2003: Club Life - Stop the madness!

A friend of mine owns a local golf shop, a quiet place where he installs shafts, tweaks lies and lofts and sells classic books. It also is a spot where people gather to talk about the sport, whether it is the PGA Tour, Annika’s workout regimen or their own miserable games. I visit the shop once in a while, and its down-home air and breezy gossip remind me of Drucker’s General Store in “Green Acres.” Only in this case, the wood stove is replaced by a shaft calibrator. And no one is wearing bib overalls.

For years, I found the shop to be a wonderful refuge, and it was easy to get lost in the pleasant conversations. But I barely can walk through the door anymore. It’s not that the owner and I have had a falling out, or that my interest in the sport has waned. Rather, I am put off by the emergence of the golf psycho and the way he now dominates so many of the discussions.

The golf psycho, for the uninitiated, is the person who has become so caught up in technological minutia that he, or she, can think or talk of nothing else. Forget about appreciating the brilliant design of a Seth Raynor Redan or the views across a stretch of golden fescue as a cock pheasant bursts from the tall grass. The golf psycho is much more interested in the “spining” of his graphite shaft and whether the toe of his 2-iron has been properly ground.

I am no dinosaur, and my bag holds the latest and greatest in woods, irons and balls. I also know why friends who have scratch handicaps or better get caught up in the subject; they are good enough to truly understand and benefit from subtle changes in their gear and are constantly looking for an edge. But it’s just not for me, even as my USGA index hovers around 5, and certainly not for those in double digits who could no doubt benefit from having less information spinning around in their heads on the golf course. And I refuse to cross the line by contemplating the optimum length of my driver when I instead could be abusing a player about the sorry state of his game or falling over in laughter at the fellow who splits his khakis when he bends down to mark his ball.

I also have a difficult time hearing others go completely off on the subject, and it makes me sad when I think of how demented they have become. Like the fellow who changed shafts on his driver three times last winter based on how he hit balls at a heated range. Or the guy who walked into the shop to say how the balls he hit with his recently reshafted 3-wood were bouncing “funny” when they landed in the fairway. “Has anyone else complained about that?” he asked with a straight face. Then there was the 10 handicapper looking for the exact same Titleist 3-wood Tiger Woods uses. Estimated price tag: $850. Estimated number of players on this earth who actually can hit a decent shot with that stick: 12.

The stories flow steadily out of the shop, and the best ones often are recounted to me. Such as the guy who was getting set to smack balls into a net there a few months ago so my friend could help determine what shafts would work best for him.

“What kind of shot do you want me to hit?” the customer asked.

“Just hit it,” the store owner said.

“You have to tell me what kind of shot you want,” he replied. “A butter-cut fade? A honk and hook?”

Fortunately for my friend, the work- day was about over, and his partner already was tapping the keg they sometimes set up in the back. A lager, it seems, was most definitely in order.

Sadly, such madness exists all over the country. Consider, for example, the player who flew to Arizona for a personal club fitting that cost more than $2,000 and returned home thinking he was ready to tee it up with the pros. Three weeks later, he put a different set of custom-made irons in his bag.

I appreciate the passion of these folks, but I do believe they need to ease up. And it wouldn’t hurt if they used some of the money they spend on new equipment for a little psychoanalysis.

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