June 25, 2007

The clubhouse of my dreams

A Microchip Room would be necessary so members could buy and sell three-putts

In thinking about what might constitute the perfect clubhouse to go along with the Best Modern 18 (see page 118), it was my immediate thought that there should always be navy bean soup on the menu.

Then I thought that if such were the case, I wouldn't much care about the rest of it, except for one other thing: Anyone who wished to not smoke would have to go outdoors.

Did I say that with a straight face? I meant to. That's because I'm no longer allowed to smoke in front of human beings, or my bypass. It's a curse I live with now, after 45 years when a cigarette was the best friend I ever had. There were packs of them that wrote entire game stories for me on deadline, and cartons that wrote whole novels.

Which reminds me of the day a year ago when I remarked to my friend P.J. O'Rourke, who happens to be an all-star smoker as well as an all-star writer, "If you want to do something hard, try writing a book without smoking." To which he said, "What's the byline on your new one-'By the Man Who's Not Funny Anymore'?"

Militant nonsmokers find it hard to comprehend this attitude. The only thing I can say to help them understand it is to ask them to consider what meaningless lives they would live if they had to give up telling everybody else what to do.

Of course, there are other enemies of the people out there who feel as strongly about not eating navy bean soup as they do about not smoking, which is why I try never to play golf at a club that serves yogurt.

But back to the ideal clubhouse. It would have to look as if it held U.S. Opens for a hobby; that it certainly held more U.S. Opens than debutante parties. I visualize a couple of Merions tacked onto the side of an Oakmont, with a shaded back veranda like the one at Winged Foot.

All members would naturally be regular readers of me, and be required to have read at least one book in a lifetime, even if it was nothing more than Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays with Morrie's Long Lost Brother.

The club shouldn't have so many golf members that you'd ever need a starting time on any day of the week, including Saturdays and Sundays. Fivesomes, even gangsomes, would be permitted, if not encouraged.

Snack bars would be located near the third, sixth, ninth, 12th and 15th greens, and well-supplied beverage carts, operated by former Miss Congenialities, would also be available to go along with any impatient group that required one.

Valet parking is an essential at any decent club. But not for used SUVs, which would have to be parked five miles away, somewhere near the freeway where they'd broken down. Maybe in a vacant field where they can grow rust while their owners wait for the parts to be shipped from Montana.

Views are good. Members need to be able to sit around in the Men's Grill-Mixed Foursome Room-Cork Room-Hogan Room-Tap Room-Pour Folks Room-Tavern and gaze out and watch geezers three-putt the storied 18th green after taking a drop out of the storied pond.

The Microchip Room would be a must. I see it over in a remote corner of the clubhouse, no view. A place where 32-year-old Cyber Fraud and his lovely wife, Dot Com, can dine with all the other dot.com people, eat yogurt and talk about the $17 million they made that day in the stock market.

We all know guys who fancy a live-in locker room. The sprawling, leathery, cushiony locker room where they can eat, drink, nap, drool, read, argue, drop towel, conduct phone bidness, and elect senators and congressmen at their leisure.

This kind of locker room is a necessity, I suppose, although personally I don't particularly enjoy eating my navy bean soup and BLT in a place where naked geezers frequently wander about after they come out of the shower stalls. I'd very much prefer it if they kept their cream gravy storage tanks or skeletal remains to themselves.

There ought to be some historic value to the locker room. For this purpose, I'd borrow Hogan's locker that's preserved and plexiglassed at Shady Oaks, and I'd borrow those two from Maidstone on Long Island where the names of Grantland Rice and Ring Lardner are displayed.

The club shouldn't be all that exclusive and upper crust. Nothing like, say, Swindley Forest over in a London suburb, where you can't be a member if you've ever had a job. I'd want a few aging oil and cattle barons for set decoration, along with their fourth wives, who still fly for Lufthansa. A criminal lawyer, a friendly banker, and, I think it goes without saying, two or three cardiovascular surgeons-for the smokers.