Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Feeding golf's hungry ghosts

I bought a Cleveland Launcher 4 wood at Roger Dunn golf, home of the famous 90-day exchange policy. I had been hitting some snap hooks with it, so decided a different club might be in order. I wanted exchange it for a PING HL 4 iron but didn't want the store to put my 4 wood on the sales floor. In response to my request, the salesguy offered this, "We can't do that, so you haver two options: be patient with your current club, or be sure you want to get rid of it, because you won't be getting it back." After my initial peevishness, I took the 4 wood to the range and hit snap hooks until... I didn't. I figured-out what was causing my hooks, straightened out my shots, and was hitting it better than ever. So why is it that most golfers--myself included--automatically put the blame on their gear and not their swing when they're game goes sour? There are many superficial advantages and God knows I love superficiality. Firstly, who doesn't like to shop for new clubs? Each new purchase is another fresh, steaming hope thrown onto the dung heap of hopes that we will, at last, be the golfers we know we can be. Secondly, it's a lot easier to say your clubs suck and not your swing which has 12 swing thoughts, 8 waggles, and 5 excuses why it hit a worm-burning slice, yet again. If statistics are to be believed, only about 10 percent of guys in the pro shop will actually benefit from better-matched clubs; the rest of us are just kidding ourselves. Even if you're loaded with cash and don't mind spending the money on a continual flow of new equipment, you're, at best, treading water with your swing and game--why would you want to do that? A beautiful swing and great score are more satisfying than any new club. That' not to say today's clubs, especially drivers, aren't going to help; they're ridiculously more forgiving than their presimmon predecessors, but this year's model isn't going to improve your score any more than using last year's model. Show a little patience and work on your swing. If you suck at golf, admit it, get some lessons, and instead of spending thousands of dollars on golf clubs, buy art instead.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

What was I thinking?

A few years ago, I bought a PING Huffer stand bag for $170, and my brother said, "How can you do that?" I thought he was wacky for questioning why I would spend that not unsubstantial sum of money on a golf bag--and a PING bag at that. Over the next year or so, I came to an understanding that allowed me to ask myself: What was I thinking spending $170 on a lousy golf bag? Was I insane, temporarily seduced by the lure of brand name products? I must have been, because since then, I've played just fine without a brand name bag (until I got a Datrek IDS bag this weekend at Out of the Closet for $25--WOW!) I remember when I was 19, and I thought buying a Ralph Lauren shirt was like touching the hem of the Virgin Mary's robe. If I am indicative of the American public, I would imagine most apparel companies make most their money off the younger crowd, preying on their fragile identities. It's sad, really, because I know plenty of guys who never shake this dependence on brand name. As they get older, they become more odd, adhering to a system of indentification they should be, at least, beginning to shed. Now I'll admit PING golf clubs are second to none in terms of forgivness and playability (and at my first opportunity, I will pick-up a used set of G2s, with the HL option) but their accessories, I hate to admit, are nothing but pure hype. There are plenty of golf bags better than PING, their apparel is nothing to write home about, but they have a right to make cash like anyone else. The only reason anyone ever wears PING golf apparel is because they, too, have been seduced, or have a connection to at-cost or free stuff. If PING wants me to wear a visor with PING emblazoned on the brow, why don't they pay ME to walk around advertising their product?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

One Plane Golf Swing

Here's a fantastic website by Chuck Quinton, a golf instructor somewhere in Florida. He teaches the one plane swing, and has lots of streaming video drills to watch. I think it's a good starting point for learning the swing, but finding a local teacher is ultimately the best idea. From my own experience, this swing works great with the driver, but I've a little trouble applying it to short irons--probably because it's a much more "around" than vertical swing. What Chuck is best at, contrary to what you might think, is teaching average golfers not to worry so much about technique. Too many golfers obsess about golf mechanics, which dooms them to inconsistent play on the course. That's refreshing.

Friday, November 11, 2005

To golf or not to golf

5 hours is a long time to dedicate to golf, and I would play more often if it didn't take so long, but the problem is that starters allow too many groups on the course. Sure, if fewer groups were given tee times, fewer golfers would get decent tee times, but on L.A.'s muni courses, getting a good tee time is already the impossible dream, so what difference would it make if starters sent groups off every 17 minutes instead of 10? The second reason golf is so damn slow is that most golfers think they reach par 5s and long par 4s in two shots, which 95% of golfers can't. To prove this to yourself, just watch the group ahead of you. On par 5s, you always see guys standing in the fairway waiting for the green to clear, and once it does, step up to the ball, and hit a topped worm-burner about 100 yards--without fail.

It would also help matters if marshalls actually did their jobs and kept people's paces up, instead of hoping their mere presence near a slow group is enough to frighten them into faster play. C'mon marshalls, grow a pair. The people I play with usually have the good sense to pick up after hitting triple bogey en route to the hole, but if they don't, I've no problem telling them they should.

Another way to quicken play is to demand everyone have a handicap and only allow those with one better than, say, a 28, play courses over 6000 yards. There are courses for learning to play, and learners should stick to those courses until they can play fast enough to not ruin it for everyone behind them--playing on a par 72 course should be a privilege for dedicated players, not a right for every duffer who bought a set of clubs and is going to roam around a course just because they like Tiger Woods.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Embarrassment wears a polo

A couple of weeks ago I played a round of golf with my wife's uncle, who in some cirlces is known simply as Uncle Bob (though his name isn't Bob, and if I ever called him Bob to his face, he'd probably drive his 550 horsepower Corvette up my ass.) He lives in a gated golf community, and his house is just off #1 green. First, a comment about gated communities. In my past life as a fan of the proletariat, I poo-pooed anything that smacked of elitism. Gated communities topped the list of things I would never support. However, I have to admit, when my wife and I drove up to the front gate, said we were visting Uncle Bob and his wife, and the guard opened the gate for us, I felt kind of special. Exclusivity is such a wonderful thing. It is weird, though, to drive the streets and find little traffic, and what traffic there is mainly consists of Porsches, Cadillacs, and other overly horsepowered cars. Speaking of horsepower--ever driven in a 550 hp car? It throws you into your seat like a Shuttle take-off. I drive a '93 Escort wagon with a fuel injection problem, so the only horses under my hood are anemic old swaybacked nags.

Back to the gated community. The quiet streets could definetely lead one to think a deep secret covers the town in hush, but knowing Uncle Bob, the only secret there could be is that no one wants to talk to anyone else because none of the men are in town any longer than 2 days before taking off on a business trip, and don't want to waste precious time talking to nieghbors.

But the golf...my god the golf! I started out great, but as is always the case, as I got more tired, by swing got funkier until Uncle Bob felt it was appropriate to say, "The way you played the last hole was UGLY." Truly, it was. The thing is is that as I warmed up on the driving before the round, I knew something was off. I was hitting some very strange wedge shots, and when your wedges are off, you're in deep, deep bat guano. So, here's my advice for when you're about to tee off and are fully cognizant that your game has mutated into a freakish monster: find a swing, be it ugly, ridiculous, or primitive, that can get you through the day and stick with it. I tried to fix my swing on the course and that only made it worse. If I had accepted the fact my swing was going to suck on the driving range and took steps to remedy it, I probably would have had a much better score, and isn't that what it's all about?

Bold Experiment update: Though I've only played one round with just a 4 wood, initial feedback tells me it's a bad idea. I don't carry a 3 or 4 iron, so I have a big yardage gap between 240 and 185, and choking down on the 4 wood isn't covering the bill. So, if the tv show I'm working on isn't canceled before Christmas, I'm going to buy a hybrid, maybe a PING G2 HL 3 or 4 iron, or a Cleveland Halo. Oh, and if anyone knows of a good one-plane swing teacher in the Los Angeles area, please forward me his/her info. Muchas gracias.