RBC Canadian Open

Oakdale Golf & Country Club

The Loop

Buddies Golf

March 18, 2008

Let me take a moment to sing the praises of buddies golf trips.

I've just returned from mine--a group of eight lobbyists, Democrats, union organizers and editors who have, to prove our tolerance, added one die-hard conservative over the 24 seasons we've assembled in February or March, mostly at Amelia Island Plantation (with a few years of PGA Golf Club mixed in). The trip is an equal mixture of golf, cigars, martinis, red wine, college basketabll, politics, personal updates, rules violations, snoring, steak, baked potatoes, hugs and complaints, with a couple of minor arrests thrown in over the years.

I look forward to this trip more than Christmas or Yankees Opening Day, and when I almost had to miss it this year felt the way I imagine one would feel cheating on his wife. I relented, and made it for half the trip. What makes the Tradishun (that's what we call it, so sue me) so enjoyable is that the golf, while somewhat competitive, is not obsessivley so. Our games are not great--the group ranges from 5 to 18--but to a man we play fast, needle hard and lobby like crazy for extra shots. No surpise: the lobbyists get the most unecessary strokes. Most of us our old now and not nearly as feisty as we used to be. We haven't had a two-separate-dinners feud in three or four years and the two young additions to the group (one union organizer, one entrepreneurial capitalist) keep us from living too much in the past.

This past weekend we played at the three courses at Amelia (two early Pete Dye tracks and Amelia River, a playable and fair Tom Jackson design), the Golf Club of North Hampton (a really strong Arnold Palmer just off the island) and Laurel Island Links, a Davis Love design about twenty minutes up I-95 in Georgia. (Davis seems to have taken his design cues from Sea Island and Augusta: wide open spaces off the tee, with lots of different and interesting green structures.

As with all buddies trips, and this is one of the core values, to quote HR department, is we've each had to change over the years to make the thing work, and in doing so the trip has made us better, I think. For my part, I've gone from being--I'm quoting here, since I don't remember any of this--a very temperamental, club-banging, rules stickler to a live-and-let live casual golfer who has adopted the Reasonable Man's Rules of Golf: All balls into the woods, briars or backyards are treated as having entered a lateral hazard. Putts are given generously except in our 36-hole tournament, when mostly we putt things out. Mulligans are optional on the first tee, though I've noticed they've disappeared over the years simply because they take too much time: Great rules for early season resort golf when 36 holes a day allow you to forget shots, good and bad, quickly.

Whether you adopt these rules or not, here's to your taking a trip like this soon. It teaches the game--all aspects of the game--better than any golf experience I've done. When the friendship comes first, somehow the golf gets faster--and more fun.

Love to hear about your buddies trip if you take one.

--Bob Carney