Skip navigation

Photo from the Internet Machine

Photo from the Internet Machine


Golfing with a caddy is a relatively rare experience in the United States, and I believe a renewed, broad focus on caddies and caddy programs would be immensely beneficial to the game of golf, the golfers themselves, and caddies in many, many ways.

Unless you’re new here, you know I can’t possibly do a short and to-the-point post, so first some exposition on me (focus: me.  Good.)  Where I grew up, there were no caddies (there were only a couple golf courses.)  The first time I caddied was during the 1984 USGA Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship, which needed a significant number of caddies and basically if you could carry a bag you could go out and caddy.  I carried for a nice woman from Philadelphia the first two days, but sadly she didn’t make it past stroke play, so I went back into the caddy pool and got on with another player I don’t recall at this point.  There may have been two other players during match play for whom I caddied, and both were defeated.  Through an odd stroke of luck a friend of mine had drawn Heather Farr as his player at the start of the tournament and, as she kept winning and advanced to the final, my friend had to admit to her that he had another commitment and could not carry her bag on the weekend.  Not the optimal situation if you’re a player.  He knew I was available, and I shall be forever indebted to him for introducing me to her as his substitute for the weekend (thanks J).  It was such joy to watch her hit a golf ball, I didn’t even care if she paid me (she paid me.) She went on to win the tournament and then to the LPGA Tour not long after that. [Her story has a tragic ending, but I am so happy I got to meet her and see her play. Favorite line from her: “My dad always told me, if you can’t play well, at least play fast.”  She played very fast.  Of course it does help if you only hit the ball 68 times in 18 holes.]

I then caddied in the local mini tour event for a pro from Washington state, and that was when my real education as a caddy began.  He had the largest Titleist tour bag I had ever seen, which situation was compounded by his being under the weather and carrying about a gallon of Gatorade and by the course being seriously hilly.  I learned a great deal from him about how to take care of a player, what they wanted you to do, where you should stand, and more than I would like to admit, what NOT to do and where NOT to stand.  Carrying that bulbous black and white bag and watching him play are some of my fondest memories from that time (thanks JC), not to mention that I skipped a couple days of high school to get the gig (thanks, Mom, for the notes.)  I would have done it for free.

After that, I caddied again for the mini tour event, and then did some loops at Hazeltine when I worked there on the grounds (thanks, Doc, for requesting me for that member guest; far better than hand raking all those traps for my regular job.)

The point here is, I had some wonderful experiences, met some great people, had the best seat in the house for some spectacular golf (and even more not-so-spectacular golf), learned a great deal about golf and people, and got to be outside making money, while today high school kids have fewer options than ever for reasonably good summer jobs, golf is dying, and golfers (and Americans in general) are fatter than ever.  Let’s bring back the caddy and solve these problems.

As usual here in America, money and laziness created this problem.  Clubs and club pros and public courses make money renting out carts, and I don’t think it takes a PhD in math to figure out cart rental money will almost always be greater than caddy program money, since carts are inanimate employees.



Running a caddy program reasonably complicated and detailed, and the revenue, if any, to the course would naturally be lower than from a fleet of carts.  Carts don’t no-show on Saturday mornings or otherwise misbehave, don’t have to be managed by a lot of people, and don’t have to be trained.  Caddies, on the other hand, do not require intrusive and expensive paved cart paths (which are usually in play, too), barn-like storage and repair facilities, electricity, or fuel, and do not compact the turf all over the entire course every time they leave one of those lovely paved cartways.

Resort designers (and other golf course builders) are also at fault: they build courses that are so convoluted (read: more condos and/or on suboptimal land) the courses REQUIRE you to take a cart and won’t even allow players to walk.  I avoid playing at places that do this and have more than once walked out on a reservation.  [I fervently hope each of these places has their very own Carl Spackler on staff to “remedy” their “gopher” situations.]

I prefer to walk for many reasons, but one of the main ones is I play better: as I walk up to my ball I have a few moments to assess my predicament, think about possible ways to extricate myself, and formulate a plan, so that when I reach my ball, I can pull a club and hit.  With a golf cart, all-too-quickly BAM there I am beside my ball and THEN I have to figure all that out and everybody’s waiting for me and hurry the guys behind are on the tee and the other three players in my group are playing with their ridiculous laser beams and lighting their cigars and texting their mistresses and watching a squirrel so I HAVE TO HURRY and WHOOSH there goes the ball into the woods.  I. Hate. That.  Many years ago the USGA promoted signing a “Walking Pledge”, and they would send you a “Walking Member” bagtag along with your regular bagtag, the idea being to encourage people to walk more when playing.  The one on my bag is the only one I have ever seen.

Now, I have no problem with senior citizens or others taking carts if they are legitimately physically unable to play the game without a cart.  At least they’re playing this great game.  What I do have a problem with is able-bodied people taking carts.  Trust me, you could use the walking, there, chubs.

Let’s be clear: carts DO NOT “speed up” play, they slow it down.  Which is faster, walking to the corner store or driving somewhere, finding a parking spot, and then entering the store?  Same issue – you have to take care of the stupid little buggy in addition to playing the game.  Takes more time.  Even worse if you have to stay only on the cart path, or use their “90-degree rule.”  Also, there are two players and only one cart: drive to one ball, wait for him/her to assess the situation, pick a club, go through a mental checklist, toss some clippings in the air, play with their laser beam some more, finally play, then drive to the other player’s ball and repeat.  In what universe is any of this faster?  The only possible place taking a cart “speeds” play is at poorly-designed resort courses where the mileage between greens and tees is the length of an airport runway.  I will not patronize such places if I can possibly avoid it and I generally can.





There’s a reason players on Tour walk with caddies, are in fact required to walk: walking was the way the game was intended, and having someone else there with you to carry your bag, clean your club, and overall help you with strategy and yardages and club selection and housekeeping like divot replacement and bunker raking makes the game SO much more pleasurable.  It skims off the less-pleasurable parts of the game, the more work-like aspects, and allows the player to focus JUST on the game.  If you play with a regular caddy, he or she will also know you and your game better and can help keep your emotions under control, keep you calmer, and tell you jokes to boost your spirits after you made double on the easiest hole on the front.  This is, I believe, a significant portion of professional caddy’s job, and why players keep the same caddy employed over such long periods of time (and also why they pay them so much at the highest levels.)  Playing with the benefit of a caddy is wonderful and I highly encourage every golfer, if they have never played with a caddy, to splurge at least once when the opportunity presents itself.




This will not be an easy tide to turn, with laziness and money as the hurdles to overcome.  If we can somehow structure the idea of caddy programs as a positive, viable, and good cause to support, make it the “right” or, dare I say it, charitable way to play, to be a good citizen, to do something beneficial, it could change the perception of the game as a rich man’s game into something more and better.  There are a couple venerable organizations that do support caddying in the U.S., the Western Golf Association (home of the Evans Scholars Foundation) and the Francis Oiumet Scholarship Fund here in my back yard, but we need more focus with a greater geographic and socioeconomic reach to include ALL the courses that could possibly have viable caddy programs.

Local caddy programs, and I’m talking about at courses other than just the fancy private clubs, could employ a great number of teenagers, boys and girls both.  If we could raise awareness and garner public support more broadly, so players see that taking a caddy is both a “green” option, so to speak, AND a huge positive for the community and teens as well as a more enjoyable and satisfying way to play the game.  If the cost of the loop to the player is, best case, the same price as taking a cart (and worst case not wildly more expensive, say, within 25%, a number I just made up), BUT the player is then seen as being a charitable sort and can then encourage others to choose the better course, that would get the virtuous circle moving in the right direction.  And, to my earlier point, the players will discover the joy of playing the game with a caddy, and will want to do it again and again.

Course managers would also have to figure out how to replace the lost revenue from cart rentals, something I don’t have an easy answer for.  Golf courses are already immensely expensive to maintain, and public course budgets (and private, too, I imagine) are already stretched fairly thin.  About the only way to replace that lost cart rental revenue is via that old chestnut: volume.  More players.

By introducing more and more young people to the caddy ranks and the game of golf, you will give many of them this wonderful sickness we all have that makes us want to play this masochistic game.  Caddies should, no MUST be permitted to play the courses they work on and at no charge.  Including access to practice facilities would be even better.  I have worked at courses where caddies and grounds crew were not given even highly-restricted playing privileges.  I found that astonishing and incredibly short-sighted, regardless of the exclusivity of the club.  Caddies who play the course they work at know the course better, and make better caddies.  (Ditto for grounds and pro shop employees.)  I’m not saying let them have prime tee times on weekends (or necessarily set tee times at all), but they MUST play the game.  This will, over time, result in more golfers (and more greens fees, and more hot dog sales, and club sales, and sweater sales) if not necessarily at the club they work for, at all the other clubs they will play during their lifetimes.

Teens who are caddies learn the game: a game based on honor and manners and individual accountability.  They meet people who enjoy and appreciate the game for these very qualities and who have achieved some measure of personal success and can help guide the young caddies, provide introductions, write college reference letters, be supportive of their goals and aspirations both on the course and off.

I don’t give this plan much chance of success, sadly.  While golfers are amongst the best people, they do still love to cruise around in their little buggies, and, more importantly, the powers that be want the money and won’t let go of a revenue stream until they’re forced to by the market.  Political correctness, ie, making taking a caddy the charitable and “right” thing to do, can be powerful, but that’s a ball that is very large and very heavy and thus very difficult to push up this hill.  But it won’t move at all until we start pushing it from somewhere.





Unsurprising as this may seem, I worked on golf courses for many summers in high school and college. Over those years, I did everything one CAN do on a golf course, short of giving lessons (for money). I drove the range picker tractor (aka “the moving target”). I sold sweaters in pro shops. I was a course marshall (perhaps the dullest job yet invented), whipping and driving herds of slashers around the links.  I was a starter, holding the fate of dozens of golfers in my hands and relishing the power of the PA system. And I worked on the grounds, mowing, raking, digging, building, placing, replacing, loafing occasionally, and racing Cushmans down dew-covered morning fairways.  (Though the Cushmans I drove looked a lot more like the one below than the posh new ones on their current site.  Three-on-the-tree.  Good stuff.  Photo gracelessly lifted from with appreciation.)

cushman Truckster

Working on the grounds I found most satisfying. The results of your work were visible immediately, you got to be outside all day (mostly good), a fair bit of it was unsupervised (also good), every day’s tasks were a little different, and it was fun to learn how to drive the toys and machines and operate them skilfully with practice.  I learned to drive every imaginable type of vehicle, from three-wheeled sandtrap rakes to dual-axel dumptrucks to skid-steer loaders to the aforementioned three-on-the-tree Cushman turf vehicles. The skid-steer was hands-down my favorite, though many of the riding mowers had some awfully cool hydraulic-y goodness.  Also I might mention as a perk of the grounds crew role I also got to play as much golf as I wanted for free.  Which I may or may not have fully taken advantage of at every course I ever worked at.

After a number of summers’ experience working on courses, my black belt in grass shortening got me a job at Hazeltine National Golf Club before the 1991 U.S. Open. Well, my skills and a [cough] rather glowing [cough] letter of recommendation I wrote for myself that my home course superintendent was gracious enough to sign while laughing.

A girl (and some friends with a spare room I could rent) brought me to Minneapolis one summer during college and, knowing the U.S. Open was coming to Hazeltine, and that my best shot at a reasonably well-paid summer job which did not involve hamburgers was working on a golf course, I aimed for the top.  I did have to drive all the way up there for an in-person interview in the spring, but I was in.


Hazeltine National GC, site of 2016 Ryder Cup. 10th Green (foreground) and 16th Green (back).

Two wrinkles in my Grand Plan emerged. One, for whatever idiotic reason, I thought the U.S. Open was going to be there the following year, not two years later.  As it turns out, two years before a U.S. Open is when all the BIG construction projects happen. Lucky me. I spent the summer digging french drains in hardpan at the bottom of new and rebuilt bunkers (that cluster of bunkers on number 11? Yeah, I was instrumental in the drainage there.)

Second, my friends went to the University of Minnesota, so their apartment was – surprise – in Minneapolis, somewhat near the University of Minnesota. Hazeltine National is actually in Chaska, Minnesota, 30 miles outside the city. Thirty miles each way, every day. Going out wasn’t too bad, since it was barely even light out yet, but coming home in the middle of the afternoon could be challenging. I suppose overall it wasn’t 9-to-5, so I did miss the bulk of the traffic, but there was enough of it versus what I was used to. On the plus side, the car I was driving (a most excellent chariot, the venerable Chevrolet Chevette) apparently caused the State Trooper who pulled me over one morning at oh-dawn-thirty to pity me and write me my one and only warning (something about me says “no, no, please just give me the ticket.”)

Aside from digging drainage tile I did lots of other things. I set pins once in a while (which was too bad because I was quite good at it and enjoyed it, but one chap on the crew pretty much did it every day.) I mowed fairways on big five-reel riding mowers. I mowed roughs around greens on what is called an “out front” mower; this one had multiple horizontally-spinning blades (like a residential mower, only two or three of them) under a giant “deck” attached to a small tractor-like vehicle. I only turtled it once, in a bunker on the 7th hole (the edge of the bunker collapsed under my wheel and the whole thing rolled into the bunker. Neither I nor the mower were damaged, but I thought I was gonna either die or get fired or both.  The outfront I turtled was not a Deere, as pictured below, and it had no fancy “roll cage” thingie sticking up, which is probably a good thing.)  I raked bunkers (a combination of riding the trap rake machine and hand raking sometimes, but usually all hand raking.) I also mowed tees and greens.


Outfront mower.

I enjoyed mowing greens. At Hazeltine they used walk mowers for greens (and tees, too), which means the mower has a single reel perhaps 22-24″ wide and you walk behind it (hence the name), as opposed to the three-reel riding mowers many courses use (also shown below). You walk back and forth across the very, very large greens in that day’s pattern (the direction changed every day, in a rotation, like 12-to-6 one day and 9-to-3 the next, for example) making beautiful, satisfying, and hopefully straight but quite narrow stripes. Then you put the wheels back on and walked the little beast over to the next green, or loaded it on the trailer and drove it if the next green was further away. I seem to recall that three people walk-mowed each morning, but it might have been four. Twenty greens (eighteen plus the practice green and a nursery green) cover a tremendous area and you only have so much time before golfers will be out there using you for target practice. As it was, each person must walk what felt like ten miles (at a pretty rapid clip; those mowers aren’t slow) just doing their own four or five greens.


Deere walk mower.


Deere triplex greensmower.

As opposed to other courses I had graced with my grass-shortening-sand-smoothening-drainage-digging skills, Hazeltine did not let grounds employees play whenever they wanted. The rule was we could play any time we wanted, as long as it was after 3pm, and as long as no members were on the first hole. Overall I would guess I played once or twice a week (9 holes) after finishing my duties by 2pm or so, getting in my car, changing into something presentable, and driving around the course to the clubhouse. Once there, I would respectfully nuzzle up to the starter and wait. Usually it wasn’t a long wait, but there was a wait. Members generally showed up right about when the previous group of members cleared the first green and my peg was in the ground on the first tee.   The enormous practice green was right next to the first tee, and I spent an inordinate amount of time there practicing while I waited. My short game has never been as sharp as it was that summer any time before or since.


The club itself was (and I presume still is) very focused on golf, and was far enough from the city that it attracted members who were also very focused on golf.  A pair of hardcourt tennis courts were deserted every time I looked at them; there was no pool.  I worked as many hours as I could, booking overtime hours for events when possible, and on weekends after the weekend-shortened routines were done I would check in with the Caddie Master and carry a bag or two.  It appears from their current website they still have caddies, which makes me happy.  (More about my adventures in caddying to come in a future post.)

The summer went by very quickly and I enjoyed being part of the Hazeltine crew.  It was my first real experience with a Championship Golf Course on the scale of Hazeltine.  Everything seems bigger, more daunting, more spread out, on a Championship Course.  Having played a few rounds there (and built bunkers) it was particularly enjoyable to watch Payne Stewart win the U.S. Open there on television.  (And those two guys win PGA’s.  And it will be again to watch the Ryder Cup in two years.  It is a spectacular layout for the Ryder Cup.)


And that is the story behind the three Hazeltine National 1991 U.S. Open caps you see (for some reason, I cannot simply buy a single cap if I like it, I must have two or three or six.  Silly, I know, but I like options (and back-ups.)

I’ve always had a kind of love/hate relationship with my driver and fairway woods.  I should say fairway wood, singular, because I don’t think I have ever carried more than one fairway wood, generally a spoon (ahh, the TaylorMade spoon, so great) or at most a 3-wood.  Historically my relationship with these creatures was only okay, sometimes dismal, rarely great, and even more rarely great with anything approaching consistency.

As I noted on the piece I did on the rest of my set, I have the exact same shaft and grip setup on ALL of my irons, including the gap wedge and including the sand wedge.  You will note that all of those shafts are STEEL shafts.

Once upon a time, people played with steel shafts in their woods, too.  Crazy, I know.  So you could have the exact same shaft through your WHOLE set.  Minds blown.  I have (still) the most beautiful Cleveland Classic persimmon (that’s a wood, kids, as in piece of dead tree) driver with a Dynamic Gold S400 steel shaft in it.  The head is about the size of my current 3-wood.  Gorgeous piece of golf furniture, that thing.  Nothing surpassed cracking a nice balata off the center of it.  But alas, along came the “metal wood” and graphite shafts.  The graphite wasn’t very good initially, and the metalwoods made a horrible ‘tink’ sound when you hit them (as opposed to the totally-satisfying ‘clank’ today’s Volkswagen-sized drivers make).  Along came Titanium shafts.  Which were awesome, actually.  Light, very low torque, but pricey.  Still, I loved the Ti.  Then graphite got better.  Slowly, then all of a sudden, no one played wooden clubs at all and they figured out how to make better titanium alloys and then figured out if you make the clubhead LARGER that would also make the sweetspot larger and then they figured bigger is always better and then the USGA said WHOA KIDS here’s where you’re gonna stop with this nonsense and wrote a bunch of rules about permissible volume of the clubheads or something and even more importantly there’s this thing called COR (coefficient of restitution) that we’re so awesome we can actually measure and here’s how much like a little trampoline you can actually legally have your club be.  Voila! and here we are today with these pumpkin-on-a-toothpick drivers that weigh 100 grams or something and graphite shafts in every possible transmogrification and Tour players who play 500-yard par fours driver-9-iron (though the 9-iron is generally from the rough).  Bomb-n-Gouge, Baby.  Thanks, technology.

During this time I had a number of more modern drivers after that delicious Cleveland persimmon, almost all of them purchased a generation or two old, and none of them all that tasty.  After I read the Wishon book, I bought a couple of his Graduated Roll drivers (GRT) from eBay (sorry, Tom) and had one of them shafted with a steel shaft (despite the rather strange look from my club guy) and the other with a 75-gram X-flex graphite shaft I’d had in another driver that I didn’t totally hate and hadn’t thrown in a lake yet.  The steel-shafted one was utterly unplayable – way too heavy.  The other one was reasonably playable, though sub-par and not in a good way.

What I always struggled with in the woods area was figuring out which of the 11,000,000 possible graphite shaft weight/flex/kickpoint/length/color configurations would match what I knew was the best setup in the rest of the set.  Should the graphite shaft in the driver be heavier? lighter? longer? shorter? stiffer? whippier? Forty-five inches? What? Easy there, Indiana Jones, put away the bullwhip. Soooo many stupid variables, and trial-and-error was exhausting and immensely frustrating (and not free $ either).

Eventually I had had enough struggling and found out that Titleist does fitting at their Test Facility in Acushnet, MA.  Since we spend a fair amount of time on Cape Cod every summer, it was an easy stop-over on my way down.  I booked an appointment for a Friday morning (they only did two per day, one morning and one afternoon when I did it) online.

The Test Facility is kind of hidden away in this residential area of Acushnet, and you’re driving through a couple curvy streets and wondering if you’re going the right way at all and whether your GPS is broken when you turn a corner and are met by a gate, a rather tall fence, and a guard tower (like in a prison movie).  Titleist does a lot of ball testing and other top secret work there, apparently, and take the security almost as seriously as the TSA, only effectively.  My name was on the list.

Inside the gates lies one of the most immaculate little golf practice facilities I have ever seen North of Augusta, Georgia.  Range area, practice greens, bunkers.  Two very nice chaps took me over to a very long tee in one corner, where there was a white tent and all the gadgetry and test clubs (you could also hit from under the tent in case it rained).  The launch monitor was a white panel that sat on the ground behind me, perhaps the size of a 20″ monitor standing vertically.  I warmed up and hit maybe 30-40 drives with my own driver, they noted the stats, and then they started handing me drivers.  Hit five balls, change shafts, hit five balls, repeat.  Find a combination that seems to work and keep hitting until it seems consistent in a good way.  Finally we narrowed it down to a pair of combinations that seemed pretty solid, and I hit each a dozen plus times, back and forth, tweaking, and then it was like magic.  Pew. Pew.  Long, high, straight arcs out into the gray sky and floating down gently onto the perfect fairway.  Just a touch of fade at the top.  Change, just a touch of draw at the top of the arc.  Unbelievable.  I felt like Charlton Heston and I had just been given two stone tablets after wandering in the desert for 40 years, and I’m not even religious.  (We then repeated the process with the 3-wood.)

After all this, I learned two things: one, it turned out that I didn’t need anything too exotic in the shaft department; my current one was simply too heavy and a tad too stiff, so I went from a 75-gram X shaft to a 55-gram S-shaft that was tipped an inch or two (I forget which).

At the end of the fitting, they give you the specs on paper (and via email) and you toodle off and order it through any pro shop that has a Titleist account (this way they’re not taking sales from their pro network.)  I also got to see the Iron Byron robots in the ball testing area, which was cool.  The whole thing took maybe an hour and a half.

Note: I didn’t think about this before going, but quite naturally they are going to fit you for TITLEIST clubs only, though the specs would be somewhat transportable.  You can go to be fit for woods only, irons only, wedges only, or any combination of those you want.

So this is the current love of my life:


Titleist 909D 10.5* driver, standard lie, Aldila NV-55 S-shaft, tipped an inch (or two).  White/black  GolfPride grip with an extra wrap, just like all the other clubs in the bag. There are, occasionally, days when I am certain using this club is cheating and I hit 12 or more fairways. Other days I just have a strong suspicion it’s cheating. What I can say with a straight face, is I have never, ever had driving days like that with any other driver I have ever had, even way back when I was young, played every day, and it never rained.

The companion 3-wood:

3woodTitleist 909F 3-wood, 15*, standard lie, gray Diamana 75-FW S-shaft, tipped not quite enough, but close.  Same grips as others.  I say “tipped not quite enough” because it is [still!] slightly off and if I don’t actively remind myself to swing slightly easier I WILL spray the ball into an adjacent county.  Whether it’s the county to the left, or the county to right is a toss-up.

BONUS: As I ordered both clubs late in the season (September), and Titleist had a new driver model coming out, they held my driver order (which was for the old model) in error. After they realized this (I called), another fellow there at the Titleist called me and apologized and asked me if I would like a free dozen personalized balls of my choice? Yes, please. They – accidentally, I assume – sent me two dozen ProV1x’s. (shhhhhhh.) Now THAT’S customer service.

County Louth Golf Club

County Louth Golf Club, photo via


When my elder son was an infant, on the weekends he and I would vegetize on the couch in the morning and watch European Tour events on the Golf Channel.  I like to think he found the announcers’ voices soothing and the verdant scenery interesting.  I, of course, agreed.  To this day, I cannot tell you what the commentators names are, they do their jobs with such aplomb; few words, add some value here and there, and then be quiet.  I was going to look up their names for this post, but it’s kind of beside the point: they are not the story, the golf is, so their relative anonymity is, to me, fitting.

Before we get to the list itself, here is a brief list of what I want from my televised golf viewing experience:

What I want from golf on television is fairly straight-forward: I want to see as many golf shots covering as much of the course and as many of the players as possible.

I know golf is probably one of the most difficult sports to televise, if not the most difficult.  I get it.  The course changes every week, the weather changes every day, the action is spread out over a couple hundred acres of land, etc. etc., I get it.  But, on the other hand, you’ve been doing this since Arnie was a strapping young lad, going on what, sixty years now?  I really think there’s plenty of actual action to fill the 46 minutes in an hour of golf television without showing the entire leaderboard five times and chatting in the booth for ten minutes about what happened yesterday or last week.  I don’t need a ton of color commentary on who’s changed swing coaches, or caddies, or how many drivers Mickelson is carrying this week.  I also don’t need to see too many of the player interviews; with the exception of many of Peter Kostis’ pieces, they’re mostly generic filler, same as with any other sport.  “Well, I’m just gonna try ‘n get some sleep and try to stick with my game plan tomorrow.  Maybe eat another banana.”  Revelatory.  I don’t need to see players arriving and walking to the locker room.  I don’t want to just see the three players in contention with huge gaps between shots, gaps which are then filled with fluffy nonsense.  I don’t need to see tap-ins.  Ever.  Unless it’s literally the last shot of either the tournament or a record round.  I don’t care if you’re showing me someone out of contention who (SURPRISE!) still hit a very high quality shot.  I want to see good shots, the more difficult the better.  I don’t care who hit it, in particular.  There are players every week not in contention who are wildly gifted players; this is why the leaderboard changes week-to-week.  Do I want to see the leaders?  Yes, of course, duh.  But rather than looking at talking heads handicapping the race, I’d rather see the race itself.  I do want to see the “worm cam” on the putts; anything you can do to show elevation changes is helpful; anything you can do to show the shots from the player’s perspective is helpful.  I like overhearing the caddie-player conversations.  I do not care if they swear.  I do want to see trophy presentations, particularly if the win is a first win, a first major, or otherwise emotionally important to the victor.  Crying is good, it means they care.  Swing vision, or whatever you call it, is okay, not great.  I know it’s where the money is, but words cannot express the degree of my utter exhaustion with erectile disfunction drug commercials.  I know that’s the demo and all, but I watch this with my grade-school kids, assuming they haven’t managed to wiggle out of the restraints yet, and I’m tired of trying to explain why the unusually-attractive-though-older couple are in separate bathtubs outside or what “the time is right” might mean.  Sorry, but I do not care in the slightest about the “FedEx Cup” thingie.  About the only good thing about it is the purses at the end of the season are apparently obscene enough to get the top 20 in the world to stay on the course after the PGA.  Stop trying to make The Players a major.  It’s not.  Neither is the PGA, really, but whatever.  Okay, I take that back.  The PGA is sort-of a major IF it’s played within two states of the Canadian border.  It’s in AUGUST, people, plan accordingly.  No one wants to play in Alabama in August.  This is less of a problem than it used to be, but if Tiger is not on the front page of the leaderboard, I truly DO NOT CARE how he’s doing.  You can show him, along with other non-contending players, but stop showing him tapping in for double or hitting out of the woods or whatever.  No one cares, AND this will cut down on network apologies for player swearing.  Win-win.  Oh, and have announcers who know the game, the course, and the players and who know when to not talk.  Oh, right, that’s what this is about: the announcers.

Disclaimer: As a parent of (still) relatively young children, I do not have the time I once had to watch televised golf, though I do manage to sneak in a few dozen hours mainly during the Majors.  My lack of recent volumetric experience will not stop me from expressing my opinions on the announcers here, however, and, since I have pledged positivity, I will attempt to offer constructive criticism to those [ahem] further down my leaderboard.


The LEADERS (in no particular order):




David Feherty   David Feherty is one of my favorites mainly because of his accent.  Lends a certain authenticity to the broadcast, doesn’t it?  No, that’s not why, though it is a positive.  I enjoy his commentary for the perspective he brings as a former player, his sharp wit and humor, and his ability to still be genuinely amazed at some of the things he sees players do.  His personal relationships with many of the players adds interesting texture and background, but as it relates to golf, not in a gratuitous, gossipy way.  He also knows when not to talk.  (That being an important criterion of mine in these reviews.)  His cable interview show is also generally highly informative and entertaining.

Roger Maltbie  I followed Roger Maltbie around a little bit when I was at the U.S. Amateur at Brookline in summer 2013.  (Sadly, not as a player.)  So knowledgeable and professional and warm, clearly genuinely interested in the people he’s interviewing, I’ve always appreciated his on-the-scene coverage style.  Also knows when not to be talking.

Photo by J.B. Forbes

Photo by J.B. Forbes

Judy Rankin  Judy Rankin, as one of the only (the only?) woman covering men’s golf, brings such a nice level of gravitas and experience, and, as a former player, she knows what she’s talking about.  An authentic gem.

Bob Murphy  About a thousand years ago I spoke briefly to Bob Murphy at what was the be the last Amana VIP tournament in Iowa City.  This was 1990 if I recall correctly, and I was amazed at the names who came to this little town to play in a one-day tournament at a public course. I followed Murphy around for a few holes, watching that crazy slow-and-away swing of his (it made Furyk look pretty classic, in comparison), before I managed to stutter out something complimentary about his TV work between holes to him. He smiled and replied very cordially and went about his business. Brush with greatness.

Bob Rosburg  Bob Rosburg was another accomplished player (understatement) who made an excellent commentator. He, too, always seemed genuinely impressed with how skillfully players would get out of trouble (usually after he used the phrase “he’s got no shot.”)

Jim Nantz  Perhaps the only non-golfer on this list, Nantz’s soothing voice, understated manner, and general decorum make watching the Masters (which I would watch happily without sound, except I’d miss all the great shot sounds and the patron’s cheers and awwww’s) an annual joy. Stays out of the way of the action, knows when to talk, and handles pretty much everything thrown at him with a professional grace.

Gary McCord  Ah, McCord. Again, as a former player, he knows his stuff, understands what players are facing, what they’re likely feeling, the mechanics of the shots, the techniques, the strategies, AND he knows when not to talk. AND he douses the entire process with the most marvelous Sriracha of wit and humor. Add in some Feherty, and I could listen to these two all day long. I’m old enough to miss him at Augusta in April. When he gets rolling, sometimes I get the impression the pilot may have left his seat, and the occasional barrel-roll happens. I was watching live in 1994 during That Telecast and remember audibly gasping and cringing right after I heard him say It. Should he have said It? Um, no. Should he have been banned for life from that particular telecast? At the risk of being blackballed forever from the grounds of Augusta I will venture far enough out the gangplank to say “that seems a bit much.”

Peter Alliss  I usually only get to hear the mellifluous Peter Alliss during the brief time he spends with American networks during The Open Championship, but the perspective and knowledge he brings to the telecast is just lovely and spot-on.  Wish we could here him more often.




Nick Faldo  Some people don’t care for Nick Faldo as a commentator, but personally I think he’s generally spot-on in his opinions, and, if anything, could perhaps warm up just a smidge and share a little bit more of his expertise and let us see more of his personality. Obviously he has serious chops as a player, and he doesn’t prattle on just to hear his own voice.  He does have a tendency to go about two standard deviations past laymen’s level on technical swing/swing flaw/swing error explanations, but that’s not a negative, just over the heads of most viewers (including this one, much of the time.)




Johnny Miller  Tough one. (Stay positive. Stay positive.) Johnny Miller can… at times… um… give the impression he possesses unlimited golfing knowledge about… well… every potential situation on the course. Yes, we all know he shot 63 one day a long time ago (wearing some truly lovely slacks; my mom had a couch with that pattern), but I don’t believe that then endows the 63-shooter with some sort of golfing omniscience until the end of time. He also says “3-par” and “4-par” and “3-metal” when everyone else on the planet pretty much has conformed to the more traditional forms of these expressions. Yes, we all know that 3-woods are not made of dead tree anymore. No, we don’t care to be technically correct in renaming this club. He also talks too much.
These are all tiny trifles, however, mere peccadilloes.  The truly felonious thing is this: the majority of his commentary is negative. It’s not encouraging, it’s not rolled up politely in some soft, warm diplomacy, and it gives no room for error in his opinion. And It. Is. Tiresome. (I could go and do actual research right now [what is he thinking] and come up with transcripts of his commentary and concrete examples [choke] rather than just using my anecdotal general memory [terrible decision] on this, but frankly the idea of re-living any of that commentary [not what he should be doing here] makes playing a Pete Dye golf course sound fun.) Just listen next time you’re watching golf on his channel.  Turn the sound back on, you’ll see what I mean.  So much for staying positive up here on the High Road.

Mike Tirico  Mike Tirico is generically a good sportscaster. I assume he must be, or he wouldn’t be paid money to talk on telecasts featuring such a wide variety of sports. What he should NOT be doing is talking about golf. I find it hard to believe he plays golf, or, if he does, he can break 100; this lack of experience with the game shows.  He is typically overdressed, like he’s compensating for something, and he talks way too much and adds little if anything to the conversation.

Notah Begay  I don’t have anything particular to say that’s negative about Notah Begay; as a former player he should have a reasonable idea what’s going on out there, but, at the end of the day, he’s timid and is not additive to the telecast.

Ian Baker Finch  After so many years of commentation he still seems uncomfortable, he talks too much, is also a wee bit too negative, and has kind of a grating accent although I usually like Australian accents.

Curtis Strange  I was a huge Curtis Strange fan back in the day, and remember watching him live when he hit that bunker shot at 18 at The Country Club.  Not a fan of his television work, however, and would put him on a similar seat next to Johnny Miller, sadly.


The NEXT BUNCH (People I would like to see in the booth)


Colin Montgomerie  Just a hunch, but I’ve seen enough interviews with Monty to know he’s articulate and thoughtful and has a great accent.  Would love to hear him on a telecast, but he appears pretty busy at the moment with other endeavors.

Ben Crenshaw  Huge historian of the game, warm and personable in interviews, I think he would be outstanding in the booth.  He’s from Texas, and all Texans have a thousand funny stories to fit any occasion.  That’s like a rule.





Photo Aidan Bradley©

I have traveled a bit and played some golf.  I am not one of those guys (yet) who travels frequently for the express purpose of playing, but I have played in maybe 20 or so states and four foreign countries in the over thirty years I have been playing this dumb game. My travel golf has been split fairly evenly between destination golf (great courses) and convenience golf, ie golf because it was available and I was there and had time (some good courses, some goat ranches, not too many great ones.)  Of all the great courses I have played, Royal County Down is my absolute favorite.

About 30 miles (48km) south of Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK, and 88 miles (142km) north of Dublin, Royal County Down sits on the coast of the Irish Sea, in Newcastle, Northern Ireland.  Rolling dunesland covered with enormous swaths of green-black gorse, tall grasses, firm undulating fairways, gorgeous bunkers, and with (hopefully) a nice sea wind to add spice to the round, Royal County Down represents the pinnacle of my golfing experiences thus far.

I have played the Championship Links several times (there is a second course, the Annesley Links, which I have not played), always with a local caddie.  Caddies are a necessity, as there are quite a number of charming-but-daunting blind shots, marked with (when they are marked) white-painted rocks near the top of a dune, for example.  Your caddie will point at a particular cloud or clump of grass to line you up in the absence of said white rock.  Most charming.  Golf architects over here in The Colonies in the last 75 years seem to have forgotten how entertaining a good blind shot can be (along with how to build a course without moving a million tons of dirt, but I digress.)  Even more important than guiding you around the course and carrying your overstuffed bag, these magical caddie fellows are astonishingly skilled at finding balls hit into the high grasses or, worse, into the gorse.  Had I been without a caddie, most every ball I hit into the gorse would have been simply declared lost, so fearsome are the barbs on this devilish plant.  It would go like this:

I hit a ball into the gorse, then curse.
We walk silently to the general vicinity of my errant shot.
I tell the caddie “nevermind, that one’s gone,” and drop a ball.
Caddie ignores me completely, ventures into the thorn forest.
Caddie emerges a few seconds later with my ball.
Caddie pads tip.

Perhaps they each had a dozen spare Titleists in their pockets, but I remain awed nonetheless.

I’m not going to go hole-by-hole through my rounds for you (you’re welcome), but suffice it to say it is one of life’s most memorable experiences to be faced with the myriad of puzzles and riddles and vagaries of the bounces (and the occasional blind shots) around this truly gothic, epic links.  To this day the only place I have ever been forced to hit a bunker shot backwards to continue play, I cannot wait to return.

Below is a (really quite dreadfully-executed) picture of one of two caps from Royal County Down in my collection. (This post is the unofficial start of the Golf Caps series, I suppose.) While you can purchase some items online from the Royal County Down website, I highly recommend picking yours up in person. In June. Not now.