Golfin’ California: Trump National GC, Los Angeles

Trump National GC, Los Angeles #9

For two weeks this August we had the opportunity to enjoy another combined work/family excursion to sunny Southern California. And as I am won’t to do, I wander off with my more golf-talented brother to indulge our mutual hobby of choice.

So we found ourselves on a gorgeous Tuesday morning preparing to explore the oceanside beauty that is Trump National Golf Club, Los Angeles! It’s a golf course we had lusted over even though brother Pat had played there once before.

As a warmup, we had played Steele Canyon Golf Club in Jamul, CA. A solid 27-hole track that cost $125, making a $195 investment for a circuit at a Trump golf property, overlooking the Pacific Ocean a no-brained!

For me, a consistently semi-talented golf hack, the Trump LA track was more than a little intimidating. We had the chance to view Trump LA a year or so previously while in SoCal for a family wedding event. The picturesque ocean-front scenery is dotted a bit too generously with deep, gaping, fluffily white sand traps. The greens billiard-smooth … if you like your billiards played on elephant graveyards where the pachyderms are buried just barely below the surface.

Yeah … only regular golfers will understand that last reference.

Yet the actual play was much less threatening than the visual would suggest. Like any golf course demands you must – as the pro shops resident Captain Obvious pointed out – “Hit the ball straight” as consistently as is possible. Certainly trouble lurks on almost every hole, but it’s easily avoided with a modicum of talent. True life golf hacks are in for a rude and rough ride!

Now permit me a bit of what my bro would call “golf heresy”.

On previous visits to California (Always good to strategically position a close relative on the Left Coast!), we have played Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, local muni tracks in the Long Beach area, and another whose name escapes me in the wine country of Temecula. And frankly, I more thoroughly enjoyed – from an entertainment, relaxation, and playability point-of-view – The Trump experience more so than Pebble!

Perhaps my opinion is jaded by a struggling round years ago at Pebble, or what I like to call the Disneyland of golf. Difficult holes with tough carries and greens so tough to read, you might rather take up bowling. Frankly, I even like Spyglass Hill much more than Pebble Beach!

My biggest problem playing Trump LA was keeping my mind on golf and off the incredible scenery. And yes, that’s impossible. The crystal blue waters … the homes on the cliffs overlooking the course and the Pacific … the natural flora and fauna … the beauty of the well-manicured grounds …

Yes, it was a struggle of monumental proportions, but what’s not to like? And let’s not forget, one also gets to play on a property bought, redesigned, and improved upon by one of the best American Presidents to grace The White House in decades!!

Yep … Worth every penny!

https://speakerdeck.com/obfusc8or/california-golfin-trump-national-gc-los-angeles

Bella Vista GC: Where “Relaxing Golf” is an Oxymoron

We have been playing golf for over 30 years, some even longer.  We enjoy and respect The Game.  We love the fresh air and exercise.  We love The Game.  We are considerate and observant of golf’s expectations for efficient play and the condition the the courses we play.

What course would not want us as patrons willing to play and pay?

We have had our bad experiences, usually at the hand of golfers who are not quite so mindful or considerate.  From those experiences, our appreciation for The Game and the correct way to play it has grown.  Ultimately though, our pleasure in playing Golf comes from the enjoyment of playing with good friends on quality golf courses on beautiful days!

However, if you can identify with the pleasures of the game described above, you may want to avoid Bella Vista Golf Club in Gilbertsville, PA!

For my foursome Bella Vista has become a golf course to avoid. The golf course’s current management has completely ruined a very good thing.  And for what?  A customer service approach that emphasizes speed of play over the Enjoyment of Golf!

Don’t rush Tony S. on a golf course!

The Big Aha:  What we did learn was a valuable lesson about the abuses of golf course GPS technology that would make Tony Soprano blanche.  The cart-mounted units allow Big Brother to micro-manage golfers like a incentives-crazed production line supervisor.

Our Experience:  Teeing off at 0824 on a beautiful June morning, we settled in to enjoy a relaxing day on the golf course.

After some early struggles, our round settled in to a nice rhythm. We were playing our round at a pace not unheard of for a Saturday morning in June.  At least in our opinion …

Being well-experienced golfers, we are always mindful of those playing behind us and the drag it can be when waiting around to hit your next shot.  But forcing players – to the point of confrontation – to maintain sight of the group ahead can be subjective and unfair, since several factors can magnify any gaps between foursomes.

On this Saturday, we can claim that at no time were the golfers playing immediately behind us ever standing around and waiting to play a shot.  In fact, when going over the incredible developments of that day, we could not even remember seeing the trailing foursome after the 2nd or 3rd hole.  Only on the 10th tee did we delay our play in the name of Bloody Marys and hotdogs!

Napoleon could marshall at Bella Vista GC

Somewhere around the 5th or 6th hole a wandering Course Ranger (Let’s call him Todd.) approached us and advised that we had a hole-and-a-half open in front of us.  Not a desirable pace, so we agreed to pick it up as best we could.  Again, no golfers waiting behind us. In fact, we could not even see the following foursome.

Fast forward to the 11th hole, when “Todd” approached us again and now DEMANDED that we pick up our pace, claiming that we were holding up the entire flight of golfers behind us.  When we pointed back to the 11th tee, where we had been just minutes before, no golfers were visible.  Yet “Todd” actually claimed that those golfers – invisible to us on the fairway – were “being polite” (whatever that meant) … apparently wearing camouflage and hiding among the bushes and trees!

Camouflage may be the new trend at Bella Vista GC

Apparently a new trend born at Bella Vista GC for “polite golfers” …

When we argued, “Todd” whipped out his iPad and proceeded to show – via a full-color graph – how our pace-of-play was “holding up everyone on the golf course”! So we once again pointed back to the empty 11th tee, and asked him where the hold-up was?

But at least the iPad revealed what the REAL problem was. A data-driven “golf quota”, no doubt fed from cart GPS units to a programmed spreadsheet that fed “Todd’s” tablet and drove him to become a golf course pest of unequaled persistence.

Tony Soprano was right all along! The Authorities could use the cart GPS to harass golfers!

Take out the GPS. I don’t want the FBI tracking us with it.” – Tony Soprano

That’s what I like about you, boss; you are always thinking of the big picture.” Paulie Walnuts Gualtieri.

Then the ridiculous turned unbelievable when “Todd” demanded that we SKIP the par-3 12th hole to bring our pace-of-play up to standard!  We pointedly demurred as we struggled to determine which episode of “The Twilight Zone” we had stumbled into.

Fast forward to the 13th tee after we ignored the “advice” to skip a hole.  And here comes the course superintendent to add in his $0.02, which was more like $4 as he proceeds to argue for 10 minutes.  In other words, interrupting our round to preach about pace-of-play while repeatedly stating that he “hated to be out there” harassing his customers.

By now we were disgusted; could not wait to get out of there; realizing we were playing our last round at Bella Vista GC. We have been spreading the word and this ridiculous story ever since!

But let’s review …

1. Yes, nothing screws up a golf round more than playing behind extremely slow golfers and having to wait continuously to play a shot.

2. Our foursome never saw anyone playing behind us, let alone waiting to hit their shots. Not ONCE anywhere during our round, including the roughly 20 minutes during which we were preoccupied by the lunacy of being accused of slowing down the entire golf course!

3. Pace-of-play is a noble concept. But it needs to be pressed judiciously, not a blind data-driven blip on a graph or spreadsheet!  Think Gabe Kapler pulling Aaron Nola in the 5th inning on Opening Day!

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The dangers of obsessive data-driven management …

4. How do you blame golfers for delaying play when none of the foursomes playing behind are being directly held up by your “slow play”!  If they were, for any length of time, many golfers will either confront you directly or will take the passive-aggressive approach of “hitting up on you”.  Neither occurred this day …

And that’s where we will leave this episode of “The Twilight Show”, Tony Soprano-golfer style.

What we will never do again is play Bella Vista GC. A review of on-line ratings suggest this is not the first time course personnel have made dubious pace-of-play claims that have ruined the good mood, experiences, and monetary investments of area golfers!

Do the smart thing, if you enjoy a relaxing round of golf, and avoid playing at Bella Vista GC in Gilbertsville, PA!

The Night They Killed the Donut

I don’t want to talk about it. I am traumatized.

At the Phillies game watching them get eviscerated by the Milwaukee Brewers …

Went to Federal Donuts and find out the only chicken they serve now is on a roll!!!!

WTF!!!

Used to be … Federal Donuts would give you a halved breast (2 pieces) and a drumstick accompanied by their delicious donut.  EVERYTHING was delicious!  Now it’s a chicken sandwich, take it or leave it.  So I left it.

Got two donuts and stomped off in crushing disappointment. Procured an Italian sausage sandwich to ease my pain. Never a disappointment … #wheresthechikin

Horsham light display vandalized by Philadelphia Eagles fan

You never know just how vulnerable you are until you are the victim.

Woke up this morning to find my Christmas lights had been almost completely removed.  When I called Horsham Police, they sent out a squad car and commenced an investigation. One of the officers confided in me that this has been happening all over Horsham, and they suspect roving bands of Philadelphia Eagles fans originating most likely from the crime-infested Talamore development on the other side of the Township!

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It was evident that in addition to removing most of my lights; they added green lights; and promptly smeared Crisco all over the bushed and tree trunks.  The helpful police said the Crisco would disperse sufficiently to permit restorative work in about two weeks.

Sounds about right …

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GO EAGLES!!!

The Irish Catholic Hajj Lived

The trek towards Middle America is daunting in an Econoline van, 700 miles and 11 hours long.  Yet the draw for a 17-strong contingent of Philadelphia area products from the Roman Catholic Church and school systems is irresistible, as witnessed by a core group that has made the South Bend trek to University of Notre Dame football games 17 times now.  

The underside of an obscure card table, inscribed with the names of past participants documents the participants from year-to-year.  Those making the Hajj for the first time dutifully add (R) to their names to signify their rookie status.  We also made habit of marveling at the precision organization, courtesy of Major General (Honarary) Edward Brady (Father Judge ’74), and execution.  Staying out of the way – unless called upon – for fear of ruining the mojo.

The group was not nearly as rowdy as might have been – and probably was – years ago.  Then again most of use are on the downhill side of 50 or below sea-level of 60!  It does seem to mute the wackiness.  The one exception being the call to “Huddle up!!” by Staff Sargeant (Hon) Lenny, a call to imbibe shots of intestinal fortitude.

You learn to celebrate Life more managably as you grow older.

Friday was for a tour of the Notre Dame campus, steeped in history not limited to football.  As a Philly guy, never quite bitten as badly by the ND bug, hearing the story of John Cardinal O’Hara (former Philadelphia Cardinal of the Archdiocese and President of Notre Dame) next to his marble crypt is one example.  The Battle of Gettysburg story of Reverend William Corey, steadying New York’s Irish Brigade in the hours before their date with Destiny at Little Round Top and the wheat field, is quite another.

As for the football experience, the pageantry and loyal following the Fighting Irish inspire is evident at every venue.  For me, the excitement generated by the Notre Dame Band of the Fighting Irish, on Friday particularly with the horn section warming up the crowd inside The Rotunda was simply spectacular!


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Saturday, the focus was FOOTBALL … not to be overshadowed by perhaps the nicest stretch of weather shining down on the Best Tailgating Experience ever!  (OK … Honestly the guy with the satellite dish and 40+ inch screen might have an edge here.)  It’s difficult to imagine a better day.

The Miami of Ohio – Notre Dame game was anticlimactic, given the obvious talent gap and the Irish’s ability to step on Miami’ s throat in the 1st Quarter (Final: ND 52 – Miami 17).  But the highlight truly is that there’s much, much more to enjoy at the Notre Dame Football experience than just a lopsided victory!

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View of our rental’s backyard in the vicinity of the University of Notre Dame

An American Hajj

hajj – an honorary title given to an individual who is engaging in pilgrimage. The honorific title “Hajj” stays with him, even after his return from pilgrimage until his death, quite often as a permanent title and part of his name with friends and public.

main-buildings-golden-dome-university-of-notre-dame-library-of-congress-lc-dig-highsm-18705One weekend this coming September, I will embark on a pilgrimage to the one of the most important sites for American Roman Catholics.  No … not St. Patrick’s Cathedral, not the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, not the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa … not the Vatican …

I will be attending my first football game in South Bend, Indiana at the University of Notre Dame!

No doubt in some yet-to-be-discovered scroll tucked in a Galilean sea cave resides an ancient admonishment for all Roman Catholic citizens of the United States to make The Pilgrimage of The Fighting Irish at least once in one’s lifetime!  I’m sure of it.  It must exist … for how else to explain this overpowering physical attraction to The Program???

This is a phenomena with which I grew up in Irish Catholic Philadelphia during the 1960-70s.  It’s been a fascinating thing to witness, especially when few – if any – of those adults and children with whom I grew up actually attended Notre Dame!  The dedication is real and pervasive to the point where many families and friends set aside at least one weekend each football season to make the annual pilgrimage.

Frankly, an Irish Catholic’s love for Notre Dame football is not all that difficult to decipher as a natural development of growing up in undeniably wholesome and homogenous settings, where The Church was a central and integral part in the lives of our Parents and Grandparents … and thus onto us.  It’s a confluence of Sports and Religion unique in its roots, devotion and enduring strength.

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Rockne, The Four Horsemen, and friends

It’s origins likely the outgrowth of the rise of collegiate football in the decades preceding the existence of the National Football League (NFL); and the result of The Fighting Irish’s success and broad appeal in the collective conscience of those proud Catholics. While “the greatest generation” – the generation of my father and uncles, Irishmen all –  lived its formative years, Notre Dame football was a constant presence.

My father was born in 1919.  The years of 1918-1930 were the Knute Rockne years.  A twelve-year stretch consisting of FIVE undefeated seasons and SIX where no more than 2 losses were booked by The Fighting Irish!  So it’s not hard to see how a generation was immersed in the success and glory of Notre Dame football, even in a time long before football polls, National Championships, and the dreaded BCS.

Unfortunately, the lack  of clear-cut test for determining such pressing issues as football supremacy begot arguments that probably sent many an Irish-Americans into Saturday confessionals

For some reason I was not bitten as severely by the ND football bug as so many were in my extended fraternal family.  I like Notre Dame football; enjoy watching; and always pull for them when I catch their broadcasts.  But the fanaticism never took complete root.

In my family, I have had uncles and cousins make the pilgrimage as once-in-a-lifetime excursions or as regular visits.  I had at least one cousin buried in full Notre Dame regalia.  So many funerals and a few weddings had references to The Fighting Irish.

It’s a guy thing … a Catholic thing … a family thing …

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A family thing … Brother Pat and his two sons, Joseph and Andrew

Yet despite all that kelly green DNA, I never had the Irish-urge to see Notre Dame play locally or even think about taking the trip out to South Bend.

That changed a few weeks ago, when a close friend suggested we go out to God’s Country with mutual friends, who have made ND football an annual gig.  I demurred at first … again not smitten with the ND bug.  Then I found out my brother – a true ND football devotee – had decided to join the very same group from his home base on the West Coast.

Though I may not be a Notre Dame football disciple, I am certainly a huge fan of family, friends, fun, and good times.

What better reason could there be to embark on such an American hajj?!?

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The First Amendment: A Double-Edged Sword

american-flag-1It’s been awhile since last we spoke.  Personally, I have been having a hard time finding subjects on which I feel strongly enough to write.  My writer’s block has however been finally been broken by a flood of Facebook posts deriding the recent trend of National Football League (NFL) players refusing to stand; kneeling through; or raising black fists in protest of varying social conditions during The National Anthem.

The Facebook pleas encourage me to stop watching the NFL; to boycott league-sponsored merchandise and broadcast sponsors; and demand corrective action, even laws to punish the offenders.

Now most people, who know me, will expect me to come down hard and fast on the side of showing our National Emblem the deference and respect we believe it deserves without fail … ever.  And certainly I believe that …

What nags at me however is the thought that Respect for national symbolism – be it The Anthem or The Flag – trumps the Rights of the First Amendment, particularly that of Free Speech.  While I do not appreciate disrespectful displays or treatments of The Flag, what I choose to cherish most are the Freedoms that allow such behaviors as an expression of perceived failures or injustices.

Unfortunately for our various sensibilities, Respect for the First Amendment requires a higher level of tolerance for the ways in which our Freedoms are expressed.  Accommodating the freedom to express oneself requires an Advanced Degree in American Citizenship, particularly when its display encroaches on the symbols, institutions, and rituals for which we wear our Hearts on our sleeves.

This is not easy.  But then again, it was never intended to be easy.

Certainly we can express our scorn and anger at what we interpret to be unconscionable violations of national heritage and symbolism.  That freedom to express one’s disdain is covered in the same protections that allow the type of demonstrations that annoy the bejesus out of us.

We can publicly judge those who burn The Flag or choose not to stand for The National Anthem is the best – or only way – they can express their own anger and frustration.  But punishment and retribution?!?

No, those reactions are the purview of authoritarians, dictators, and oppressors who look to preserve their own peculiar claim to rule by denying Voice to the People!  This is not what Americans do.  It is not how we roll!

No matter how maddening the behavior …

Allow me please to reiterate, since I am sure some will take this message as endorsement of the practices.  I do NOT agree with flagrant displays of disrespect for my Country, its cherished symbols, or the Principles for which it stands.  What I do recognize is that there are degrees of disrespect I can live with, in the knowledge that our Founding Fathers no doubt intended for The Bill of Rights to be a challenge to both the Government and its citizens!

And I have had my moments in celebrating the actions inherent in those who Advanced Degrees in Citizenship spurred them to action!

I applauded – wildly, I might add – the Chicago Cubs’ Rick Monday, when on April 25, 1976 he ran from his outfield position to arrest the flag-burning attempts of two supposed war protesters.

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Those of us who would appreciate Mondays’ quick actions should also recognize that demonstrations of national disrespect sometimes accomplish nothing more than to illustrate a protestor’s failure of perspective, particularly when they simply draw negative attention to the person or position they claim to support by physically mistreating or burning The Flag.  In my opinion, your cause, your candidate – even the people who support them – will suffer in our view.  When they fail to recognize or value the Sacrifices made by others, whose sacrifice allows them to express themselves so freely, they cheapen whatever message they are pushing.

There’s the rub really that protesters of this sort fail to appreciate.  You might attract limited, short-lived attention for your cause or position ; but that transient recognition will fade faster than the headshakes and mental “F— you!”s tossed your way by those drawn serendipitously into your protest.  For those whom your message is intended, you run the greater risk of alienating them rather than changing minds or opening a discussion.

The story is quite different when it comes to the quiet, almost reverential protests we have witnessed recently at football games … at least in my opinion.  These passive demonstrations, inspired by a back-up quarterback no less, where sitting or taking a knee as the National Anthem is played or the slightly more active stance of raised black fists is – if nothing else – much easier to manage emotionally.

We may not like such displays.  But we should also wonder why they are considered necessary by those protesting.

I may not understand the need to turn one’s back to The Anthem or to embellish one’s seemingly reluctant participation with a raised fist.  But many people do understand the need to take such action.  If they did not, we would not be having these conversations today.

And that’s really what that pesky, sometimes irritating Freedom of Speech is intended to do … Give voice to those who feel isolated or left behind, whether or not we can appreciate their position!

So no … Do not ask me to boycott the NFL or Pepsi or Hyundai or Papa John’s pizza simply because your sensibilities were offended by a kneel or a clenched fist at an inappropriate time.  Because I have news for you …

The emotions you feel, the reactions you have to such displays are exactly what the Founding Fathers were likely hoping might occur when one group or another feels the need to draw attention to their perceived plight in any way that stirs our emotions.  The Stars and Stripes is a collection of fabric to which we attach a great deal of pride and symbolism; but it’s the Fabric of our Nation, expressed in the Freedoms passed down to us, that makes all things possible.

I leave you with this