I gave my girlfriend a new set of golf clubs for Christmas, and like a kid with a new toy she couldn’t wait to try them out. So we finished our pancakes and coffee, bundled up, and headed out to the course.
There’s something about the absurdity of golf that lends itself to flamboyance, and I like to indulge in it even on the lowly municipal courses of New York City.
Although they’re fun to look at, I steer clear of Ralph Lauren‘s fantasy clothes. You know, fake-crest ties and so forth. One of his specialties is shawl-collared cardigans that look straight from a Leyendecker painting:
I gave in to one recently and it’s become one of my favorite items of clothing because of the fun factor. And fun is an important part of wearing clothes. As Bruce Boyer once said of the Internet’s curmudgeonly pontiffs, “They know everything about clothes but how to enjoy them.”
I wouldn’t wear the cardigan in a serious context (you know, like at a shark-infested menswear event), but I love throwing it on over a t-shirt around the house, and on the golf course it keeps my body warm and spirits light. It’s paired in the top photo with flannel-lined khakis from LL Bean, flannel ball cap from Stockbridge Sewing Works, 60-degree lob wedge from Titleist and two Christmas gifts: a tartan scarf from RL and golf balls from Callaway. Monogrammed, of course.
Despite the chill, we played well. Santa set gimme-putts to six feet. — CC
Today, you may have heard, is the start of the Games of the Thirtieth Olympiad. Likewise, “It’s the Olympics, you know?” is a running line from the comedy “Walk, Don’t Run,” which is set amid the chaos of the 1964 Tokyo games. The city is so overburdened that stars Cary Grant and Jim Hutton are forced to take lodgings with a pretty young English girl who lives and works in the Japanese metropolis.
It’s a moderately amusing comedy you might want to check out. Cary Grant doesn’t have much to do except be Cary Grant, and indeed this was his last film. Hutton plays a slightly sarcastic collegiate type, though far less goofy than his similar role in 1960′s “Where The Boys Are” (which we wrote about here).
Hutton plays an architecture student who lives in Greenwich Village and is competing in the racewalking competition, which is to athletic competition what humming is to a singing competition.
Hutton’s main outfit for his sightseeing time in Tokyo consists of tapered trousers, desert boots, blue oxford, knit tie, and a natural-shouldered sack jacket, updated with short side vents in concession to the Continental influence.
Warning: Orthodox trads and neatniks may be offended by his shirt, which shows the puckering and character of non-chemically treated cotton, and, as he’s a slim guy, has a slim cut.
I don’t want to go on a nostalgic rant here, and I hope my regular readers have noticed my tolerance — or at least helpless resignation — at the march of time, but one contrast between then and now is worth pointing out. This being 1964, not only does Hutton’s character spend most of his sightseeing time in a jacket and tie, when he goes out to dinner with fellow athletes from the Olympic Village, he wears his Olympic blazer.
In contrast, I’ve seen a number of athletes this week on the morning shows who went on national television, live from London, where they’re representing their country overseas, wearing sweatpants, shorts, t-shirts and even flip-flops.
I can only conclude that it simply never occurred to them, in our take-me-as-I-am/come-as-you-are era, that an athlete would be expected — or want — to wear anything but athletic clothing at all times.
One year ago today I hit a golf ball for the first time. Since then I’ve hit 20,000 more.
Every day for the past 365 days I’ve played golf, practiced it, watched it, read about it, or thought about it. When I haven’t been outdoors hitting balls, I’ve been rolling them across the purple putting green of my living room rug. My instructor calls it the most acute case of golf obsession he’s ever seen.
Every five or 10 years a new sport takes hold of me and I throw myself into it completely, attain a sort of superficial mastery, and then go into a holding period until a new one comes along. There is, after all, so much to do on this short day of frost and sun that is our time on earth. Following my badminton burnout some five years ago, I’d been playing tennis but without a fire in the belly. That I was ripe for a new challenge wasn’t a surprise to me, but I’d never have guessed it would be golf.
I owe so much to Brooks and the guys from Golf Manhattan who run the simulator, which can play back your swing in super-slow motion to reveal every minute fault in your technique. Most of the guys I see at the range seem to have no clue what they’re doing wrong. Golf is the greatest physical and mental challenge mankind has ever devised, and you’re not going to get very far trying to figure it out yourself.
In addition to Brooks, where I’ve been able to get free instruction and hit balls in inclement weather, check out this perfect storm of serendipity. It’s as if the stars aligned and spelled out the words “Thou shalt play golf”:
• My girlfriend plays, so no resentment from my significant other when I disappear for six hours. She’s right there with me.
• My first winter after starting golf was a mild one with no snow, so I wasn’t forced to stop playing. If it was above 35 degrees, I was out hitting balls.
• A flexible schedule allows me to devote the time necessary for regular practice.
• I take a gig at a magazine whose office is four blocks from Brooks, allowing me to hit balls twice a day, at lunch time and after work.
• The Flushing Meadows par-three “pitch and putt” is right off the 7 train, where you can play 18 holes cheaply and quickly and work on the all-important short game. Think of all the golfers who don’t have such a great, convenient practice spot.
• There are over half a dozen affordable municipal golf courses right here in New York City. Who’d have guessed?
• I take a new apartment that’s a 15-minute bike ride to the Randall’s Island Golf Center, and finally….
• … this same apartment turns out to be two blocks away from my golf instructor, who just so happens to not need his car this season as he’s not commuting to the Westchester country club where he worked last year. He agrees to lend me his car whenever I need it, thereby eliminating the punitive $100 Zip Car fees that were the biggest financial obstacle to regular play.
Thanks to all of this, the past six weeks or so have brought a tremendous acceleration in performance, though the ghosts of faults past still linger. I’ve made several big changes in fundamentals that have made the good shots better but the bad ones worse. It’s as if the more correct your swing becomes, the more the one thing that’s off messes everything up. Having addressed every part of my body and 50 aspects of the swing, I’ve finally found the culprit of all my frustration: my right elbow. More than ever I feel like there’s a battle going on between my ever-evolving and improving new swing, which is close to correct but counter-intuitive, and the old swing, which is wrong yet comes out naturally.
But despite the struggles there’s been a constant flow of new benchmarks. Each time I go out, even if the round as a whole doesn’t go well, I seem to pull off something new: holing a bunker shot, getting on the green in two at 400 yards, making my first birdie on a par four, or making the most pars in a round (seven, for a score of +5 over 12 holes; unfortunately the other six holes didn’t go so well).
The most satisfying accomplishment came a few weeks ago, when, after previously hovering around +10 on the Flushing Meadows par-three course, I played an even round. I was in the zone, and when you’re there you feel like you can do no wrong. Maybe it helped that I was playing with a philosophy professor; lively conversation probably kept me from overthinking my golf swing.
Golf is certainly the most philosophical sport, and therein lies much of its appeal for me. It’s also an absolute feast for anyone with a sharp appreciation for tragicomic irony. Golf is the only sport where you can suffer the humiliation of nailing your girlfriend in the back (done that), and then bouncing one off a tree and into the hole (haven’t done that one yet), and both seem not only a normal part of the game, but somehow inevitable.
And I love the solitary man vs. nature/man vs. himself aspect of golf. Yesterday at 5 o’clock I went to my nearest course, Kissena Park, and was able to play alone. In the final rays of twilight, when the place is all but deserted save for a couple of other lone souls who pass you with a silent nod, the fireflies come out and with them the primal adventure of this this crazy game man invented to test his skill against the wilds of forest, rock, water and sand, overcoming obstacles external and internal in the quest to send a little white ball 500 yards into a four-inch hole within five strokes. I was the last golfer to emerge from the gloaming and head towards the empty parking lot, smiling at having made it through another round and come through all the struggle with deeper understanding.
“It takes a special kind of person to play golf,” one of the Golf Manhattan guys told me one day. It’s just too hard for most people. But maybe some day the stars will align for you too, at some point in your life when you least expect it, and you’ll rise to this great challenge and learn a lot about yourself in the process. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD
Last night Ivy Style crossed the 10,000-comment threshold with these infamous words that will echo across America this summer as families pile up the station wagon and head out on the road:
Are we there yet?
The comment was left by none other than regular reader Henry, who will finally be rewarded for years of faithful interaction.
Leave one more comment with your real email address, Henry, so I can make sure the IP addresses match. Wouldn’t want the loot to go to one of your sparring partners pretending to be you. — CC
* * *
Ivy-Style.com is rapidly approaching its 10,000th comment. As a way of saying thank you for the interaction and entertainment that our comments section provides, I’m arranging for one lucky reader to get a pile of loot donated by our sponsors.
Here’s how it will work. Sometime over the next couple of weeks — depending on how worked up you guys get — we’ll cross the ten thousand threshold. The person to leave comment number 10,000 — after all spam and petty nastiness has been expunged, of course — wins.
So you might want to leave a valid email address when you comment, at least for the time being.
And while it’s true that the winner may be one of the usual suspects in our perennial Left vs. Right and US vs. UK kerfuffles, at least everyone has an equal chance of winning, regardless of ideology.
After all, anyone can wear buttondowns and penny loafers. — CC
Update: Here is a confirmed alphabetical list of the prizes so far, which have a combined value of $1,425: (Continue)
Recently I ran across a video for Penn that was created in 1957 and documents campus life for a full 30 minutes. There’s some really great footage in here, and you are able to see a lot of detail that’s not as noticeable with still-frame photos like you get in “Take Ivy.”
Here are some highlights:
• 1:10-1:30, 2:20-2:35, 11:20- 12:30 and 17:30-18:00 are scenes straight out of “Take Ivy,” except a decade earlier.
• Check out the classroom close-ups from 9:15 to 10:00. Great examples of three piece suits, repp ties, and tortoiseshell glasses.
• At the 14-minute mark there are several examples of midcentury women’s style.
• Check out the tennis players in all white at 21:25, track and field at 21:30, and rowers starting around 21:40.
• And for scenes of Ivy League football in its heyday, jump to 23:30. Fun fact: John Heisman, pioneer of the forward pass and namesake of the trophy, was a Penn alum and head coach. — MARK CHOU