Social media has become a big part of many golfers daily life, a way of communicating with like-minded followers of the game, learning about new courses, destinations and equipment, and interacting on various common passions such as golf history, architecture and more. It’s against this backdrop of connections that makes this episode of Talking GolfGetaways special, as guest Ben Grehan joins co-host Mitch Laurance (going it solo while Darin Bunch travels cross-country) and producer Kris McEwen for a wide-ranging discussion on the benefits (and occasional pitfalls) of social media, the success of Twitter’s #GolfChat forum, Ben’s recent blog concerning a viral journey gone haywire in New Hampshire, the upcoming Greaver Cup III in Myrtle Beach, and hitting practice balls off the balcony of Saddam Hussein’s palace.
After introducing Ben, a Top 10 Local Advisor for the popular Golf Advisor (Golfpass) platform with more than 160 golf courses played and reviewed, Mitch begins the discussion with a description of how he first met Ben online through the #GolfChat community on Twitter, a forum which Ben hosted for two-and-a-half years after founder Zeb Welborn turned over its reins to Ben. The two discuss the overwhelming success of GolfChat, now counting over 4000 followers on any given Tuesday night, and how the platform has produced an incredible number of connections and friendships. Ben talks about his stint as host and describes the passion and joy that hosting “the quickest hour on the internet” gave him (before he handed it off to current host Jay Wallace).
Mitch then brings up Ben’s recent experience playing a course in New Hampshire (where Ben recently returned to live after spending his first 21 years there), Shattuck Golf Club, a notoriously difficult course. Deciding to live tweet his round, which he’d done numerous times before, Ben begins with a photo on the first tee that says “No Practice Swings on Tee Boxes,” and describes his amazement/confusion, in what he calls a “snarky, tongue-in-cheek” way about the sign. Ben details the surreal next few hours, as he continues his round in the same manner and finds that his initial tweet has quickly gone viral, picked up by Golf.com and therefore seen by thousands of people.
Mitch and Ben then discuss the progression of Ben’s initial excitement over his story being seen to the realization that his tweets had negatively impacted the ownership and staff at Shattuck in an unintended way. Ben then shares his quick decision to remedy the situation by writing a blog for Golf News Net platform detailing the journey of “24 Hours at Shattuck,” a thoughtful, detailed recap that not only recognized his impact and its repercussions, but at the same time credited Shattuck for its positive contributions to the golf community in New Hampshire. A fantastic, “cautionary tale” on social media and responsibility (kudos to Ben for his handling of it all).
Mitch then moves on to a discussion of golf courses, beginning with three Mike Strantz gems that both he and Ben have enjoyed together (thanks #GolfChat). Ben explains the impact Tobacco Road in North Carolina, and Caledonia Golf & Fish Club and True Blue in Myrtle Beach, S.C. have had on his appreciation of Strantz’s genius and a burgeoning interest in golf architecture. Ben then talks about the upcoming Greaver Cup III, to be played at Caledonia and True Blue, as well the iconic Dunes Club on the Grand Strand, following two successful Cups (at Tobacco Road in NC and Mammouth Dunes/Lawsonia/University Ridge in Wisconsin) and the excitement building for another gathering of friends new and old, most of whom have connected, again, through Twitter.
Ben then shares how he came to the game, after getting his start while on active duty in the Middle East. Kris notes that Ben was an early guest on Kris’ fantastic “Golf Origin Stories” podcast, and what follows has both Kris and Mitch reliving one of the greatest golf stories you’ll ever hear, a journey that had Ben learning the game while playing video golf in Kuwait and then hitting balls off the balcony at Saddam Hussein’s abandoned palace in Iraq. We kid you not.
Ben ends this section of the podcast talking about his excitement in getting to experience the courses in New Hampshire and other parts of New England, which he’ll be reviewing for Golf Advisor.
Mitch then moves to the Emergency 9 golf/travel quiz, in which Ben lists his favorite things in the world of golf and travel, and concludes one of the more interesting, insightful and honest discussions on the game we’ve ever had on Talking GolfGetaways.
Enjoy the connection.
— Words by Mitch Laurance