The golf scene in the Upper Midwest is rather like the crops: get up and grow fast, because there isn't much time. Actually, I've been out once already this year, at the "Country Club of the Army."
That's the name that was hung on the Fort Snelling golf course on Minneapolis's Fort Snelling. This fort, glowering on the bluffs above the meeting of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers, controlled river traffic. It was established the year after the last war between England and the U.S., i.e., 1813, and yet never saw a shot fired in anger.
Men came to Fort Snelling from around the territory and state to go off to war, from the Civil War (Minnesota was the first state to volunteer troops) through the Spanish-American, WWI, and II. It had a polo field, and a huge parade ground.
Today the large brick buildings where young men trained and slept before going away to die are withering away, neglected, given over to the elements and nature. It's heartbreaking, really: they could be sheltering homeless, perhaps.
At any rate, Fort Snelling is a little 9-holer that's run by the Minneapolis Park Department, after it dislodged long-time leasor Curt Walker years back. I used to edit his Golf Association newsletter for him; we've been friends for a long time.
The course is flat and wide open, the first par-4 hole running in a dogleg toward the airport, then alongside it for the approach shot. There's a little sand, not much, and a stagnant little pond near the 7th. Six out of the nine holes are doglegs.
I tried a new technique. For years, I've believed that when you keep your left arm straight, that meant "stiff." Then last fall, a speaker on TV explained that "straight" meant that at the time of impact, your arm should be straightened out. The stiffness, of course, meant I never got that extra bit of distance. Instead, I would have to twist myself into a pretzel with that stiff left arm, and then really try to whale through the ball.
When I'd forget and just swing easy, I could nail it.
This year I just tried to relax and swing back, allow my arms to bend, then come back through the ball. My goodness, what a difference. I hit it much longer than last year, and much closer to the pin as well.
So there's my tip: don't keep your left arm stiff. Allow it to bend on your takeaway, then come back to straight just before you hit. See what you think.
This Saturday I'm off to Wisconsin to a pal's cabin. His wife and daughter are tied up, and my girlfriend has things to do, so we're off together for two days of golf. I'll see how my "new swing" holds up.
Oh, and I'm in the market for a little fiberglass trailer, if anyone has one for sale. 13 feet or 16: I want to get this RVGolfer business established. If you know of one, leave me a Comment, or email me as Dale at golftodaymagazine.com.