The envelope in the mailbox last week was not overly large, but it had some substance. The return address showed the United States Golf Association.
The envelope was stuffed with the usual literature about why it’s a great idea to belong to the USGA, with all the info about how to renew. If you’re a golfer, it’s hard to deny the merits.
What gave the package its heft was the 2010-2011 edition of “The Rules of Golf,” sized right to slip into a pocket of your golf bag. It’s a nice incentive to re-up, and you know and I know, however much you think you really should own it, it’s not a book you’ll go looking for at Barnes and Noble.
Yes, The Rules is nice to have. But it’s not what gets me to send in my $25 every year.
It’s the hat. It’s all about the hat. Maybe this year more than most.
Sign up to be a member, and the USGA sends you an official U.S. Open logo hat, customized with the name of the Open venue. This year, it’s Pebble Beach. Enough said.
So, confession time. In the past, the USGA offered the hat only to first-time registrants or to former members who had fallen off the rolls. If you were renewing, you didn’t get the hat.
So (am I alone in this?) I would skip joining in a renewal year or two so I could let them woo me back with the offer of a hat in a following year. Which is why I have Bethpage Black from 2002, but not Olympia Fields from ’03; why I have Winged Foot from ’06 but not Pinehurst No. 2 from ’05.
In later years, they started offering the hat every year, so I have Bethpage ’09 and Torrey Pines ’08.
Great courses, and pretty good hats. But none of them are Pebble Beach.
I wasn’t a USGA member the last two times (1992, 2000) the Open came to what remains the icon of U.S. public golf courses – undefeated and still champion even against the worthy latter-day claims of Bandon Dunes Resort.
It’s Pebble. A must-play course. A must-have hat.
There are lots of good reasons to join the USGA, and even if you’re not a member you benefit in ways you probably don’t even know about. If you’re serious about the game, you understand how critical it is to support the organization that is the backbone of U.S. golf as we know it.
But, mainly, it’s the hat. And this year, it’s Pebble.
Update: The hat arrived. A nice steel blue, it’s a departure from the usual variations-on-a-khaki-theme of previous years.