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'A thing of beauty is a joy,' but still open to debate

When the beer arrived, golden in a frosted glass, the recipient, a big man with a florid face who was feeling expansive after the 88 he had just shot, smiled and told his table mates, “Now this, friends, is the prettiest thing in golf.”

Another guy, an English professor wearing a cheap shirt and a scowl that had been in place since about the third double-bogey, said, “You’d think beer was beautiful if they served it in a hog farmer’s boot. The prettiest thing in golf is twilight, when the shadows are long and the world is soft and quiet.”

"Yeah," said a third party, a golf slave who was in such a hurry to get to the course he forgot to shave, "twilights are nice, but the prettiest thing in golf is Paula Creamer."

The subject bounced around the table, voices pitching their views:

"Dew on the fairways in the early morning, looking like a million diamonds."

"A golf ball lying in the green grass, glistening like a nice smile."

"A shot that has disappeared in the trees suddenly bouncing out into the fairway, the golf gods showing off."

"A hot dog at the turn."

“Wait a minute, wait a minute,” barked the professor. “A hot dog is not the prettiest thing in golf. It’s not even the prettiest thing on the menu.”

“It is,” said the guy who proposed the dog, “if you’re hungry, which I always am after hunting my ball for nine holes. Put a little mustard, onion and chili on it," he said, "and you’ve got yourself a Renoir.”

"Good lord, said the beer proponent, "next thing you know, somebody’s gonna say the prettiest thing is a Big Texas cinnamon bun.

“They’re good,” he said, “but they’re not gonna win any beauty contests.”

"A long putt that breaks a couple of times and dives into the cup," said someone who was obviously a good putter, bringing order back to the discussion.

"A tee shot rising against the blue sky, bound for a distant landing in the fairway."

“Easy,” said the one in Masters green shorts, “Augusta in the springtime. Everything that’s not a flower or a human being is green.”

The waterside holes at Pebble Beach and Cypress Point were mentioned. The town of St. Andrews, viewed from the Old Course. The 18th hole at Harbour Town. The village of Pinehurst.

One of the lady members who had enjoyed a two-martini lunch stopped to listen, then added her voice.

“The prettiest thing in golf used to be Seve Ballesteros, when he was younger,” she said. “Now, it’s probably Adam Scott.”

"Actually,” one of the guys who had already made three or four nominations said, “the prettiest thing in golf is the first fairway, when you’re looking at it from the first tee, before you’ve hooked your drive into the road. Think about it.”

There was a lot of nodding of heads and thoughtful staring until the professor said, “You know, gentlemen, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If it’s a hot dog, it’s a hot dog. Cheers.”