There's a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.
Golf is a great game, perhaps the greatest game. It's fun. It's social. It's competitive. It relieves stress. It's whatever you want it to be.
On that note, our staff shares what they're thankful for in golf this holiday season. If you have a sentiment about the game you're thankful for, please share in the comments below.
Bradley S. Klein: Lifetime golf buddy
When you travel as much as we do you’re always thankful to be home. My wife of 31 years, Jane, has been incredibly patient and supportive, as are our daughter, her husband and our two grandkids.
But there are also those longtime friends who I get occasionally to visit with when on the road. It is amazing, how easy it is to pick up the conversational thread and reboot the connection seamlessly, as if nothing had intervened, even if it’s been months or a year or more.
I was reminded of this recently during a quick weekend getaway when I was out on the West Coast and got to revisit with one of my closest comrades. I met Dr. Stephen Katz years ago at a golf outing in Scottsdale and we hit it off immediately. Whenever I was out in the Bay Area I’d stop by to see him. Sometimes it’s been for a round; once it was simply to hit a few shots out of the impossibly deep (new) bunkers at Olympic Club and then hang out for an extended lunch, catching up on family, work, books we’ve read and news we’ve been enduring.
He’s got a tough job – staff psychologist in the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Spinal Cord Injury Unit in the Palo Alto Health Care System. Of course he doesn’t discuss individual cases, but I get enough of the sense of the gravity of what he deals with to know how much of a relief it is for him to get away for golf. He’s also visited us with his wife here at home, so that we are friends as a couple and not just as golf buddies.
We’re old fashioned in our relationship. It’s not only texts and emails but also phone calls and long, hand-written letters, in which we share everything, including health issues as we all get older. So I am thankful for golf in having brought us together and for allowing us to start a lifelong bond.
Jason Scott Deegan: A career that keeps on giving
Sometime earlier this year, I passed an interesting milestone. I played my 900th course in my golf-writing career. That's certainly something to be thankful for from someone who didn't grow up around the game. I picked up golf on an absolute whim in college by applying for a summer job at Eastern Michigan University's Eagle Crest Golf Club in Ypsilanti, Mich. In essence, I found golf because I didn't want to work as a bag boy in a grocery store or a bus boy in a restaurant anymore (those were my first two jobs). Talk about blind luck.
I never knew writing about golf was an actual thing. I didn't read golf magazines. I didn't watch golf on TV. I simply wanted to be a sports writer, covering Super Bowls and Final Fours. Who knew that the Super Bowl of Golf - the Ryder Cup - is way more riveting than that silly ad-infested NFL game? My first real golf writing assignment was to review Pinehurst Resort in 1999. I played all eight courses in four days, something the PR guy at the time, Stephen Boyd, said he'd never seen before. What I lacked in knowledge and skill, I made up for with hustle and determination. Nearly two decades later, I'm still going strong. That's something to appreciate, for sure. Here's a toast to the next two decades and another 1,000 courses or more.
Brandon Tucker: Playing the long game
This year, I played the Old(est) Course plus a handful of the country's newest, but I'm most thankful for the short ones I played and the fact these types appear to be gaining steam in golf course development. My time spend on them this year reminded me that they are some of my most enjoyable rounds.
My favorite short layouts are those 18-hole courses between 4,200 and 5,500 yards: big enough you can hit every club in the bag, but small enough they're great for beginners and your allocated leisure hours and budget. I experienced the "good hang" at Goat Hill Park in April, but my favorite short loop was a twilight round on the Ashludie Course at Monifieth near Carnoustie. We played in about 2.5 hours, saw loads of families on the links, and it cost all of £15. It was an understated-yet-engaging layout that was exactly the difficulty and length I was looking for after working in the media center all day.
I was both shocked and pleased to see that Sand Valley has green-lit Tom Doak's proposed par-67/68 layout. As governing bodies continue to play the waiting game when it comes to controlling distance gains - all while urban courses grapple with rising land and maintenance costs - it's becoming clear that those clubs that celebrate the short over chasing the long will be the ones that attract the modern family.
Speaking of families, I'm also thankful my daughter seems to tolerate letting me bring her with me to the putting green once in awhile.
Tim Gavrich: Skin in the game
This year, I’m thankful for skins.
With its low cost, high upside and embrace of chaos, it mirrors the vagaries of golf in an amusingly appropriate way. Good and bad breaks happen on the course all the time; skins brings absurdity to the post-round proceedings. As if golf isn’t stressful enough.
A 24-handicapper makes his lone birdie of the month and walks away the big winner while a scratch player makes seven birdies, sees them all cut by others and walks away empty-pocketed. A golfer plays his worst 17 holes of the year but sinks that one improbable putt at the right time and wins a few hundred bucks. It’s all so unfair and so exhilarating.
I won a skin during the first round of the Myrtle Beach World Amateur this August. On the 17th hole, I chunk-sky-blocked a 3-wood off the tee and almost went the full five minutes before finding the ball buried in nasty rough. I hacked a 7-wood out and the ball miraculously rolled up 8 feet short of the hole. I canned the putt. Ka-ching! I won $340. Having thrown $20 in that morning. Last week, I holed out a greenside bunker shot for eagle on a par five, only to find out I was cut by someone a couple groups in front of me. Or maybe I cut that poor sap, I guess.
Skins games are so stupid. I love them.
Bill Irwin: Golf is Fun Again
I’m thankful for Sam Snead.
Little did I know that those weekend afternoons in my childhood spent glued to the tube watching Snead's bizarre sidesaddle, croquet-swing putting style would lead me to copy him all these decades later. I’m in my second year of post-yip putting Slammin’ Sammy’s way (he had putted straddling the ball, but that was declared illegal in 1968). It took a while to get proficient at it, but now, laugh though you might, I feel like I can make putts again. Before I switched, I had no confidence I could sink a 10-incher. Earlier this year, I thought maybe I was going to be part of golf’s next wave when I saw Bryson DeChambeau try the sidesaddle method for a couple of tournaments, but he didn’t stick with it. If I could give DedChambeau a lesson, I’d tell him he should crouch down more and position his low hand much lower on the shaft. I may not be a good putter by competitive standards, but it’s the only facet of my game that gives me a chance to hang with better players. These days when I play, I look forward to my putts because I know I can at least give them a good run.
Putting like Sam Snead may not look pretty, but it has made golf fun again, and for that I’m extremely thankful.
Mike Bailey: Golf is a friendly game
What I'm most thankful about in golf are the new friends I've made this year on the golf course, the golf buddies I've had for years, and ones I will continue to make.
Just this past weekend, for example, I played with for the first time a gifted surgeon who won her club championship, just six years after she started playing. I absolutely love her passion for the game, how she studies every part of it, but at the same time simply enjoys being on the course. She reminded me of how I got hooked on the game myself more than 30 years ago and how I'm still hooked.
Then there's also my friend, Carl Ahrens, who is 87 years young and still shoots around par every time he plays. After 50-plus years of playing, his passion has not wavered.
And I'm thankful that I can still enjoy this great game with my grown son, Austin, who also works in the golf business. I spent so many hours with him on the course as a junior, for many reasons, but one of them was so we'd always have this great game between us.
Simply put, the most important part of golf for me is the relationships. It is why even when I go to a course by myself, I always hope to get paired up with other golfers, even if I don't already know them. Because while I may not have the wisdom of the late, great Harvey Penick, I do share one of his overwhelming philosophies: "If you play golf, you're my friend.”
Matt Ginella: The links
I’m thankful for The Game. For all the places I get to go, courses I get to play and people I get to meet. At its core, golf has always linked souls. Always will. And now I’m thankful it’s linking me to my son. Not unlike it linked me to my father, uncle and so many friends from all over the world. We chase the ball, the perfect swing, a chip in, the snake from sixty feet that alters the momentum of the match, and now I’m thankful to be chasing Baby Bandon as he scampers across the green of the local nine-hole mini muny. One of his first words was “ball” and one of the last things he does every day is take a few swings with one of his clubs. He already has an affinity for distance, but by no means is it an “issue.” Not yet, anyway.
And one thing we already have in common is that we both struggle getting the ball in the hole. Of course, he only has 18 months of excuses, I have almost 48 years. And can you imagine how thankful I’ll be if we’re still playing together when he’s 48?