2005: Advice, gadgets and saviors
There is something really strange about the game of golf. I guess it has to do with human nature. There is always somebody worse than you, someone who needs your help, guidance and infinite wisdom. Even if you have no idea in hell what you are talking about.
Take my father-in-law, for example. Don’t get me wrong; I love the man to death. I want to use him as an example that everyone who plays this silly game can relate to. At the height of his golf game he was a not-so-legitimate 22 handicap. This goal was obtained after considerable hard work and intense practice.
After a three-year layoff and major back surgery, he returned triumphantly to the game. Under doctor’s orders he was allowed only to chip and putt for the next six months. I guess the doctor never saw him hit a 4-foot putt – it’s not a pretty sight and his putting stroke easily could rupture another disc. Anyway, after a few warm-up chips he was ready to go. Not ready to start playing, but ready to restart his true avocation: master teaching professional.
He jumped in a cart and fell in with our group.
Never mind the fact that his two sons and I are fairly well equipped to get around the course on our own accord. One of us is a club champion, one a former PGA Tour player and one a rib-eating champion who is not a bad golfer.
When my wife is ill, she doesn’t want anybody to touch her or talk to her. I think most golfers are that way. They don’t want instruction or pity. They just want to be left alone in their misery.
But, left to their own accord, golfers will buy or try anything to cure what ails them. I get a chuckle every time I see the latest golf instruction gadget arrive on the scene. Following are a few of my experiences with the latest and greatest game-improvement methods:
I was in a golf shop just the other day that was attempting to sell a device to groove your putting stroke. The idea is fairly simple. Aim this device at the hole from 5 feet away, place a ball in the notch and let a track guide your putter along the correct path.
The funny thing about the concept is that “experts” can’t even agree on the correct path for your putter. Some say the path should be an arc from the inside to square back to the inside (Ben Crenshaw, Phil Mickelson, Justin Leonard). Others proclaim a straight-back and straight-through approach is the ticket (Loren Roberts). Billy Mayfair cuts across every putt, but he can be on my putt-putt team any day. I once asked Gary Player who was the greatest putter he has ever seen. Without hesitation, his answer was Bobby Locke. He added that Locke hooked every putt. Locke couldn’t use a putting track because every stroke would knock it over.
Sports psychology is a field that is very hot in golf right now. I hold the distinction of being the only failed patient of the great Dr. Bob Rotella. Doc literally wrote the book on golf sports psychology. He is, by all estimations, a world-class head shrinker.
When I first met him, he was working with seven of the top 10 money-winners on the PGA Tour. My coach at Georgia Tech brought Doc in to work with the team. After school, as my professional career progressed, I continued the relationship. As a direct result of his time with me, Doc threw many of his theories out the window.
I was, however, very good for his business. On multiple occasions, players paired with me in PGA Tour events called Doc for consultation. (Some called before the round. All required post-round counseling.) What does he tell you? For details, read his book “Golf is Not a Game of Perfect.” As a general overview, he pretty much tells me the same things my wife does. I just seem to pay more attention to him.
As my golf career was fading, I decided to make a last-ditch effort to revive it. My quest led me to a world-renowned instructor who will remain nameless. He is a nice man with an excellent track record working with some of the finest players in the world.
Seven years ago, I spent four hours working with him at his golf school. I’m still sore in places. Two members of his staff had surgical tubing tied to my body. I felt like the Barney float at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. At critical points in my swing, one or the other would make a big tug on the tubing. All of this was analyzed over and over on video monitors. I can’t remember the exact point in time, but somewhere during this process I decided that sitting in a broadcast booth looked like a real nice career.
In conclusion, children have a development window when they are receptive to learning languages. It comes easy and they are proficient for the rest of their lives. Golf is the same way.
I don’t mean to discourage readers, but if you are older than 20 and you suck at golf, the odds are that you are going to suck the rest of your life. Don’t be embarrassed. Embrace it. Enjoy being outdoors. Have a hot dog at the turn.
If you can’t get your jollies out of that, start giving golf lessons. It sure works for my father-in-law.
– Charlie Rymer, a former PGA Tour player, is a golf analyst for ESPN. He writes an occasional column for Golfweek.