This month’s Dirty Groove playlist is hosted by The Avett Brothers bass player and Broken Tee Society Member Bob Crawford. We caught Bob between shows and tee times to ask him about his start in the game, how near tragedy brought him back to it, balancing business with pleasure on tour, and what he listens to while on the course. That answer might surprise you.
Who introduced you to the game?
Well, I was exposed to it early, but I just didn’t care. My grandfather was a club pro at Linwood Country Club in Linwood, New Jersey, which was just a couple of miles from Atlantic City Country Club. We’re talking about the ’60s and ’70s. He would take Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis around Atlantic City Country Club, play a round with them and just give them tips on the course.
I helped him with his lessons, but I didn’t want to do it. It was hot. I was 6 or 7 but I have distinct memories of sitting against a tree while he’s teaching a lesson. Then after the lesson, I would go out and collect the golf balls. Then go to the clubhouse and have a hot dog, or we would go to Atlantic City Race Course and he would pay me $7 to make his bets for the day.
When did you finally start appreciating the game?
Just three years ago. I have a daughter who’s had a history of brain tumors. It’s really awful. She was 22 months old when we learned. I was in Europe on a tour and I came home. The plane landed and she was in surgery because my wife found her in her crib having seizures, really having strokes. The ambulance came and so she had this cancerous brain tumor that was, at that point, a quarter of the size of her brain. They took out the right side of her brain with it. This was 2011.
We went to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. She received six months of IV chemo and oral chemo. Then after the chemo stopped, five months later, the cancer came back and she had another surgery and radiation, and then seven years of remission before it returned in 2020.
In 2019, my wife and I were like, “Let’s take up golf and let’s go get some clubs. This can be our thing while the kids are at school.” My daughter goes to school now. I have a 10-year-old son as well. We do it one day a week. It’s like a date while the kids are in school.
That’s a lot to deal with. Does the course offer you some respite?
I enjoy playing by myself. It’s meditative. It’s being outside. It’s being away from the phone. It’s being away from my cares, my worries. Golf is an MRI for your soul.
To play, things need to be, for me, stable. Or at least some stuff needs to be stable. There are times where golf is a relief and it’s fun, but things can be so bad for me that golf feels like a luxury. It is a luxury. Maybe some people can play when the world’s crashing down around them. But, for me, if things are going bad enough, it’s a luxury I can’t allow myself to indulge in.
You mentioned playing alone. Does anybody else in the band ever play?
Our monitor mixer who’s a young fellow, a guy in his 20s, he can hit the ball 350 yards. He can really play, for sure. Our tour manager will play, but it’s hard to get him to leave the venue. I don’t have to be anywhere till sound check at 2 or 3 in the afternoon, so I’ve got time.
A couple years ago, we were in the Dominican Republic and we were staying where there was a Jack Nicklaus design. Our manager and I played one day and I played horribly, and the next day I went back and I was playing by myself and I ripped out my back on the 11th hole. I was embarrassed and I was really pissed off at myself for swinging like that. But I manned up and played the show. I did not move the entire night.
Can you solve the great debate for us: Music or no music on the golf course?
This is an important issue. I’m glad you brought this up because this was an issue when I was in Pinehurst recently where, on Pinehurst No. 8, the party behind us was just blasting music. Blasting it.
I got to say, if I’m by myself, I’ll put my earbuds in and I’ll listen to talk, typically. I’ll listen to Michael Smerconish. I’ve had some blissful mornings by myself on the golf course, sometimes in 38-degree weather, with my earbuds, listening to Michael’s show, half listening. I’m listening, but I’m not really focused on it and I’m playing. You split your brain in the right way just so you have that right percentage of brain split where you play really well. It’s casual.
I’ve listened to books, history books. This winter, I listened to a book about John Quincy Adams over several rounds of golf. I like rock and roll too but I’ve been in some golf situations where I feel like Ted Knight in Caddyshack. I don’t ever say anything to people. I keep it inside. I don’t drink a lot on the golf course, but on the occasion where I’m with friends having a beer and you get a little music going in the golf cart, I don’t mind it so much.