Golf Course History 101

Welcome to this morning’s class. I have an early tee time, so let’s get right to the subject.

If one understands history one may find a means to cease repeating the errors that beset a man. In doing so, one will have scored an Eagle on the back nine of existence. One will be a changed person.

Since you are in this class, you obviously are considering a career path in golf. There are many paths to choose. Besides teaching this class, I am going to follow in the path of my legendary heroes Jack Nicolas and Arnold Palmer. Am I going to play perfect golf and have throngs of rabid fans chewing on my golf shoes like a 2-month-old Doberman puppy? No!

I am going to design golf courses…and you should, too! There is a huge market. The sky is the limit!

I have done my history research by watching the great golf documentary “Braveheart”, starring Mel Gibson.

Let me explain.

Back in the Paleolithic age, there was no golf. Neanderthals were too busy being eaten by ferocious Pingodons and Spaldingasaurs. But the competitive spirit derives from those competitions.

It was Cro-Magnon man who came up with the idea of smacking number 2 Wilsonoraptor droppings with a stick for fun and pleasure. He used the same stick he used to fend off Big Bertha, his mate and cave companion, and saber-toothed tigers hence the name of those famous clubs…The Tiger Woods edition.

The game developed over the eons and spread to places like England and Scotland. In England, the game became the pastime of Kings and Dukes and Earls. They would go out and enjoy the medieval afternoons swilling brandy and betting on which of the royal ball-hitters would actually hit a ball into the woods so that the royal ball finders could do something. The game was slow to develop there because the King’s royal golf game setter-upper would call and ask for teatime and the groundskeeper would spend a lot of time explaining audibly that it was “tee time”. By the time that was settled, the fad in England was croquet.

But in Scotland, the game flourished. A highland warrior named Macgregor came up with the idea of a golf course. He also came up with the idea of a scorecard and lying about what you put on it. He was far ahead of his time. Eventually, the other clans began playing with large clubs called shillelaghs. They went on to develop other aspects of the game like Chieftain’s Choice and Mulligan.

The game became so popular that it was difficult to get a tee time on Macgregor’s one course. Four clans-somes would show up at 8 in the morning and an argument would develop over who got to go first. Shoving and shouting ensued and soon there was bloodshed.

The racket they made was so loud; it disturbed the English King’ s croquet match. He sent a few of his Lordships over to ask them to be quiet. They discovered the golf course and returned to tell the King about it. He had his royal ship-launcher launch an invasion to possess the wonder. It didn’t help the Scots that he also discovered Scotch Whiskey and was extremely tired of the taste of brandy and grog. The King wanted the course so that he could bring all his dukes and earls and let them swing willy-nilly at croquet balls. He did not grasp the concept of the golf cup nor did he understand the foursome.

So, as depicted in the movie Braveheart, William Wallace stood on the field of honor to face King Edward (also known as “Long Shanks” because of his swing deficiency).

Wallace had lost a bet on the eighteenth and as a result had to wear blue paint on his face. But he managed to unite the clans to keep the English from taking the world’s only golf course and keep it safe for beloved Scotland. He stood before the thousands of furious warriors and just before the valiant charge shouted the immortal words.” FOURSOME!”

The English scribes who were present to record the historic moment misunderstood his thick, accented cry and related it in the chronicles as “FREEDOM!” Thus the concept of the personal automobile was born and life as we know it today logically followed.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to those early Scot golfers.

I ask that you please review your notes from this morning’s class on Golf Course History and Design 101; there will be a pop quiz tomorrow.

Next time we will get into the actual subject of how I will attack course designs, including: where to place your bunkers and howitzers…minefields; Aesthetically pleasing or maintenance nightmare? Should shoulder-fired Tow missiles be available for the gallery patron?

These questions and much more will be answered in the next installment of Golf Course History and Design 101.


Clicker Training History

Clicker training was started or pioneered by Burrhus Frederic “B.F.” Skinner. He made several scientific claims and wrote several books about human behaviors concerning operant conditioning. According to the dictionary, operant conditioning is the use of consequences to modify the occurrence and form of behavior. This means that when the subject either an animal or a human does an action it will be reinforced negatively or positively.

In most instances, this mechanism can be broken down into positive and negative conditioning wherein the first happens when a positive behavior or attitude is rewarded. For example, a horse is now able to perform one trick. The latter happens when a bad behavior is punished.

Furthermore, it was actually Marian Kruse and Keller Breland, B.F. Skinner’s two undergrads, who were the first to utilize operant conditioning (commonly referred to as clicker training) with animals. They played a major role in developing scientifically-validated and humane animal training methods. These two individuals promoted the widespread use of their methods.

During World War II, they assisted Skinner on a task termed as ‘Project Pigeon.’ In this particular endeavor, they actually trained pigeons to guide bombs. This is hard to believe but it’s really true. They also found out how effective operant conditioning methods were in training animals efficiently to perform more complex behaviors or tasks. (Indeed, the said pigeon-guided missile system worked but was never used.) By then, they were already convinced that they could make their living using operant psychology to train animals.

Later on, they left B.F. Skinner’s school (prior to completing their degrees) and started their first commercial application of operant conditioning known as the Animal Behavior Enterprise (ABE). Their first contracts were with General Mills and they were then tasked to train animals for farm feed promotions. They were able to train the first free-flying bird shows and became the hosts of commercial animal exhibits. They also trained other animals like chickens to play tick-tack-toe, raccoons to play basketball, and even ducks that played pianos or drums.

Altogether, they continued and built the I.Q. Zoo, a tourist attraction in Hot Springs (Garland Country) that trained radio-carrying cats under a contract with the CIA. Dolphins, ravens and other birds were later used in training at least 140 other species including the common house dog. Popular acts in the zoo included chickens that walked tightropes, dispensed souvenirs and fortune cards, danced to the music from jukeboxes, played baseball and even ran the bases. There were also rabbits that kissed their (plastic) girlfriends, rode fire trucks and sounded sirens, and were able to roll the ‘wheel of fortune.’ With their outpouring popularity, the History Channel even rated the IQ Zoo as one of the most popular roadside tourist attractions of the twentieth century.