One of Fred Couples greatest lessons? It was learned by doing this.
Fred Couples wants to add a disclaimer on this. Country clubs are great.
It’s just that he grew up on a muni — the par-3 at Jefferson Park in Seattle — and, well, you know how one of the sweetest swingers in golf turned out. The country clubs have their manicured tees, fairways, greens and bunkers. But the munis? On a recent episode of the On the Mark podcast, hosted by longtime teaching pro Mark Immelman, Couples waxed poetic on his old home.
“I want to take you back to growing up in Seattle,” Immelman said. “I’m a public course guy. You learn certain things playing on a public course. You played at Jefferson Park, I believe it was.”
“Well, you hit a great point when you said you learn a little bit more, or a little different things, and I’ll tell you what you learn is, as I got to be a better, young, 9- and 10-year-old player — I grew up on a par-3 course,” Couples said. “And there was 18 holes there, too, so at Jefferson Park, there’s a great nine-hole course with one short par-4, but all great par-3s with pop-up greens and then it had the 18-hole course.
“So going backward just for a second was you get different lies, you get bunkers that aren’t raked because it’s a public facility, and you know, you’re taught a lot of things, and you know, I don’t know how great your guys’ course was, but ours was a really, really nice course. It was just a blast for me to play.”
Memorable, too, for Couples was whom he played with at Jefferson, which also has an 18-hole course. Later in the podcast — which is very much worth a complete listen here — the 1992 Masters champ said he biked to the course, played, paid five dollars for a burger, fries and drink, and played again. And each round was with whomever.
“I had so many friends that played so growing up on a public course, I played with everybody,” Couples said on the podcast. “I think if I grew up on a country club, I probably would play with most young juniors, and I learned to grow up. Any little mistakes as a 13-year-old, you know, these 30- and 40-year-olds wouldn’t want to be around some punk.”
“Oh, that’s exactly the truth,” Immelman said. “And what I profess to, you know, all manner of golfers coming up, play it down, to your observation; find someone better than you, play alongside them. I mean, my younger brother [2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman], he’s nine years our junior, was playing golf with, he was 5 at the time, we’re 14, and you learn to get good fast.”
“No, you’re dead right, and that’s not to say that, you know, kids at country clubs don’t play with older players,” Couples said. “But the point being is, they see those people all the time. I would get thrown in with a couple good players and maybe they brought a friend over that would play, and so, you know, playing the ball down, playing in bunkers that maybe weren’t raked perfectly because someone just went in there and slapped it around, or with their foot. So you’re 100 percent correct, and one of the greatest things ever is, there was a guy named Hans Turner, and his son, Jay, and I used to play a lot. We used to play — can’t make it up — one yard from the back of every tee from the tips, even at 13 years old.
“And again, I played a course that in the winter time in Seattle felt like it played 8,000 yards long. And in the summer when it dried out, it was like 6,000 yards. So I’d get to like the seventh hole, it would be in the wintertime, two woods, and the summer, it would be a driver and a 7-iron. So you know, people that grow up in perfect weather, which is what I would want any kid to do, but in Seattle, it was not always perfect. The golf course played differently, but one of the things I enjoyed, like you said, I was playing with people from everywhere, all ages.”
(For more on Couples’ old course, or to play it — the most it will set you back this time of year is $35 — check out the Jefferson Park website here. And again, to hear more from Couples, you can listen to the On the Mark podcast here.)