Road Hole Shorts

Golf Design, golf, golf, GOLF

Child’s Play (published as “Reliving childhood’s finest golf memories”)

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my childhood connection to golf.   In that article I mentioned that my family and I lived in a town in Iowa, on what was probably a 50-foot-by-200­ foot lot.  I also mentioned that I start­ed hitting golf balls with a cut­off, left-handed eight iron, and that I crushed what was prob­ably an Acushnet Club Special golf ball and broke the base­ment window. Not long after, I began playing golf for real — and right hand­ed — at our local municipal course.

A couple of years lat­er, our home was displaced by a four-lane bypass highway and we moved to the country. My dad called our little acreage a farm — and he did farm it — at least enough to claim farm tax credits, but it didn’t take long for it to be­come my golf course. At first my brother and I repeated our little Main Street chip ’n putt configuration between the house and orchard. It wasn’t long before our Dinty Moore can “holes” were spread throughout the pasture and across the small “crick” at the back of the property. At its best, our little course had nine holes varying in distance from about 50 yards to nearly 200.  Of course, we played exclu­sively with pitching wedges — and that included putting.

A few years ago, I saw a drill on the golf channel that pro­moted the use of a wedge for putting because it forced you to keep your head absolutely still and the feedback from a mis-hit was dramatic. Hmpf!  Apparently my muscle mem­ory isn’t the best.

Anyhow, the zenith of our pasture pool course was when my Dad was farming the most intensively — about a dozen sheep, three beef calves and a couple of horses. If you’ve ever seen a pasture grazed by sheep you know why cattle ranchers hated them — turns out that sheep­grazed pasture made for ter­rific golfing. The pasture was a patchwork of very short lush green turf intermingled with apparently less di­gestible long grasses — oh and of course the occasional cow pie, etc. While there were no particular fairways, the “green” locations were well known and easily identi­fied and for a time marked with neat white flags tied to whatever we could find that we stuck in the Dinty Moore holes. It seemed like each spring the short “fairway” turf shifted around slightly and new strategies were nec­essary to devise the best ap­proach to the various greens.   Of course we also moved the greens now and then and the search for a different ap­proach was constant. My brother and I spent hours out there — often times just ex­perimenting with different kinds of shots.

There were two — what I thought of — natural green sites. Both were framed by shallow depressions with eroded, craggy edges. I im­mediately envisioned bunkers. One had a single “bunker” next to it that was probably a little deeper than the others, while the other greensite was flanked by two of these shallow “hazards.” We couldn’t really practice bunker shots since we didn’t have any sand to put in them (and that despite occasional pleading and downright beg­ging).

However, we were able to practice pitch shots over the “bunkers.” This re­quired us to lay back our wedges totally open and hit­ting what today would be called a flop shot. I’m not sure I ever mastered that 10-yard carry to a 15-foot wide “green” backed by a second, menacing “bunker.” My fondest memories of those shallow depressions took place one summer when I saw one of the pros hit a shot from a water hazard. I re­member Ken Venturi telling the audience that if any part of the ball is exposed above the surface “it’s worth a try.” The next time we had a thun­dershower — an all too com­mon occurrence during Iowa summers — we gathered our clubs and balls and headed out to the shallow depres­sions. Low and behold, Ven­turi was right and we had the wet clothes and muddy shoes as proof of our many at­tempts. After that, Mom in­sisted that water hazard prac­tice would be in our bathing suits!

I never knew why those de­pressions were there. Dad speculated that they were simply to gather water during storms for livestock. Whatev­er the reason, the “two-­bunkered green” is no more.  It was obliterated by the con­struction of two cell towers in the ’80s. I’m planning a trip back home soon. When I do, I want to sit by my remaining “green” and contemplate our carefree summers from so long ago and how I learned golf by just having fun. Who knows, maybe the remnants of a Dinty Moore “hole” will make the memories all the more vivid.


The rules

Rules — if it isn’t a problem in championships, will we ever see a rule change?  We’ve all done it. You half­top a drive on the heel and the ball zips off low and left, hitting another tee marker, ball washer, waste basket, div­ot mix box, bench, yadda, yad­da, yadda. The amount of “site furniture” placed around the golf course is certainly not getting smaller. The result of your ball hitting some of this “stuff” is nearly always disas­trous. Usually the ball ends up further offline and sometimes even behind you. “Rub of the green” chirps your opponent.

Or perhaps you’ve just hit the best second shot on a par 5 of your life and as it lands in front of the green it takes a big hop and hits a sign that has an arrow pointing carts to the cart path.  No amount of condolences will ever sooth the loss of an eagle try.

There’s no doubt that most of these accouterments of the game are desirable — maybe even necessary, but why do we put up with being penal­ized by not being able to re­play the shot if you hit one? If an immovable obstruction is between you and the green you get relief, but if you hit something that it is not a part of the golf course, you get no relief and ordinarily face a de­facto penalty of loss of dis­tance or direction. Granted, there is that rare occasion when an errant shot can be redirected toward your target, but in my estimation that is rare.

If the pros played with all that stuff lying around and just one of their shots hit something and the ball bound­ed even one iota further away from their target, you couldn’t get more whines from a vine­yard. Indeed, if the pros played under the conditions that Joe Blow plays on the weekends, that rule would have changed long ago. Make a re-play optional or require a re-play, either would be ac­ceptable to me, but there’s nothing about site furniture interference that’s consistent with golf. Oh, and by the way, just maybe a ball washer or wastebasket could find its way to the forward tee once in a while if certain people didn’t need to worry about hitting them.

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, and 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.



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