manufacturing capability, in part by connecting with an inmate work program at a county jail in New Hampshire. Today, SGT KNOTS sells not just a large variety of finished items but also spools of paracord and other raw materials, which are popular with people who make stuff to sell from card tables at flea markets and gun shows. 

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My first purchase from SGT KNOTS was a package of three paracord zipper pulls. I attached one to the zipper on my golf bag's waterproof pocket, which is where I keep my wallet and my phone while I'm playing golf:

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And I used the others to replace two frayed zipper pulls on my favorite golf-trip suitcase:

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My SGT KNOTS pulls are easy to spot and grab, and the ones on my suitcase are clearly visible from all the way across an airport luggage carousel. Warning: SGT KNOTS zipper pulls aren’t cheap, and the metal clasp on each one is big -- too big to fit through the eye of the metal pull on the zipper in the fly of your jeans (for example). Here’s one of my SGT KNOTS zipper pulls next to a chintzy one that it replaced:

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But for the right applications they’re worth the investment, and in an emergency you could unknot the cord on one and use it to garrote an annoying match-play opponent (say), or replace a broken lace a golf shoe, or do a little impromptu fishing in a water hazard:


Shelley himself took up golf a couple of years ago. (That's him on the right in the photo below.) “I never thought about these zipper pulls for golf bags,” he told me, “but I’m always looking for new ideas. I could make a custom zipper pull for a golfer, so that the colors would match the bag, and I could put a different loop on the end. I think my StretchFit Elastic Laces, which are made from bungee cord, are fantastic for golf shoes. They hug your foot, and you can adjust how much they hug.”

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I can think of other golf applications -- like, how about a cord to attach your putter headcover to your golf bag, so that you don’t have to keep retrieving it from the lost-and-found? (A Marine would call that a "dummy cord." Good name.) Or a paracord monkey fist for the beer opener you keep in your golf bag -- useful for breaking up ice? You may have ideas of your own. If so, let Shelley know. If we ask nicely, he might make stuff just for us.

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"We used so much paracord in the Marines that we would joke about it," Shelley said. "Like, if you can't fix it with duct tape or parachute cord, it can't be fixed."


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My Usual Game

Major breakthrough: a better way to watch golf on TV

My wife’s college roommate’s son got married recently. Before the wedding, he and his fiancee were interviewed at length for an episode of a reality show called Something Borrowed, Something New, on the television network TLC, which is to women what the Golf Channel is to men. Three years ago, during the summer before my daughter's wedding, I inadvertently watched parts of quite a few TLC programs, because during that period the TV in our kitchen was permanently tuned to it. For example, I saw parts of several episodes of My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, a British reality show about the weddings of gypsies and Irish travelers. From it, I learned that, in planning our daughter’s wedding, my wife and I had made many mistakes, including allowing our daughter to marry a non-gypsy and failing to rent any stretch Hummers or horse-drawn carriages:

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Something Borrowed, Something New is about wedding dresses. The episode featuring my wife’s old roommate’s son and his fiancee aired shortly before Christmas, and my wife suggested that our own son, whose name is John, and I watch it with her. John and I consented, out of loyalty to her and her old roommate, whom both of us know, but we worried that sitting through an entire TLC show might permanently harm us in some way. Luckily, we were able to protect ourselves, by viewing the episode through long cardboard tubes from two used-up rolls of Christmas wrapping paper:

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Watching through the tubes enabled us to make it all the way to the end while suffering few if any ill effects, and it occurred to me later that the same technique might be useful in other fraught television-viewing situations, such as nerve-wracking parts of important golf tournaments. If a golfer you were rooting for in one of the majors faced a critical putt on the final day, for example, you could use a tube to focus solely on the hole, potentially even helping the ball to drop. Or, during one of those web.com commercials featuring Jim Furyk and his wife, you could use a tube to focus on a blank part of the screen (after first hitting the mute button).

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In other golf news, Jed, a member of the Sunday Morning Group, became a father on December 20. Here he is with his brand-new daughter, whose name is Louisa. As you can see, she already has a healthy interest in golf:

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My granddaughter, whose name is Alice, is thirteen months older than Louisa. I don’t have a recent picture of her playing golf, but I do have one of her doing a pretty good imitation of most of the guys I play most of my rounds with: 

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MyUsualGame

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