That old Romantics song from the 80s plays in my head as I type What I Like About Brown as my title for this piece. So many US golfers have been raised on the notion that green is the color of golf, that a week observing the browns of Muirfield, site of this year’s (British) Open championship is enough to send them scurrying for an answer to Why?
Brown is a healthy color for grasses at specific times of the year. I won’t provide an agronomic reasoning, for it’s easily searchable on a number of engines. It takes excessive watering to preserve the verdant hues of a US country club. Think about all the rain it took this June and July to keep your lawn green; wouldn’t you call that amount of precipitation excessive?
Golfers typically accommodate a specific type of shot, completely dependent on the conditions. Golfers from soft, lush courses familiarize themselves with the high ball that relies principally on carry; golfers from fast and firm courses come to know the bounce, the bound, the run and the scoot. They play for spots 5, 10, 40 yards short of the target and allow the ball to release to the hole…along the ground.
About ten years ago, I was in the midst of running a golf camp and stood in the ninth fairway of a local public course with a passel of campers and one of my varsity golfers as counselor. It was a particularly hot summer, already, in late June and the course was baked. I asked the kids how to hit the ball to the hold and they calculated the yardage through the air. I asked them to hit the shots and watched as ball after ball bounded 5, 10, 40 yards over the green.
I then consulted with my counselor, a young man who went on to play college golf. He knew there was a different answer but was unfamiliar with it (albeit humble enough to admit that he didn’t know.) I withdrew my putter, asked him to do the same and we putted balls from 65 yards out…onto the green. The kids were stunned but, as with kids, quickly accepted the potential and learned a specific shot for specific conditions.
As he had never practiced the shot, and as he was 4-6 years older than the campers, my varsity kid was slower to grasp the potential. I explained that I had played the shot during my one trip to Scotland, again during a trip to Bandon Dunes in Oregon, and anywhere that the conditions would allow.
You probably won’t play the shot at your country club, unless August reverses the weather trends of June and July and the rain dissipates. If you go to Diamond Hawk in Cheektowaga, a brilliant layout built for both types of shots (high and low) you can play it nearly any day on nearly every hole. You can also play the runner at Ironwood, a course out beyond Wales Center, on the way to Byrncliff. South Shore in Hamburg also allows it.
You don’t always play it with putter. You sometimes take a half-swing with an 8-iron, launch the ball some 90 yards and watch it run 20-30 more. It’s not for everyone. Most of the best players in the Buffalo area eschew the shot for their spinners, which is fine. No golfing fascist state here. If you’re bored or frustrated with the state of golf (or your game), give the shot a try. I suspect you’ll come to like brown, too.