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Nice Shot, Mr. Nicklaus guides readers around the planet in search of exotic golf ...
Nice Shot, Mr. Nicklaus guides readers around the planet in search of exotic golf adventures, from Scotland and Spain to the United Arab Emirates and El Salvador. Konik chronicles his own misadventures in some of the world's quirkiest tournaments, writes eloquently and movingly about demeanor on the links, and, of course, caddies for Jack Nicklaus in the memorable title story.
Throughout Nice Shot, Mr. Nicklaus, Konik brings a refreshing originality to his coverage of the game.
Wisdom, Montana, population 120, has a motel, a gas station, a post office, a restaurant, a general store, and, this being the wild frontier, two saloons. And while there's an art gallery trafficking in western-type things, forget about symphony orchestras or opera companies or ballet troupes, not to mention a movie theater or video store or municipal swimming pool. There's not even a school.
Wisdom, to be honest, is a five-second visual respite from Montana highway emptiness.
Which is why Wisdom, Montana, might be among the least likely candidates in the United States to host a golf tournament.
Another compelling reason: Wisdom, Montana, doesn't even have a golf course.
Now, having a golf course might seem like a fairly important, perhaps utterly necessary, first step in putting on a golf tournament. But we're talking about cowboy types here, not easily dismayed suburbanites. Lacking a golf course did not strike the rugged folks of Wisdom as much of a reason not to put on a golf tournament. They figured they would use what they did have, which is plenty of wide-open, tree-less, links-style, cattle land. (The region in which Wisdom is situated, the Big Hole Valley, is known as "The Land of 10,000 Haystacks," something that cannot be said about, for instance, Augusta, Georgia.) This is the kind of raw untamed land that, were it in the Scottish highlands, would inspire volumes of impassioned prose in all the golf journals and mandatory pilgrimages from well-financed members of our better country clubs.
But this is Wisdom, Montana, 76 miles from Butte and 121 miles from Missoula. Close to an hour from a proper golf course. Worlds away in spirit from synthetic driving-range mats and custom-fitted irons and heavily promoted graphite shafts.
Still, the people of Wisdom wanted to have a golf tournament. Just because it seemed like an amusing thing to do. Play golf, drink beer, have some laughs. Nothin' serious. They figured a golf tournament might turn into a bona fide event and help tourism in the area - if you can call a once-a-year deluge of a hundred or so out-of-towners "tourism." They figured it might put Wisdom on the map, at least for a day or two. But mostly they figured hosting a golf tournament in Wisdom, Montana, just might be a lot of fun.
Fun. Remember that concept? Whether because it's inherently impossible or because its participants tend toward masochism, golf, it seems, seldom breeds fun. Momentary joy, yes; a pleasant day in the park, certainly. But fun? No, if you want fun, you play golf of the miniature variety, where getting your ball into the dinosaur's mouth wins a free game. The grown-up version of golf is the stuff of set jaws and steely scowls, of hot sighs and shaking heads.
Not in Wisdom, it's not.
Every year around Labor Day, local rancher Monte Clemow, who owns a little old parcel of land - about 20,000 acres or so - goes out into one of his fields with a shovel. He digs up some holes and puts flags next to them. He puts directional stakes in the ground and big black feed buckets in some spots and sawdust in other places. Then he lets 1,200 or so head of cattle chew the rough grass down to almost playable levels. And that's it. For a few days Monte and his neighbors have a 12-hole golf course. Two of them, actually: Monte usually makes 24 holes and divides them in half. Then Monte and his Wisdom neighbors invite everyone they know to come to town and play golf for the day.
The event is known as the Cow Pasture Open. Participants often wear funny costumes, similar to what you might see at a masquerade ball, with a large contingent opting for the lone ranger look. They ride horses and motorcycles or drive trucks and four-wheel all-terrain scooters on the golf course. They drink lots of free beer. They take six hours to play 12 holes. No one cares about scores. Nine or ten is a typical tally on a typical 200-yard hole. There's a shortest drive contest. Balls roll into cow pies. Balls disappear. There are no greens. There are no yard-age markers. There are no rules.
Everyone has fun.
The night before the fourth annual Cow Pasture Open, in 1997, I’m sitting at the bar in Antler's, one of Wisdom's two drinking establishments. This is the kind of place where the jukebox has nothing but country music, and if you don't like Garth Brooks, you'd better keep it to yourself. Parents bring their young children, who fall asleep on the floor next to the pool table while the adults slam back beer and whiskey and, if they're feeling exotic, drinks with fruit juice in 'em. Antler's is buzzing, like the pubs in St. Andrews the night before the Open Championship. " I’m gonna do good," one cowboy promises his drinking mate. "I’ve played twice this year."
I ask the cowboy if most people prepare for the Cow Pasture Open. "Hell, no," he says, laughing. "Most of us play golf once a year if we're lucky. You play much?" He asks me. I tell him I do. "Oh well then, you'll win," he says. ***
The cowboy, I’m sad to say, is mistaken. I do not play well enough to win. But I have an excuse, of course: I feel way too self-conscious. When I see most of the Cow Pasture Open contestants dressed in their best cowboy duds wielding persimmon clubs circa 1964, I feel woefully out of place, like a black Jewish homosexual Democrat might feel on the first tee at the Los Angeles Country Club. For a moment I cannot decide which is more embarrassing: my toga-like Egyptian sheik costume that I’ve brought from home in hopes of winning "best costume" or the fact that I am using an oversized titanium driver.
When I make a brief pre-round survey of Monte Clemow's cow pasture, the cows, who have been shooed off the course, are wandering near the parking area, mooing irritably. I'm not sure if this is because so many club-toting strangers are in their midst or because someone has already fired up a big hickory-smoke barbecue. Cows, in fact, are a recurring theme here. After paying my $20 entry fee, I receive a commemorative Cow Pasture Open bag tag. It's made out of an ear tag, the kind ranchers use to identify their herds. Lunch is roast beef. And the high scorer gets a (man-made) cow-chipping trophy.
Following a ceremonial cannon blast, play begins. Even after playing three or four holes, it's difficult, if not impossible, to discern the course's design concept. "oversized putt-putt" might be the best way to describe the cow pasture's architectural quirks, though that might be investing too much credence in the whole scheme. "Goofy" is, perhaps, more accurate. Some holes, like the one that has a plastic feed bucket partially submerged in a dry creek bed, are best played with clever bank shots off rocks. Others require more than an inventive imagination; you need luck. Like the one with a toilet seat over the hole: you can't quite putt over the rim, and most chips bounce out. I take a 13 on that hole.
The course is a 3,000-yard unplayable lie. The cow pasture looks a little like what Royal Troon might look like if the superintendent there had lost his lawn mower. Finding your ball is almost as difficult as getting it in the hole. As far as I could discern, Cow Pasture Open participants do not assess themselves a stroke-and-distance penalty for a lost ball. They just drop another one and have a beer.
Often I find myself "greenside" in two. Most of the holes are between 200 and 300 yards, and I usually hit driver-sand wedge to within 10 or 20 feet. And then it normally takes me four or five additional stroke to hole out. (Imagine a "green" constructed from hardpan and three-inch rough and you'll understand.) Never again will I complain about spiked-up putting surfaces.
Despite the trying playing conditions, the Cow Pasture Open is suffused with good cheer, enthusiastic hollering, and drunken howling. Nobody throws clubs. Nobody whines. Nobody stands, hands on hips, looking toward the sky with thinly veiled disdain. About the only complaining you'll hear at the Cow Pasture Open is when a well-struck ball is sent skidding wayward by an unfortunately positioned cow chip ("damn, cow chip got that one!"), The prevalence of which makes wearing traditional golf shoes highly impractical. Players also complain when the guy driving the beer truck stays away too long.
Generally, though, the Cow Pasture Open is a persuasive reminder that golf is not about perfect swings and impeccable fairways. It's about being outdoors with friends, walking - or, what the heck, driving your pickup truck - through a fertile field, with the Big Sky above you and the land beneath your feet, just as Scottish shepherds did centuries ago. It's about failing repeatedly and not letting it bother you.
And it's about occasionally doing exactly what you set out to do, feeling the sweet contact of club-face on ball, sending it high and straight and long, watching it escape the mundane bonds of gravity and soar where you want it to soar, lifting your spirit as the ball zooms toward its final resting place: a big, black, plastic, feed bucket.
That, my friends, is Wisdom.
Posted July 8, 2001
Very enjoyable. I read many of these stories before on delta flights, however it was nice to see the ones I missed. Excellent golf writing that I look forward to every month. Recommended.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 5, 2001
Posted February 18, 2001
I've heard stories about Nicklaus and all have held my attention¿because it's Jack Nicklaus. When I read how some guy will caddy for the Golden Bear for a round on the links I think that that guy has guts and I need to know how it turns out--I'm glad I did. Being a golfer (and a caddy as a young fellow) I've always been fascinated with Nicklaus. And Konik shows Nicklaus with terrific writing revealing his initial anxiety to his burgeoning confidence with the legend. It's stories like this one and the others in this wonderful collection that I plan on telling my fellow hackers about on the course. I highly recommend this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 16, 2000
What a privilege to own this fine work. I felt that I was there walking the course with this golfer and his friends. A wonderful thought on this cold Wisconsin day.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 15, 2000
Posted December 1, 2000
Excellent book about golf for fanatics as well as ignoramuses like me. I liked how Konik reminds us that the high stress of competition and money and stardom don't excuse a rotten attitude on the golf course, or in life in general. The way he describes some golf courses made me want to log onto the Internet to instantly buy an airplane ticket. And the clever chapters -- describing equipment in the style of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas' and rewriting the Canterbury Tales to include golf -- were a charming surprise. This is a very touching book that made me laugh as well. A great combination for a sport I used to find sWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 4, 2000
Posted November 21, 2000
Posted November 29, 2000
Excellent book about golf for fanatics as well as ignoramuses like me. I liked how Konik reminds us that the high stress of competition and money and stardom don't excuse a rotten attitude on the golf course, or in life in general. The way he describes some golf courses made me want to log onto the Internet to instantly buy an airplane ticket. And the clever chapters -- describing equipment in the style of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas' and rewriting the Canterbury Tales to include golf -- were a charming surprise. This is a very touching book that made me laugh as well. A great combination for a sport I used to find sort of boringWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 6, 2000
Michael Konik tells fun stories that all goflers can relate to and some that they'll even envy. He's a terrific storyteller -- and believe me, because I've watched him, he can really putt!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.