SI Vault
Jane Perry
August 22, 1955
Stooping, dawdling or arriving after 5 a.m. are invitations to disaster on Flatbush's only links
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August 22, 1955

Brooklyn's Mad Golf Course

Stooping, dawdling or arriving after 5 a.m. are invitations to disaster on Flatbush's only links

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In all of Brooklyn, from Coney Island to the Gowanus Canal, there is only one 18-hole golf course. And as might be expected, the game played there, although outwardly resembling golf, is quite different from the gentlemanly sport performed under normal, country club conditions.

A hundred thousand players use the Dyker Beach Golf Course each 12-month season. In addition to being the course with the world's most well-trodden fairways, Dyker is also the one where the incumbent pro, Tommy Strafaci, was brought up on the course (his father had a house on what is now the first tee and raised goats, hogs and vegetables on the second fairway); where the undershirt is a classic costume for hot summer days (topped by a bright plaid cap); and where the insult is the common and formal method of communication ("Hey, drop that ball, ya crumb!").

The Dyker course is municipally owned and commands a rather fine view of Lower New York Bay past the Narrows, although it is doubtful if any golfer has ever lifted his head long enough to admire it.

Dyker players, all graduates of Ebbets Field and stormy days with the Dodgers, have been tossing pop bottles at umpires since infancy and enjoy nothing quite so much as a loud, vigorous hassle. Their game is rowdy, democratic and argumentative; and Dyker fairways resound with threats and the noise of Brooklyn voices raised in altercation. At the shriek of "fore!" players automatically drop their arguments and their clubs and assume a crouching position with arms wrapped over their heads—a defense similar to that recommended for an atom bomb. There is no way of telling from what direction the ball might come, since at Dyker so many fairways are cozily adjacent and so many players have spectacular hooks and slices.

It takes stamina and a rare sense of dedication to become an authentic Dykerite. It is helpful to have been born in Brooklyn, or at least to have moved there early in life. Out-of-town golfers who wander onto the course, either ignorant of its reputation or fascinated by the stories they've heard, have been known to quit after a few holes, thoroughly baffled and unhappy. In many cases the uninitiated may register but become so frustrated during the long wait that they never get to tee off at all.

Waiting time on a fine Sunday ranges from three to five hours. The alltime waiting record—about six hours—was set on a purely local holiday, Brooklyn Anniversary Day of 1940, when 860 players signed up.

As at all New York City municipal courses, each player is given a number on registration, and these numbers are posted by the starter on a blackboard directly behind the first tee. If anybody is waiting, golfers are required to play in foursomes—and on a Dyker weekend there is always somebody waiting. The first players arrive before 3:30 a.m., deposit their golf bags in front of the clubhouse and curl up in their cars for a nap. By 5 there are dozens of people milling around in the chill gray light, breakfastless, belligerent and talkative.

"So I get up at 4 o'clock with all the other nuts, and there's still this bunch a jerks ahead of me!" ... "You laughin' at my swing? What's so funny?" "Nuttin's funny. I'm just laughin' to be social."..."That guy over there, I ain't seen him for 25 years, not since he beaned me with a 2-iron shot when I was 11."..."So this bum got sore when I sneezed on his drive. After that I don't talk no more. Even when I step on his foot, I don't say 'excuse me.' "

The members of a pickup foursome introduce themselves informally, by first names only. A Dyker golfer may find himself teamed up with a municipal court judge (Joe), a Flatbush housewife (Mabel) and a city bus driver (Hoibert)—a state of affairs which has led to the breakdown of the few remaining social distinctions in Brooklyn. Women, who make up one-fourth of the players, are shown no mercy and little respect; in fact there is no look as openly horrified as that on the face of a male Dykerite who finds himself inextricably involved with three lady duffers. Occasionally a quick-thinking man in such a predicament will invent an urgent phone call and allow his number to be pushed back on the board, but most trudge along, audibly lamenting their fate. They will permit their lady partners to remove and replace the flag on each green, to locate their lost balls and will even condescend to give a few well-chosen pointers on the game ("When ya hit through, honey, ya gotta be square with the hole—get the pernt?")—but they are not happy.

Once a foursome starts on its way, it is at the mercy of eight people, the foursome immediately in front and the foursome behind.

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