Road Hole Shorts

Golf Design, golf, golf, GOLF

You can excel if your practice is fun

I doubt my story is any more interesting than any­one’s, but I’ve been asked a number of times about my career and my golf game and even to write about my life in this column.  I’ve resisted because I ordi­narily have something more interesting that I want to share.

I guess this is a slow week.

I was born and raised in Ot­tumwa, Iowa — that’s right, the home of Mash’s Radar O’Rielly, a fictional character.  Oh, and when we moved to the “country” when I was 13, we lived just down the road from Radar’s Uncle Ed. Seri­ously, the town lies on the Des Moines River, about half way between Des Moines and Burlington. When I was growing up, it was a bustling little community of about 36,000.

Before we moved to the “country,” my father, a Kore­an War Veteran, was enticed into playing golf by a couple of friends. This was probably sometime around 1957. Ot­tumwa had two 18 hole cours­es (and still does). One was private and the other a Mu­nicipal golf course. The “Mu­ni” as we called it was a mod­est golf course, and when I first began going with my fa­ther — probably about 1958, I had a hard time walking the entire course. I still remem­ber “hitching a ride” on top of his golf bag, which was perched on an old pull cart.

When my Dad and I were far enough away from the Clubhouse that no one could see — usually after we went over the hill on number 5 (they’ve switched nines since I left there) — he would give me a wedge and let me whack at the ball until we got into view of the Clubhouse again on 7. My Dad was left handed. Eventually, he cut off an old left handed 8 iron and brought it along for me to use. I can still see that old club in my mind. It had a brown shaft and a rusted face. I used it at home too. We had what I thought at the time was a huge yard. I convinced my brother to help me main­tain a “green” just behind the house. From there the yard sloped quickly down to a long narrow lawn to the back al­ley. We installed a Dinty Moore Stew can in the green and another down by the garbage cans next to the alley. we’d whack balls back and forth for hours. Finally, one day I hit a really good shot with really bad results — but isn’t that golf? I was hitting to the “green” on the hill by the house and I caught that 8 iron just a little too good…and crash, a window was broken.

Well, Dad was none too hap­py about that, but I think it was about then that he decid­ed I needed to be hitting shots at the golf course and maybe not so much at home.

My Dad is a big Arnold Palmer fan. He got hold of one of Arnie’s first books: Arnold Palmer’s Golf Book “Hit It Hard.” I remember seeing him study it for hours.  I guess the book came out in 1961, and it was about that time that I actually began playing real golf. I remember that one year for Christmas I got a set of new Jackie Burke junior golf clubs — a driver, 3 wood, and 3, 5, 7 and 9 irons and putter with a bag — a right-handed set. When April rolled around we went out to the course and I got a season pass for twenty six dollars.

That was the end of my left-handed play, except of course when there’s no choice. I’d say I use my left handed technique about once every 10 rounds to recover from an exceedingly errant shot. Last year, in the Sun City Women’s Championship, I birdied the par 5 9th hole with a left handed recovery thrown in.

More to come…


What’s wrong with the pic­ture above? Have you ever equated a scene like this on your course with thin lies and higher green fees or dues?

This subject was recently ex­plored thoroughly in the US­GA Green Section Record, a biweekly publication for su­perintendents and others in­terested in turf management.

You’re probably saying, ‘c’mon Mary, its rare we see five carts in a single group.’ Well, I’ll give you that, but how much impact do you think a typical foursome with two carts has? 25,000 square feet? 50,000? Actually, the figure is nearly three acres (124,000 square feet), and a foursome with four carts nearly 250,000 square feet.

If you and your foursome are willing to give up griping about tight and bare lies, then go ahead, grind that turf into the ground; but if you’re seri­ous about having the best possible turf, follow these guidelines when possible:

• Always pair up on carts.

• Avoid worn areas.

• Stay on paths when you can.

• Observe the 90 degree rule.

• Always keep carts on paths when near tees or with­in 50 feet of greens.

• Always avoid wet areas.

• Don’t follow the cart in front of you, and especially don’t enter or exit the cart path at the same place.

And, here are some sugges­tions for facilities that want to pay more than lip service for optimum playing conditions:

• Encourage golfers to walk.

• Designate a “walkers on­ly” day.

• Suspend or restrict carts following heavy rains.

I occasionally get requests for writing about speed-of­play or ready golf. Here’s an easy tip for cutting time on your round and reducing speed-of-play stress. After you play your shot, don’t re­place it in your bag; carry it with you until you reach your next shot, then replace the club as you are selecting the club for your next shot.

This may seem minor, but it can add up, not to mention the number of times you will use the same club in consec­utive shots. Also, the players’ perception following you is often about how efficient your movements are after your shot, and this will make you seem much faster as well.

A golf architect in New Hampshire for over 20 years, Armstrong brought her craft to Las Cruces in January 2010. She is the founder of Armstrong Golf Architects, which provides planning, designing, permitting and construction monitoring services for golf course projects. Mary is also the Executive Director for the Rio Grande Golf Course Superintendents Association. You can comment on her writing and view past articles at her blog: http://roadholeshorts17.wordp 

FIVE CARTS AT ONCE? Pairing up — or simply not using them — can help main­tain the course and speed up pace of play.


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