Golf Digress

Physically cultured commentary on Sport and Wellness

That’s Golf! Jan. 26, 2014

Will any of these gentlemen be wearing Vibram Five-Fingers with "abrasion-resistant Coconut active carbon?" I doubt it.

Will any of these gentlemen be wearing Vibram Five-Fingers with “abrasion-resistant Coconut active carbon?” I doubt it.

IT BEGAN AS A RUMOR. I DIDN’T BELIEVE IT AT FIRST, BUT I SHOULD KNOW BETTER. SOME MAY SEE IT AS YET ANOTHER SIGN OF THE ADVANCING APOCALYPSE. I DON’T KNOW. I’LL LEAVE THAT TO YOU.

YOU KNOW THOSE TOE-SHOES YOU SEE SOMETIMES ON RUNNERS? GET THIS: THEY’RE BEING ADAPTED TO GOLF, AND POSSIBLY COMING TO A GOLF COURSE NEAR YOU. I KID YOU NOT. GOLF TOE SHOES.

THIS FROM THE PRESS RELEASE: QUOTE:

“Built for the everyday wearer the Speed XC Lite helps keep it light and airy while continuing to give you traction when needed.”  A WHOLE LINE OF TOE-WIGGLY GOLF SHOES.

BE AFRAID. BE VERY AFRAID.

THE GREAT THING IS THAT SOME KNUCKLEHEAD COMPETITOR IS GOING TO WEAR THEM INSIDE THE GATES AT AUGUSTA NATIONAL DURING THE MASTERS. AND THE LATE CLIFFORD ROBERTS IS GOING TO RISE UP FROM HIS GRAVE TO ATTACK THE TOE-WIGGLING, FLORESCENT-WEARING FASHIONISTAS.

VIBRAM FIVE-FINGERS: “abrasion-resistant Coconut Active Carbon in the upper for natural breathability, 4mm EVA in the midsole for plating protection, and a lightly cleated Vibram® performance rubber outsole for extra traction on a variety of terrain.”

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

OH. DEAR.

ABSOLUTELY NOTHING DOWN! WITH NO FIST-PUMPS, ARM RAISING OR CHEST THUMPING. THE SHOW THAT’S NEVER BEEN FLAGGED FOR TAUNTING, IT’S THAT’S GOLF!

WE CALL THIS MEETING OF THE FAT SHOT AND OH NO SOCIETY TO ORDER. LET ME EXPLAIN. I KNOW IT’S EARLY. THE ENDEAVOR IS TO ENHANCE OUR COLLECTIVE APPRECIATION AND UNDERSTANDING OF THE GAME BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE SAME PEOPLE WHO GAVE US BAG PIPES… A PLEASANT GAME PLAYED IN PLEASANT PLACES, MOSTLY BY PLEASANT PEOPLE.

ONE REASON FOR ITS UNIVERSAL APPEAL: “GOLF,” WROTE HENRY LONGHURST, “IS IN ESSENCE THE SAME ALL OVER THE WORLD, HOWEVER MUCH COURSES AND SCENERY MAY DIFFER. THE GOLFER WHO MISSES A FOUR-FOOT PUTT AT ST. ANDREWS FEELS EXACTLY THE SAME AS THE MAN WHO DOES IT IN JAPAN OR NEW ZEALAND OR HAWAII.”

GOOD MORNING. YOUR GOLF AP, WRITER-FOR-HIRE AND BIKINI POKER DEALER BACK AGAIN WITH A VICARIOUS WELCOME. WE’RE LIVE, DEEP INSIDE THE SHAG-ENCRUSTED CONFINES.

TOPICS WE WON’T BE COVERING THIS MORNING: NICK SABAN, PLASTIC SURGERY HORROR STORIES, LATRELL SPREWELL, THE SECOND, THIRD AND FOURTH AMENDMENTS, OR MR. MOSELY. WE WILL, HOWEVER, BRING YOU INSTRUCTION TIPS AND SAGE ADVICE AT GOLF WRITER PRICES.

ONE ASPECT OF MODERN GOLF, THE GOLF CAR CONTINUES TO EVOLVE. YOU’VE GOT YOUR DUESENBERG FRONT, ALL MANNER OF INNOVATIONS. I WOULDN’T BE SURPRISED IF AIR BAGS ARE NEXT. SOME HAVE HEADLIGHTS AND USB PORTS. LATER I’LL TELL YOU ABOUT ONE MODELED ON A SURFBOARD. YOU LITERALLY CRUISE YOUR WAY AROUND. IT GOT A RARE ‘BEST IN SHOW’ AWARD THIS WEEK, SO IT’S NOT A SPOOF. REGARDING CONVENTIONAL CARS, HERE’S JUST A SAMPLING… A NEW MODEL FROM CLUB CAR, A LEADING MANUFACTURER: QUOTE:

The newest Precedent model comes standard with a 10.1-inch screen mounted in the car, enabling golfers to receive information such as weather alerts and other messages from the golf shop.  As part of the standard offering, courses will have access to information regarding the status of their cars’ batteries and service notifications. They also can pre-set messages to send to golf cars entering restricted areas. The 20-14 Precedent features a new, advanced electrical charging system. The system boasts an efficiency rating of 91 percent along with reliable sealed housing, intelligent charge monitoring and a USB connection that enables two-way data transfer about battery status and system updates.

DOES THAT HONESTLY ADVANCE THE GAME?? REALLY?

BOTH OF YOU MAY RECALL THAT I HARBOR STRONG OPINIONS ON THE SUBJECT OF GOLF CARS. I’M NOT HERE TO ARGUE. I CONCEDE THE BATTLE HAS BEEN LOST. THEY BLOT THE LANDSCAPE. WHICH BRINGS US TO OUR INSPIRATIONAL MESSAGE FOR THIS BRIGHT SUNDAY MORNING.

A PRESENTATION OF SPORTSTALK AM 1300 THE ZONE AND YOUR AUSTIN AREA CHURCH OF THE INVETERATE DUFFER, WE TURN TO A MUCH MORE RATIONAL VIEW OF THE “BUGGY.” THIS ALSO FROM HENRY LONGHURST AND HIS 1966 BOOK, ‘TALKING ABOUT GOLF.’

THE GREAT BRITISH OBSERVER AND BROADCASTER WROTE: “I THINK AMERICAN GOLFERS ARE MORE LIKELY TO LOSE THE USE OF THEIR LEGS THAN WE ARE, OR AT ANY RATE TO LOSE THEM FIRST. IT IS AN ABSOLUTE FACT THAT GREAT NUMBERS OF THEM HAVE ALREADY LOST THE USE OF THEIR LEGS AS FAR AS GOLF IS CONCERNED AND WOULD NO MORE WALK ROUND A COURSE THAN FLY.

“IN THE EARLY DAYS IT WAS THE CUSTOM OF THE GENTLEMAN GOLFER TO HAVE A CADDIE. THE CADDIES SEEM TO HAVE VARIED FROM BOTTLE-NOSED OLD CHARACTERS OF UNCERTAIN TEMPER – PARTICULARLY, I THINK IT MAY BE SUGGESTED WITHOUT OFFENCE, IN SCOTLAND – TO EAGER LITTLE BOYS AT SIXPENCE A ROUND, LIKE J.H. TAYLOR 80 YEARS AGO.

MANY OF THESE GOLFERS WOULD NOT THINK OF PLAYING WITHOUT A CADDIE. THEY WOULD RATHER NOT PLAY AT ALL. AS GOLF BAGS AND SETS OF CLUBS GOT BIGGER AND BIGGER AND CADDIES GOT FEWER AND FEWER AND MORE AND MORE EXPENSIVE, GOLFERS WHO WERE EITHER UNWILLING OR IN SO MANY CASES UNABLE, TO LUG AROUND THIS VAST MASS OF MAINLY UNNECESSARY EQUIPMENT WERE FACED WITH TWO CHOICES. THEY COULD EITHER LIMIT THEMSELVES IN THE NUMBER OF CLUBS THEY WERE CAPABLE OF USING – ANYTHING FROM FIVE TO TEN – AND CARRY THEM ROUND IN A DRAINPIPE BAG, OR HAUL THEM ROUND ON A SPECIAL PERAMBULATOR.

“FOR MYSELF,” HE CONTINUES, “I HAVE CHOSEN THE FORMER CHOICE. I CARRY NINE CLUBS AND AM IN THE PROCESS OF DESIGNING FOR THEM WHAT I HOPE WILL PROVE TO BE THE PERFECT DRAINPIPE CONTAINER. FRANKLY I NEVER THOUGHT TO SEE THE TROLLEY ‘CATCH ON’ BUT IT CERTAINLY HAS DONE AND I DO NOT LOOK DOWN MY NOSE AT THIS FORM OF TRANSPORT THOUGH NOTHING WOULD INDUCE ME TO USE IT MYSELF – QUITE APART FROM ITS TENDENCY TO SLOW DOWN A ROUND OF GOLF BY ANYTHING FROM TWENTY MINUTES TO HALF AN HOUR.

“I ADHERE TO MY ORIGINAL BELIEF THAT IT IS REALLY RATHER RIDICULOUS FOR ANY YOUNGISH ABLE-BODIED MAN TO PLAY GOLF FOR FRESH AIR AND EXERCISE AND THEN DELIBERATELY DO AWAY WITH THE EXERCISE BY RIDING ROUND THE COURSE IN A BUGGY. IN THE PAST MONTH, HOWEVER, I HAVE COME VERY MUCH ROUND TO THE POINT OF VIEW THAT THESE LITTLE CARTS MAY PROVE A REAL BLESSING TO ALL MANNER OF PEOPLE.”

HENRY LONGHURST, FROM TALKING ON GOLF.”

I THINK HE WAS 57 WHEN HE WROTE THOSE WORDS.

 

Magical thinking about the belly fat putter

What? No precision milled specs?

What? No precision milled specs?

How dire are golf’s fortunes? So bad that Donald Trump has been enlisted. The litigious and bankruptcy-happy megalomaniac mogul, noted for bullying rural Scots and for his devotion to conspiracy theories and failed presidential aspirations, is the absolute last persongolf needs. To those struggling for answers, The Donald must seem like a ray of sunshine. The most recent bad news: 2013 marked the eighth year in a row where course closings outpaced course openings. It wasn’t even close: 14 openings to 157 closings, a rout.

The Donald appeared as part of the PGA of America's "Forecast Appears Brighter" panel.

The Donald appeared as part of the PGA of America’s “Forecast Appears Brighter” panel.

An everyman of the people like The Donald would naturally be sympathetic to the plight of public golfers. The National Golf Foundation also noted that 66 percent of the closings were those charging $40 green fees or less – the bottom end of the public golf pyramid. As with those at the economy’s upper end, private golf bastions at the game’s pinnacle, the Oakmonts, Baltusrols, Olympic Clubs, Champions, etc. will ride out the rough seas. It’s the bottom end that bears and will continue to bear the brunt of golf’s malaise.

One notable deck chair on golf’s Titanic is the continuing debate over the fate of the belly or anchored putter. PGA president Ted Bishop renewed calls last week for the repeal of a proposed ban on the club that Adam Scott deployed most notably in winning last year’s Masters. Let’s review:

As our mission is to grow the game, on behalf of our 27,000 men and women PGA Professionals, we are asking the USGA to seriously consider the impact this proposed ban may have on people’s enjoyment of the game and the overall growth of the game.

Would someone please trot out the golfer who has quit golf because he was denied the use of a club deemed non-conforming? There isn’t one. Not a soul, certainly not enough to statistically reverse golf’s declining fortunes. And will these tormented, distressed and aggrieved golfers, those denied the enjoyment to which President Bishop refers, be entitled to redress for “pain and suffering?”

No one “needs” the belly putter to enjoy golf. And no one under the age of, say, 84-and-a-half should be allowed to use it. I once shared a round with a man on a lovely city course in Portland who putted croquet style. He’d taken lessons from one of the style’s last proponents, Bob Duden.

“I thought that was illegal,” I said to him. “Who cares?” was his entirely proper response. He was not competing, nor establishing a handicap, nor playing the game by the game’s established rules. He played for his own amusement and recreation, and showed no outward signs of anarchy or revolutionary spirit. Might we add that with respect to any club wielded by those paying a green fee, or, in this case, the belly fat putter, no official ban will deny anyone its use. Sadly, for the aggrieved, if you choose to play by the rules you will have to do so.

Obviously, there is no shortage of putter options. Choice is hardly an issue. Garages are filled with putters that were once thought to be imbued with magical qualities. Room will soon be made for the belly fat putter once its time has passed. The proposed ban has absolutely nothing to do with ‘growing the game’ and nothing to do with making golf “fun,” the latter a perplexing way of describing golf that would surely have confused its early proponents.

But, if indeed golf is to be “fun,” whatever that means, looking to the future I would suggest two words: miniature golf. Can we agree that children enjoy mini golf? Have you ever heard a child complain that his putter was not milled, face-balanced or properly fitted? That the game was less enjoyable because his putter contained no thermoplastic elastomers or heel and toe circular sole weights?

If children can enjoy diverting themselves with the most modest equipment, the argument that golf is not “fun” without a club that the USGA, the game’s steward, finds inconsistent with golf’s spirit and standards falls apart. Denying the use of the belly putter has nothing to do with anything other than magical thinking and profit.

The way to improve golf, to help it grow, is simply to make those new to it welcome. This continues to be a major failing, neatly described in what has been described as the “intimidation factor.” New golfers must be taught how to swing and chip and putt. More importantly, they need to be shown the courtesies, responsibilities and traditions that have made golf a social activity for centuries. The emphasis on making golf easier or more fun is, to my way of thinking, misplaced. The only way for golfers to find their way and their place in the game is to understand what is expected of them. Only then can the delights of the game be revealed. The equipment is incidental.

Rather than enlist Donald Trump, the PGA and others concerned would do far better than to listen to one of their own. Jack Burke, the celebrated Masters and PGA Champion, a Ryder Cup captain, and the son of Texas’s first golf pro, has long advocated on behalf of the amateur golfer.

He wrote that good players inspire others, particularly the young. “They add immeasurably to the atmosphere,” he writes in ‘It’s Only a Game.’ “Usually the top players are aware of their standing and live up to it in the way they dress, their behavior, their modesty, and their good sportsmanship. They set a positive tone for everyone.”

Something else that should be digested by all those bleating about any perceived injustice regarding the belly fat putter: “A good putter can putt with anything.”