If you ever find yourself in need of subjects for a social psychosis study, find some golfers. Having worked in the golf industry for the better part of eight years, I have met all manner of insane people. Everyone plays golf. Rich, old, white guys dominate the culture but it has to be one of the most diverse sports played. I have worked with kids starting the game at three years of age, all the way up to a man, deep into his nineties. I have worked with a man worth hundreds of millions of dollars and a man who had clearly slept in a bush before our session. All colors, ages, religion, creed, sexual orientation etc… you name it, I have encountered it. Yet all of these snowflakes share one common trait, no matter the background…
All golfists are nuts.
Golf has been played for hundreds of years, literally 400 plus years of golf have been played all across the globe. It’s even been played on the Moon. The object of all of this golf, by the way, is to play the least amount of golf. Just the premise is crazy. Hit a little nugget, hundreds of yards, with a stick, into a four inch hole in the floor. Absurd. The most amazing stat to me anyway, is that, even though its been played for forever, the average amateur score has remained largely unchanged. One would be forgiven for assuming that doing the same thing repeatedly for half a millennia would result in getting better at it. But they haven’t. Billions of dollars are spent annually on this game, from lessons to rounds of golf to equipment. Engineers with Doctor in their titles design the equipment which then goes to a facility to be produced to tolerances of thousands of an inch, using material that would have made early space race engineers blush. Same thing happened in tennis, and tennists got better. Yet, golfers keep posting the same score year after year. Part of this has to do with an equal amount of people take the game up as quit in any given year. My feeling is the people leaving had never improved to a point where they are willing to keep playing. Or they died. Either way they were probably rubbish at golf. What then, makes all of these unique people so bad at golf? What makes them continue banging their collective heads against a lateral hazard post?
Golf is a very introspective game. A golfist needs to be able to confront all sorts of stuff that reflects poorly on themselves. How they handle failure, how they take responsibility for arbitrary rules violations, which they enforce on themselves, how they manage to not break all of their equipment after throwing their fifth $5 golfball into a pond or so deep in a wood that it’ll never be retrieved. Some handle these things with great aplomb, most do not. Those that do have a great time and usually turn professional and make many millions of dollars. The rest, are the subject of this piece. They are the ones who will miss the ball entirely, and instantly blame their club for being in the wrong setting, or the most recent article they read in “Hot Tips, and Cool Clubs Magazine.” Couldn’t possibly be that they should’ve spent that $400 they put towards their eighth driver acquisition of the season towards a mess of lessons with a professional. No, they just need to “get their hands through…” Not that a lesson would do them much good. “Golf Pros” are almost worse than amateurs, most are more disillusioned about the game than I am. They learned something in 1985 about teaching and have clung desperately to that theology ever since. No matter how much new information comes to light, the idea of having to re-learn what they “know” is on par with letting Edward Scissorhands handle their rectal exam.
But rather that seek out those who have this new information, golfers continue to seek out the same awful information perpetuated by those who sell magazines intended to keep you subscribing for the rest of your life, and teachers who can’t be bothered to learn something new. The manufacturers aren’t any better. Each year they produce clubs that guarantee additional yards and straighter shots. You can’t really blame them though, they are exploiting an inefficiency in the market. They know full well that their claims will never be challenged. Only the internet is bold enough to take them on, and that’s a place where the biggest enthusiast site, GolfWRX, dedicates far too many articles to the topics of “feel” and “sound of shafts.” Yet they have hundreds of thousands of active readers. The absurdity of things that get argued about, by “Experts” in the forums boggles the mind and defies all rationality. It is the ultimate collection of “never read the comments.”
The funny thing is, golf is easy. The entire industry is predicated on the idea that it isn’t. Golf can be learned and played with nothing more than a towel, a few clubs and some patience. A copy of Ben Hogan’s “Five Lessons” will teach you more about the cause and effect of a golf swing than nearly anything else. There are some outdated theories, but as a primer, nothing is better for learning how to hold the club and address the ball. A towel or glove tucked under each arm will teach you the rest. As for equipment, get fit. Go find a proper fitter with a Trackman launch monitor who can sell you some Ping golf clubs. Everything else is useless. There are prettier clubs, there are clubs that go farther, there are cheaper clubs, but they are all worse at what matters… playing the least amount of golf. Ping clubs will also last you the rest of your life. Unless you are already very strong (you aren’t) or incredibly talented (you aren’t), you won’t be needing an entire fourteen club set. Shoot for fifteen yard gaps: whatever achieves that, is what you need. It’s that simple. The brand of tape under your grip, does not matter. The color of the shaft, does not matter. The sound of the shaft (not a thing), does not matter. The flex of your putter shaft… that’s right, it does not matter. Yet, these are the things that keep golfists up late into the night.
It might not be very fair to pick on a group of people who just want to spend half a day walking around a field with like minded people. That’s not crazy after all. Perfectly reasonable in fact. The difference is, these people aren’t just walking around. They are forming horrible opinions about things that have no impact on anything. They are espousing these newly formed opinions upon anyone who is unfortunate enough to be paired with them. They will develop war stories that make the most extravagant fishing tale sound like the See Spot series. They will spend every free moment consumed by reflections on the latest Michael Breed non-sense from the Golf Channel. Family gatherings no longer matter, they would rather be walking in a field. No matter the weather. Go to a course when it’s snowing and you will find someone looking to get out. Pouring rain, no problem. 130c in the shade, no problem. Apocalypse, no problem. They would probably ask one of the four horsemen for a lift up #16 fairway, it is, after all, a real pain to walk. None if this is normal behavior, chessists don’t behave this way. Nor do stampists. The only other collection of people who act in a similar manner, spending thousands of dollars on subtle performance tweaks while torturing themselves mentally and physically, is cyclists.
I must now come clean and confess, I am a golfist. I have done everything listed in this document. I was also a cyclist for a spell. So I’m basically a certified nutter. I have changed my outlook on both sports though: simplify and enjoy is my new philosophy. It’s brilliant, I recommend you try it too. Because after all, maybe you’re not very good.
P.S. If anyone from GolfWRX ends up reading this: G LST 10.5* Alta X 45″ – G Stretch 13* Alta S – G 17* Alta X – G-Max 4i 19* AWT2.0 S – G 4-9+PW AWT X Green dot std length Glide 50*SS and 58*ES – Ping 1-A 35.5″, is what I would buy if I could afford it. WIWITB (what I want in the bag)