Guest Guru: Damon Hack

If you want to read some flat-out quality writing, check out Damon Hack’s piece for Sports Illustrated on Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey from last May. That, my friends, is known as “killing it.” Not shocking that the story earned Damon a Golf Writers Association of America Award, which he took home from Augusta a few weeks ago.

For fifteen years, Damon has covered the PGA Tour, currently for SI and golf.com, previously for the New York Times and Newsday. A Los Angeles native who grew up worshipping Magic and the Lakers, Damon got swept up in “Tigermania” as he began his sportswriting career in the early 2000s. But he hadn’t even taken notice of golf until a graduate school class at Cal-Berkley required him to read Frank Deford’s classic SI story on the 1977 “Duel in the Sun” at Turnberry between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus.

“That was the first time I was like, ‘Wow, golf writing is really, really beautiful,” Damon told me. And now, nearly two decades later, he’s writing beautifully about golf for SI himself.

Damon describes his own game as “raggedy,” but I think we can give him a pass. After all, he just became the proud father to triplets – three boys! – and we all known that if you live in Manhattan (he and his wife Suzanna just moved to Battery Park), it ain’t exactly easy to get out there and play.

“You have to work for it here,” Damon says. “Where you gonna meet? How we gonna get everybody together? You’re taking bridges and tunnels…there are tolls. But once you get outside the city, there are some beautiful courses.”

Speaking of which, one of the perks in Damon’s line of work is the chance to take some “hacks” (couldn’t resist) on world class tracks. And, as Damon shared with us, many of the best courses are just a hop, skip, and a jump away.

DAMON HACK’S GOLF COURSE PICKS

Most Scenic: Sebonack Golf Club/Shinnecock Hills Golf Club (tie), Southampton, New York: “These are macho golf courses, just so gorgeous and so challenging. They’re so much a part of the land out there.”

Most Challenging: Winged Foot Golf Club, Mamaroneck, New York: “Steady diet of 4-iron approaches, often from the rough. It’s just a brutal test. Beautiful course but not an enjoyable round of golf. It’s a pretty stressful round if you’re a mid-high handicapper like I am.”

Most Underrated: Quaker Ridge Golf Club, Scarsdale, New York: “Has lived in the shadow of Winged Foot, but Quaker Ridge takes a backseat to nobody.”

Best Public Course: Bethpage State Park – Black Course, Farmingdale, New York: “The fact that this course is available to the public is just a treat for New Yorkers. When you’re playing it, you’re thinking ‘How is this course not a private course?’ The routing is so memorable. Every hole stands out in your mind.”

Good Value: Montauk Downs State Park Golf Course, Montauk, New York: “Another stout test, beautiful routing, great holes, fun golf course. The weather there can change – you get the fog, you get the sun, you get the wind. Really distinct, pretty holes on a special golf course. It’s a course with great memories.”

Bad Value: Long Island National Golf Club, Riverhead, New York: “I’m never comfortable plopping down my credit card there. The course has some good holes, but also some that need a lot of work. I always think it’s a little too pricey for the quality of golf that we’re getting.”

Best 19th Hole: Liberty National Golf Club, Jersey City, New Jersey: “They have this deck that is overlooking shots to 18… to your left you have the Hudson River and Lady Liberty, and to your right you have this great finishing hole. You can’t beat the views. The course is still very young and it’s still growing into its own.”

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