The Wasp and I

It is hard to realize that over 70 generations of yellow jacket wasps have bred and deteriorated since they gathered to sting a young boy playing in the woods outside Seattle. Do they carry a genetic memory of the taste of me? I’d almost forgotten that strained relationship until my fairway shot on the 11th hole last week.

At age seven, I of course ran to my mother; she hugged me and put on calamine lotion. There were about 10 red sting-welts on my legs and back. No courage at that age. I broke and ran, and I am sure outran some of them. Nor is there much courage now. That sort of quick-burst running is out of the question these days. And alas, I have no mother to run to.

When I was about 11 however, I became a wasp warrior. I had used some Christmas money to buy a wide-bladed hunting knife and a stone to sharpen it. In my back yard that morning, I was squinting,  holding the knife up to the sun to see if my sharpening was good enough. If it was, that no sunlight would shine on the thin metal edge.

But there was another test. In that moment, my peripheral hearing caught the buzz of wings just before my peripheral vision caught the yellow blur headed, stinger first, toward my right buttock. I whirled and slashed all at once. As if returning as some medieval samurai, I saw my flashing blade in slow motion, cutting the wasp clean in half. I had defended my body…and my honor.

Now the honor of yellow jacket wasps is ordinarily not to be trifled with…except by 11 year old boys with sharp hunting knives. That day I was near invincible…Again and again they wandered into my yard, seemingly to smell the flowers but actually to attack me. The word gets around, you know. They came alone or in pairs, but not in hordes, thank goodness. Sometimes I would take on a single yellow jacketed knight head on, following with my knife point as he twisted his way along a straight dive toward me, wristing my quick thrusts in a way I’m sure this creature never seen before, until now, when it was too late.

Sometimes I would swat the leader of a flying pair with the wide blade, and then circle to excise the wing of the wing-man midair. I received only two stings (neither of them mortal) and didn’t even mention them to my mother. Not until now have I ever told anyone what a hero I was that day. (That’s what blogs are for!)

So we had a sort of history, this ancestry of wasps and I, when one member of the current generation boldly landed on my ball. I was pushing by roller toward the next shot, and saw the wasp about ten feet away. It was crawling around on my ball, smelling out all the dimples which must have attracted him with my body oils. Perhaps there is a memory of enemies that lasts in smell through generations. I’d like to think so, because I was pulling out my three wood as cautiously as a hunting knife. And yet…What had this wasp done to me lately? Better to shew him away. Better to let him live.

However, the wasp would have none of it. He was now possessing my ball. As if he were the avenging angel from wasp-centuries back, the yellow jacket looked up at me in defiance…and waggled his behind. That may be wasp talk for “up yours.”

Some golfer voices on remote sides of me asked me if I was going to hit or what, and I gestured for their silence. They retreated to golf good manners as the wasp and I stared at each other. I did a practice swing a foot from the ball, and the bold wasp stayed put. Nothing I could do would move him…except…OK, that’s it then.

For the animal-cruelty people, I will say I watched until the insect had crawled around to the top of the ball. This way I could hit the ball with him on top of it. And what a ride he must have had! Wham! Zero to 150 miles per hour in one one hundredth of a second.

Up near the green I approached my white ball.  I was truly hoping he’d not wriggled down between the club and the ball in the last millisecond of his life. But there was no splotch of yellow. In the best of worlds he had flown off, light-headed, to tell his family not to mess with me again, not for a few more generations at least.

Copyright 2020 — David Hon


Golf Trekking – Part One

It may be all about the knees. The “exercise” in our full round of golf is of course swinging a club as many as 100 times. However, the total exercise in golf would be walking 4-5 miles over a pleasant combination of grass and woodlands. In some courses, there are rolling hills with elevated holes and tee offs. You have been learning golf, for sure, but along the way you learn about your body.

In the old days, our ancestors who played golf carried their own bags, or had a caddie carry them. Perhaps golf was a way for the idle rich to go out walking and yet appear they actually had something to do. Shooting birds was a little dangerous — as was chasing foxes astride fast horses. But golf was safe. It actually looked as much a sport as shooting birds or riding down terrified little animals.

(CLICK) Some courses are a bit more difficult.

So walking while golfing was safe (, if you kept enough distance from other golfers). And it did not carry the reverse snobbery of merely “exercising.” When people carried their own golf bags about 4 miles, that was really good exercise. When the rich people paid caddies, the walk became more invigorating than exhausting.

In the 20th century, golf became a business aimed at the new rich, who were never idle and even less reluctant to spend what money had come their way. To save time, they began to ride in gas, and then electric, carts. The golf course owners surely did (and still do) love carts that could – on busy days – move about twice the number of golfers around the courses in the same amount of time. Golf carts added income to the course while paying for themselves.

Time and money then rose in place of safe, sporting exercise. Truth be told, many golfers over age 50 found that, with carts, they could continue their golf until they were age 75 or older. For public golf course managers, this meant many more years of customers pumping money into electric cart fees and buckets of driving range balls, as well as the course fees themselves. With apparel and new kinds of clubs, plus expensive balls to lose with slices, this became a truly sustainable industry.

Enter you, the 75 year old novice. Walking. Whoa! Walking? At age 75? The “cash cow” of carts plus the added numbers who could fill the course on prime weekends are threatened by those of us at age 75 who can still walk the course on our retired weekdays. And there are more of us to come.

When you are 75 years old you may think you are too old to plan a total personal revolution for the rest of your life. But it’s exactly the time to consider golf as a time to be walking again. A new form of walking for anyone, but especially we who are over 75, is Golf Trekking.  Much of Golf Trekking will be about the knees. Stay tuned…

(CLICK) You WILL feel young again.

Copyright 2021 – David Hon

Golf Trekking – Part Two

Some golf courses strongly favor, or require, that you to use their electric carts. Many build it into the course fees, but if you have a choice, walking can save you $15-20 (each) in addition to being better exercise by far. Walking the course can be one of the prime challenges of golf if you are over 75.

If you are considering walking the full 18 holes, you will probably have some physical decisions to make. Your body will help you make the initial decisions.

If you are in very good physical condition, and intend to stay that way forever, you may choose to carry your clubs, (as many young golfers do). To do that also takes some artful planning: with a three-pound bag, 8 balls and a maximum of 8 or 9 clubs, you can be carrying less than 15 pounds comfortably slung over both your shoulders. Walking is also easier with that upright posture. But still, carrying clubs is not for everyone.

A good roller cart can cost you anywhere from $50 to $200. It allows you to walk while taking the load of your clubs off your shoulders and back, but it is some extra effort to push or pull, especially on hills – both up and down. And then…One tends to carry all sorts of extra clubs and balls and sandwiches and several extra pounds in a roller bag.

Finally, on the very near horizon, are the electronic “trolleys.” They are a lot like having a caddy, without the good (or bad) advice on each shot. And without the gossip among caddies about how poorly you played today.

The trolley is the newest way to carry clubs, with an electric motor and, at best, a remote that allows to to walk along at some distance from this e-caddy. The best – and most expensive of these trolleys – will actually follow you along, like some homeless dog, across the acres of golf, and approach with the next club just when you need it.

Click to see the near future.

Remote controlled trolleys, however, cost over $1000 now. That is a lot of cart rental. However, they will probably go down a cost curve to less than $400 in the next few years, Just in time for you to tire of pushing your roller up hills.

Whether you chose to ride or walk or push, your knees will tell you they are aging. But you have in your bag the excellent means of lessening the stress on your knees, whether you are carrying the bags the whole course, or just leaving the roller or the cart downhill with two clubs. Approaching the side of a green may still take some effort on your knees, but with the trekking technique you can glide up those steep hills like a fit young mountain climber. Here’s how:


Press down with your palm on the club head to relieve your knees…

Pull out your putter and a wedge. That’s probably what you will take up to the green anyway. Use them as the European “trekkers” have used two hiking poles for years, pushing off with your arms in rhythm with your stride. It originally came from cross country skiing, where Laplanders would cover 10 miles to school on icy trails, without breaking a sweat!

The hikers realized they could take at least 25% of the stress off of their legs simply by pushing down on their two sticks as they walked.

That may well be your solution to playing Golf until you are 100.  OR NOT! Stay tuned and I’ll go in to detail in the next Blog, Golf Trekking – Part 3.

Copyright 2021 – David Hon

Golf Trekking – Part Three

Whether you are full-on carrying your bag, escorting an expensive electronic caddy, or simply walking away from your cart – or roller – those tough 50 yards uphill to the green, you can give your worthy old knees a break with golf trekking. Please don’t let those knees down. To paraphrase the thinking of a star tennis player to fit our 75 year old golf situation…first it takes your legs, and then it takes your soul.

David in full carry mode….

If you are carrying your clubs, the trekking sticks are right in your bag. Use two potential clubs for your next shot and you will have your hands on them already as you stride along. (Plus your bag will be two clubs lighter.) With your bag on your back, you will really save about 25% of the effort on each step by pushing off with your arms. And these steps add up. There are likely 20,000 of them if you walk the average course. If you are Golf Trekking, you’ll probably have the energy left to swing well on your last 4 holes!
Of course if you eventually have an electronic caddy following you, you can feel even more spring in your trekking. You can walk the miles over a pleasant golf course as the hiking trekkers do, giving a little push off every few steps and swinging the clubs forward, enjoying the rhythm of golf trekking.

Click to see the motions of trekking. (A bit of imagination! He’s holding a putter club head in one hand, and a wedge in the other.)

On the other hand, less fortunate golfers who are about to give up golf with arthritis in their hips and knees, can make whatever walking they do a bit more bearable with trekking. That little bit, even trekking with one stick while pushing or pulling a roller up hills or down hills, can make the arthritis pain more bearable. If the pain balances out with the fun, you can justify several more years of golf.

(Here’s me taking my roller steeply down as my putter “aids the grade”.)

The value of golf in your later life is not just being competitive at an older age, but it is all about mastering personal challenges. Learning to hit the ball well is certainly part of the reward. Walking the manicured green fields is the hidden pleasure, spending a few hours in the day navigating over distances between holes, finding the balls which don’t go straight OR hitting them straighter the next time.

You may begin to stack up pars, or you may just hit along, eventually guiding the ball to the flag, either way it is a new adventure on each hole. Trekking with your clubs, pushing off and swinging them forward as you stride, can be truly part of joy of getting there.

Copyright 2021 – David Hon

Crucible With A 6-Iron

When I awoke New Year’s morning in 2020, I knew I must begin the New Year with something terrifying. 

Since I turned 75, I have backed off some beginnings, things barely begun because failure seems imminent. But this New Year’s I needed a breakthrough, as a sort of mascot standing against things prematurely abandoned. You may remember an earlier post, when I mused about running between holes on the course, but then I quit, remembering that, after all, I was 75 years old.

New Year’s morning it was cold and rainy here in Seattle, and I was 77 years old. It was now or never. Grit your teeth and do your thing for the New Year. I pulled on some golf shoes and rain pants and, armed with only a 6-iron, I resolved to run between every shot on every hole on the long and hilly 9-hole Par 3 near my home.

I had heroic visions of the Winter Olympic Biathlon, where contestants race on cross-country skis between shooting stations, and where – short of breath – they shoot for scores on targets in the snow. Within short seconds they sling their rifles across their back and take off again on the course, pushing and gliding over 12 miles of hills and forest and snow. I have heard in one story that Swedish or Norwegian Army Ski troops developed this training when Nazi (or was it Soviet?) invasions were threatening. Nothing like a flawed metaphoric daydream to get your blood going.

So while the New Year’s Eve drunks snored snug in their beds, I now faced the wet, empty course. I had heard that at one time the golfing legend Lee Trevino had been a pobre in Texas and could only afford a 6-iron. He needed to support his family with whatever he could earn with that 6-iron. I don’t remember if it these were local tournaments or just side bets, but he says he learned the most about golf having to do everything with that one club.

The first tee box was on top of a slope, about 100 yards from the hole, an easy swing with a 6-iron. No one waiting (and no one watching), I swung away. The ball went sailing very high and very straight, arcing up and bending down toward the green. And then I remembered to run…I lept into space from the elevated tee box. With my eyes up to the sky watching that glorious ball, I landed running and almost turned my ankle. I was many yards down slope of wet grass, before the ball hit and stopped on the green, 4 feet from the hole.

Somewhere in those moments I realized I had no putter. As I jogged up to the ball, I reckoned I could tilt the 6-iron and putt with it. Just missed a birdie from 4 feet, but had an easy tap-in for a Par. I conserved my energy by mostly walking between the greens and the next tee box.  On this winter day, the whole course would be about a mile-long slosh over mushy grass that blanketed cold mud underneath.  Every running step sank in a few inches and made a frigid splash. It took straight shots that didn’t get lost. Not only my eyes, but my legs were following the ball in flight. I felt like a kid running after my balls…no…maybe like a dog after a slobbery tennis ball.

By God, I was going to make it through this course in under 30 minutes! I was panting hard and trudging up to the last tee box when I discovered there was someone else on the course, a family of four standing at the last tee box. I would have to stop for them to play that hole. It was a good excuse to stop, and I welcomed it. But the family had looked back before they teed off, and had seen me laboring up the hill to the previous hole. As I staggered up to wait at the tee box, the father said, “Want to play on through?”

I did. Of course I did. They watched as this crazy old man finished his first successful resolution on this cold and drizzly New Year’s morning, and further resolved to start things that were even more terrifying…as soon as he could catch a breath.

Copyright 2020 — David Hon


Goodwill Haunting

Sometimes, when you are 75, you find you have more time than money. More likely, even if you have money, you’re not inclined to spend it unless you find some value attached. It is a lifelong habit to pinch dollars so we can retire….and golf can be a pleasure even if you don’t spend $50 or more going out each time. If your game is doing well on lesser courses, though, it may be fun to splurge for 5 hours on a really nicely manicured beauty. For a golfer, occasionally playing that course can be like springing for a Broadway show.

And then, some of us have our “bargain” quirks. We’ll pinch like the worst miser and then see something we must have, and by damn, i’m going to buy that!  I personally find a wealth of history and style and innovation in the golf section of the local Goodwill Store. For instance, the other day I spotted a golf bag… not just any golf bag. I looked it over and found a flawless antique (of the 1930s I think). Back in the days when they wore sweaters with ties and knickers with plaid socks, this consummate bag was totally made of rich burgundy leather, made in the USA by the Miller company. Guess how much at the Goodwill? $9.95. It must have cost hundreds. I felt almost ashamed to carry it away. (But I did…)

You see, golf is a passing phase in many young people’s lives. They buy the stuff at top dollar and in 10 years it is occupying too much space in the basement or the garage. Often you can find 4-5 clubs from the same set…and occasionally you find some little invention that is so useful that you always draw a comment when you take it out on the short 9, with 4 or 5 of the clubs you use the most. This one weighs just a couple of pounds, and sticks in the ground while you make the shot.

You would be amazed at the sheer envy of golfers who usually go out for an hour or two, dragging around a bag with too many clubs they will never use…So many people have asked where I got this device, that I begin thinking of how easy it would be to start a small company to make them. But then… I’m retired, and like it that way.

And occasionally, you will find some little something that will improve your golf by 30% if you’ll just use it for a couple of months. Practice with this little putting kit, over and over. Bring it out every day to practice the distance and the feel of putting. It doesn’t look like much, but this may be one of your most important daily roads to golf, and not only while you listen to the news, either.

Its pieces can fit in any nook if you travel, and you can set it up to practice putting in hotel rooms, airport waiting areas, and even doctor’s offices when they make you wait interminably. See if you can find a long strip of carpet where you live. If you have all wood floors, you can find a twelve-foot by two-foot strip of remnant carpet. The time you can spend practicing putting is golden. If you can absorb  the “feel” of putting golf balls that consistently arrive within a foot of the cup, time after time, you can begin to score well on the greens, where golf games are often won or lost.

Copyright 2019 — David Hon