The artsy-sporty world where golf and music intersect is home to a host of hybrid talents, from the major champ-turned-country-troubadour John Daly to the former pop-chart fixture Huey Lewis, whose multiple hit singles have afforded him the freedom to whittle his index down to single digits. PGA Tour star Peter Jacobsen founded his own rock band. Glenn Frey of the Eagles is an avid birdie-hunter. Alice Cooper made a fortune playing heavy metal, but nowadays he seems to be more into playing irons.
Of the many figures who stride across both stages (stadium courses and concert venues), the jazz drummer Bob Scott is not a household name. But he has performed with some big ones, including his buddy Willie Nelson, who owns a golf course in Austin, Texas, which Scott has looped more times than he can count.
Scott, who’s 69, has been playing music for most of his life, but he’s been playing golf even longer, having taken up the game as a 9-year-old in Joplin, Mo., on a nine-hole course with scruffy fairways and sand greens.
By his mid-teens, Scott had already turned pro (as a musician); he has made a living at it ever since.
But when he isn’t in the studio, or on the road, he’s most likely to be found at Tilden Park Golf Course, a public layout near his home in Berkeley, Calif., where he tees it up several times a week.
A 10 handicap, Scott loves golf for many of the usual reasons: the challenge, the camaraderie, the competition. The chance to stretch his legs in scenic places. But he also turns to golf as a source of humor, so it’s hardly any wonder that he feels most at home at laid-back public courses, like Nelson’s track in Austin, where the local rules fall shy of USGA standards. There are no lost balls (“Hey, it’s out there somewhere!”), and a two-stroke penalty is strictly enforced for flatulent emissions during someone else’s swing.
“If you can’t have fun out there and laugh at yourself and your own bad shots, I’m not sure why you’d even play,” Scott says.
With six decades of bad shots behind him, Scott has chalked up a lifetime’s worth of chuckles, which, in turn, have inspired a new CD of his own compositions.
“Ball Talk,” by Bob Scott and the Putters, is Scott’s musical homage to his favorite pastime, a 10-song, genre-jumping compilation that never wavers in its focus: its subject is the game, in all its fleeting glories and comical frustrations.
“There’s a lot of material to work with,” Scott says. “I had to leave a few songs on the editing room floor.”
Among those that made the cut is Blue Tee Blues, played in the dulcet tones of the Delta, its lyrics (“I should be playing the red tees, but I’m playing the blues,”) crooned by Scott in a mournful twang; and “Hole In One,” a gospel-inspired number in which Scott pleads with a higher power to grant him an ace before all is said and done.
“Oh lord, I’m a son-of-a-gun, I’ve left many deeds undone/Please don’t call me home until I’ve made a hole in one.”
To produce the CD, Scott called on the services of jazz musician friends. But on every song, from the honky-tonkin’ “Keep On Grindin’” to the bluesy shuffle “Just One Bad Swing,” Scott sings and plays percussion. In several cases, he laid down the guitar tracks on his own as well. (To hear free samples of the CD, visit cdbaby.com/balltalk.)
Among the lessons he has learned is that while golf and music both depend on rhythm, the two are very different.
“With music, if you keep practicing, you’re going to get better,” he says. “In golf, that doesn’t always seem to be a guarantee.”
As a testament, take “Ball Talk,” a creative document of his golf deficiencies that showcases his talent in other arenas. Sure, he hits some shanks. But when it comes to musicianship, the guy is scratch.