Masters Icon Gets Top-50 Treatment

AUGUSTA, GA. — This week’s post may be too technical for some readers, but we are the most scientific course ranking, so there. And while it’s common knowledge that we employ advanced metrics, a Cal Sci algorithm and the mega-computing powers of the Bomar Brain, it’s less well known that we yoke our inputs to to various independent and proprietary data bases, not limiting ourselves to authorized sources. This week, for example, our Kansas City headquarters has a real-time link to the trove of Masters statistics generated by the Augusta National Golf Club.

Augusta National's 16th

The 16th green of Augusta National with the late, lamented Eisenhower Tree barely visible at far left. (John Garrity)

Some of this data is too arcane to be of much use — cumulative ATM fees! — but much of it is germane. A few weeks ago, our Catch Basin second-raters* were about to penalize Augusta National a tenth of a point for the ice-storm death of its so-called Eisenhower Tree. “That tree was one of the game’s most-recognized icons,” said the guy in a white lab coat whose name I can never remember. “It dictated how the 17th was played. Imagine the Road Hole without the Road Hole Bunker, or the Valley of Sin without legalized prostitution.”

*”Second-raters” is not meant to be pejorative. Our field evaluators are called “first-raters” because they collect their data on course visits. 

Fortunately, a cooler head prevailed. “Speed is important,” I told my basement staff, “but nobody of importance will play Augusta National between now and the Masters. Why don’t we just wait until the tournament starts and then adjust our ranking with the aid of fresh statistics — which is, after all, what we do.”

My words made a strong impression on the paid employees, particularly the ones with children and mortgages. Anyway, Augusta National began today, April 11, in sixth place, the same position it held when branches started breaking. I, meanwhile, have set up a command center in Row F of the Masters press building, right next to Gary Van Sickle, the Top 50’s v.p. and executive course rater.

Here’s the Masters stat we’re keeping our eyes on: scoring average by hole. Between 1942 and 2013, the 17th, “Nandina,” was the tournament’s tenth most difficult hole, yielding an average of 4.15 strokes per player per round. It played easiest (3.9485) in 1996, due to the premier of Howard Stern’s radio show in Texas, and most difficult (4.3480) in 1951, following the spying convictions of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Last year, No. 17 was, predictably, the tenth most difficult hole at 4.22.

But now we’re watching as post-Eisenhower-Tree data streams in. As of 4:51 p.m. EDT, No. 17 ranks eleventh in difficulty with an average of 4.172 pppr. In language the layman will understand, this means that the 17th has dropped a full 1.0 in seasonally-adjusted difficulty, relative to the other 17 holes. Put another way, it means the hole is easier than before.

Easier is better than harder — ask any weekend golfer — so I have directed the Catch Basin staff to credit Augusta National with a “fun credit” of .05 points. This will not affect its current ranking, but we’ll be monitoring the National’s metrics all week and making adjustments as necessary.

(Thanks to SI senior writer Alan Shipnuck for his helpful advice about carrying numbers. We’ll look into it.)

Top 50 on TV: The Masters, as usual, is being played at sixth-ranked Augusta National Golf Club. It’s a little-known fact that when the first Masters was played, in 1934, the club was too poor to pay Horton Smith his victor’s prize. Instead, they offered him a friends-and-family discount on future rounds of golf, which he foolishly declined.

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Shoulder Pain Benches Top 50 CEO

“There are many rumors circulating on the internet regarding your shoulder injury,” writes a Top 50 fan from Sequoia Heights, Fla. “The silliest so far blames frozen golf balls, but Drudge is peddling some conspiracy theory going back to your college-radical days at Stanford. I’m guessing you’re keeping mum on purpose, to drum up more publicity. Am I right?”

John Garrity

Top 50 Founder and CEO John Garrity (right) at Madrid Central Station before his injury. (Photo by Edoardo Molinari)

Van — may I call you Van? — you couldn’t be more right. When I saw how much attention Tiger Woods gets for his career-threatening injuries, I decided to milk my recently-torn labrum for all it’s worth. Here’s how it works: Whenever a fellow journalist asks me why my right arm is dangling like an adventitious prop root, I smile enigmatically and walk away. This has gotten me front-page coverage in more than a hundred newspapers and three different citations on Bill Maher’s HBO program.

Frankly, it’s too easy — which is why I’m calling an end to it right now. Here’s the complete story, as revealed in my exclusive interview with Sports Illustrated senior writer Gary Van Sickle:

Q: Do you, in fact, have an injured shoulder?

A: Yes.

Q: Which shoulder?

A: I … [unintelligible] … agreement that we wouldn’t talk about that. You [redacted] only when ….

Q: How did you hurt it?

A: Actually, that’s kind of a funny story. In February, we had a brief thaw in Kansas City, so I went out to play a few holes at [42nd-ranked] Hillcrest. It was a breezy day, temperature in the fifties, the sun popped out now and again. However — and this makes me laugh ‘til my arm hurts — I didn’t consider the fact that my bag, and the golf balls in it, had been stored in an unheated garage at Catch Basin.But I noticed that none of my shots were flying more than a few feet off the ground — even the wedges! Naturally, I tried to hit them harder, but I got the same results. It wasn’t until I plopped three balls onto the iced-over pond on No. 14 that it hit me: I was playing with frozen golf balls! Hilarious, right? The next morning, of course, I woke up to the sensation of my shoulder caught in a bear trap.

Q: Your right shoulder?

A: Listen, if you’re going to [redacted] this bull—- [unintelligible] ….

Q: Fine. I’m out of here.

A: [Unintelligible] Right shoulder, yeah.

Q: What are you doing in the way of rehab?

A: I’m working with a trainer/therapist at my local 24 Hour Fitness. Most of the exercises involve gentle stretching to the sound of snapping ligaments and ripping muscle fibers.

Q: Is this your first shoulder injury?

A: No. Ten or fifteen years ago I shredded my left rotator cuff in a putting accident.

Q: A what?

A: I was playing [51st-ranked] Haig Point with some SI colleagues. What happened was, my cart was parked just off the green, so I was pulling my putter out of the bag while starting to walk toward my ball. Unfortunately, the putter grip got caught between some other shafts and didn’t clear the top of the bag. I called attention to it by screaming and falling to the ground.

Q: Did you finish the hole?

A: I think I’ve said enough on this subject.

Q: What impact will your injury have on Top 50 operations? Will course rating continue?

A: Of course not. You and the rest of the staff are furloughed until further notice.

Q: Well, [redacted] you. [unintelligible] …

A: My pleasure, Gary.

Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but the Arnold Palmer Invitational Starring Adam Scott is being played at 51st-ranked Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Bay Hill, Fla. Tiger Woods withdrew early in the week, sidelined by persistent back pain, and former Masters champ Bubba Watson withdrew after a first-round 83, citing allergies.

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Top 50 Veep Tours Fiesta Lakes

To our readers: Immediately upon hearing that Gary Van Sickle had taken a coveted first prize in the Golf Writers Association of America’s annual writing contest, our founder and CEO stormed out of Catch Basin, leaving this note on his office door: “Mr. Hot-Shot Golf Writer can handle the posts until further notice.” Here, then, is a recent course evaluation from the Top 50’s popular executive vice-president and chief course rater:

Fiesta Lakes Scorecard

FLGC’s scorecard was worth .045 Top-50 points. (Gary Van Sickle)

Mesa, Ariz.—You can tell a great golf course by its scorecard. Fiftieth-ranked Fiesta Lakes Golf Club’s card is on pale blue, non-glossy, sturdy paper with black ink. It’s a 3-by-4 card, probably because 3-by-5 would be a cliché.

All nine holes are listed with yardage and par, totaling a massive 1,533 yards and par 29. There are lined blanks for four players’ scores, in case you have any friends (though I kind of doubt it). There, beneath the last line, is what makes FLGC (as insiders at the adjacent Mesa Hilton know it) a must-stop. Three helpful tips: Tee off between markers. Let faster players pass. Replace divots.

Thanks to the card’s message, I avoided the common first-tee mistake of teeing off outside the markers, in front of the markers or, even worse, diagonal to the markers. Also, I walked up to the tee past a lone gazebo—the course’s signature hole, except for the fact that it’s just a gazebo, not a hole. I was a single, having just signed in at the fabulous clubhouse… trailer… shack. A gentleman and his young son were lollygagging on the first tee, looking like total beginners. Maybe they weren’t, though, or maybe they read the scorecard because they invited me to play through on the opening tee ball.

I’m pretty sure they were impressed when I teed off between the markers, depositing a 9-iron shot just off the right fringe on a monstrous 130-yard hole that was mostly wide open. It could be that getting the ball airborne was what impressed them because as I watched them from the second tee, after two-putting for an easy par, airborne shots weren’t really their strong suits. But I was glad they were there. This is what golf is all about, bringing your kid to a course and introducing him or her to the game. No better place for that than an easy par-3 track.

The second hole cleverly went back by the first tee, but a devilish pin position on the kitchen-table-sized green cost me a bogey. The third hole, also in keeping with the ingenious back-and-forth routing, was the strongest thus far, 168 yards, kind of downhill and guarded by some trees on the right. Fiesta Lakes is all grass and trees, a nice shady respite from the typical Phoenix-area desert golf. I holed a nice par-saving eight-foot putt while a waiting threesome watched from the fourth tee.

Probably impressed by my repeated airborne shots, they, too, waved me through. It was three college-aged players, two guys and a girl. Those scorecard instructions really work! Four holes on a par 3 course, and I’ve already played through two groups. Veteran golfers at real clubs aren’t this agreeable. I bumped a 4-iron down the right side of the fairway, since this was a 274-yard par 4, dogleg right, and without a rangefinder a large pond beyond the fairway’s bend looked like it might be in play. A wedge and two putts and I was off to the fifth.

The blue card said 155, but it didn’t appear that long, and apparently wasn’t because my choked-down 8-iron flew the green, hit some firm ground and bounded up onto the next tee box beneath some towering trees. A stupid-lucky bump-and-run chip led to an undeserved par.

The fourth through seventh holes play counterclockwise around the lake. The eighth, like the arm on the letter G played back toward it and is the most dangerous on the course for those of us who play the game from the air. I’m sure that fifth hole, with its forced carry over the lake, claims a lot of victims. A tee shot just right of the green looked usable. Upon arrival, no ball. The ground was firm and (a first time Fiesta Lakester learned) the water sneaked in around the green’s right side. My ball wasn’t on the fringe, it was under water. Well, at least I’d had the good sense to tee off between the markers. So call me crazy. That was a bogey.

The eighth hole was a secretive little bitch, but the ninth, ah, now here was a signature hole (unlike the gazebo) that actually came with a hole included. The card said it was 255 yards, par 4. Drivable? Yes, especially if you’ve got the red-ass after hitting the fringe and finding the lake on the previous hole. The problem was, it was a dogleg right, toward the clubhouse, and several huge trees on the dogleg corner blocked the angle of attack.

Well, I wasn’t going to let a little thing like common sense keep me from my only chance to hit driver at Fiesta Lakes. I had to tee up near the left tee marker (still between them, being the rules-stickler that I am) and stand off to the side of the tee box, lower than the ball, to have a go. This is not conducive to hitting the fade I need. Neither is my swing. I see draws and hit draws. My fade usually turns out to be a straight ball, if I’m lucky. No matter the odds, though, I wait for another threesome I’ve caught to clear the green, which I can barely make out behind the trees. I’ve got the ball teed up as high as I dare and I make sure to feel like I’m swinging up at it and—whack. The ball barely clears the big trees and looks to be on a pretty good line. That’s all I can see. I hit another one, just for practice and to increase the value I got for my $14 greens fee. This one fades (that’s the polite word for it) and sails over the eighth tee, across the seventh fairway and ends up near the fence that guards the FLGC practice range (and I use that term loosely).

My first ball is 12 feet from the hole. I play the second one, too, because it’s dead, blocked by some smaller trees. I chip a 7-iron low and hard, it bounces left and finds a gap in the trees, runs up the bank and onto the green… to a foot. It’s a ludicrous birdie. The eagle putt breaks sharply at the cup and lips out. It’s a well-earned birdie.

As I head to the parking lot, one of the guys from the group ahead asks, “Did you drive that last green?” I confess that I did. “From the tee?” he wonders. Right between the markers, I said. “Well, I couldn’t believe how soft it landed,” he said. “We didn’t know where it came from.”

I told him I was glad to have a witness for my shot of the day. But where did it come from? From between the markers, man. It says so right on the scorecard. [GVS]

John Garrity with Challenger

Top 50 CEO John Garrity poses beside his Dodge Challenger at Casino Del Sol. (Pat Woodrum)

Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but our founder and CEO was spotted on the short-game practice green at the spanking-new Sewailo Golf Club in Tucson, Ariz. He was later seen, with his wife, in the magnificent PY Steakhouse at the adjoining Casino Del Sol Resort. Sewailo, if you missed our earlier accounts, was co-designed by four-time tour-winner Notah Begay and is the new home course for the University of Arizona Wildcats. Garrity’s original review describes it as “17 picturesque, challenging, and surprisingly-water-featured desert holes, along with one over-the-top, freaky-hard par 5 (the tenth), where you can make a desert snowman in less time than it takes a roadrunner to race to the airport.” (The tenth, we’re told by Van Sickle, is where our Founder and CEO scored a hard-earned 8.)

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Turnberry View Purchase Hits a Snag

Our campaign to buy and restore Scotland’s Ailsa Craig got off to a brilliant start with a thousand-dollar pledge from the American lawyer and football coach, John Mullen. I was confident that an even bigger endowment would be coming from the R&A after I received an enthusiastic bordering on chauvinistic email from David Hill, the R&A’s recently-retired championships director. But now Hill seems to be experiencing buyer’s remorse. He writes:

As much as I would love 1.) to be retired and, 2.) be the former director of championships for the R&A, [my] comment was not from THAT David Hill. I don’t want you to get an earful from the distinguished Mr. Hill on your next journey across the pond …. I’m just your average American 12 handicapper of Scottish heritage that has a passion for golf and happens to write a golf diary blog, 1beardedgolfer.

Anybody who has directed a capital campaign or served as auctioneer at a school fundraiser is familiar with this dodge. I didn’t raise my hand! … It’s a forgery! … I have an evil twin!  And now, repackaged for modern times: Somebody hacked my account!

Experience has taught me to handle these little dustups with tact and magnanimity, so I am publicly releasing Mr. Hill from his pledge of half-a-million British pounds, or whatever amount it was that he forgot to specify in his impulsive bestowal. I’m sure that other active R&Aers (if that is not an oxymoron) will promptly make up the difference. Ailsa Craig, after all, is a British rock.*

*Note to self: Check DVR for concert celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Looking for cheaper thrills? They’ll be here soon in the form of a new edition of Tom Doak’s The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses. Doak’s original book, published 15 years ago and now selling for more than $250 a copy, featured his feverish reviews of the world’s best-known layouts, some of which provoked outrage from established course architects. Now that he is an acclaimed designer in his own right (22nd-ranked Old Macdonald, 48th-ranked Streamsong Blue and four other top-100 tracks), Doak has enlisted three co-authors for his update, which will appear in five volumes, starting with “Great Britain and Ireland.”

To whet our appetites, a recent Doak newsletter offered up several “Best of 2013” lists that seem to endorse the Top 50’s more-scientific ranking. For instance, fifth-ranked Castle Stuart Golf Links placed second and 32nd-ranked Mid Pines Inn and Golf Club placed third on Doak’s “Top Ten Discoveries of 2013,” otherwise described as “Best courses I saw for the first time.” Similarly, Doak reveals himself to being a step behind Garrity when he picks the par-4 third at Castle Stuart and the par-5 fifth on No. 1 Carne’s new Kilmore nine among his “Best Golf Holes Discovered in 2013.”

In fairness to Doak, no lone actor can hope to match the Top 50’s resources. And if you believe that, I’ve got an island in the Firth of Clyde to sell you.

Kilmore Links at Carne

Carne’s Kilmore links: Would a better name be Steroidal Dunes? (Larry Lambrecht)

Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week — sorry, 51st-ranked Riviera Country Club — but Links Magazine’s Thomas Dunne has written a compelling review of the above-mentioned Kilmore nine at top-ranked Carne. “It’s a certain kind of golfer who is attracted to big-dunes links courses,” Dunne begins, no doubt thinking of me. “They’re hardy and fun-loving, more accepting of quirky design, and, perhaps, a bit more interested in pulling off heroic shots than strictly adhering to a card-and-pencil mentality.” He goes on to correctly describe Carne as the “Big Daddy” of big-dunes courses and the Kilmore as “an array of memorable holes within the grand and chaotic dunes. My favorite is the mid-length par-four 8th, where the green complex seems to rise from the valley floor like a primitive dagger.”

As the Kilmore beds down into its natural surroundings, it remains to be seen how the club will deploy the new nine. A composite routing in which [the Jim Engh/Ally McIntosh] holes are folded into Hackett’s back nine is one compelling possibility, as this combination would produce one of the most thrilling big-dune experiences in the game. However, Hackett’s front side, while set in more modest terrain (relatively speaking — it’s still Carne!), might out-punch the original back nine purely on the merits of their respective holes. The ideal solution, of course, is simply to play all 27.

Click here for the rest of Dunne’s essay. And click here to book a round at Carne. (Full disclosure: I am an honorary lifetime member, but I receive no commission for referrals.)

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Can Turnberry’s View Be Saved?

The Top 50‘s readers seem to be unevenly incensed over the news that Scotland’s Ailsa Craig has been plundered to provide curling stones for Olympic athletes. “It’s disheartening to think my ancient kinsmen have chosen to support the second most Scottish game at the expense of one of the treasures of the first,” writes David Hill, the recently-retired director of championships for the R&A. “No, it’s heartening,” writes Hebridean Curling Society secretary Angus Macmurray, “to think my ancient kinsmen have chosen to support the second most Scottish game at the expense of one of the treasures of the first.”

Ailsa Crag

This rock, far bigger than the Hope Diamond, can be had for far less. (John Garrity)

Since a blog is only as good as the outrage it inspires, I take this as a sign that something must be done, right now, to preserve Ailsa Craig for future generations. The way forward is hinted at by John Burns in his Pulitzer Prize-worthy coverage for The New York Times:

… the modest income from the quarrying of the island’s prized strains of blue hone and common green and a lease granted to Britain’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds have taxed the dwindling resources of its owner, the eighth Marquess of Ailsa, whose family has owned the island for 500 years.

Like many of Britain’s old landowning families, the marquess’s family has been through decades of retrenchment as a result of inheritance taxes. It lost the family seat, Culzean Castle, to the National Trust in 1945, and in 2010 the current marquess decided to part with Ailsa Craig, posting an initial price of $4 million. That figure was later cut to $2.4 million, and as the waters of the Firth of Clyde have lapped at Ailsa Craig’s rocky shore each day, little has changed in the intervening years. The island remains misty, monumental and for sale.

My first impulse, upon reading this, was to simply write a check for $2.4 million, take possession of the island and begin a thorough rehab of its iconic profile. But my very wise wife pointed out that this is the sort of stunt that one-percenters like myself are given to, and my generosity might be misconstrued. So I have decided instead to grant the privilege of preserving third-ranked Turnberry’s view to my readers — a.k.a. “The American golfer.” Send me your donations, large or small, and I will hold them in an interest-bearing account until we meet the $2.4 million asking price. I will then purchase the island on behalf of the Top 50 Charitable Trust, assuming the purely honorific title of “first Marquess of Catch Basin” along with the necessary powers of attorney to carry out the restoration.

By “restoration,” of course, I mean restoration of the island to its pre-Sochi profile, which will require the repatriation of some two thousand tons of microgranite. I expect the five-star Turnberry Resort to underwrite this aspect of the project, it being in that Open Championship venue’s interest to preserve one of golf’s most iconic views. But if Turnberry or the R&A should fail to step up, we can follow the example of London Bridge, which was dismantled in 1967 and moved to Lake Havasu City, Ariz., as part of a real-estate deal. My personal choice would be to dismantle Ailsa Craig and reassemble it in the Flint Hills of Kansas, just west of fourth-ranked Prairie Dunes Country Club. This would be good for two reasons. 1) Prairie Dunes, with its view enhanced, would pass Turnberry in the ranking. (I love both courses, but hey, I live in Kansas City.) 2) There are very few Olympic curlers in Kansas.

Please make your checks payable to John Garrity.

Top 50 on TV: Ninth-ranked Pebble Beach Golf Links hosts the AT&T National Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Pebble recently gained nearly a tenth of a point in the ranking, probably because of its new driving range and golf academy, which occupy a large plot of land above the Peter Hay Par-3 Course. Unfortunately, I had to deduct .032 points yesterday afternoon when I saw that the admittedly gorgeous tee line faces directly into the setting sun. (Range rats prefer north-facing ranges, except in the Southern Hemisphere; that’s because water below the equator circles the drain in the opposite direction.) Needless to say, all of the Monterey Peninsula courses would benefit from the addition of an offshore island, if one could be had for a fair price.

Pebble Beach driving range

The new range at Pebble Beach is a major upgrade for the venerable resort. (John Garrity)

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The View From Turnberry: Less Grand?

If you’re into numbers, as I am, you’ll have noticed a steady deterioration of third-ranked Turnberry’s position in the Top 50. The fabled Ayrshire links — scene of 1977’s famous “Duel in the Sun” and 2009’s unforgettable finish by Stewart Cink — has slipped from 9.83 to 9.74 over the past 20 months, leaving a razor’s-edge margin over Kansas’s Prairie Dunes.

Ailsa Craig

Scientists measuring Ailsa Craig say it’s true: the Turnberry icon is shrinking! (John Garrity)

The point deductions, I’m told by the numbers crunchers here at Catch Basin, have nothing to do with the course per se. “It’s the view,” says Nigel Pond, our deputy ranker for Scotland, Wales and Patagonia. “Specifically, it’s the diminishment of Ailsa Craig, the rocky island that monopolizes the view from the Turnberry lighthouse.”

Yes, golf’s most beloved uninhabited island is shrinking. Just this past summer, according to sunset watchers, some 2,000 tons of granite were loaded onto landing craft and spirited away to a top-secret facility on the Scottish mainland. The granite, the New York Times recently reported, was destined for Russia!

“It’s actually shipping in large wooden crates labeled ‘SOCHI OLYMPICS: CURLING STONES,” writes our own Pond, who was possibly the first to notice the minute changes to Ailsa Craig’s distinctive profile. (John Keats, in the notes for his famous sonnet, described the island as “darkly dome-like … a steak-and-kidney pie swollen to the point of bursting for want of a vented crust.”)

Recognizing the gravity of the situation, the Times has assigned its London bureau chief, John F. Burns, to cover the Turnberry story. Burns is known as “the dean of American foreign correspondents”; he’s a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner with stints as the paper’s Moscow bureau chief, lead correspondent in China during the Cultural Revolution, and years of battlefield reporting from Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s no surprise, then, that Burns has gotten to the flinty core of the Ailsa Craig conspiracy:

It has no inhabitants, no electricity, no fresh water, and no arable land — nothing of value, it would seem, but for this: For a century and more, its quarries have been the source of the distinctive, water-resistant microgranite used to make most of the world’s curling stones. These include all those used in recent world championships and the Olympics, including the Sochi Games that begin in January.

Yes, the attack on golf’s offshore treasure is coming from jealous practitioners of Scotland’s other ancient game — curling! These hairy and heartless Highlands stone-sliders have been systematically whittling Ailsa Craig and shipping the shavings to Sochi. This is happening, mind you, during the run-up to September’s referendum on Scottish independence. As Burns points out, the formerly 1,100-foot-tall isle “remains an icon in the country’s national consciousness, redolent of the rugged, stand-alone character many Scots pride as their birthright.”

Has the R&A looked into this? No! Not to sound harsh, but I don’t think the custodians of the ancient game will get off their aristocratic duffs until they see curlers wielding their silly brooms on the frozen surface of the Swilcan Burn.

(More on this subject next time, including a radical proposal to save Ailsa Craig from further predation.)

Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but defending champion Tiger Woods will make his first appearance of the year at the Farmers Insurance Open in La Jolla, Calif. The 89th-ranked Torrey Pines South Course is where Woods won his last major, the 2008 U.S. Open. Woods called it “my greatest ever championship,” but, of course, it’s too early to say.

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Golf on Hold at Top 50 Headquarters

“What’s your favorite form of holiday precipitation?” asks a reader from Carthage, Mo.

69th Street, KCMO

Weather slows, but never stops, the essential work at Catch Basin. (John Garrity)

Unsure how to reply, I sent the question to the basement data center at Catch Basin, our Kansas City headquarters. Within the hour, the following ranking appeared on my first-generation (camera-less) iPad:

1) Freezing drizzle, freezing rain, freezing fog, surface condensation (tie), 10.31

2) Snow (fresh), 10.46

3) Snow (partially melted — i.e., slush), 9.28

4) Sleet, 9.10

5) Rain, 11.13

6) Hail, 8.19

On reflection, I think this ranking fairly captures my sentiments regarding the wet stuff. I favor “quiet” precipitation, for obvious reasons.*

*As a writer, I do my best work when there are no distractions, and the sound of car tires crunching through curbside slush certainly counts as a distraction. My avocation as a cocktail pianist also suffers from storms, particularly when hail starts clanging off the music-room skylights during one of my nine-hour practice sessions.

To be sure, the silent forms become an annoyance when vehicles start sliding off the frontage road and piling up at the bottom of the berm. But I own a fleet of radio-dispatched tow trucks, so even the “worst” weather has its compensations. (As I write this, a matte-finish glaze is silently accumulating on the surrounding pavements. For a few hours, at least, we needn’t worry about Jehovah’s Witnesses or band-candy grifters.)

Precipitation in any form is currently welcome, as I recently spent eight days in the Arizona desert — an ordeal that left me with cracked and bleeding lips and mismatched hands, one deeply tanned, the other jarringly pale. I will report on this five-course cactus banquet in my next post, which I have scheduled for Christmas Eve (for maximum impact).

Chuck Garbedian

TMGC runner-up Chuck Garbedian chronicles his own greatness on The Gallery’s 51st-ranked North Course, a John Fought/Tom Lehman design. (John Garrity)

Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but Chuck Garbedian, the Top 50’s morning-radio coordinator and Wisconsin station chief, scored an impressive second-place at the Tucson Media Golf Classic. Two-time TMC champ and TMC Hall of Famer Gary Van Sickle failed to place this year, but Sports Illustrated’s senior writer got high marks for his on-stage interview with former PGA Tour star and Golf Channel analyst Notah Begay, who was in Tucson for the grand opening of his Sewailo Golf Club, co-designed with Ty Butler. The new track, a desert-golf anomaly with wide fairways and a plethora of water features, debuts at No. 51.

Sewailo Golf Club

The 17th hole at the new Sewailo Golf Club at Tucson’s Casino Del Sol Resort. (John Garrity)

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