Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Golf club reviews make me feel yucky.

My wife got me a subscription to Golf Magazine for Christmas (she's always trying to make me happy, god bless her!) and the magazine is alone worth its price for the regular article of ubermensch David Feherty . But one thing that is just a little weird about the mag is its annual golf club review issue. Now, aside from the fact that a golf magazine which reviews the goods of companies that contribute a good chunk of said magazine's ad revenues seems like a conflict of interest (and could explain why they never even get within a hair's breadth of issuing a lukewarm review of any major manufacturer's clubs (or could be because the clubs are good, you decide (and I am NOT backtracking))) the reviews themselves are occasionally a little creepy.

Creepy how?

Well, there seems to be a smattering of... shall we say, orgasmic imagery. To wit, from the Golf Online site:

"This is an all-around quality club. It has an absolutely lovely feel--pucker up honey!"--Stephen Wills (14 [handicap])

"Oh, my. Does this feel heavenly."--Don Wilson (15[handicap])

"A stud from the rough."--Jeremy Ross (7[handicap])

And sometimes not so subtle: "Like kissing your cousin--pleasant and respectful but devoid of passion."--Kirk Fisher (8 [handicap])

What is going on here? Golf is fun, clubs are neat, but are my clubs studs? I think not. A person may be a stud, but not clubs.

Might there be a sociological phenomena occurring here? Group-think, anyone? These club testers have been chosen from among thousands of applicants, they spend every minute together eating, practicing, playing, smoking cigars, etc., etc. The more you look at it, the more it looks like a male bonding ritual, something akin to a sweat lodge. A-ha! Yes, it all makes sense. The testers, without the civilizing influence of women, revert to a simpler kind of man, a man more in touch with his primal urges. Hence, what better projection could there be for male virility than--c'mon, I know you're way ahead of me on this--the phallic golf club. And a DRIVER, no less. It's a return to nature, an embrace of our Paleolithic forebearers. Guys with big cigars, a graphite rod in their hands. Oh, this is too good--I'm not a doctor, but JAMA's got to publish this.

Now that I understand where these men are coming from, I no longer feel yucky reading those double entendres about kissing cousins and heavenly sensations. My fears are gone. Golfers are manly men, striving in an almost poetic way, for the life that seems to elude Modern Man. They are heroes reaching into our shared past, hoping to emerge with some kind of autheticity among the spider's web of compromise and homogenization which characterizes so much of our modern life. God I love golf!

Friday, May 27, 2005

Swing plane mania.

I know the world is going a little nuts over Jim Hardy's two-plane/one-plane swing theory, but damn, it and its variants seem to have some value. Here's another guy who, in a similar fashion to Jim Dunigan (who I mentioned in my first post which now has a fine layer of dust on it from having never been disturbed by human eyes) who has been extoling the virtues of a swing-plane-centric theory of golf, tries to simplify the swing so we don't have to think about the damn thing so much (trust me, the foregoing sentence is grammatically correct, if unweildy).

For myself, I realized I'm a one-planer (1P'er) and with a little work (and let me stress "little"--if I can't get this stuff right in a once-a-week practice session then screw it) I hope to straighten this whole golf thing out.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Who was that guy?

Ever go to the range and hit the ball like an absolute genius? The skill just comes out of nowhere and like BAM! you drill flush shot after flush shot. And you know a few dudes have been watching, thinking, "Damn, that's a good swing." It's like you've left your body because you're not even thinking about golf, or swinging, or anything. You're simply a force of nature.

Then, of course, a few days later you head to your fav course, thinking you've got the game licked. You tee the ball up, go to that place inside yourself where you think all good shots emanate from, take the club back and FWACK! The ball jumps off the toe of your driver, sputters to the right about 100 yards, takes out an innocent pigeon, disappears into the forest, rattles around for a few seconds before vanishing behind the event horizon of impenetrable brush. Behind you, you think you hear someone whisper, "Damn that guy's swing sucks."

What happened? Hell, I don't know. Maybe (_insert your deity of choice_) gave you a break and smiled on your from where ever he/she/it resides. Maybe you deluded yourself into thinking you were better than you really are.

"Hold on," you say, "I am that good. I have proof--remember me at the range, the jealous gawkers in the stalls next to me. They liked me, they really liked me!"

Yeah, I remember you at the range, but that was only one day. You didn't think that you would play like that forever, did you? Please, tell me you didn't. It's okay. You can trust me. C'mon, admit it--you thought you had conquered golf forever. Ah, you poor, poor, sad, hairless monkey. Why do the good have to die so young, why do they have to be deceived into thinking a day--one good day at the range--can last forever? (and no, those are not song lyrics from Air Supply.)

If it's any consolation, remeber that we've all done it. We've all been stupid enough--no, make that hopeful enough--to dream we'd finally climbed the mountain, that our flag, now firmly planted on the summit, would remain there day after day, weekend after weekend, 19th hole after 19th hole. If you had only turned back once as you descended the mountain, you would have seen that the flag was gone before you even put it up.

So just accept that sometimes, and unfortunately, at the range when no one is watching and there's nothing on the line, you play great. And sometimes you play lousy. That's why (_insert your deity of choice here_) invented beer.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Bloody rotten game!

As to be expected from a game that consists primarily of paradoxes, here's the most recent golf paradox.

Despite drastic technological improvements in clubs and balls, the score for the average golfer for 18 holes is still about 100 strokes. Check it out. (Thanks to for the heads-up.) Of course, the upside is that if you can break 100, you're better than average.

Why carpet swinging doesn't work

The scene: Ohio in the dead of winter. The setting: you, in your living room, 7 iron in hand, the Mercedes Championship on the tube. Your thought process: I'm going to fix my swing, here, in this room, with Joe Durant (and who doesn't know who Joe Durant is!) hitting his drive on #17 in the Mercedes, while all my golf opponents, nay, soon-to-be-embarrased golf buddies lay on their couches watching football like hibernating, drunken bears.

You make some swings with your trusty 7 iron, and damn it, it feels good. Maybe this is the swing, the one which could, after years and years of struggle, do some damage on the course, when, in the three months, the ice sheet that is Ohio in winter recedes, exposing the compacted earth of Spring.

Fast forward: the scene: the ice sheet has receded back to the Arctic Circle, and you're at your first golf outing. Birds fritter here and there, butterflies dance through the air and you are a golfing god. After talking shit to, at the very least, yourself (and hopefully not anyone else, especially the actual good players in your group) you mosey up to the tee, fully confident that the swing you worked on so hard in the living room over the past months is going to deliver not only a hell of a shot, but the shot of the group. And here's where you can guess the rest. The shot sucks, your wee-wee shrivels up into a fleshy ball of humiliation, and you crawl back to the cart, hoping not to disturb, or otherwise be noticed by your playing partners.

How did this happen? How did all your hard work turn into so much insubstantial fluff? It's very simple to answer that question, but it ain't pretty, and, in our world of egoism, not easy to accept, but it's all about the power of the mind to delude it's user.

And the cure is even harder to accept, but here goes: accept that you suck. That's right, you suck, and there isn't any getting around it. You can buy every swing aid in the world and use them in your winter training facility--the living room--until your head bursts with confidence. Once on the actual tee, the only place where you can really judge your skill, you will revert to whatever skill level you had before all the practice, and your mind will say, "Oh, right, this is how I play golf, and not how I kidded myself all winter long."

Instead of wasting time swinging that 7 iron in the living room, try this
instead. "How can visualizing my swing be better than actually making a swing?" you ask, ever vigilant reader. The difference is that when you practice your swing in your head, as far as your head is concerned, you're really doing it. But when you swing away in the house, you're really making fake swings; that is, swings which aren't hitting a ball, and therefore give you no feedback as to what you're doing right or wrong. The visualized swing, however, hits the ball perfect every time, which, contrary to conventional thinking, is the best practice any of us could have. Here's a little experiment you can try. For one week, do your normal practice routine. Go to the range, pound your 50 or 100 balls as often as you normally do (and if you want to really test this out, go ahead and throw in a few extra sessions) and play your normal round that weekend. For the next week, ditch your normal routine, and instead try this: plunk down in a comfortable chair, close your eyes, and visualize 50 perfects shots. Take about 15 minutes to do all 50 shots, then open your eyes and go on about your business. Then go play your usual weekend round, and compare the results.

Now if your read this paragraph, you'll invalidate the results of the experiment because it suggests a possible outcome. The single blind will have been violated. Egads! But, if you don't play better after the second week than the first, I'll eat my

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Post the First: The Problem of Man's existence

Firstly, this is primarily a golf blog, but as is often the case in sports' performance issues, lessons learned here often translate into other areas of life. And, oh, do not in any way confuse Wounded Duck (a golf term for a struggling shot) with Henrik Ibsen's "The Wild Duck" . Now, I know this first post is a lofty title for a golf post, I know, but it nonetheless points to the essential problem of golf. "How so?" you say, dear reader. I shall attempt to explain.
Since time immemorial, mankind has been confronted with the same fundamental Problem, which can be framed in the question, WHO AM I? Good question.

Luckily, mankind's great thinkers--Jesus, Buddha, Harvey Keitel, Johnny Miller--have pointed, in their various and sundry ways, to a solution to the Problem, which, stated bluntly, is: only when the ego is disengaged can the Self express itself. "Self-schmelf," you say? Check this out. This isn't bad either. Once the ego goes by-by, men do things like write Macbeth or the Moonlight Sonata, come up with e=mc2, etc., etc. We, as golfers, express this when we shoot a score out of our minds, a score we knew we were capable of but never could seem to achieve because our ego was in the way.

"Listen buddha-boy, you're starting to annoy me with all this esoteric crap. Golf isn't this complicated, dig?" Dig I do. The solution to the aforementioned Problem is what allows us, as golfers, to play our best. But don't worry, I'm not going to ask you to convert to (_insert your religion of choice here_). This is about using the best swing and equipment to bring that egoless golf state into existence. It's been said ad naseum (Latin for "I've heard this so many times from so many guys like Peter Kostis, Dave Pelz, and Hank Haney that if I hear it again I'm going to puke thick black bile all over myself"), that having a quiet mind during your golf shot is essential, but, and here's the rub, so is using the right clubs and right swing. Here's where I take a huge turn away from the above mind stuff and head crashing and screaming into the golf stuff, because what I'm going to achieve here on this blog is the separation of the wheat from the chaffe, the mice from the men, the men from the boys, the shit from the Shinola, the talk from the walk, the hype from the truth. In a word, I will find what clubs work, and which don't, which ones make golf easier for y'all, and which make you wish you could get your old set back from the guy you sold them to on Ebay.

Firstly, here's a great little lesson on how to
swing the club. This may not seem like much, but it's the same thing Tiger Woods has been working on, plus it's simple so simple to understand that if you video tape yourself you can tell if you're doing it right.

To summarize: Jesus, egoless, probably a good golfer; to not suck at golf, can't care about yourself during the act of swinging; good equipment can aid in egoless golf, i.e., Y.P.B. (Your Personal Best).

I'll post club playability results from PING,
TaylorMade, Cleveland Golf, Wilson Staff, and others. Until then, take it easy on yourself and play great.