Episode 13 - New York

Secret Golf's Steve Elkington gets in some tourist time as he visits The Big Apple. He also plays America's fist public golf course located in the Bronx, the Van Cortlandt Golf Course.

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NARRATOR: On this episode of "Secret Golf," we wade through the concrete jungle of New York City and find a golfing oasis in the unlikeliest of places.

-You just don't expect it to be here. It's so pretty. But I think people are going to say, that's the Bronx? That's the Bronx? New York?

NARRATOR: We hold our smack down on America's first public golf course.

-There are no golf courses in Manhattan, so in most cases people in Manhattan will tend to come to this course. That's how I started.

NARRATOR: And our host explores each crack and crevice of the city, and finds out he fits right in.

WOMEN: In New York concrete jungle where dreams are made of.

NARRATOR: "Secret Golf" is rolling your way.




THEME SONG: It's "Secret Golf." It's what I'm looking for. Family tradition. It's why I get up every morning have a good time with friends Keeps me coming back for more. It's Secret Golf. We're headed down the road. We just loaded up the big show, goin' looking for the heart and soul. We're rollin' till the wheels fall off. It's Secret Golf.

Shh. It's a secret.

NARRATOR: New York City, the five boroughs, a 468 square mile area that more than eight and half a million people call home. This city of dreams urban landscape is the melting pot capital of the world. From it's off the beaten path allure, to its thriving metropolis bustle, New York City remains the lifeblood of America.

-It's like a soup of civilization. And I think it has a very anonymous feel to the city, in a good way.

NARRATOR: And while the city that never sleeps may feed every indulgence, one professional golfer is also wide awake, and wide eyed over the Big Apple.

-I'm ready for the dog.

-How you doing man?

-Good man. Let's go.

-How's your day going?

-I'm at Washington Square Park and I'm right underneath the famous Soflek's sausage cart. Right, this is a very New York style.

-Yeah, sure. What do you like? Sausage or hot dog?

-Get me a hot dog with, uh, maybe some, some ketchup.

New Yorkers are millions of little people jobs all come together, you know, whether the guy selling the coffee from seven to eight in the morning, or the hot dog man comes out. You've got the little businesses running all around you.

Mate, where are we on this map, because I'm having trouble. I've gotta play golf tomorrow. Tomorrow I gotta to go the Bronx.

-So, we have--

-To play-- where are we?

-You're right here, in Washington Square Park. Better to take the subway-- $2.50 or $2.75.

-Can I take my clubs on the subway?

-Yeah, that's no problem.

-No problem?

-No problem.

-Those guys, they were great.

-This is your map. Enjoy your day.

-Hey Steve.


-How you doin'?

-How are you mate?

-Good. Welcome to New York.

-Thank you. I've already had a quite an experience. You ready for some golf?

-Ready for some golf. I would say if you grew up in New York, and you want to play golf, you really have to work at it. You just don't jump in a car, show up at the course, and tee off. I mean, you have to commute to the golf course. You have to work at even getting to the golf course. And then you have to get home. So it's an all day epic to play golf.

Oop, this way. Down, down and under the ground.

-That's where we go?


-You know, this morning was a good experience for me to get up and go into the subway to come out to golf, and see what it takes to be a golfer, and what kind of passion those people need to go through that, get out here, line up, play, et cetera.

This is where we are.

-We're down here-- 28th Street. Down the number one line, 7th Avenue line. We're goin' all the way up local to the end of the park.

-Van Cortlandt.

-Van Cortlandt. So as a native New Yorker the subway is second nature. You know it. You know the routes. There's a chemistry down there. It was interesting to, to be with Elk and seeing him want to chat to everyone, and clearly everyone is not looking at him, looking up, on their iPhone. It's not a chatty kind of place.

-Little bit weird. There's people speaking different languages, people doing different things, phones, you know, all kind of things going on. Rene said, oh, you don't look at people in the eye on the subway. I mean, you don't-- what do you mean you don't look 'em in the eye? He goes, well, New Yorkers, they like to stay to them self. You know, they're in-- in a lane, you know. Down in Texas, we don't do that. You know, hey, where you headed? No, he said, we don't do that here. So, uh, it was a little different.

I was happy to know that New York, sort of, supplies, if you will, four or five different parks that have golf courses. That you can readily get there, really quickly on a train. That's cool. But it still takes a lot of energy to get up, get in the subway with your clubs, and do all that. So we found a little different kind of passion here. Which way is the quickest way to get to the course?

-Uh, just go to the stairwell right there and make a left, and take Van Cortlandt Park through the path. It'll take you right to the golf course.

-You a local guy, huh? You got the local accent?

-Oh, yup.


-It's just a different way to experience golf.

-I started playing here in 1965. It's the oldest public course in America. And it's-- there are no golf courses in Manhattan, so in most cases people in Manhattan will tend to come to this course. That's how I started. It's the granddaddy of them all for a public course, because it was the first ever public course. You could put your money on the table here in 1895, and walk out there, and play that course-- essentially the same routing.

When you think Bronx you think of other things, whether it's the movies you've seen, or the books you've read, or the Yankees, Bronx Bombers, et cetera, but you certainly don't think of parks, lakes, mature trees, beautiful golf courses, et cetera, et cetera.

-The escape of being in the middle of New York City, and having this oaisis-- giant mature trees, and beautiful lush fairways, and wildlife-- spectacular.

-And the Bronx has a definite tough-- you know, I can deal with anything. I can ride it out. I can overcome it attitude. I think that's what you also see on playing Vanny. It's hand-to-hand combat out there on that course. It's you and the golf club against the course. And the course usually wins.

-You know I always joke about that God built this golf course. We just get to play it and maintain it. This land was here, and they didn't shape it. And they didn't bring in bulldozers. Some guy with an amazing eye saw that, and said we'll put a green there. And 100 something years later this golf course still defends itself. No tricks. Here it is. Go play.

-And what a great treat it is to come up here and play this course, because you just don't expect it to be here. It's so pretty. And now we've said that a lot on our show, but I think people are going to say, that's the Bronx?


That's the Bronx? New York?

NARRATOR: There are eight million stories in the Naked City, including a tale of a golf course, a boy, and his father.

-He loved the game. He learned it self-taught. So he would pass along stories of the history of this course. Van Cortlandt has been around for a very long time. I mean George Washington camped here, and Lafayette, and it's-- it's a very famous park for its history. Now I have a 10-year-old son who, you know, I'm doing the same thing. It's-- it's sort of almost like an oral history.

-Our grandfather was an incredible player all the way up into his 80s. And he started me on the game very early.

-When I was in the reserves in 1965, went to Camp Drum in Watertown, New York. And there was nowhere to go and nothing to do. And I rented golf clubs, and I've never stopped since then.

NARRATOR: But as everyone can begrudgingly agree, golf is full of both challenges and obstacles.

-Intermittent reinforcement is much more powerful than constant reinforcement. And that's what golf is.

-It takes a lot of commitment, a lot of work. It's long hours.

-It's an odd thing to see someone pulling a pull cart full of golf carts down 42nd Street at 4:00 in the morning.

-The secret's, if there are any, are one to keep your head still, and keep your eye on the ball. It's that basic, that part.

NARRATOR: Love it or hate it, a true golf devotee will never compromise on their devotion to the game.

-Well, it's-- it's that love hate relationship. I love it because you're out there, and it's four hours of peace. And I think in today's rushing worried world, it allows you to think, and daydream, and maybe wander a bit mentally, which I think now is a true luxury.

-My grandfather taught me the respect of the game, taught me the integrity of the game, and said, it mirrors life, and how you handle yourself on the golf course is more than likely how you'll handle yourself in life.

-It is an addiction. It's a form of magic being perpetrated on us by this game. Because there is not a constant reward, it makes it even more inveigling.

-Hi, Elk.


-Almost ready?

-Yeah, mate. I'm ready. You know what I like about this place already? It's these old lockers.

-The building was build 1904. The courses from 1895-- 120 years.

-All wood?

-All wood. There lockers over here behind me. Those are called the polo lockers. And you can guess why they were called polo lockers? People played in the fields west of here-- polo at one time. They still play cricket, by the way, in those fields.

-I know that game. I just can sit up here and just-- I can imagine all the people who've come through here, and all the greats, and I know that you have some of the Yankees come out here and play.

-I believe Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth have played here. And by the way, the movie Wall Street was filmed up here. In this locker room, right here.

-They did a scene here.


-So me and Michael Douglas are uh--


-So when I leave you've got to say Elk was up here.

-I'm hoping for 30 more years I can say I saw you up here and spoke to you.


-Hey, that's important. Let's go get 'em. Secret Golf is in the Bronx, New York, Van Cortlandt, the oldest public course in the United States. I'm with my friends Rene, who's played here ever since he was a boy, Casper, who's played here the most of anyone around, and Paul the pro. Paul we've chosen the 12th hole here as our first hole of the smack down. Tell me a little bit about it please.

-Great way to start a match with a nice par 5. You've got a good driving area out there. Great scenic views going back towards the city of New York. Great hole start on.

-Is your accent stronger than mine?

-Oh, no. Yours is much worse.

-OK. OK. OK, Caspar. It's you and Paul playin' a little scramble, a little Bronx scramble against Rene and I.

-NARRATOR: Let's go for it Paul.

-Knock it out there.

-Loser has to get a haircut.


-I was a little nervous, because the cameras were on, and a famous golfer was watching me. I was certainly a little bit tense, but I hit the ball pretty much as well as I was going to hit it.


-There it is.

-There's my partner.

-Typical New York golf. You come off the subway train. You grab a cup of coffee. And there's no practice. There's no putting green. There's just-- go up to the tee and hit the ball. So it skipped-- a different kind of golf.

-It's a beautiful par 5. And really we learned from Paul that to play this course well, you needed to stay away from the big mature trees, which they're obvious when you see the course. The only time-- it looks to me like the only time he's ever left the fairway is to go the restroom. Is that right Paul?

-Pretty much.

-Oh that's nice, Paul.

-Sweet hit.

-A long part five into a pretty strongly wind-- it took two really good shots to have a little knock down wedge in.

-I thought I hit that pretty good Paul.

-You can't hit it better than that buddy.

-There's a few allusions going on with these older greens, where they-- literally the fairway meets the green. But when it's real flat in front, it gives the eye an illusion. And sometimes it makes you look way further, or way shorter than it actually is.


-Oh, look at the pro spin. Look at the pro spin.


-Nice shot pro.

-Thanks for saving me.

-Here we go.

-The greens were slow. And there-- you have to hit the ball. And I think everyone underestimated how much of an effort you have to put in to get the ball to-- to the hole.

-Please break. Please, please. Good putt.

-Great putt.

-Oh, I went too low, did I. OK.

-No blood.

-No blood. Just all fives on this one. We, we all had pars. So it was a good start.

NARRATOR: Washington Square Park-- the epicenter for cultural activity. This artist mecca has for decades been the hub for political and developmental ideas. An urban playground that suits every walk of life, there's no wonder why this popular meeting spot yielded a stop on Elkpedition.

-Pretty cool. Inside of Manhattan as-- in this case, Washington Park, there's people painting a picture, some guy over here taking pictures, and there's just another 1,000 people just walking past. And nobody cares about anything.

NARRATOR: Consumed by his surroundings, Elk hunkered down with the locals to soak up the sunny side of city life.

-It's amazing. It's like you, you have your own little square, and you can do whatever you want in the square, and it bothers no one else. It's a very awesome thing.

So there was no blood on the first hole of the Bronx smack down. Is that the right term, blood, Bronx?

-That's a good one-- that's a good one in the Bronx.

-OK. Paul, what hole have we chosen here as our second hole?

-So we've chosen the 13th hole here. It's a lot of illusion. You have a little bit of a carry over some water. You have a green that's kind of situated like a pitcher's mound.

-You related a story to me, Casper, about the great local hero--

-Doug Ford.

-Doug Ford.

-In one of his books he refers specifically to this hole and how he learned to hit golf balls hitting over the water hole at Van Cortlandt. This 13th hole is known as the water hole.



-Look at my partner go.

-Nice shot.

-Look at my partner.

-Yeah, well done.

-We're dancing.

-I said, I'm, I'm hitting driver and I did. And I actually made the green with a driver.

-Sit down.

-Blew it up in the air a little bit?

-Yeah, I got it ballooned. Look at the wind take that over.

-Yeah it did, didn't it.

-The way it's designed, again, it's an old course. You have a lot of foliage in your way. You really can't see where the bailout area is, or if there is any real estate between the green and the pond. You certainly know the pond is there.



-Nice shot Paul. Nice shot Paul.


-What did you think of that Chloe? Oh, that's what I thought. Not much.


-And then it is a really tricky putting surface. It's almost like a pitcher's mound. And so you really have to work very hard to make a good two putt there, even if you hit a good shot.

-Wow. Tell you what though, you had to hit it. Oh, it did go what we thought though.


-I hit a nice shot in there and that green was the most severe. You know, I make this, I may dance. You never know. I hit a terrible putt the second-- I didn't hit it hard enough. And it was my fault. We should've won that one. How slow was that?

-Elk didn't get the ball to the hole, which, c'mon, birdie putt-- always go long.


-What's going on with my putting?

OK, guys. I grabbed this out of Rene's bag-- his Sam Snead Wilson sand iron. And I'm gonna to put this mark on here, because I wanted to show you a lesson that served me well for many years. I'm gonna put, I'm going to put two eyes on this sand iron right here. I learned this when I was a kid. Even put eyebrows.

So, I want to see those eyes twice when I had a bunker shot. Once, I want 'em looking back at me right here. So from your view, they're but right at me. OK. So there's one. So I bend that left wrist. That keeps that club face really open. And the second one-- I want to throw it so much that I can see it there back at me.

I like that one, because people don't really realize that you can cock your wrist that far and make that club so open that if you put it back down on the ground, it's almost back looking at you.


You're hitting the back of that club, you're never, you're never going dig it ever. Then if you double down on that thought and keep it open more, and still hitting the back of it all the time. So all of a sudden you don't get fearful of the bunker.

-He just has a natural way of explaining things to you that don't sound particularly complicated. And it's also very visual. I mean drawing an eye on the club is, is a visual reminder. So all of a sudden you're not worried about 30 different things. I went real kid, kid like-- kindergarten. Make the eyes look at you twice.




-Uh, go in.


-And that is how you play the bunker.

This is great. We are in Times Square, right in the middle of the heartbeat of New York City, watching people watch the Tony Awards.

NARRATOR: With a bevy of glitz and glimmer stirring in Times Square, it was hard for Elk not to be captivated by all the Tony pandemonium.

-That's right. Tonys. This is old school technology.

-Old school, okay.

-Yeah, before you were born. You gotta press that. But I'll have that ready for you. All you got to do is look through that.

-I'll have to look through it. Yeah.

-Look through it. And then hold it down.

-Okay. I'll try it.

-You know, stood in line to get in front of the thing. So someday maybe, we'll be on the Tony Awards for real. We can't be, can we? No, we won't be on the Tonys.

We're all square in this, the Bronx smack down. What are we, what are we got? This is, this is great.

-We got that beautiful dogleg right. We got a water channel out there, about 240 out. It's a really good finishing hole for our match.


-I see you just read Jim Furyk's book.


-Beautiful hole. I mean-- just sight line, beautiful hole. Everyone knew to hit down the left hand side. Probably my best drive of the day.

-It was just sort of surreal to me a little bit, because of my perception that inside of my head. You don't feel like you're in the Bronx.

-Elk his a phenomenal shot over to the left side, cleared the little water hazard.

-I hit a low shot again, and it worked out very well. It was the shot we used, so I was able to make a little contribution to the team.


-Oh yeah, partner. My partner, again, bailed me out and hit a little knock down iron into the green to about 20 feet.

-Did you get it all?



-Oh, that's a good shot.

-Oh. OK. We all got up in there pretty good. Oh no. Oh no. What was he doing? Paul drained one. Boom. He knows the greens really well. Looked like it was going to break way more than that, but it held the line really nice.

-You just line it up, and believe in yourself, and putt.

-Oh, Jackie Burke blade.

-It's always great to see a putt go in.

-I think he was more proud of his putter. He had more love for it. And it came out on that putt.

-I thought we had a chance to win the match. But the other guys had something else to say about it.

NARRATOR: Outsiders are prone to feeling a little, well, out of place in the Big Apple.



NARRATOR: Not the case with Elk. With both style and grace Elk choreographed his way through this progressive, must see, magical city. Upon arrival at one of America's oldest landscapes, Elk's passion for all this elevated empire had to offer resonated.

-And what a great treat it is to come up here and play this course, because you just don't expect it to be here. It's so pretty.

There it is. Paul, thank you.

NARRATOR: And as the man from Wagga Wagga said so long to the Big Apple, the city's lofty nature couldn't take the charisma away from our charming host. You know me, I always finish up attracting some sort of greatness wants to come out of people when I'm around them. And I just felt like I was just walking and then all of a sudden now I'm in a Broadway-- in a, in a Broadway show with the whole


WOMEN: [INAUDIBLE] New York, New York, New York.


NARRATOR: On another episode Secret Golf , situated on a former military base, Elk meets up with a special group of men whose journey is to raise awareness and honor those most treasured.

-We are in Devens, Massachusetts. I've caught up with these four characters. They're on a big mission, Rounds for Warriors. These guys are going to try to play a course in each state of America in 25 days. Their initiative is very focused, almost 100% of their earnings go towards honoring the fallen.

-Their dedication to helping the survivors, the children, the people who need the help is phenomenal.

NARRATOR: On a course that has its own military honors. I was looking forward to coming to see Red Tail. It's built on top of an old army barracks. And there was some very interesting things to see, particularly around the back nine. Like this--


And gets in a military versus civilian smack down with a pair unlike any other.

NARRATOR: Be careful when you meet those old army, army navy guys. They-- they're ready for you. Secret Golf with Stephen Elkington has been a presentation of Secret Golf, Incorporated. Shh. It's a secret.