As I reflect on 2011’s golfdom, I have no idea the number that will precede the word “Golf” in the title of this post. It might be 10, or 5, or hopefully plural. My persona finds it impossible to not spend the last days of a year in purposeful reflection. Hope is, it will stimulate you to recall those “things” that earned your gratitude this year. In no order of rank or file, we have the following…

#1~Greg Vogelsang and Hickory Clubs~Greg has written one piece for us, under the pseudonym “Hickory” and I have great hope for more. He competes in national-level hickory tournaments and had me, Scrambler and Hoxie out to the Wehrle Dome for some hickory swings. The other two (more flush with jing than I) have put in orders for a set. Hickory sticks are an awesome reminder to slow and focus the swing for better results.

#2~15 years of woods behind my house~A development started to go in last year, obliterating my driving range. I still have an angle to the north, as they won’t take out all the woods. Safe to say they could have built a house or two out of all the golf balls I hit out back, over the years. I know that I could have built a sod hut from all the divots I took!

#3~Online Golf Forums~I participate in two: Golf Club Atlas and Max’s Lounge. You can lurk all you want and I encourage you to do so. You’ll never find a greater assemblage of cool, connected golfing minds anywhere. You’ll certainly come away with an appreciation for what it takes to build a golf course, maintain a golf course, play a golf course. And you might even solicit an invite to become a contributor!

#4~Bethpage State Park~Thanks to the Travelin’ Duff (we miss you, pal, wherever you are, being a great grandpa to the fortunate ones) I visited Bethpage in 2002 for that US Open. Nine years later, I returned with Scrambler and Mouth to play all five courses. What a complex. For New York State residents, I have it pegged at $222 (38+38+38+43+65) to play all five courses. The Black is world-class, the Red is top five in the state, public, the other crayons are incredible, enjoyable surprises and the average of $44 to play these courses is unmatched at this end of the state. Thanks, guys, for making the trip.

#5~The Buffalo District Golf Association~You may not know this, but I am a duly-appointed member of the Board of Directors of this august association. I’ve had the privilege to work with executive directors Whitey Nichols and Fred Hartrick in the past, and with current ED Tom Sprague. The lasses and fellows who donate their time to plan and assist with tournaments, support junior golf and connect western New York with the USGA are a noteworthy bunch, with whom I am proud to serve.

#6~Golf Fitness~I’d never worked with a personal trainer before. Last session, Marie had had enough of my feeble attempts to push my body that wee bit farther that she wanted, so she literally took matters into her hands. As I rotated my torso, she twisted and turned my spine and upper back to ingrain the sensation into my motor memory. I tell you, if you have the time, the drive and the financial wherewithal, work with this young lady and your game and the way you move will leap forward.

#7~Little Golf Couses~Not mini-golf, but the ones we stumble’on as we’re driving past crossroads, through rural locales, the ones fitted across sides of mountains, the ones with enough quirk to make us smile and risk seeing that Pro V1 again, for the thrill of saying “yes, indeed, I carried the chasm!” over a post-round pop on the deck. These courses have putting greens with slopes that defy logic (and the USGA standards), demanding that we ask “is there more than one pinnable spot, more than one flat hole location here?” These courses don’t replace the ones we play on a regular bases, we flatlanders, but they are a godawful good time.

#8~Coaching and Golf Camps~I ran a high school invitational this Fall, on the worst weekend of the year. Diamond Hawk couldn’t have been more accommodating and the Section VI and Monsignor Martin coaches couldn’t have been more helpful and supportive. I am always dumbfounded by the dedication that these coaches give their players; they don’t do it for the $$$, as there is little. They don’t do it for the free golf, because the idea of coaches playing pretty much went out the window in the early 1980s. They do it because they want to pass golf on to another generation … and another … and on.

#9~Private Clubs that allow public access~It’s a well-kept secret that one of the top five private clubs in the USA discretely allows a small amount of public access to its hallowed turf. It’s a well-known fact that many top private clubs in Great Britain and Ireland do the same on a regular basis. Show up with a handicap certificate and a letter from your pro and you might play Muirfield, Royal County Down, Royal Troon, Lytham and Birkdale, notoriously private clubs, all. I’d love for our municipal and public-course players to have the opportunity to play CCBuffalo, Brookfiled, Transit Valley, Springville, Crag Burn or Niagara Falls just once, to tread the fairways and greens that fortunate members play on a consistent basis.

#10~Superintendents, Club Pros, Assistant Pros and Club Managers~Let’s be honest-the only club employee you can routinely and successfully identify is the cart girl, because she’s smoking hot. If we lined up your super, pro, assistant and manager, you’d be throwing darts with a blindfold on to correctly name their tasks. Yet, these employees keep that course in shape, grease the wheels to keep play moving and perform so many unseen-tasks that your head would spin clear off if you had a list in front of you. Fix a ball mark or ten, rake a bunker or four and tip everyone you see, with at least a smile and a thank YOU very much in 2012.

What do you know…ten items after all 🙂