April 25. Is There Anything There, There?

By: Jeff Shelley

It's been a month now since my last journal entry. I apologize for my lack of input. But I have excuses - moving to my home office in Seattle from Cybergolf "world headquarters" in Edmonds; having a new puppy - Stella - who's now 3 months old and getting into all sorts of muddy trouble; and a general malaise that probably stems from weighty world concerns. Maybe Martha Burk has something to do with it.

Trying to stay fresh with content for two websites - in addition to occasional freelance writing assignments - is often quite a task. Sure, I get press releases and clippings about golf throughout the U.S. and the world, for that matter. So there are plenty of ideas floating about that could be considered grist for the mill.

But there are some days - such as today - where the well runs dry. So what to do about that stagnancy? One option is to write about the mental block I - and thousands of other writers - encounter on a more-often-than-you-want-to-know basis.

With Cybergolf's content I take a "non-Tiger" approach. I try to do something different, like not being a conduit for the PGA Tour and all the minutia of the highly-paid pros. Frankly, I could care less what clubs they use, or how they adjust their swings during the cauldron of competition, or who they're main squeezes are.

I'm also loathe to promote golf gadgetry, knowing full well that the latest hot club or ball will go the way of the feathery and be replaced by the next great thing. Maybe that retro view stems from my taste in music. I like playing and listening to record albums, and don't mind saying that I'm dipping more and more into my cache of 2,500 records from the '50s, '60s, '70s and '80s. I was one of the last people to switch to CDs, but now have a healthy collection of them. But there's something about that analog sound.

That ostrichness also applies to other high-tech gizmos. Only before my recent trip to Bandon Dunes did my wife and I get a cell phone, thinking that I might need one if my car breaks down out in the middle of nowhere. Of course when I got to Bandon and tried to call her from my hotel room, it didn't work. So the damned thing was turned off. Anni now carries the phone in her car. We discuss what we're having for dinner and she lets me know when she'll be getting home from work.

Back to Writing

One of the worst feelings a writer can have is after submitting a piece. When it gets edited and printed and nagging suspicions penetrate your brain that lead you to believe you've screwed up. Such angst recently demonized my mind with an article I wrote for the inflight magazines found in the back seats of the planes on Alaska and Horizon airlines.

I'm kind of the de facto golf writer for those airlines, having done a golf article each spring for the past six years or so. The latest piece discussed new golf projects around the U.S. in Alaska's ever-expanding flight system. The article highlighted 15 or so new courses around the country, from Seattle to Boston to Florida.

One of the course write-ups, Trilogy at Redmond Ridge in Washington, had the seemingly innocuous phrase, "the par-70 course was designed by Gary Panks, and is the Florida architect's first foray into the Great Northwest." Arrrghh! Panks is from Arizona, where he's one of that golf-happy state's major architects.

I pride myself on accuracy, and unlike many golf writers, have a huge database of contacts that are woven into our sister website, golfconstructionnews.com, a subscriber tracking service that tracks golf projects around the U.S. In recollecting the genesis of this grievous gaffe, I mentally confused "Panks" with "Bates," as in Florida-based architect, Gene Bates.

Compounding the screw-up was a subsequent reference in that very same Alaska article. Writing about Circling Raven Golf Club in Worley, Idaho, I said, "Designed by Gene Bates - yet another Florida architect . . ." Not only did my incorrect reference to Panks appear once, it was duplicated in the very next paragraph. Yow! Almost a hat trick!

Once something goes to print and gets distributed, there's not a damn thing a writer can do about making corrections. It's done, and the error is officially out there for all to see. I've written, edited and published seven books, and not one of them is lily-white faultless, though I have a much better track record with articles. So this latest misstatement will stay with me awhile.

Regardless of the error's magnitude, I have an innate ability to find it posthaste. The work could be a 640-pager, such as the third edition of my book, "Golf Courses of the Pacific Northwest." Yet within an hour of getting the first copy off the delivery truck, I can somehow turn to page 226 (for example) and find a typo, a misspelling, an unfortunate usage. If finding errata within written documents were a "Where's Waldo" contest, I'd be the perennial reigning champion.

This discussion reminds me of the time I wrote and edited a house organ for an engineering company in the early '80s. The newsletter was a step above other such company fluff, being two-color, tabloid-size and printed on glossy stock. EVERYTHING was accurate in the first issue, including the dates and weights of babies born that month, employee birthdays, the spelling of names, etc. I double-checked everything - except my wedding date. I'd just got hitched to Anni on July 31st, but had written down for the world to see, August 1st. Geez. She still talks about that one.

So maybe my latest stretch of sterility stems from a desire to stay clean. To take a powder and go error-free for awhile. I'll get back on the saddle again, but I needed this cleansing period. I already feel better talking about it.