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Alan B. Nichols Articles

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 "Golf’s About Walking"

I would wager there are thousands, maybe millions, of American golfers who have never REALLY experienced being on a golf course. Oh, sure, they play golf and they have walked across a green to finish three-putting or to hole out, but I am talking about something deeper, something akin to the soul of the sport, which can only be experienced on foot, when your body through your feet, feels the undulations of the fairway and you can take in through all your senses the smells, the nuances and the vistas of a course by walking the entire length of your shots. To me, golf is about the wondrous varieties of the land and man’s relationship to it, and to get the maximum out of that experience, you need to walk. Regrettably, in the U.S., golf is a good cart-ride spoiled.


I just got back from a week of golf in Scotland where electric or gas-powered golf carts are as rare as ten-gallon hats. We were quite surprised to see one electric cart, near the 1st tee at Glasgow Gailes, though no one was in it. No, over there you see golfers walking the course, keeping pace with the group in front, not dallying but moving directly to their shots, usually in a brisk manner. These folks haven’t a clue what a five-hour round is, or what “cart-paths only” means.


I went with three other Stateside golfers, two pros and one amateur, all reasonably accomplished. Being more on the administrative end of the industry, they weren’t used to playing very often and when they did, it was usually in a cart. Consequently, they found walking 18 holes a day for five straight days quite physically taxing. Another group of Americans finished playing Turnburry in the morning. They had an afternoon tee time at Western Gailes but all of them decided not to play because they were too bushed.


I heard Payne Stewart talking about how important it was to make the Ryder Cup team this year and how he spent much of last winter preparing himself, which didn’t mean hitting more golf balls but getting in top physical condition. It is an aspect of the sport lost on many American golfers.


I realize many of us in the States have no choice. We must have a cart to play most courses, but that doesn’t mean you can’t walk as much as possible, straight to your ball. Have your partner drive, or if he wants to walk too, alternate driving. Yes, golf is big business and a big piece of that business at most courses is the revenue from carts. The courses have made a huge investment in carts and are not about to let their customers walk, not without a cart fee. Sure the long distances between greens and tees on some layouts make walking prohibitive, and that’s unfortunate. For something special is lost when golf is played on wheels.

In geologic time, man appeared on the scene very late. And in the history of golf so did carts, which came in en masse only a few short years ago, centuries after golf was born. So next time, you play golf, try walking. You’ll like it.



 "Addicted to Love...of Golf"       

I keep a club right next to my bed in case I get a new swing thought in the middle of the night. More than once I’ve gotten up at 3 a.m. to grip and waggle the club or to try out a new posture or take-away. My condo looks like a driving range after the customers have gone home. Golf balls everywhere, under the plants, under the bed and sofa, on my kitchen tile, and especially in the hallway. That’s where I’ve done my best putting, but for the life of me, in seven years here I’ve yet to read my carpet correctly. I always think, as I putt west to east, that it’s a left hand break. I’ve got golf balls all over the place in my backyard which I share with my condo neighbors. I practice there and I can prove it. The siding on the back of my condo has multiple dents where I have flat out shanked shots aimed down the narrow corridor between the units and the woods of the park behind our association. I have yet to hit any cars or pedestrians but I’m rolling the dice with every massive skull. Man, as an addict, I need protection against myself. I can’t stop.


Talk about addiction. I go to a party and the talk turns to women. I yawn and try to act interested but I’m thinking about my swing or that four footer I missed last Sunday that would have won me a pile of green. If I spot an attractive woman, the first thing I think is, “I wonder what her swing looks like.” I’ve got it bad. I’ve got a one-track mind. “Mr. Nichols, tell me what are interests?” someone asks me. “Golf,” I say. “That’s nice,” they say, following it up with a standard, and most disappointing refrain. “I don’t play golf, but I like the theatre and books. Do you read? Alan.” “Yes, I read golf books. Thanks for asking,” I say, enthusiastically, hoping for that one spark between us that might touch on the grand game. I mention The legend of Bagger Vance. “Have you read it,” I ask. “No,” she says, “is that a myth, like King Arthur and the Round Table?” “Not exactly, but close,” I say a bit sardonically. “They’re similar in that the protagonists seek the holy grail but the nature of the grail is slightly different in both stories,” I explain, adding, “If I were to rewrite the Arthurian story, I might have Lancelot going out into the woods seeking his power faded drive on 13. There, he meets Guinevere who has snuck out of the castle for a quick nine.” “You silly boy,” she quips. I move on.


Next, I’m  talking to a older woman, too hefty to play golf, though not to garden. “Do you like plants?” she asks me, prompting me to think of that beat up Titleist under the dirty plate that serves as a watering pot for my half dead plant. As I chat with her, I find myself shifting my weight subtly from side to side working on my rhythm and transition ( a tip I got from David Owen’s My Usual Game), and try to look interested. She doesn’t notice a thing. I go home.

Obsessed isn’t the word. Obsessed implies that in between a thousand thoughts there may be one in there that thinks about something else. Not me, my brain is a black hole, not even light can get in, let alone other thoughts beside golf.


I bring obsession to new heights of madness. And speaking of March madness. Leftover cold and rain from winter and I’m looking out my living room window on a Sunday morning. That’s March madness. Then I watch the PGA on TV and think, I wonder if those guys know how lucky they are. Just to be playing.


Golf penetrates every fiber of my being and it dominates my speech patterns. Nearly everything I can think of is couched in terms of golf. If I spill coffee because I didn’t get the cup to my lips, I call it laying up short. My sex life is a straight pull. I slice (slice!) my bagels in the morning and think, “release the hands at impact.” I love jazz. My favorite? You guessed it. “It Don’t Mean a Thing if You Ain’t Got that Swing.”


Man, have I got it bad. Housebound on a rainy weekend I’m a wild bear (bore)  in a cage. I go to the living room where I practice my swing, get bored with that, and go to the computer, get on line and go into igolf where for the fourth time that morning I look at the instruction. Speaking of instruction, I never met an instruction article I didn’t read. The result: On the course, I’ve got 25 swing thoughts tornadoing through my brain, most of them contradictory. In fact, I’m a contradiction. I say I play golf but play isn’t the word. Its more like work, slave labor. I miss a putt and I don’t forget it for weeks. The pain of it, the torture, the proverbial moth to the flame, I can’t get enough of it and it’s killing me, or is it. I try Golfaholics Anonymous? “Hello, my name’s Alan, I’m powerless over golf.” Do you have a sponsor? They ask. “Sponsor? Oh, you mean, mentor. Yes, Billy Wolfe. I take lessons from him every summer. Great instructor. Helped straighten my fade out in no time.” “No, no. Someone to help you stay clean and golf-free.” “But I don’t want to be golf free,” I implore,  “I want to be free to play golf without pain.” “Then you must be in the wrong place. Here, we practice complete abstinence. That’s the only cure for our addiction.” “You’re kidding me!!” I leave dejected and go to the White Flint Driving Range. As I hit balls, I wonder, is this any way to live? I hum The Four Tops tune, “I Can’t Help Myself.” Life without golf just aint life. I suffer on.... is Recognized by the

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