We've become an ungrateful bunch. Instead of cherishing the good, we belabor the bad. We complain about the Wi-Fi stalling out, oblivious to the miracle of the Internet. Talk crap about our jobs without referencing its steady income. Traffic, sports, politics: moan, moan, moan. And God only knows the struggle of sitting on an airport runway.
Which is why Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays of the year. It's a respite from groaning, where gratitude takes center stage. That attitude applies to golf, for I've been guilty of bellyaching just as much as anyone.
In keeping with Thanksgiving tradition, here are the things I'm most thankful for from the world of golf:
And we're guessing Alison Lee does, too.
Online tee-time reservation sites
For those too poor to afford a country club (me) and/or procrastinate in making a tee time earlier in the week (me, again), these websites are a gift from the golf gods. It can be a roll of the dice; in many ways, it's like TJ Maxx: If you're trying to find a specific, particular item, you may be disappointed, but if casually browsing, you'll likely find something that fits your fancy. As long as you don't mind the spontaneity of the process, booking a time online should be right up your alley.
And no, this wasn't a paid, sponsored content endorsement.
Where to begin? It's the best golf course in the world, and the same sentiment can be applied to its condition. Forget sporting events; it's the most efficiently run event in this country PERIOD. Every element of Augusta is draped in tradition; the Par 3 Contest has more history than most tournaments. The small field all but guarantees a big-name winner, and the course layout ensures an exciting finish.
In short: If there is a heaven, then the Pearly Gates are located at 2604 Washington Road.
How to know your friend's a keeper: He/she motions for a reload after your first shot of the day finds the parking lot. As Euripides said, "Friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness."
The snow days of adulthood. Bonus points if they reside on a Friday.
If you've only swung a club in sunlight, you're missing out.
Amateurs competing in majors
While Jordan Spieth was the main storyline at St. Andrews, the competitive showings of Paul Dunne and Jordan Niebrugge were right up there in narrative excitement. Granted, these guys are professionals-in-training, yet there's undoubtedly a romanticized feeling when an "(A)" name designation appears on the scoreboard.
It even inspires the ephemeral hope that you, too, watching at home, can compete with the big boys. All you need is a little practice around the greens, more mental focus, a better diet and stretching regimen, and -- BOOM -- you'd be walking up the 18th fairway as Jim Nantz pontificates a Nantzism on your historic victory (which, in my case, would be along the lines of, "An Un-BEALL-ievable moment!!!).
Then you remember you couldn't break par at the member-guest and think, "Na."
16th hole at Phoenix
The antithesis of golf etiquette, decorum and civility...and, remarkably, it's universally beloved by everyone in the game.
Admittedly, I always resented this profession growing up, due to making minimum wage on maintenance duty while those manning carts would pull in $35 per hour off tips. But this summer, most of my golf was played at a course without coolers, and on the days I forgot to pack my own water bottle -- which was often -- seeing the silhouette of the snack truck approaching from the distance turned me into Andy Dufresne after his Shawshank escape.
Be it equipment, books, programs, clothes, tickets, even vacations, eBay is the Elysium of golf memorabilia. If you're ready to go down this rabbit hole, Matt Rudy's work is a weekly source for these finds.
The big guy gave us a scare this summer, collapsing at an event in Mississippi. From his outlandish ensembles to his penchant for belting out "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," the game is always a bit more colorful when Daly's around. Moreover, there's something to be said for a person who can energize a gallery with his mere appearance, and in terms of treating fans, Daly has no peer on the PGA Tour.
Here's hoping for a clean bill of health for JD for 2016.
Club Pro Guy Twitter account
Crass, irreverent, offensive, demeaning. Our kind of guy.
Televised golf at bizarre hours
The British Open is the annual model for its early-morning showcase on the East Coast, but 2015 gave us a prime-time U.S. Open and a deep-into-the-night Presidents Cup broadcast. Even the British Open got into the act -- albeit briefly -- with its 1:30 a.m. EST Saturday-morning start.
There is nothing better for a golfer's confidence than a scramble . It's easy to dismiss awful shots ("Well, clearly I was just being overly aggressive because of the format, you guys"), putting transforms from the bane of your existence to a shared struggle and every decent knock is treated like MacArthur returning to the Philippines.
Fact: Golf viewership among females audiences has soared 784 percent, strictly at the prospect of seeing Lil' Day running across the 18th green. Even Keely Levins, who makes the Grinch look amicable, lights up like a Christmas tree at Dash sightings.
Take your NBA Jam and Tecmo Bowl claims and stick it. Golden Tee is hands-down the best sports video game ever. And in case you've had enough of avoiding everyone at the bar to play the arcade game, you can now take that social shut-in mentality with you, as Golden Tee is now available on mobile!
Personalized golf balls
Sure, it's embarrassing that fellow golfers will know you have a wicked slice when they find your ball in the woods.
However, my regular course is filled with golfers who are, ahem, less than sincere about hitting others' Titleists, to the point where they lie about its number and color mark. Luckily, my "Joel Beall: Bad News" balls (thanks Grandma!) are easy to identify, and eliminate this unnecessary back-and-forth. Plus, you feel like a professional having a specialized imprint. Cannot recommend personalized golf balls enough as stocking stuffers.
That 2016 is a Ryder Cup year
The Presidents Cup put on a show this fall, from its host course to the on-the-rise International team. But the Ryder Cup -- from its cast of characters, history, stakes and climate -- is a different animal. The best way to describe the dichotomy between the events would be, the Presidents Cup desperately wants you to believe it matters, whereas the Ryder Cup knows YOU know it matters.
That one unseasonably warm day that allows you to play golf during the winter
That sound you hear is every golfer above the Mason-Dixon line nodding their head.
It's such a surefire equation -- driving range + competition + bar ambience -- that a) I'm surprised it took so long for this to come to fruition and b) I'm envious I didn't have the idea myself.
Ben Hogan's Five Lessions
As my buddy and Golf Digest associate editor Stephen Hennessey says, "Thousands of golfers have credited their success to this book. Granted, it hasn't helped me, but that's because I'm terrible."
The Hawk's fundamentals can be a foundation for beginners or a check-up for the pros. Either way, make sure a copy of The Good Book is on your shelf.
When I ask those in the industry -- equipment manufacturers, PGA Tour officials, course owners, fellow writers -- what they fear most about the game's future, the universal answer is a dwindling consumer base. After years of making golf inclusive, many worry it's reverting to a confined state. Which makes what the First Tee program is doing instrumental. Be it your time, money or club donations, if you love golf, find a way to contribute to this endeavor.
The perfect caddie
Golfers expect a lot out of a looper. Course and game knowledge, sure. But a solid caddie is quick with a laugh or story, and provides the solace or encouragement needed to prevent a round from going south. To perform such tasks in the face of watching your ghastly swing for five hours is nothing short of Herculean.
Extending our weekday outing-snowday analogy, golf trips are like summer camps for the 21-and-up crowd. But, as we warned earlier this year, avoid these common mistakes that can submarine the experience.
Not only are they integral in the club-buying process, but nothing impresses a woman like showing her your 300-yard launch monitor numbers.*
*Please do not attempt this. Or, if you do, be sure to videotape said exchange.
His schtick may rub some the wrong way, but it was evident after his CBS parting how much respect and love the majority of the golf world has for Feherty. His blend of wit and humanity is a trait that's often duplicated but rarely imitated. Golf should be honored it has Feherty in the sport.
The practice green is the most underutilized setting in golf. Yes, spending hours in this area will improve your game, but just as helpful is a putting battle with a friend or foe. Whether it's a buck, beer or simple pride on the line, you'll be floored how fierce this competition can get. Becoming familiar with that setting will help you under pressure on the real course.
Having the course to yourself
Some find peace during a hike in the woods. For others, Nirvana is a beach, the company of loved ones, a good book. For me, life doesn't get any better than putting your tee in the ground, looking up and not seeing a soul in sight. No matter what else is going on, it's a moment that makes me smile and give thanks.