For most of us, golf is not a job. Maybe we wish it was, or dream it was, but for many of us golf will never pay the bills. This is unfortunate of course because bills need to be paid, kids need to go to school, food needs to be put on the table.
For most, the sport represents an outlet from all of that, or maybe just a way to spend time with your friends, or maybe a way to fit some competition into your life which has become difficult as you get older (you try joining a rec basketball league and avoid getting stabbed over a no-foul call). Or it’s possible golf is for you, as it is for many, simply an obsession. And that means you need to fit in as much golf as humanly possible, which of course leads us to the art of the post work round.
It’s not as easy as it sounds. You have responsibilities at home, clingy friends and coworkers who want to drink beer with you after work. The there’s traffic to fight, and of course the sun slowly rotating away and taking away precious daylight with it (stupid solar system!). So fitting in a genuine post work round can be difficult, but take it from someone pretty good at it — it’s far from impossible. Just follow a few easy guidelines.
**** note 1: this applies mostly to people who live in areas that have defined golf seasons, like the northeast, where you have a limited number of days where you can actually play golf, hence the need to fit in as much as possible. If you live in an area where you can play year round golf, please refer to note 2:
**** note 2: I hate you
OK, so where were we? Ah yes, the guidelines:
Pick an active partner
Golf partner? Ummm, no. Pick an active life partner. In fact, pick a partner in general, because if you don’t you probably ARE going to spend most of your post work time drinking beer with coworkers at popular establishments. Great for meeting women, bad for your golf game. But that’s another article. Having a wife or girlfriend with her own agenda is a great thing. They tend to do things like bikram yoga (no idea what that is) or have dinners at vegan restaurants (ditto) or go with their friends to see movies starring guys named Ryan, be it Gosling or Reynolds (sidenote, if you are going to get dragged to this Gosling is much better. Have you seen “Drive” or “The Ides of March”? Quality flicks, but I digress). Anyway, the point is this: If you want to play golf after work, you need a free night to do this on. There are only so many passes you can get from the missus, so pick one who is active too. Just ummm, don’t play golf with her. Because….
Night rounds work better solo
You’ve got maybe two and a half hours to sneak in a round after work. You know what makes that difficult? Playing partners. They gab, they lose balls, they line up putts, they are witnesses to what you shot so you can’t post a 72 even if you shot a … wait, forget I said that last thing. Anyway, you have to be on a mission to get this done, and a dilly dallying friend isn’t the way to do it. The courses are mostly empty at this hour anyway, and I don’t know about you but after a long day at work there is something peaceful about a solo round at sunset. There’s plenty of time for camaraderie on the weekend.
Every minute counts, so planning is essential. This encompasses everything about the round including travel. Know alternate routes to the course if there is traffic — there are always back roads that are less used during rush hour. Keep your golf bag on you rather then leaving it at the course. There’s nothing worse then seeing that foursome go out in front of you while your waiting at the bag drop for your gear. Keep a spare set of spikes in the trunk so you don’t need to go to your locker. Wear a pair of pants to work that you can wear on the course after (unless your work requires a full blown suit and tie, this should be possible) because it takes only a few seconds to change a shirt, but pants are more difficult. Also, nothing worse then people walking by your car while you are inside not wearing pants, because getting a round in isn’t worth a public lewdness conviction. If you plan this right you can park your car and be on the first tee in minutes.
Know your courses layout
We all know the feeling, you are rolling along through 5 or 6 holes and then, of course, the late night group of foursomes. Look, I’ve got nothing against late night foursomes, they have a right to play the course just like you do. They do seem very intent on finishing the round EXACTLY at sundown though, ensuring that no group behind them can finish theirs. Playing through will do you no good as you’ll just run into a couple more groups, and in one of those groups there is bound to be the stickler that simply will not allow anyone to play through and believes singles have no business on a golf course. Not here to debate that, only to point out that you are better off knowing where you can cut through and skip a few holes.
Getting back to seeing an open course while also not impeding their play: Every course winds and turns in some way that there are good cutoff points, alleyways and drainage pipes that you can crawl through like Andy Dufresne and woods that you can backpack through to find either the eighth tee box or possibly the Blair Witch. Simply, know your course and know where you can cut some corners. Playing 15 holes is a lot better then playing 9 holes.
Play ready golf (and ummm, you should always be ready)
This starts on the first tee, which apart from your girlfriend telling you she feels sick in the morning is the most stressful moment in your life. Nothing worse then getting ready to tee off on the first tee, maybe getting in a quick stretch and a few practice swings, and then seeing Slow-Play Mcgee walking up to the first tee. You pretend you don’t see him, you realize it’s time to get your butt in gear and get ready to tee off, only to hear:
“Hey! want to play together?”
Your heart sinks faster then it did when your girlfriend told you it was a Ryan Gosling movie and it turned out to be a Reynolds one. Getting off the first tee requires almost ninja like talent. You need to get from your car to the tee box without being spotted. Wait for the opportune moment, or simply stuff your golf bag with flash or smoke grenades. If you choose the latter, you might freak out some people, but hey at least they won’t ask you to play with them. So there’s that.
Getting off the first tee is important because at that point you are on your own and you can play fast. If you want to get in a full round I suggest taking minimal practice swings and not going all spider-man on every putt. You’ll probably notice that this won’t even affect your scores that much, and even if it does, who cares! No one is watching!
You totally made that putt on No. 7 right? Yup. And that ball wasn’t in the water on No. 12. It was like, pretty much on the fairway in a good lie. How did it end up there? Lucky bounce I suppose! Oh well that is golf, try and tell me that that isn’t golf.
Be a post-9 detective
An underrated part of maximizing your ability to play night golf? When you finish 9 holes, where do you go? Did people tee off after you? Are people ahead of you? Better size up the situation bub, because time’s a wasting big guy. It’s always nice to play a variety of holes so my philosophy is always to continue playing the course in order if you haven’t seen too many people out there. But if you’ve always seen that group in the distance, it may be worth it to head back to the first tee. If it’s about 7 or 8 p.m. by now, chances are people haven’t teed off on the first in a while. More unimpeded golf is in your future.
You know how to get to Carnegie Hall don’t you? Practice, Practice, Practice
Sometimes things just don’t work out for you. The course is packed, there was traffic and you are waiting on every tee box. Sometimes it’s just best to throw in the towel and realize you are not going to get a full 18 holes in. That doesn’t mean though that you can’t get something out of this, and once you’ve realized that 18 is out of the question, suddenly being on the back of the bus is pretty key. In fact now it’s actually better to be the last group on the course and might even be worth letting that twosome behind you play through. That way while you are waiting there is a huge practice facility at your disposal: bunkers, greens, actual rough to chip out of, etc. Don’t go to 100 yds and start taking divots you fool! But practicing around the green doesn’t hurt the course and gives you the chance to work on your short game. Then when you get home at least you can feel like you accomplished something.
Lastly, don’t quit your day job
I understand you’d rather be playing golf then working. But you know what isn’t great? Having all day every day to play golf because you don’t have a job. Always remember to respect the workplace, don’t duck out early unless you have very understanding coworkers and you are going to make up the time, or at least have all your work done. Pick days to play where you don’t have meetings or assignments due. Don’t let golf affect your day job, because when it’s all said and done, you gotta remember what is important. And of course, if you have any option what-so-ever, try and work for a boss who is also a golfer. We call that the jackpot.
Now that you know this, go out and play 90 rounds this year my friends! See you at the course. Actually, you won’t see me. Because I am a ninja.
Jason Day’s performance coach, Jason Goldsmith, joins the 19th hole
In this episode of the 19th Hole, Jason Goldsmith of FocusBand talks about how the breakthrough technology has helped PGA Tour stars Jason Day and Justin Rose to major wins. Also, host Michael Williams gives his take on Tiger Woods’ return to golf.
Ari’s Course Reviews: Oakmont Country Club
Editor’s Note: Ari Techner is a well-traveled, golf-course connoisseur who’s setting out to review the best golf courses in the world. The views and opinions expressed in these reviews are his own.
Oakmont Country Club. The name alone strikes fear into the heart of any mortal golfer. Oakmont has a reputation for difficulty unmatched in the golf world; it’s fear forged in the public’s eye while watching best players in the world struggle during the U.S. Open every 10-plus years or so. There is a notion that Oakmont could hold a U.S. Open just about any day of the year. This is not a course that needs to be tweaked from its daily setup to test the best in the world.
All that said, a close look at the course reveals that there is so much more to Oakmont than just difficulty. Since around 1950, MANY courses have been built with the dilebrate intention of holding a U.S. Open. Most, if not all, of these courses are filled with water hazards, extremely long holes and very little variety. Oakmont is the exact opposite of that, and this is what is at the core of its greatness.
Oakmont Country Club first opened in 1903 and was designed by Henry Fownes, who built it because he felt the other courses around Pittsburgh were not difficult enough. The course was constantly tweaked in the early years by Fownes and his son William. Both Fownes were accomplished players with William winning the U.S. Amateur in 1910 and serving as the playing captain of the first U.S. Walker Cup team in 1922.
Trees, or no trees?
The course was extremely influential in the development of early golf courses in America. It was equally influential in future years by setting trends that have changed the way many other courses have evolved. When Oakmont opened, it was built in an open field and had no trees on the course, adding to the links-like flavor that Fownes wanted from his visits overseas. In the 1950s (after all the Fownes had left the club) Oakmont added thousands of non-native trees to line the corridors of the holes, a look that was a heavy trend of the time. This work was mostly done by Robert Trent Jones, who also modified the bunkers to fit more of his style of the time.
The course continued to evolve over the years with the bunkers being restored by Tom Fazio… but the trees remained. In preparation for the 2008 U.S. Open, Oakmont cut down thousands of trees, returning the course to its open, windswept origins. This was very controversial among the members, and much of the work was done in the middle of the night in the off-season so as not to cause a big stir. After 2008, thousands more trees have been cut down, opening all of the amazing long views across the property. You can see almost every hole on the property from just about every spot on the course. Oakmont was the first course to embrace this massive tree removal and it has turned into a trend with hundreds of classic courses removing their non-native trees and going back to their more open original layouts.
Oakmont is the only course that Fownes designed and I believe that contributes greatly to its uniqueness. Fownes’ version of difficulty did not include artificial water hazards, out of bounds or excessive bunkering fronting greens, and it did not rely simply on longer-than-average holes to challenge the golfer. Instead, it has an amazingly varied mix of holes that challenge the golfer in a variety of ways both mentally and physically. Overall, the course requires you to be a straight driver of the ball, a good iron player and to have a deft short game and putting touch. You also need to be able to think your way around the course while you execute the shots you choose at a high level.
A good variety
Oakmont has its share of length with long par 4s, such as hole Nos. 1, 10, 15 and 18, the monster par-5 12th and long par 3s such as Nos. 8 and 16. What sets the course apart to me, however, are the short holes and the holes that require strategic decision-making off the tee. These include short par 4s such Nos. 2, 11 and 17 and mid-length par 4s including Nos. 5 and 14. These holes can be just as difficult as the long ones, and they require a completely different skill set. The short par-3 13th and short par-5 9th (plays as a par 4 for the U.S. Open) round out what is an amazing set of shorter holes.
The course uses the natural movement of the site very well and has a tight, extremely walkable routing despite being bisected by the Pennsylvania Turnpike at the bottom of the hill in the middle of the property. I particularly love the fallaway greens at 1, 10, 12, and to a lesser degree 3 and 15 where the front of the green is higher than the back. This is a unique look that you do not see in the USA very often. Without the little backboard that a back-to-front sloping green provides, you must hit the ball solid or execute a well played run-up shot to hold the green. The short par 4s temp the long hitter just enough to make them think about hitting driver, but wayward shots are punished enough to make most think twice. The 17th, at a little under 300 yards, could be the hardest hole on the course, and yet it is definitely drivable for the right player who hits a great drive. The small and extremely narrow green requires a short shot be hit the perfect distance if you decide to lay up to the right down the fairway. Hit it even a little short and you end up in the aptly named “Big Mouth” bunker which is extremely deep. Hit it a hair long or with not enough spin to hold the green and you end up rolling over the green into one of a few smaller bunkers. Carry the bunkers on the left side off the tee into the sliver of fairway up by the green and you have a short, open shot from a much better angle into the fatter part of the green. Such risk/reward and great use of angles is paramount to Oakmont’s genius.
Green complexes are…complex
Oakmont also sports one of the best sets of greens anywhere in the world. They are all heavily contoured and very challenging, yet playable. You can certainly make putts out there if you are putting well, but get on the wrong side of the hole and you are left with an extremely difficult, but rarely impossible 2 putt. They are also very unique due to Fownes only designing one course, as they do not look like any other classic course; they have a feel all their own. They are mostly open in front, coming from the correct angle, and they have many squarish edges. They also cut the tight fringe far back into the fairway, which aids in run-up shots; it also gives a great look where the green and the fairway blend together seamlessly.
The bunkering is also very unique and very special… and they are true hazards. Find yourself in a fairway bunker off the tee, and you are likely wedging out without much of any chance of reaching the greens. The green-side bunkers are fearsome, very deep and difficult. The construction of the bunkers is unique too — most of them have very steep and tall faces that were built up in the line of play. Oakmont is also home to one of the most famous bunkers in golf; the “Church Pews” bunkers — a large, long rectangular bunker between the fairways of holes 3 and 4 with strips of grass in the middle like the pews in a church. There is also a smaller “Church Pews” bunker left of the fairway off the tee on hole 15. Hit it into one of these two bunkers and good luck finding a descent lie.
Ari’s last word
All-in-all, along with being one of the hardest courses in the world, Oakmont is also one of the best courses in the world. It is hard enough to challenge even the best players in the world day-in and day-out, but it can easily be played by a 15-handicap without losing a ball. It is extremely unique and varied and requires you to use every club in your bag along with your brain to be successful. Add that to a club that has as much history as any other in the county, and Oakmont is one of golf’s incredibly special places.
Coming Up: A Big Golf Adventure
My name is Jacob Sjöman, and I’m a 35-year-old golf photographer who also enjoys the game we all love. I will be sharing some experiences here on a big golf trip that we are doing. With me I’ve got my friend Johan. I will introduce him properly later, but he is quite a funny character. According to Johan, he is the best golf photo assistant in the world, and we will see about that since this is probably his biggest test yet doing this trip. Previously on our trips, Johan almost got us killed in Dubai with a lack of driving skills. He also missed a recent evening photo shoot in Bulgaria while having a few beers too many… and that’s not all.
Anyway, the last couple of days I’ve been packing my bags over and over. I came home from the Canary Islands this Sunday and I’ve been constantly checking and rechecking that we’ve got all the required equipment, batteries, and that the cameras are 100 percent functional and good to go for this golf trip. I’m still not sure, but in a couple of minutes I will be sitting in a taxi to the airport and there will be no turning back.
Where are we going then? We are going to visit some of the very best golf courses in New Zealand and Australia. There will be breathtaking golf on cliffsides, jaw-dropping scenic courses, and some hidden gems. And probably a big amount of lost balls with a lot of material produced in the end.
I couldn’t be more excited for a golf journey like this one. Flying around the globe to these special golf courses I’ve only dreamed about visiting before gives me a big kick and I feel almost feel like a Indiana Jones. The only thing we’ve got in common, though, is that we don’t like snakes. Australia seems to be one of the worst destinations to visit in that purpose, but all the upsides are massive in this.
First, we will take off from a cold Stockholm (it’s raining heavily outside at the moment) and then we will do our first stop at Doha in Quatar. Then after two more hours, we are finally heading off to Auckland on the north island of New Zealand, a mega-flight of 16 hours. I believe that could very well be one of the longest flights available for a ordinary airplane. I need to check that.
Flights for me usually mean work, editing photos from different golf courses I’ve visited, writing some texts, editing some films, and planning for the future. Last time, though, I finally managed to sleep a little, which is a welcome progress for a guy that was deadly scared of flying until 2008.
Now, I am perfectly fine with flying. A few rocky flights over the Atlantic Sea to Detroit helped me a lot, and my motto is now, “If those flights got me down on the ground safely, it takes a lot of failures to bring down a plane.”
Anyway, I hope you will join me on this golf trip. Stay tuned!
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