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The Dukes Game
Playing numerous rounds with a great friend who has the same skill level as you is exciting and enjoyable. If you play together as much as we do, with our travel and post round meals you might need to do something to spice it up a bit. As adults who spent entirely way too much time watching TV in our formative years, we need to do something to put all the meaningless knowledge to use.
I came up with a golf game that is easy to play (which is convenient if you are focusing on your game) and somewhat entertaining. I call it “The Dukes Game” because that is what I will have for the 2009 golf season. It is simple to play and it came to me when we had times in our round were we’d ask the other person to get a club out of the bag for us. “Hey VW, I need my Sand Wedge” as to which he responds “Really? We just had a dog at the turn!” you can see where this gets old and tiresome. That is when I had the epiphany; no more sandwiches or sand wedges, only Myrtles and Cletus’s.
“Nice fade on that Cooter shot,” “You chunked your Rosco,” “That will be a full Lulu from here,” “Try and hood that Cletus,” “Put your Uncle Jesse away and bring out Boss Hogg,” “Hand me my Enos,” “Don’t touch the Balladeer,” “Why am I hitting my Daisy like a Myrtle?”. . . Oh the possibilities are limitless!
Here is the game. At some point in the round, ask your partner for one of your clubs, but only refer to it as its name. If you ask for a Bo and he brings you a Luke, then he buys dinner, drinks, mortgage, whatever. He can press and ask you for one of his hoping to draw no blood or you will double him up. Have the other player name his clubs as VW did with the TV show “Scrubs.” That way, it isn’t all about his knowledge (or lack thereof) of what’s in my bag. I have spent time memorizing his list and he has mine. We are now ready to find out who under pressure can answer the world’s most important questions like “Where’s my Cox?” Create your own game or feel free to use ours:
House’s Dukes bag
D Boss JD Hogg
1h Uncle Jesse
9i Rosco P. Coltrane
PUTTER the Balladeer (Waylon)
On only a few occasions have I either intentionally or accidentally played deeper than the white tees. Like my childhood home, the whites provide a level of comfort to me that seem to ease my mind like a Sunday morning; giving me the necessary confidence to play my best and simultaneously challenging the best I can bring. I know that there indices that serve as a technical guide as to where to tee it up, but the truth is, every golfer understands intimately the breadth of their skill set. When you play beyond your abilities, you feel it in every motion and notion. It would be like Stan Van Gundy putting on Jeff Van Gundy’s suits; they just don’t fit. Bearing all this in mind, I have always approached a round with a few simple desires: respect my partners, respect the course, and tear the cover off a ball. That is why, when you read our reviews, it is a redundancy to mention yardage from the whites. They are always from the whites. That is the respect that House and I show each other and the course. However, since we kicked off this fantastic voyage, more often than I would like, I see the group in front of us standing at the tips.
Now, I could conduct some in-depth statistical analysis to determine the likelihood of a 3 – 5 handicapper being on the same course, on the same day, and roughly the same time as I am. But, because I had to look up how to spell ‘statistics,’ I won’t bore into the subject. It is enough to say that, on any given day, the majority of golfers are not low-handicap golfers. They are like most of you and certainly like me, a man simply thrilled with a round in the mid-to-low 80s. So, that begs the often-asked and seldom answered question, “What the heck are those guys doing back there?”
I probably don’t pay sufficient attention to the established etiquette of golf. Certainly, the simple rules that allow the round to progress at a reasonable pace and don’t offend the group you are with are ingrained in my cerebral cortex. But if there is one glaring omission from so many golfers’ books of good and bad behavior, it is walking right by the tee designed and built specifically for them and sending cold chills throughout my body by openly contemplating the tips.
If you are going to shoot in the low 90s, you have no business playing beyond the whites. While I have never directly questioned one of the gross offenders of this rule, I have to believe that it is frustrating to the point of ruining your day. What I am certain of is that it is going to affect mine. If I am sitting back at a respectable distance from the tees and I see a golfer contort his body and defy laws of both physics and nature, only to send the ball at a severe angle right or left or short of the forward tees, I make a mental note that this round will be given a Barry Bonds-like asterisk, because something other than myself is contributing to my success or failure.
I understand peer pressure. I have been out with friends, knowing that they are competitive, and in some cases, simply better golfers than I. They may not play the tips, but they are guaranteed to hit the blues. And even a couple hundred yards can and will make a difference for me. If you are goaded into playing the blues or tips and want to be a good sport, spread the love and pick up the pace. The simple fact is that if you play it longer, it is going to take longer to play. And that is the truest form of trickle-down cruelty, a delay shockwave that expands past the group behind you to the guys on the practice green waiting to tee off.
There are always exceptions to rules. The only exception to this rule is the golf outing. Every golfer enters an outing with the full knowledge that the 4 ½ hour round is out the window. You know this because they generally serve two of the three meals in a day. The field is leveled in this instance. Everyone is playing the tips or the blues (or even the whites for those of you that have moved into your gold tee years). You expect to be sitting on the tee waiting for the fairway to clear. This is the time that you talk about your round versus the field, crack jokes about husbands and wives. And on occasion, do a body shot off of a local bartender with a kind enough heart to volunteer for the “charity event.”
With that said, if you are one of the people that I am writing about (and you know who you are), please consider the ramifications of the direction you choose to walk during your next round. Take a hard look at your last 10 rounds, give some serious thought to how those rounds played out, and then ask yourself, “Do I need this experience to be more difficult than last time?” I think if you are honest with yourself, you know where to mark your card and where to light the fire. And if you choose to ignore this, keep in mind that I am out there, playing round after round, and eventually, we are going to meet…
Pebble Beach Golf Links
•I just spent two car payments to be humiliated
Never is there a more intimidating golf course than this one. We are both guys who usually have ice in our veins. On this day, I think we asked each other five times “Are you ready for this?” It was a truly juvenile attempt to psyche each other up. The question to ask every bogey golfer is “Are you ever ready for Pebble Beach?” You just spent close to $500 to play this place, and then you spend all day trying to figure out what the heck kind of club you should hit (which will all be wrong as you come up short all round). The caddie informed us that this day wasn’t particularly windy but to always club down one. I think I clubbed down two most of that day and still came up short on most shots. Then we went into the pro shop/gift shop/golf-enthusiast Shangri-La to buy some souvenirs. We got a $50 voucher for aerated greens, which went for logo balls and a golf towel. Everything was ridiculously over-priced. But you fall into a catatonic state when you see all of the knick-knacks with the logo of “The Lone Cypress” tree and 1919 that make you feel as if you can’t breathe another breath without it. I spent an embarrassing amount of time in there—I think I walked out with a couple ball markers and a visor.
• Caste system and an adrenaline rush to the 10th power
So, we walked around the little shopping area/ 1st tee/ putting green (check the streaming web cast—it is classy and surreal) and I couldn’t stop staring at the giant clock. It was the most gorgeous starter clock I ever seen! There were tons of people milling around. You could tell who was staying at the resort, who was playing, and who worked there. Three separate societal levels—I felt as if I should have had a caste mark before I arrived. There was a golf outing before us and a media company had brought in pro golfing great Tom Lehman to be their company greeter. He took a picture with each foursome and then hit a tee shot off the 1st and 10th tee for each group. We looked at each other and thought – Hey, let’s get his autograph because no one will believe that we “played” Pebble Beach with Tom Lehman. Neither of us are autograph hounds, but we love to live in the moment.
• Tips for scaring a PGA legend
Tom has been one of my favorite golfers since the mid-1990s when he played consistently good week in and week out. He came across as a really nice Midwestern man who always has a lot of class. As he looked up, we greeted him with our scorecards and asked him to sign them. VW was first—he graciously thanked him and moved on. Not to be out done, I felt the need to add some type of gold nugget of positive endorsement for a man who had fallen from once being ranked one of the world’s best. The best I came up was, “Hey Tom, you’re looking good!” An awkward silence fell for what seemed to be a minute as he seemed to be figuring out if I was hitting on him or remarking that I thought he looked ready to top the money list again. He responded with a weak “Thanks” and off he went to tee it up for the next group. I went back to where we were standing and announced to VW that I was pretty sure I just hit on Tom Lehman. To hear VW tell the story now (which he had walked away and never even heard what I originally said!), it was like I offered to rub Band de Soleil on him.
• Caddies, caddies. We don’t need no stinking caddies!
We opted out of caddies, which seemed to send a shock wave through the Monterey coast and rattle the very core of the pro shop. They gave us a look like: You have never played Pebble Beach and you plan on doing it alone! But looking back it was probably more like: You spent all this money to come to California to play the greatest course in the country without any professional help? We did have the help of the yardage book, which I studied so hard that my veins nearly popped out of my head. We also had the knowledge of all of my memories of the AT & T Pro-Am and VW’s photographic memory of the hundred and forty-seven times he played PGA Tour 2000 whatever on his Playstation. Looking back, I wish we had spent the money.
We were sent out as a threesome with a guy named Robert, a nice enough guy who pretty much kept to himself the whole round. VW tried to loosen him up a couple times, but he was not having any of it. The forecaddie must have seen me struggling with distances because he left his guy from the media outing and approached me on the 6th fairway. He asked me what club I was using. I told him this is usually 4i territory for me — he promptly said, “Use your 3-wood.” Ignorantly, I repeated what he said and he shot me a look like: Trust me — you will thank me later. It was the right club, but I never saw him again to thank or tip him. (Is it is wrong to tip someone else’s caddie?)
• Watching a Caddyshack hero ace the famous 7th hole
As Robert chipped onto the 6th green, VW and I checked out the famous 7th hole, an absolutely perfect par 3 that looks out into the bay. I swear this hole was placed by God himself for every golfer to enjoy. As we waited for Robert to putt, we saw “Mr. Wang” tee off from the 7th. Now, we have already spent considerable time with the group ahead of us waiting for them to tee off and Mr. Wang is seriously an afterthought to this outing. He used rented clubs, spoke very little English, and really was only out there because the company forced him. If he had a camera, I would have sworn that Rodney Dangerfield was going to come back from the dead to give us some lines. Well, wouldn’t it happen that Mr. Wang hits a perfect golf shot and aces the 7th hole right before our very eyes. I am not sure he really grasped the magnitude of the moment. His group went crazy and we clapped for him, but he seemed very confused. Maybe they told him he had to buy everyone drinks in the overpriced resort. But I would have gladly bore that burden to ace the most famous hole in all of golf. I have never wanted to switch places with another golfer more in my life. Knowing full well he used up all the good golf mojo on that hole, we didn’t even get to enjoy par.
Overall, I found the inland holes to be quite forgettable. The holes that line the ocean are stunning and the experience is one that all decent or better golfers must do. I regret not really going into debt and playing Spyglass Hills, maybe even Spanish Bay. But as always, with life as a Weekend Warrior Golfer, time is limited and our long weekend was coming to an end.
So, the one question I am always asked “Is it worth $500?” My response is: If any course is worth $500, it would be Pebble Beach. The experience and memories have made it a no brainer for me. I would do again in a second.
Weekend Warrior Golfers The Playing Styles of House and VW
How do two alpha males find enjoyment sitting in a golf cart together for 5 hours? Because we love to golf and we love to hang out together—connecting through some laughs, some gentle ribbing, and the addictive challenges of golf. To House and VW, golf isn’t just a game played with a dimpled ball and some metal clubs. It is an event; a moment to put everything else in your head aside, and enjoy playing a game on lush piece of land with a likeminded buddy. It is a very sacred and cherished activity.
As you read our reviews, you will know instantly that we have a passion for golf, for the camaraderie that it fosters, and the amazing experiences that you can take away from a simple round of 18. That has been the inspiration for our work and we want to make certain that you, as a reader and fellow Weekend Warrior, understand our genesis, our friendship, and why it is we count the days until the snow melts, the grass grows darker, the leaves return anew, and the sign reads “carts allowed.” Finally, we want to gain your trust—in where to play, where to stay, and how to make the most of the time that you have.
The game of golf, as much as anything in our related history, brought us together. We grew up on opposite sides of the state, but both born to traditional Midwestern values. We’ve been in each other’s weddings. We have built careers, homes, and families—and now WeekendWarriorGolfer. Our mutual affection for golf has galvanized our friendship and rewarded us in countless ways. Our similarities most certainly equal our differences. And that is reflected in our approach to the most frustrating of endeavors—dropping a ball in a hole in the ground.
In theory, we would make a decent scramble team—VW is a beast off the tee and House is fantastic around the green. Most of the time, we end a round within a couple of shots of each other. Yet, two people could not approach the game of golf more differently than VW and House:
• VW is a power hitter, with a grip and swing adapted from hearing about, not watching, an infomercial on the natural golf grip. There are no pre-swing rituals for VW—no practice swing, no shot visualization, only the sense of the club in his hand and a ball on a tee. While playing a round with VW, most guys find themselves in conversation around the tee box as VW rips one down the middle, apologizing at length for what would appear to be a lapse in etiquette. But with VW, there simply is no protocol for this.
• A short game virtuoso, House expects to drain every putt he takes. If he misses a green on his approach shot, he will still get up and down from any lie. He is a short ball hitter but has great touch around the green. Because that came easy and was fun, he worked on that part of his game harder than any other. House would rather not risk accuracy for distance on his shots, as long as they are straight and within his yardage range. He is almost always the shortest drive with guys his age, yet he rarely loses to a normal bogey golfer. He rarely passes up a memorable golf shot instead of the smart golf shot.
• VW is a compact man with a very compact swing. He generates an astonishing amount of power from his shortened backswing. He is a very good ball striker, with the ability to change his round with his straight shots. VW oscillates between numerous putting styles, constantly questioning his reads on the green. If he improves on that area, he could post some seriously low numbers.
• House’s sports psychology degree makes him mentally strong and disciplined in athletics. He is a pretty emotional guy who wears his heart on his sleeve, yet shows very little emotion while golfing. Although never the most gifted athlete, he is very competitive and can spot weaknesses in his opposition. Even though golf is much different than football, basketball, or lacrosse, assessing opponents does not translate into assessing the golf course. Undiagnosed ADD makes staying in the moment for a 5-hour golf round a very challenging exercise.
• VW is bulldozer in life, too. He is a type “A,” gregarious fellow who burns the candle at both ends, yet succeeds masterfully in his private and professional lives. He goes 100 miles an hour but still is able to acknowledge the subtle things that most people gloss over. VW would give you the shirt off his back before you realized you even needed it.
• Life has always been a dichotomy for House. There are times when the word extrovert doesn’t do him justice, and then moments later he will be as far from the spotlight as possible. He relishes his privacy and is slow to trust others. Yet, many have said he is a friend like no other.
• VW will take all betters on anything from greenies, closest to the pin, longest drive, and, hell, even a foot race back to the golf cart. He has never turned down a challenge or bet laid before him—he is always looking to push the envelope.
• For House, the experience is paramount over money or bragging rights. He would trade a fun-filled round where he played great yet still lost over beating a worse player and taking some cash. As competitive as he is, some things are more important.
• VW is fond of alcohol during a round. VW can go a beer a hole and have no noticeable difference in his play. He claims it helps him “relax.” To each his own… It is a rare round that VW doesn’t try to pull a juvenile attempt to have House change his ways or question his reasons behind it, but House is as stubborn as he is strange—it never works. House never lets VW drive (the golf cart) anyway, so he might as well enjoy the ride.
• House rarely partakes in any libations until the 19th hole. Many years ago, he first broke 40 on the front of a legitimate course and ordered beers for everyone at the turn. After playing a disastrous back nine and realizing the only change to his routine was the beer, he vowed to never have a drink on the course again. Pretzel logic, yes; but it works for him, so he doesn’t mess with it. However, there may have been a couple of exceptions...