Joe Ditzel Has Some Golf Problems


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Joe Ditzel Has Some Golf Problems

  1. 1. Joe DitzelHas SomeGolfProblems
  2. 2. Joe Ditzel Has Some Golf ProblemsCopyright © 2010 Joe DitzelAll rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book maybe used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission fromthe author except in the case of reprints in the context of reviews For information,write Hartford-Whaley Publishing, 914 Westwood Blvd., No. 327, Los Angeles, CA90024.FIRST EDITIONLibrary of Congress/CIP Data PendingDitzel, Joe Joe Ditzel Has Some Golf Problems/Joe Ditzel 1. American wit and
  3. 3. Contents The Only Blues You Should Be Playing is BB King 4 The Mulligan Brothers 6 Surface of the Sun 8 Hit Yourself Hard in the Head 10 Circle The Carts! There’s A Crazy Man In Them Thar Hills! 13 The Long Ball 16 Spanked 19 Whatever You Say 21 Partly Cloudy 23 Game’s on Fire 253
  4. 4. The Only Blues You Should Be Playing is BB KingYou used to be able to shoot a round of golf in a few hours. Now a round of golf drags onlonger than a weekend with your relatives. It takes all day to finish 18 holes. You play thefirst hole and then you wait. Finally, you tee off and then you wait. You go to your tee shotand wait until they are off the green. Slow play has never been worse.Let’s all learn to recognize and avoid these slow play sources:Playing “The Blues”Too many golfers overestimate their ability and “play the blues.” You shouldn’t play the bluetees unless you have a 10 handicap or better. The handicap of most people “playing the blues”is their swing.Lost BallsDon’t spend 20 minutes looking for a lost ball. These thrifty golfers organize a safari withtents and camping gear and push further and further into the underbrush. One of the ad-venturers cries out, “Eureka, we’ve found it, I see a Titleist at the bottom of that ravine!”Hey, it’s just a golf ball! It’s lost- you can buy another one. Don’t worry about the ball. Sometwelve year old will find it and sell it back to you from his used ball store set up betweenholes on the front nine. Don’t let his skateboard throw you off. This kid is the Bill Gates ofused ball sales. I know one kid who made $20,000 in one summer selling used golf balls! ByAugust he had set up a drive-thru for golf carts. It looked like a mini-McDonalds. He repeatsyour order into a little speaker: “Your order is 6 Top-Flites and 6 Molitor X-outs. Please payat the first window.”Yardage GurusAnother person sending golf back to the ice age is the golfer that needs to know the exactyardage. “Is the pin at the front of the green or the back? What does the yardage on thatdrain say? Let me check my course guide- it says it is 183 yards from this eucalyptus tree.”After tearing up some grass and throwing it in the air they say, “Looks like about a half clubbreeze.” Again, if you are a good player, you can go for the pin. Otherwise, put it on the greenand keep moving.Putter Woes4
  5. 5. One source of slow play are weekend Nicklauses who evaluate a put from every direction.First they stand behind the ball and plumb-bob their putter as if they are surveying newroad construction. They don’t feel confident until they consult a U.S. Corps of Engineerstopographic map they have spread out on a Black and Decker Workmate set up on the green.Then they take a soil sample to determine moisture content and grass variety. By this timeyou’ve sat in the fairway so long you are getting hungry so you build a fire and roast hotdogs.Golf Course ManagementI don’t find many course marshals that do anything to deter slow play. One marshal told me,“There’s really nothing we can do. Even if we let people play through it doesn’t help.” Maybehe would be more effective if he wasn’t sneaking into the trees for a shot of Jack Daniels. Heisn’t helping when he yells at a foursome for having eight players on the fairway because he’sseeing double. Many golf courses don’t get it at all. I saw one course that had a sign near awater hole that said “No Fishing!” So far I haven’t had to wait because the foursome in frontof me was fishing. Hey, not a bad idea- “Martha, I shot 175 again, but look at this mackerel!I hooked him with some ham on the end of a sharpened golf tee.”Eating at the TurnLearn to order quickly. Simple. Fast. Bing, bam, boom. Don’t ask to see the wine list. Don’torder Chicken and Shrimp in White Cream Sauce. In fact, don’t even sit down in the grillat the turn. Eat while you play. My brother can hit his driver 270 yards while drinking aHeineken.Mr. EquipmentThis guy has the latest Callaway Big-As-Half-a-Loaf-of-Rye-Bread Bertha. He had the firstmetal woods on the market. He had the first graphite shafts. He had the first titanium. Hescours golf magazines looking for articles like, “Will the New Kryptonite Shafts Help YOURGame?” All day he must tell you what equipment you should have, “You should get a TightLies. You would have hit a good shot there with a Tight Lies.” I wouldn’t have hit a good shotthere with Jack Nicklaus’ clubs. I mis-hit it, graphite breath.Come on, kids. Don’t take 8 practice swings and let’s all get home before the sprinklers popup at dark and hose us down.5
  6. 6. The Mulligan BrothersJimmy shanked his tee shot into the woods. He pulled a second ball out of his jeans pocketwith one smooth move.“I’m taking my mulligan!” he announced to his brothers Steve and Mookie. He placed it onthe tee, reared back and blasted a worm-burner down the middle.“You should have saved your mulligan for later on,” Mookie said, driving the his golf cartover the tee box. “You only get one mulligan per nine holes.”“I’ll be warmed up by then,” Jimmy said. “I won’t need it.” “Yeah, right,” Steve said. “By thetime you are warmed up, we’ll be in the bar.”We were on the brutal Ike course at Industry Hills, one of the toughest tracks in SouthernCalifornia. I was teamed up with three brothers. They attended UC-Irvine together- Stevewas a senior with a vague major, Jimmy studied advertising but spent more time on his mo-bile DJ business, and Mookie dropped in and out of school like he was checking into a hotel.Mostly he helped Jimmy by scratching records.I learned he got the name “Mookie” from his cell mate in the Pocoima jail. He was sen-tenced to 30 days after inciting a brawl at a wedding. Jimmy was DJ’ing the reception whenMookie decided it would be a good idea to put some moves on the bride. The groom andhis 7 groomsmen felt differently.On the third hole, Steve tried to blast out of a sand trap. His ball hit the lip and rolled backto almost the exact same spot it used to occupy. Steve picked up the ball and tossed it nearmy feet on the grass. “I’m taking my mulligan,” he said.No one else was near us. “You can take your mulligan out of the sand?” I asked. “Yeah, butyou only get one mulligan per nine holes,” he answered.On the seventh tee, Steve smashed a ball deep in the rough.“Mulligan!” he said loudly, setting another Pinnacle Extreme on the tee. I looked at hisbrothers. They didn’t say anything- they didn’t know Steve had already used his mulliganout of the sand. Steve had apparently forgot as well.On number eight I waited for the foursome in front of us to get off the green while I watched6
  7. 7. Mookie size up his shot. He was behind a tree that was dead solid in the middle of his line.He kicked the ball out in the fairway.“Taking my mully,” he said to me. I didn’t mind that they were taking mulligans everywhere.They paid their money. But I don’t like mulligans. I try to play it where it lies. I usually don’thave to worry because most of my tee shots end up off the course itself so I have to re-teeanyway. But half the fun for me is trying to hit a heroic shot- one that is way over my skilllevel. When I pull it off it is more exciting than a monster truck triple bill.In tennis they let you hit a second serve if you miss the first one. But tennis isn’t much of asport. You can’t smoke cigars very well and it is hard to hold a beer and serve the ball at thesame time. If I played tennis I would set up the ball machine to launch serves while I wentto the snack bar.In baseball you get several swings at the ball. The only difference is the ball is moving towardyour body at over 90 miles per hour. But in golf you just hit it and find it, hit it and find it,hit it and find it. Mulligans take the misery out of it. What fun is that?On the ninth tee Mookie sent his ball over the green into the flowers. He reloaded and hitthe second ball on the green. Steve bounced his shot off the cart path and nearly hit theFunicular, an old-fashioned tram railway that runs up the side of the hill to the pro shop.He set up another ball and poked it on the green. Jimmy skidded his 9 iron halfway to thehole where it stopped dead. Without a word he teed up another ball and hit it near the flag.“You guys playing tennis?” I asked. “You all hit two balls.”Mookie squinted at me through his wrap-around sunglasses. “We haven’t used our mul-ligans yet!” he said.7
  8. 8. Surface of the SunI went golfing in Palm Springs on Sunday. If you live in Ohio or Idaho or Iowa and you wantto play golf right now, hop a plane and go to Palm Springs. It is golf nirvana. In the CoachellaValley there are 104 golf courses with ANOTHER 100 opening in the next five years. Theair is cool and clear. A sweet fragrance lingers in the desert air. Ahhhhhhhhhh! This is theplace to play golf.But I won’t be there. In January and February it is not uncommon to pay $125 or more perround. PGA West, home of the famous “Alcatraz” island green, costs well over $250.I love to golf, but I also need to save for retirement. If I don’t put away some money now, Iwill be eating dog food under a bridge somewhere. $200 a round doesn’t leave much in theJoe Ditzel Retirement Fund.In the summer, golf in the Coachella Valley is much more reasonable. Last summer, I playedPGA West for under $60. You can play world class courses for $19. There is only one reasonfor this price break- In Palm Springs in the summer THE TEMPERATURE IS 258 DE-GREES!How can you play in this heat? Here are the things to keep in mind:1. Drink lots of water.Each golf cart comes with a thermos jug of ice water. I always ask for two. Then I drink aglass after almost every shot. Unfortunately, I drink water faster than my body can absorbit. My stomach balloons to 10 times its size and you can hear the water sloshing around inthere. It is so bloated that when I stand up my stomach hangs down on the ground. I couldsit on it and bounce around on it if I wanted to. I can barely squeeze beind the golf cart wheelat this point so I sort of lay on my side and push the gas pedal with the shaft of my putter.2. Wear a hat.I take this a step further. I take an extra golf towel and lay it on my head and then put thecap down on top of that. The towel flows out the back and covers my neck and ears. I looklike Lawrence of Arabia. The only other thing I need is a camel with my golf bag hung overone of the humps.3. Wear Sunscreen.8
  9. 9. The sun is extra hard on me because I am 3/4 German and 1/4 Irish. What this means is myskin is so white it is see-through. In high school biology the teacher brought me to the frontof the class to demonstrate the digestive system. I would eat a hot dog from the cafeteria andthe class would watch it go though my body.So I have to wear special prescription sunscreen- SPF 5000. I fill up my bathtub with thelotion. The night before going to Palm Springs, I sleep in the bathtub and in the morning Iwipe off the excess. After 9 holes I need a re-application so I spray myself down with the SPF5000 loaded in a fire extinguisher.All to play golf for under $20.9
  10. 10. Hit Yourself Hard in the HeadGolf is a difficult game to master. Fortunately, all golf instruction is consistent so you caneasily learn the skills you need.Bwaahahahahahahahaha.What I meant to say was, there is so much conflicting advice and different ways to do thingsI don’t know who to trust. One instructor told me, “You should hit a fade.” Another said,“You need to learn to draw the ball.” Huh?I consulted my library of 40,000 golf books. It didn’t help:Tempo“You’ll never play good golf if you don’t hit the ball hard.” Tom Watson - Getting Back to Basics“Appreciate the sensation of swinging the clubhead through the ball as opposed to hittingat it.” David Leadbetter - Faults and Fixes“The pursuit of power is one of the most dangerous things in golf.” Jim Flick - On GolfDownswing“Trigger your downswing by rolling your left ankle toward the target.” Golf Magazine - Private Lessons“Initiate the downswing by shifting the hips toward the target.” Golf Magazine - Private Lessons10
  11. 11. “The downswing begins by turning your left shoulder down and to the left.” Corey Pavin - ShotmakingBackswing“Load up the power in your backswing. Now is the time to coil your upper body as muchas possible.” Ernie Els - How to Build A Classic Golf Swing“Never swing the club past the horizontal position at the top of your backswing.” David Leadbetter - Faults and Fixes“As long as the left side is in control, you can get away with dipping below parallel. Ben Ho-gan did in the early part of his career.” Tom Watson - Getting Back to BasicsBall Position“Some great golf minds like Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan advocate one standard ball posi-tion, just inside or opposite the left heel.” Tom Watson - Getting Back to Basics“The driver and a teed-up 3-wood are the only clubs you want to play off your left heel.” Harvey Penick - Harvey Penick’s Little Red BookStance“Many players associate a wide stance with greater stability and power. That’s a mistake.”11
  12. 12. David Leadbetter - Faults and Fixes“Use a wide stance. The best drivers played from a wide base.” Jim McLean - The Eight Step SwingHead Position“If you’re trying to keep your head down during the swing, you may want to re-think thatadvice after looking at David’s impact position. He looks past the ball and more down thetarget line through the hitting area.” Mike McGetrick analyzing David Duval -“’Head down’ is one of golf ’s oldest mandates and it still makes good sense for the majority.” John Jacobs - Practical GolfPutting“You only have to look at the wide variety of putting styles on Tour to realise that there areno set rules when it comes to putting. Jack Nicklaus, for example, crouches low over the ballwith an open stance, while Greg Norman stands very upright and closed. Fred Couples puttswith his left hand below right on the club, Ben Crenshaw grips the club conventionally righthand below left, while Bernhard Langer separates his hands on the grip completely. MikeHulbert, an American player on the USPGA Tour, even putts one-handed!” Tony Johnstowne - Master Your Short GameIt is all crystal clear once you see it on paper.12
  13. 13. Circle The Carts! There’s A Crazy Man In Them Thar Hills!The ball rolled three-quarters around the edge of the hole and lipped out. It came to rest twofeet way from the cup.“It could be worse”, I said, smiling, leaning on my putter.Kevin glared at me. “And how could it be worse?”Oops. I forgot my rule. When a golfer is melting down, leave him alone.He holed out, walked back to the cart, banged his putter into the bag and then slammed thegas pedal, the wheels sliding on loose rocks before they found traction and the cart surgedforward.The whole day had gone bad for him. Kevin was falling in to the abyss. I’ve seen it before andit is a scary sight. Sometimes a golfer is playing so bad he can’t figure a way out. Everythinghe tries goes wrong. He tries to slow down his swing but hits shots fat. He puts away thedriver and uses his 3-wood but still drives it in the woods. He leaves 20-foot putts 10 feetshort. It’s like Madonna’s film career. Every choice he makes ends up wrong.But it is much more than just playing badly. Heck, I do that most of the time. It is the slowbreakdown. At first, they are calm. But as the round wears on and their play continues todeteriorate, so does their mental fitness. Madness slowly sets in. They fall into their own per-sonal hell. You want to help. In the past I’ve said things like, “I’m no pro, but it looks to melike you are looking up.” Either I would get a dirty look or a terse, “Gee, thanks!” I’ve learnedover the years to just stay out of their way. There is nothing you can do. Except watch.Watch their total psychological meltdown.We went to the next hole, a par 3 with a pond fronting the green. Kevin stomped up to thetee and stuck a ball in the ground. He sets up low behind the ball, like David Duval. Heswings incredibly fast. The ball jumped off the clubface and shot toward the pin. It was righton line.Suddenly, the branches of the surrounding trees started to rustle as a cool breeze kickedup in our face. The ball stalled in mid-air, felt the full effect of the wind and dropped in thewater.13
  14. 14. “$%##@##@@@*%&”, Kevin yelled. He dropped another ball on the ground and swung at itwithout teeing it up. He hit it fat and the ball bounced once in front of the pond and jumpedin.“*$%!%#&*#$#^&”, he screamed. He stormed over to the cart, undid the strap and yankedthe bag off the back and carried it over to the tee box.“Hey, Kevin,” Roberto said, glancing at the foursome behind us. “What are you doing? Wegotta keep moving.”“I WILL get over the water!” he yelled. He unzipped the pocket, and turned the bag upsidedown. Thirty balls poured on the grass. He raked one over. Whack! It shanked into the trees.He dragged another one over. Whack! It hit the cart path and flew into some long strawgrass.He let out a long scream. It started low, from the depths of his tortured soul, then got louderand louder.“Aaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” He thrashed at the remaining balls.He didn’t tee them or try to hit them individually- just swung wildly at groups of balls. Theysprayed everywhere.We ducked behind the carts. With all the balls gone he stomped around and his eye settledon the tee markers, two blue hard plastic balls. He smashed his iron into the one nearesthim. It broke into a thousand pieces. He walked over to the other one and smashed it, too.The club-head broke through the top but the marker didn’t break apart. He lifted the club upand the marker stayed stuck on the end. Shaking the club violently, he attempted to dislodgeit. It stuck like glue.He swung the club over his head and behind his back like he was throwing an axe at a Lum-berjack Festival. “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhh” he screamed again as he launched theclub at the golf cart. CLANG! It hit the steering wheel and skidded down the cart path. Themarker shattered all over the concrete.The rest of the foursome stayed crouched behind the carts. Looking at each other, we startedlaughing at the same time. I laughed so hard I had to sit on the grass on the other side of thecart path. My head banged into the post of the ball washer.Kevin grabbed his bag and threw it on the seat bench. With his right hand he held the bagas he again slammed the gas pedal and the cart lurched forward. He quickly stomped on thebrakes as he reached down to grab his club lying on the cart path. He took both hands off14
  15. 15. the steering wheel, slipped the club into the bag and drove toward the green.“Hey!” I yelled.He slammed the brakes again, jumped out, took my bag off the back, threw it on the ground,jumped back in and sped off. He drove past the green, the next tee and the next hole. In thedistance I could see him throwing his bags in the trunk of his car and slamming the lid shut.His meltdown was complete.He’ll be back tomorrow.15
  16. 16. The Long BallI am an average golfer. In fact, the average men’s handicap is 16. So is mine. Nothing standsout about my game. But, for an old guy, I can smash the ball.Unfortunately, I haven’t hit a fairway since 1968.I’ve hit everything else:• buildings- houses, condos, churches, clubhouses, mini-malls, concession stands; vehi- cles- cars, trucks, semi-trucks, golf carts, bicyclists, delivery vans, lawn-mowers, row- boats, powerboats, sailboats.• stationary objects- ball washers, benches, power-lines, fences, telephone poles, traffic signs, buoys, billboards; people- joggers, kids, caddies, family members, other golfers, course marshals.• water- swimming pools, lakes, rivers, streams, washes, runoffs, creeks, marshes, ponds, big puddles, oceans.• vegetation-trees, bushes, hedges, reeds, ivy, long grass, hay, corn fields, bean fields, ki- kuya, clovers.• and the saddest of all- animals- I’ve hit dogs, cats, crows, woodpeckers, hummingbirds, seagulls, ducks, geese, swans, snipes, roadrunners, deer, crocodiles, snakes, gophers, squirrels, chickens, pigs, and , of course, cows- lots and lots of cows.I hit a lot of cars in parking lots. So many that I can actually tell what kind of car I’ve hit bythe sound it makes. BANG! “That’s a 1995 black Nissan Maxima with the sport package anddealer installed LoJack.” BONK! “Blue 1997 Chrysler Mini Van with the entire PhantomMenace character set spilled all over the floor in the back.” BING! “1984 red Corvette ownedby a guy with lifts in his shoes.”I yell FORE a lot. I have my own delivery. I used to just yell loud and long: FOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORRRRRREEEE!But I noticed people are so used to the word, they don’t even duck and cover. So now I fol-low the long FOOOOORRRREEEE! with a repetitive FORE! FORE! FORE! FORE! Whatthis communicates is “I’m not kidding, Lumpy! I smashed it and it is coming right into you!16
  17. 17. Better hold up your golf umbrella like a shield!”I’ve had to learn to yell FORE in different languages. In France I played a course just north ofCannes. I bashed a ball into the wrong fairway. I yelled “QQQQUUUAAATTREEE! QUA-TRE! QUATRE! QUATRE!” This isn’t the right word. “Quatre” means “four”. It didn’t seemto matter. French people started running around like the German army was on the move. Iapologized to them as best I could but I don’t think it helped. I could hear one of them talk-ing about starting the “La Resistance” again.Last year in Palm Springs I hit a drive into a swimming pool. The next day I hit a ball intothe very same pool. I saw both of them at the bottom. It was 125 degrees outside. The waterlooked inviting. No one is around in Palm Springs in August. It was likely the owners werein Canada or back East. I jumped in and grabbed the golf balls. As I climbed out, I lookedup to see the owner in the window. He wasn’t smiling. I walked back to my cart and droveoff. It was so hot my clothes were dry in 38 seconds.In 1994 I played a round with my brother at his country club in Houston. One of my driveson the back nine took off at 3000 miles an hour. You could hear the ball yell, “Yeeeeeooooow-wwww!” It rocketed exactly six feet off the ground like a stealth bomber flying under radar.First it went straight down the middle of the fairway. At 200 yards it took a hard left turn andheaded toward a house. I could feel my brother thinking, “Oh, no! My dumb brother is goingto smash one of my neighbors windows. I’m sorry, Fred. Joe was never right. I didn’t evenwant to bring him golfing. Too dangerous. But he’s kind of lonely. Desperate and dateless. Imean, he seems to get dates. Well, first dates. Second dates seem to be less common for him.Sorry Fred. It won’t happen, again.” The ball smacked into one of the columns fronting theporch and shot across the fairway and settled in a ditch.One time I was playing at a resort course in Palm Desert and it started to rain. I was soak-ing wet. That didn’t stop me from swinging as hard as possible. I made a huge swing on thefifth tee and the ball went dead right. The club flew left like a machete slicing the air. It flewup and over a condo. Clang! It bounced on the roof. The sliding door to a condo flew open.“I saw the whole thing”, an old man laughed. “Wow! That was something. Wait a minute.”He appeared up on the roof and threw down my beloved Ti-2. “Wow!”, he repeated, “Thatwas something.”Jim Murray, the late, great sportswriter for the LA Times, once described Arnold Palmer ashaving a swing that looked like a drunk on a driving range at midnight. My swing looks likea drunk getting electric shock treatments at a driving range at midnight. I do take the clubback relatively slow. Then I lash at the ball like it insulted my mother. Last year at RanchoPark I swung so hard I drove my driver into the ground and the ball popped up and went17
  18. 18. BEHIND me. Not only didn’t I make it to the ladies tee, I didn’t make it to my own tee.My golf pro says I shouldn’t worry about power- that I have enough power already. Thatwhat I need is control. Wrong. There is never enough power. That’s half the fun of golf. Thebig ball. It doesn’t matter where it goes. Just so it goes FAR.I’m never on the fairway. Ever. I see the fairway from the tee. And then I can see it againlooking back from the green. I don’t wear golf shoes. I wear hiking boots. My golf bag isequipped for deep woods expeditions. I have a compass, maps, a machete, an ax, rope, sleep-ing bags, matches, a Coleman Stove, and a golf hat with a light on the front like a miner.When I play desert courses I bring a camel.I have found some interesting things in the deep woods. In Orange County I found severalfossil sites now being excavated by University of California paleontologists. In Ohio I dis-covered an Indian tribe in the Hocking Hills that had never been seen by man. In Texas Icame into a clearing to find my ball had hit an old oil derrick. The impact made it crank upfor the first time in 100 years. When I got there the oil was shooting 100 feet in the air.There are benefits. I took my girlfriend to Palm Springs last week. She knows absolutelynothing about golf. After watching me for three or four holes she said matter-of-factly, “Youhit it far.”Then she said, “It doesn’t go very straight.”18
  19. 19. SpankedHere is some advice: never go on a golf date.It seemed harmless enough. I play golf. She plays golf. Let’s play golf, I suggested. We couldget to know each other and, if love didn’t strike, enjoy a day on the links. Right?Wrong.My first drive hooked left into the long stuff. I eased the cart up to the ladies tee for her drive.She took a few practice swings. This is when I heard the first alert of my MALE EGO DE-FENSE WARNING SYSTEM: she had the best tempo of any golfer I’ve ever seen. I shouldhave driven back to the car right then, complaining of dizziness and old war wounds.Her pre-shot routine is careful and un-hurried. Then she takes the club back low and slow,ending with the club well behind her head. No way she can get back to the ball from there,you think. You’d think wrong. She hesitates at the top for what seems like hours. Then sheeases the club back down and inside, gently brushing the top of the grass into a perfectlybalanced finish. You could set the atomic clock to her swing.The ball sailed down the middle, curling to the left at the end in a slight draw. When I hit agolf ball, it jumps off the clubface in a panic, like someone jumping out of a burning build-ing. When she hits, the ball seems to leap gracefully from the club, like a figure skater grace-fully throwing his partner in the air in a tight spin.We found my ball in the rough. I hit a respectable shot to the back of the green. We droveover to her ball in the fairway. Again, she took her time. She didn’t seem to know that golfis an anxiety producing sport. Golf can rip your heart out! No one over told her. She was ascool and calm as the beer in the cooler. She surveyed her shot and took another beautifulpractice swing. Easy. Balanced. Perfect. I hate her.Her 7-iron carved a perfect divot as the ball headed for the green. Her golf balls were herfriends. My golf balls hate me. They do mean things to me because I hit them as hard as Ican. She was nice to them, patting them on the butt with her perfect tempo. In return, theywere nice to her.The ball was tracking right at the pin. No fade. No draw. RIGHT AT THE PIN. WARNING!WARNING! I heard my MALE EGO DEFENSE WARNING SYSTEM go haywire.19
  20. 20. I remember watching news reports of the Gulf War. They put video cameras right in the noseof some missiles. Norman Schwartzkoff would stand next to a TV while we all watched fromthe view of the missile as it locked on a building. Seconds later you could see right in thewindow of the building before it blew up. If there was a camera in her ball, you would haveseen the camera looking down at the green as the ball hit the top of its arc. The cross-hairswould be trained spot-on the flag. Then the green would rush into view, filling the screen asthe ball slammed back to earth.It bounced once, hit the flag, and dropped next to the hole. Easy birdie.Hello.I’m about to get spanked.20
  21. 21. Whatever You SayGolf salespeople are the some of the best in retail. They are smooth. They think they can sellyou just about anything. Because they do.I noticed this when I set out to find a new driver. The salesperson disappeared into the store-room and brought back the biggest driver I’d ever seen- 58 inches. Most drivers are around46 inches. I told him I don’t need a driver that is 58 inches long. He said this was the mostexciting new driver on the market. He said with this driver I would be able to drive the ball350 yards. I said if I could drive the ball 350 yards I wouldn’t be in a golf store talking tohim. I would be on the golf tour making big money and getting massages from my Swedishcaddie named Helga.The problem is that to use a 58 inch driver you would have to be nine feet tall. I’m 5’- 10”.I need a 46 inch driver like a normal person. Swinging a driver that is a FOOT longer thannormal would be like wearing shoes with 12 inch heels. You’d walk around like you were thefifth member of KISS.He said “Oh, you just need to slow down your back swing.” I told him that to swing a 58 inchdriver I would have to swing so slow they would call me for slow play.One of the basic characteristics of a good golf salesperson is the ability to agree with any-thing you say. In addition to a driver I wanted to examine different pitching wedges. Thesalesperson gave me two to try. I stepped up to the demo area where you can smack ballsinto a net.I hit both wedges and then held the second one and said, “This one is a little bit heavier thanthe first one.”He said, “Yes, a heavier club is the way to go because it helps you get out of the rough better.”I tried the lighter club a few more times.“I think I like the lighter one better.”He did not flinch as he responded, “Yes, a lighter club is the way to go because you can getmore club head speed with the lighter club.”I could have just as easily have said, “I like clubs that are colored green.”21
  22. 22. “Yes, a green club is the way to go because they blend into the surroundings.”He changed his point of view based on the last thing I said. The beauty of it was the totalconviction in his voice even if he contradicted something he just said.It’s like when you watch football on TV. The announcers always act like they knew what wasgoing to happen AS IT HAPPENS. For example, if Michigan is ahead of Ohio State they’llsay, “we said in the pregame that this Michigan team CAME TO PLAY”. Then after OhioState takes the lead in the closing minutes of the game they act like they knew it was goingto turn out like that. They say, “we said you cannot give up on this Ohio State team. Theirtrademark is to come back in the closing minutes. THEY NEVER GIVE UP.”Often a golf salesperson has limited golf knowledge. But, they know a lot of golf terminol-ogy- just enough to agree with anything you say to move the merchandise out the door. Forexample, I asked, “What is perimeter weighted technology?”“Well, perimeter weighting is used to help you stay prone on the back swing and get the clubon an inside path. When released, this allows the lower body to come through the ball whichwill keep the club on plane, allowing you to swing naturally and hit 10 to 15 yards further.”In other words he has no clue.The most important thing is that he has an answer. Any answer. Just as long as it soundsplausible to every question the customer might have. The golf salesperson consults his owninner database and formulates his response based on what sounds like the best answer tothe question. You ask about graphite shafts and he fills in the blanks from several choices. Itis the mix and match answer method:You: How will these graphite shafts help me?Salesperson: These clubs are made using the ______________(forged/ triplefired/ hot-baked) technology. The shaft has the exclusive ______________(kick flex/ rifle/ thickbutt)design. This allows you to swing easy and still achieve maximum____________(trajectory/gear effect/ stopping power).You: Huh?22
  23. 23. Partly CloudyI decided to go golfing. I looked out the window-it was overcast and gray. Better check theYahoo weather page. The Yahoo weather page has weather outlooks, satellite views, radarscans, precipitation measurements, pollen counts, travel planners, everything- a weatherjunkie’s dream. “Partly cloudy”, it said. “No rain today.” I grabbed my clubs and headed forGriffith Park.Driving alongside the course, I could see golfers on the second and third holes. I love it whenyou can see the course from the road. It adds to the anticipation. “Today is the day!”, I saidto myself. “Today is the day I avenge the previous 7,000 rounds. Today I will shoot a goodscore!”On the second hole, it started to drizzle off and on. It rains so rarely in LA, I don’t even havea golf umbrella. I have a small collapsible black umbrella- a premium for subscribing to theLA Times. I unzipped the zipper on the side of my bag and took it out. I pushed the buttonon the side and it popped open. It was about the size of the umbrellas they put in the MaiTais at Trader Vic’s- it barely kept the rain off my head.By the third hole the random drizzle became a steady drizzle. “This is temporary,” I said tomy foursome. “It’s not supposed to rain today. I checked it on Yahoo.”Waiting on the fourth tee, a Japanese woman in the foursome in front of us called it a day.She took out her cell phone and called the clubhouse to get a ride back to her car. One of thecity workers arrived in a battered green pick-up with the city seal on the door. He loadedher clubs in the bed as she climbed in the passenger seat.“Anybody else?”, he asked. There were two foursomes waiting. Everybody shook their heads.Since city courses don’t allow refunds, everybody decided to stick it out a little further.By the fifth hole, it was pouring. The wind blew hard and cold. All three people in my four-some must have called in because a ranger came out in a four seat golf cart. They got in,holding their clubs between their legs. Somehow the ranger was able to keep a cigarette go-ing. He looked at me through the smoke and rain. “What about you? Had enough?”Enough? It’s only the fifth hole. I said, “It’ll clear up. I checked it on Yahoo.” He looked atme like the metal plate in my head was showing. Black clouds loomed over the HollywoodHills. Water dripped off the end of my golf cap onto my shoes.23
  24. 24. The eleventh hole is a par three. The green was under 4 inches of water. My tee shot ploppedbeneath the surface on the far edge of the green. I found it and hit it as hard as I could. Itmoved slowly under the water stopping slightly short of the hole- about 40 feet or so.On the fourteenth hole, a raging creek roared along the fairway back toward the clubhouse.Two kids were riding the current, sitting on their golf bags, using their pitching wedges aspaddles. I waved. “It will stop soon”, I yelled. “I checked it on Yahoo!” I had heard storiesabout the crazy hermit that lives on the course. The kids thought they had found him.The fifteenth hole didn’t have a water hazard until today. A huge pond had formed on theright side of the green. I saw a family of ducks wearing rubber boots and yellow slickershuddled together on a dirt mound in the middle of the water. The mother sheltered themwith an collapsible umbrella that said “LA Times” on the side.The entire eighteenth fairway was under 3 feet of water. I had to stand on top of a bench inorder to hit a tee shot. Climbing on my golf bag like the two kids, I held two fairway woodstogether with the club heads at opposite ends. With this homemade kayak paddle I made myway out to the ball. I could see it on the ground, a crab nibbling on the Titleist logo. I slid offthe golf bag and took a wild swing. The ball jumped out of the water and flew about twentyfeet. I repeated that until I got to the green. A new course record- 1256.I dripped into the clubhouse, my Foot-Joys making a “squish, squish, squish” noise. The prodidn’t look up but said, “You coming back tomorrow?”“Of course. It’s going to be sunny all day. I checked it on Yahoo.”24
  25. 25. Game’s on FireShady Canyon Golf Course in Irvine, California almost burned to the ground a few daysago. A golfer made a bad swing and hit a rock that sent out some sparks that ignited thesurrounding grass. 25 acres burned before the fire was contained by 150 Orange CountyFirefighters.People ask me all the time where I get material. Sometimes it just writes itself.But wait. The unnamed golfer said he hit a rock that created sparks that started the fire?Hmmm. There is also the possibility he was grabbing a smoke and threw down a butt anddidn’t stomp it out all the way.Jared was like that. He’s a course rat up at Lost Canyons-- the kind of guy with vague sourcesof income that hang around the course all day. The marshals regularly told him NOT TOSMOKE ON THE COURSE. He obliged by waiting until he was out of sight of the clubhouseto light up. That may seem fairly harmless until you consider Lost Canyons winds throughthe Santa Susana mountains located in Simi Valley northwest of Los Angeles. A fire wouldbe devatasting.Throughout the round Jared would sneak smokes. “Heads up right!” he would yell to unsus-pecting gophers and deer as he drove another ball into the shadows of a canyon. I got thefeeling he was hitting them into the scrub off the fairways just so he had more visual coverfrom the marshal.  He could not go more than two holes before he had to light up anothersmoke. He had a system-- he would grind out the cigarette on the ground and then pick upthe butt and drop it into a little cup he had built on the inside of his golf bag near the clubs.A couple of years ago we were teeing off on a bright Sunday morning. There are no homessurrounding the course so you feel like you are away from civilization even though the 118freeway is just down the road.  Halfway down a long par 5, Jared huddled behind his cartto light up yet another smoke. From somewhere in the shadows of the trees, a marshal ap-peared heading full tilt toward Jared’s smoking site.“Jared! Are you smoking?” the marshall yelled, his voice echoing down the canyon.Jared flinched like his daughter just told him her college tuition was going to cost $70,000a year. “No, sir. Just trying to decide on a club. Woo... let’s see...” The marshal drove off inthe other direction as Jared mulled over his shot. Finally he lashed a three-metal down thefairway. He nervously got in his cart and sped off.25
  26. 26. That’s when I noticed the smoke billowing out of his golf bag. In his haste and surprise hehad tossed his cigarette right into the bag itself. The smoke was getting thicker and thicker.He looked like a mini choo-choo train from a Saturday morning cartoon. “Jared!” I yelled.“Your bag is on fire!”  He waved me off as he hurtled across the tarmac. His ball was resting just short of the pondfronting the green. He slammed on the brakes and jumped out. By now the smoke lookedlike a chimney on a steel mill from Youngstown around 1978.  Instinctively he unlashed thebag and threw it on the ground. He took two steps, picked up the whole bag in one smoothmotion and launched it high in the air. The clubs flew out the top as the bag did a slow he-licopter spin before splashing down in the pond, sinking to the bottom.He looked at me and said, “Got a smoke?”26