An open letter to my large, slender associate: Big Randy, can I say something I think is bullshit?
It’s your essay in TGJ No. 10, titled, “Here’s a Concept: Play Real Golf,” regarding the purity of an 18-hole layout and your disdain for anything but stroke play. As someone who’s spent a significant amount of time with you playing golf, I hate to see you inculcated by stodgy golf tradition. I write this letter in the sincere hope that we can open a dialogue that broadens your obviously dimwitted perspective on shorter courses and the benefits of playing fewer than 18 holes.
You wrote that the concept of shorter courses reminded you of your dad coaching you in preseason exhibition games (big shout-out to Chuck Landes), and how not playing to win drove you crazy. Allow me to counter that clearly narrow-minded approach with another class act from the Queen City of Cincinnati: my grandfather. Ken Schuster did not play golf, but he did play solitaire in its many variations. I remember a book he would often pull off the shelf when I visited: 150 Solitaire Games. My grandfather loved the fact that the end goal of each game was the same, even if the strategy, time invested and challenge of each format varied. These variations opened my eyes to more-stimulating ways of playing the game while keeping the classic solitaire format fun. I see golf from a similar perspective. One of its great strengths when compared to other sports is its diverse fields of play and formats.
Credit where it’s due: I enjoy your jokes about “shrinking the game” as a pushback on all the awful “grow the game” fads that inundate the golf world. I agree with you that keeping score and playing by the rules matter. And I’m just as bearish on making golf easier and changing the core rules of the game. But this just makes your uninspiring take on short courses even worse. You can’t find the competitive fire to compete against yourself on a short course or an interesting three- to four-hole loop? All due respect, but what the hell is wrong with you, sir? And please don’t tell me it’s because the USGA won’t deign to spit out a handicap number there (from a formula neither you nor I understand).
In your essay, you say pitch ’n’ putt is “golf’s equivalent of grabass” because someone told you to bring fewer clubs, and you don’t want to choke down on a longer one or thin a wedge. I recommend you stop listening to that person. Go back with your whole damn bag if that helps you approach a short course with a better mindset. Maybe you’ve been turned off by all the highfalutin reviews of short courses popping up at exotic resorts, claiming how these courses should reawaken the soul of the game deep within you. Again, stop listening to those schwaldos and go experience a public par-3 course on your own terms.
My local pitch ‘n’ putt has changed my relationship to golf. It has made the game more approachable. I’ve improved in areas where I traditionally struggle (finesse and control, as you know). I keep score, finish putts and believe this short course deepens my desire to play the hallowed 18-hole layouts you prefer. In fact, I’d love to host you for a round at my home course—Flushing Meadows Pitch & Putt—to continue this important conversation.
Neil Schuster, aka Lil’ Merchie, is the merchandise czar for No Laying Up. His takes on golf mirror his stance on products: quality over quantity.