Sunday, July 08, 2001

Avoid golf magazines

        Every time I get a haircut, I bury my face in a golf magazine to soak up helpful tips and learn about the latest super-duper uranium-faced clubs and high-performance, nuclear-core golf balls while Frank the barber snips away. Most guys dream of shooting par. I just hope to break 90 before I run out of hair.

        So I sit there and read articles such as, “100 Simple Swing Thoughts to Try to Remember as You Slice Another $3 Ball Into the Woods.”

        Or, “Ten Things Tiger Woods Does That You Will Never Be Able to Duplicate If You Took Daily Lessons For the Rest of Your Life and Lived 3,000 Years.”

        There's always a lot of cool golfer lingo about “pronation,” “loft,” “swing path” and other technical terms invented by people who sell golf magazines to fools like me who think “pronation” is a country that was founded by Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.

        There's usually a feature that tells what the pros carry in their bags. Duffers are supposed to think, “Hey, if I get a set of $11,800 sticks like that, I could play like David Duval.”

        Not me. I wonder if the pros play better because their golf bags are not stuffed with soggy sandwiches, broken sunglasses, crumbled Tums, aspirin and cans of beer (In Case of Quadruple Bogey, Pull Tab).

        I find it hard to imagine that Sergio Garcia's bag contains 27 pounds of “water balls,” each distinctively marked with cart-path bruises, tree-bark contusions and caked mud.

        But I'd like to know.

        I'd also like to know why all of the approximately eleventy hundred tips I have read never seem to apply specifically to my personal swing.

        For example, what kind of pronation correction is needed when your 5-iron works like a giant carrot peeler, gouging fairway divots that resemble squirrel pelts?

        What type of perimeter-weighting science can keep my clubs from crashing off the back of my cart right in front of snooty country club snobs who are giving the fish eye to my day-glo ball retriever that advertises “Hacker” in neon lights?

        And about those rules: If I don't carry a 3-iron that I can't hit anyway, am I allowed to carry a shootin' iron to use the next time someone answers a cell phone in my backswing or yells “In the HOLE!” as I'm standing over a two-foot putt, shaking like a gun-shy Chihuahua on the Fourth of July?

        These things they never explain. But I keep reading. I couldn't stand to miss real, actual golf tips such as:

        “I recommended that he focus on his sequence on the forward side where the lower body should initiate, followed by the arms, hands and finally the club. If there was a race to impact between the hips, arms and club head, the hips would win by a significant margin, followed by the arms and a distant third is . . . ”

        That's a GolfDigest exclusive from Tim Mahoney, describing how he taught a middle-aged, low-handicapper to freak dance, I think.

        Here's another GolfDigest exclusive from Ed Weathers, who I think used to be quite a golfer until he took a lesson from Tim Mahoney and wound up in a back brace.

        “When you're middle-aged . . . Pretend you're hitting it 20 yards farther than when you were young. Pretend you don't have the yips. . . . You're middle-aged. Now is not the time for reality. There's enough of that at the office.”

        Mr. Weathers never worked at a newspaper.

        Dr. Bob Rotella is a certifiable golfologist who insists the game is 90 percent mental. He urges golfers to spend at least 15 minutes a night visualizing their putts.

        So I'm lying there with my eyes closed, wincing as each visualized putt misses and rolls 10 feet past the visualized hole.

        “What are you doing?” my wife asks.

        I told her and she said, “You're 90 percent mental.”

        I was so proud. And I owe it all to golf magazines.

        E-mail: Past columns at


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