Before I can settle into hibernation mode, it's necessary to blow off a bit more steam. Join me this week as I rant a little.
Don't get me wrong, I love golf equipment. I love fondling it in the stores, ogling over it in catalogs, and wasting my kids' college money buying it for no reason other than it's obviously better than the crap already in my bag, even if that crap is last year's signature model. I am also a technophile, and believe today's golf equipment is the best in history and contributes significantly to my enjoyment of the game. Rock on, men. There are, however, a few minor things for which I'd like to, oh, maybe gore the equipment manufacturers in the eye. To wit:
First of all (and we have Tom Wishon to thank for writing about this first), can you stop monkeying around with lofts and forcing us to buy more clubs? This has to be the biggest scam since title insurance and selling water in plastic bottles. Think about it: you used to have a pitching wedge with 50 degrees loft, and a sand wedge with 56. Someone added a 60 degree, fine. But when they started ratcheting lofts down to give us the illusion that the clubs were "longer," the pitching wedge became 48 and eventually 46 or even 44 in some sets. Now, we need a "gap" wedge, to fill in the hole.
Brilliant marketing! Why didn't I think of that?
And of course, they've done a similar thing on the opposite end of the bag; since modern 3- and 4-irons have the loft of the 1- and 2-irons of yesteryear, nobody but very strong, skilled players can hit them anymore. So, we're forced to buy things like hybrids, 7-woods, Perfect Clubs, CPRs… I have a basement full of them.
Also, I understand that a premium driver costs $400 or more, and that if I want the brand new irons I can expect to spend $700-$1000. Nobody takes up this game to save money. But at these prices, can you do us the favor of not introducing five new drivers every year? You barely get the bar code labels cleaned off the shaft when some gloating chopper in your foursome tells you he's ordered a later and greater model (Note to George Promenschenkel and other fellow Obsessive Compulsive Golfers: I use Goo Gone to clean labels off golf shafts. I absolutely detest using a club that has tags and stickers on it.).
I hope when the equipment companies start selling clubs with interchangeable heads and shafts, they will pass on at least some of the economic benefit to us. Imagine being able to keep your trusty shaft, but just screw on the new season's club head… at a reduced price, of course (dream on - we'll probably pay more for the privilege).
Pros, Teachers, and Other Self-Anointed Golf Intelligentsia
I don't know about you folks, but my least favorite bit of sage advice from golf magazines, Internet pros, and know-it-all golfers is "make sure you take enough club on this shot." Do people not realize that as golf advice goes, this is like a cave painting? We know, fer Crissakes! Selecting a club is not some abstruse, exotic decision that is the sole realm of expert golfers. We ordinary guys do it, too.
We know the argument. Since we mis-hit most shots, take more club so that we'll be on the green more often. Except this doesn't always work out. While coming up short is not good, making a good swing and watching the ball fly over the green is no fun, either. Most of us would rather play with the expectation of making a good swing than choose a longer bat and hope to foul it off. Aren't we supposed to be thinking positively?
Sometimes, we might be thinking clearly and strategically, but in a realm wherein you, the expert, has no experience. I sometimes will opt for a club that I know I must hit almost perfectly to get pin high, because I would rather have the miss end up short. Why? Because as a chopper, I know that many misses are both short and crooked shots, and for me it might be easier to get up and down from fairway short than from a fried egg lie in a deep bunker pin-high.
The whole premise of the advice, often delivered in a patronizing, "now just listen to Old Pro here and you'll be fine" tone, is that we are all hopelessly inept at understanding our limitations, a sentiment that borders on flagrantly insulting. Despite what is often said and written, I think most mid-handicappers who play golf regularly actually do have a reasonably realistic idea of how far they hit their clubs. It may take a while to learn this, and everyone has had the experience of watching in horror as their well-struck iron fails to clear the brook, but my experience is that most of us eventually learn our lesson.
And even if someone is a chopper who misses the face most of the time, putting a longer club in his hands ain't likely to do much good in terms of finding the sweet spot or squaring the face anyway, is it? Might even make things worse, as many of us know. So just stick to your own wonderful game.
Club selection advice often borders on the ridiculous, especially if you've been having a particularly bad day and playing below even your own limited expectations. I've heard guys advise club selections for higher handicap partners that could only be appropriate for an octagenarian dwarf on chemo playing in the Thursday night ladies league.
Just because a golfer has a double digit handicap and doesn't hit it as consistently far as you, doesn't mean he can't fly a 7-iron 110.
I played with a guy once (he was a little better than me, but thought he was much, much better) and we were searching for our tee shots in the right rough. He found his, and told me in a serious, brooding tone reminiscent of Dick Cheney at a White House press briefing that I should be looking for mine (gesturing to a distant pasture about 50 yards behind his ball) "way back there." Another guy in our group found my ball a few feet ahead of his.
Guess I bounced it off a tree stump or something.
The Telestrator and other TV Line Drawers
This is a neat tool, but it absolutely drives me nuts when people use it to analyze golf swings. You know what I'm talking about. They show a player's swing in slow motion, and draw all sorts of lines on it to show the ball position, spine angle, shaft angle, compute the third derivative of angular acceleration, indicate areas of DNA transcription, etc. We are expected to accept all of this as a highly scientific proof on the player's swing. A sort of DaVinci-esque, bio-mechanical treatise-in-a-videobyte.
The problem is, most of this stuff is hooey. For one, the camera is in a different place for just about every one of these analyses, which has a radical effect on what your eye sees. If the camera is as little as a foot ahead or behind of where it was on the last swing analysis, the ball position, to select one often-illustrated point, will appear vastly different than on the previous swing. If you don't believe, me, try it some time. Have your friend set up to the ball. Stand across from him, even with the ball, and look where his hands and head appear relative to the ball. As your buddy remains frozen, move a little bit to your left or right, and look how different everything seems.
Ralph Guldahl is supposed to have had his golf swing ruined by this illusion. After winning two consecutive U.S. Opens in the 1930s, he wrote an instruction book. The photographs of his swing for the book were taken in such a way that his ball position looked markedly different to him from what he thought it was in his swing's eye, prompting him to spend months on fruitless, counterproductive "correction" of a problem that never even existed. Eventually it got into his head, as they say, and wrecked his game.
A similar problem exists with lines of the "spine angle." Watch them do this some time and be really discerning about how you watch it. There really are no good, fixed landmarks on the body which allow any reproducibility in drawing this angle. Sometimes the top of the line is the player's collar, sometimes it's the middle of his neck; same problem with the bottom of the line.
I sometimes think that if the analyst likes the player, they draw the spine lines so that they look parallel, reinforcing the player's "fundamentally sound" swing. (And for what it's worth, why do we care? Although a consistent spine angle is taught as a fundamental today, there are many, many expert players and fantastic ball strikers who move the spine around, and I don't think anyone can keep it completely still.)
- What's so wrong with pull carts and "personal electric push carts" that most high-end courses don't allow them? Charge us a cart fee if you want, but let us walk or use one of these wonderful inventions.
- When the heck are we going to be able to buy the little gadget you clip to your club to make it stand up, saving your back… the one that won Fore Inventors Only? All the excellent products that lost out in the final round are out there on the Web, but I can't find the winner.
- I hear teachers talk about using "the big muscles" in the swing, in order to make it easier to control and more repeatable. Let me ask you: if you want to thread a needle, and do it as accurately and gracefully as possible, do you hold the needle and thread in your fingers, or between your thighs?
- Christmas is coming. Please, wives, girlfriends, Moms & Dads, no more towels with the little brush embedded in it and the word GOLF embroidered at the top. No ball monogramers. No hats reading "Certified Golf Nut." How about a coupon book of "kitchen passes" to play all day on Saturday, when it warms up? I'll do the dishes all winter.