One Hole at a Time

By Lloyd Graff

I’ve seen a lot of change in my lifetime.  Cubs winning the World Series.  The Berlin Wall falling.  The Internet altering work and pleasure.  And on my birthday this year, I read the announcement that the Jackson Park Golf Course and the old South Shore Country Club in Chicago are going to be turned into the Pebble Beach of the Midwest, and huge national golf tournaments will be played on it.

Tiger Woods, at the urging of President Barack Obama, is going to design the course, which will be adjacent to the Obama Library.

If Tiger does his job well and the money comes through, this course could be virtually unique in the world – a 7000-yard public course, nestled on Lake Michigan, 8 minutes from McCormick Place and 10 minutes from the University of Chicago.  But it will also be adjacent to the ugly South Side black ghetto of Chicago, a violent, murderous, scary jungle of apartments that you wouldn’t want to walk into for fear you wouldn’t walk out alive.

I know the area well.  The first 18 years of my life were spent living near the Jackson Park Golf Course’s 6th hole.  My buddy Howard Isador and I played that hole hundreds of times, whacking irons at the green between foursomes during the summers.  We played with golf balls that lousy swingers sliced onto our lawns, bouncing hard against the cement of 67th Street at Euclid Avenue.

South Shore Country Club back in the day. Courtesy of

A few years later Michelle Robinson’s family moved into a house at 74th and Euclid, seven blocks south of us.  That was a few years before she met and married Barack Obama.

Chicago has always been a city of neighborhoods and races.  There is Irish Chicago, Italian Chicago, Polish Chicago, Jewish Chicago, Mexican Chicago, Puerto Rican Chicago, Chinatown and the African American Ghetto.

The unique thing about Jackson Park Golf Course was that Blacks and Whites played the course together, even back in the 1950s and ‘60s, for $3 a round.  But not at the South Shore Country Club that shared a border with Jackson Park.  It was all White.  And it wasn’t a genteel, friendly, tolerant White country club.  It was a nasty, don’t you dare come on my precious grounds if you’re Black or Mexican or Jewish, kind of club.

They didn’t have to put up any signs.  Everybody just knew it.  And they wanted you to know it.  My friend Jerry Levine started delivering flowers for a local florist in 1958.  When he had to deliver to the magnificent South Shore Country Club Clubhouse he says he would run in with his flowers and get out quickly but stealthily, fearful that somebody might ask to see if he was circumcised.  Ah, those were the good old days.

By the mid 1970s enough people who looked like Michelle Robinson’s family moved in to make the folks at South Shore find a different club.  The club was sold to the Daley-led city and the clubhouse made into a cultural center.  The golf course fell into disuse, and the private beach the club controlled became a beach mainly used by African Americans.

This was my Chicago in the 1960s and ‘70s.  It was White, but if Blacks got too close it turned—quickly.  My parents moved out to a downtown condo right after my younger brother, Jim, graduated from the University of Chicago Lab School.  Jim, my sister Susan and I all went to Lab because the local public high school was almost all Black, dangerous and awful.  Michelle Robinson attended the elite Whitney Young High School rather than South Shore High, a block from her home.

This was the Chicago and America that I grew up in.  So when I see Barack Obama become President and Michelle of 74th and Euclid become a beloved First Lady I am proud.  And when Jackson Park and South Shore Country Club merge to become Tiger Woods’ signature Championship Golf Course on Lake Michigan I know this country has really moved in my lifetime.  Change comes hard in America.  Very hard in Chicago.  One hole at a time.

Question: Do you love or hate golf?

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11 thoughts on “One Hole at a Time

  1. Lloyd GraffLloyd Graff

    I used to love to play golf before my surgeries for a detached retina in my right eye. I lost most of the vision in that eye and have constant double vision. If I patch it I cannot see well for distance. So I do not play anymore except some occasional whacks at the driving range.
    I was always lousy with the driver. I loved to hit irons especially 8 and 9 irons and watch the arc of the ball. Putting was fun especially on ndulating greens. Last 10 years that I played I stopped keeping score which made the game much more enjoyable.

  2. AvatarSeth Emerson

    My father was a golfer, and an occasional private pilot, during his life. I took a few hours of dual-control flight instruction in my early 20s. And I played a few rounds of golf with him. I found myself not particularly good at either, which meant it wasn’t much fun. By then, cars and autoracing was my all-consuming hobby. I decided that I could “afford” only one expensive, consuming hobby, and went with the cars. I haven’t regretted it! No golf – but I have a daily “driver”, and I am good with that!

  3. AvatarNoah Graff

    Golf–Not a big fan.

    Caddied for a summer at Idlewild, the local Jewish country club. Never was a good caddy, though I’m not sure why. Terrible tips. 4 hour loops with old ladies who gave 20 to 25 bucks. Some members were friends with my parents (not members themselves), but that didn’t increase my tips.

    But I liked the summer. Caddy house was fun and interesting. Lots of colorful folks, making half their earnings by gambling, pitching quarters against the windowsill. I spent much of the cash I made hanging out in the caddy house (they insisted on the term “caddy house” rather than “caddy shack”). We played basketball, Uno, Packman and cards.

    The handful of times I’ve played golf I have been unbelievably awful. My drives are slices that go 180 degrees to the right of where I’m aiming. I even broke the shaft of my brother in law’s clubs at the driving range!

    Although the social aspects may be ok, and it might be beautiful out in nature, the game takes way too long for me, and doesn’t give me the hardcore cardio workout I want. It’s too expensive too, even at a cheap public course.

    I’m more of a Bowler, which I call “the golf of the proletariat.” Still not very good at it though. I shine on the Tennis court or on the Salsa floor.

    There are some good golf movies though. “Greatest Game Ever Played,” “Tin Cup,” and of course, “Caddy Shack.”

    1. AvatarScott Roy

      I still have that broken shaft and clubhead. 🙂

      I love golf, particularly playing with my father and brother. I haven’t played more than once or twice since my daughter’s came into the world, but I keep dreaming about the moment when I’ll be able to again.

  4. AvatarBig Al

    “8 minutes from McCormick Place and 10 minutes from the University of Chicago”. Evidently Chicago traffic has gotten much better than when I lived there.

  5. Avatarrick

    I have not been married long enough to find the need to chase some stupid ball around for an entire day. I can find many an excuse to avoid the bride other than Golf if necessary. If I want to really get away from the wife I can go to work – I can get stuff done and not get in trouble!

    On the rare occasions that I have been persuaded to wander and chase a ball of only 1.680 inches in diameter and the weighing a mere 1.620 ounces through the woods and weeds, it has turned out to be a simple drinking contest. I can sit on my back porch with my friends and colleagues discussing the problems of the world, consume large quantities of greater “quality” alcohol and write generous cheques to reputable charities and good works without the aggravation.

    I find the game to be useless, aggravating to many and I find even greater and perverse delight in watching the self rage and anger of golfers with themselves at their shortcomings of the game. Sometimes the ultimate rage over a missed shot or sliced ball and a ball in the drink is incredible. I am told this is relaxation and enjoyment – no thank you!

    I have many hobbies and have tried many. I have driven Pro Rallies cars around the country, soccer, and beer barrel softball, I still enjoy downhill skiing, Motorcycling, and backpacking.

    One of my real enjoyments is the shooting sports. Long distance shooting involves such precision and skill. there are numerous variables between physical and mechanical. Then there are external forces such as wind, humidity, altitude, barometric pressure, ans also Coriolis effect – look it up.
    Try and hit a bulls-eye constantly at 1000+ yards.

    In 1457, King James II of Scotland banned the game of golf from the
    hills on which it was created. He argued that golf was a danger to
    national security as it distracted his soldiers from practicing their
    His grandson, James IV, a keen golfer, lifted the ban in 1502. Eleven
    years later, in the battle of Flodden against the English, Scotland
    suffered its worst ever military defeat.
    Wall Street Journal, 18 Aug 2009

    Gun Control:
    The theory that a woman found dead in an alley, raped and strangled with her own panty hose, is somehow morally superior to a woman explaining to police how her attacker got that fatal bullet wound.

    If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen: a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath—a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? Then you are a sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero’s path. – Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman

    To a warrior, the golf course is a willful and deliberate misuse of a perfectly good rifle range! – Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Cooper

    Piss on golf! Real Americans go to the range! – Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman

  6. Lloyd GraffLloyd Graff

    Scott Roy, I think we should play a lttle golf in San Diego. Noah can caddie. I won’t keep score.

  7. Lloyd GraffLloyd Graff

    Noah, let’s go bowling in San Diego. Can Stephanie bowl? Sarah used to be pretty good. Ari can make sarcastic comments.

  8. AvatarArt Santana

    The best day golfing for me is when I find more balls than I lose on the course. Relaxing and frustrating at the same time but at the end of the day, fun. I do not play enough to be passionate about it just enough to be hooked along my other passions (baseball, racquetball, B-ball, Football and Soccer)
    Lloyd, make sure you tip Noah well, anything above 25 bucks will do. maybe this time he may like it more. I suggest $25.50 and buy him a drink. Merry Xmas


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