Sand tables have been indispensable tools of military professionals for centuries. For over a decade I spent my life as one flying carrier aircraft in addition to a few years on the ground with the grunts in Afghanistan and Iraq. As aviators in flight school, we were forced to construct low level ingress bombing charts almost entirely from scratch. Randomly, they would be taken from us in-flight to ensure we had committed it to memory. "Know the route before wheels are in the well." Today after countless advances in technology, a platoon leader will pick up a stick and draw a line in the sand while above them aviators possessing ground mapping moving charts inside one hundred million dollar aircraft reach down into the bottom pocket of their flight suits for a paper chart to read annotations made with a ballpoint pen.
At my final active duty station in San Diego I rented a little studio overlooking the La Jolla cove. I grew up surfing and golfing but rarely engaged in either with any frequency as an adult. I picked up golf once again planning to get my HCP low enough for the US Open qualifier. A quaint little muni overlooking Blacks Beach could be seen from my tiny kitchen. I would spend mornings making the walk down the trails to surf the glass and crystalline waters at Blacks, then later in the day above those sands playing 18. Somewhere along the line I started drawing my own sketches of the course and while not trained with or having any artistic talent, long hours of making charts in pursuit of wings gave me an ability to take simple geographic points and put them to paper. To my surprise, people noticed my book and asked where I purchased them. Like me, they couldn't. Outside of the tour and serious amateur ranks it is almost a lost art.
I would resign from active duty after 12 years and while hunting for more straight laced jobs in NY and other cities, involving suits and HR, hearing from friends I should go back to school, my face became tired of fake smiles and of the madness of normal life. I dropped it all for a while to started looping up on Monterey Peninsula and traveling across the country playing. I played my Open qualifier, and even there people asked about my yardage book. In the end, I made myself into a pretty solid scratch hack and a more peaceful soul.
There is no substitute for knowledge. In a jet a light tells you the malfunction but it is the aviator’s job to know why that system is wrong and how to work around it. On the ground knowing the location of threats is near worthless without the situational awareness to put it into use. It isn’t enough to know your light, your target, and in golf it isn't enough to know your number. You need a bigger picture, you need carry, you need that mound that runs through the green and what’s behind it if you catch it a little thin.
And while getting that information why not engage the tool itself? Why not be pleased by the touch of the leather and simplicity of a pen on paper? Even after 460cc, dry fit, this slot or that slide on the club, Doppler radar and soft spikes…in the end it is you and a bit of grass, maybe some sand and water. Remove yourself from complications and see the bigger picture. Hit 'em straight.
John W. Kovalsky, Carmel CA