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.
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.
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
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.