BOB WEST ON GOLF: Introducing a golf subject unfamiliar to most – “SAND greens”  

Published 12:06 am Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Ok, golfers, class is in session. With a tip of the cap to my new best friend from Cincinnati, Chuck Meadors, who wanted me to write about a subject he never knew existed, we’re going to discuss SAND greens. That’s right, sand greens.

Without fear of being way out on a limb, I’m willing to boldly predict a mere handful of readers have a clue as to what a sand green is. Beyond that, I’d bet big that even fewer can claim to having made a putt on a sand green. Or even seen one.

So, over the course of the next few paragraphs I’m going to try and paint a picture of something golf related that Tiger Woods would probably triple bogey if questioned. Trust me on this topic because I spent the first 18 years of my life playing on sand greens.

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Our 9-hole course in Centralia, Missouri, would make the Groves Pea Patch look like Augusta National. But it’s all we had, all a lot of small towns in the Midwest had. Once upon a time, from what I’ve researched, there were even a few sand-green courses in West Texas.

I never quite understood why they called our putting surfaces sand greens because they sure weren’t green. They were sort of a dirty brown, made that way by the biodegradable oil poured and mixed several times a year to make them more puttable and easier to “maintain.”

Most sand greens were round, sunken a couple of feet and fairly small. On the biggest ones, you’d never have much more than a 20-foot putt. Imagine being 150 yards away and aiming for a rather large sand trap. Or playing an uphill, 200-yard par 3 – our 6th hole – and trying to fly or roll into that trap.

The obvious question to answer at this point is how did you putt on those things. Surely foot traffic made it impossible to roll a ball through all the mounds and depressions on the way to the cup.

Indeed, putting would be impossible if not for a smooth path from one side of the green to the other. And a hefty T-shaped drag. Oh, yes, and to keep things honest there was a lengthy string tied around the pin.

You stretched the string to where your approach stopped, then walked the ball around to the putting path and set it down the exact distance away from the pin that you had been.

The drag was an iron pole maybe six feet long. Welded to the end was a circular lead-pipe type device roughly two feet wide. Before putting, you would drag the path all the way across the green to assure yourself an unimpeded roll. Believe me, there was an art to making a good drag.

Depending on the amount of sand on the green, the person doing the dragging could influence the speed of putting path. Bear down heavy for a faster putt. Drag it light for more sand on the path and a slower roll. Never, ever let an opponent drag the green for you.

If there was a positive to sand greens, it was that you could see the break from the imprint of the ball putted before you. Yes, sand greens did break. Not much but enough to influence the result from outside 10 feet.

Another score-enhancer on sand greens involved short chips. If your approach came up a few yards short or a few yards long, it was imperative to manually smooth out the sand between yourself and the hole with your feet.

Start with where you intended to land and smooth all the way to the putting path area next to the cup. Land the shot near your target with a overspin on the ball and there was a reasonable chance of holing it. Without smoothing the sand, the ball would seldom go in.

It was truly a different game and a rude awakening for me when I left Centralia. When our high school played matches or tournaments on grass greens, it was a huge disadvantage. That worked in reverse, for sure, but rare was the “city” school that would play us in Centralia.

Since there were so many small towns with sand greens in Missouri, there was a state sand greens association and a state sand greens championship. Nearly every week in the summer, you could play in a 27-hole sand-greens tournament in places like Tipton, Vandalia, Shelbina, Montgomery City and, of course, Centralia.

I won my fair share of them. You didn’t want a piece of old Bob on sand. Make that young Bob.

Class dismissed.

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