The Consistency of Inconsistency

No room for error

By Mike Pile

Sometime during the first couple of holes, but only if I am striking the ball well, my pick-up partner may ask me my handicap. Knowing an avid golfer would not use the term handicap, but instead index, my usual reply, always with a smile, is “my swing.”

It’s funny because it is true. Like every mid-teen index player, my swing changes round to round, hole to hole, shot to shot, hell it even changes within the swing itself. Early in a round, I’ll be fresh, free of trying to score or following up a birdie without a big miss and so strike the ball well. Or not. Later in a round, I may be warmed up with the confidence that comes from hitting fairways, GIR’s and racking up some pars. Or not. Sometimes the zone hits around 8 through 12 while still fresh but warmed up. Or not.

My driver, or better said, my tee box swing is sometimes on, most times not so much.  But I stand over every ball perched on its peg with high expectations and springing hope eternal and imagine the high fade I know I can hit. When it works the reward is a walk down the center of the fairway. And that’s it, that’s all there is. Because any shot hit from the fairway is not going to produce a GIR. At best it will miss the target with plenty of green to work with, at worst it will be short-sided, sandy or wet. Usually all three.

The only way I can hit the green is from the rough after a crappy drive and a pretty good second shot which because of my crappy drive I am still short. Now I am on in three and can make the occasional putt for par because the rest of that hole has already gone to shit.

Or worse than anything, the driver is straight and the mid irons are on target but I can’t putt to save my life. I can’t make a putt, because the long and mid game is working and I am poised to post a decent number but the golf gods conspire against me. Again.

See here’s the thing. It is near impossible to fire on all cylinders. When the driver is working and you split the fairway all you can see is a tap-in bird and therefore you completely foozle the second shot. When the tee shot goes haywire, all hope is abandoned and you can swing freely and get on or at least chip and putt and hope.

Firing on 4 or 5 of a V-6 gets you an 85 and if you make a few bomb putts, you can get to 82/83 which is pretty respectable by most mid-handicap measures. But to get to 81 or 80 or the holy grail of breaking 80, you need to be firing on 5.5 or all cylinders. Drives need to be on or just off the fairway, approach shots must finish on the green and those that don’t are not sphincter-puckering. Long putts need to result in tap ins, medium ones need to drop and those within the circle of trust need to be swept away to eliminate any last chance of throwing up on yourself.

And among the 138.5 different things that separate the mid-handicapper from the single digit is that the six hits pretty decent shots with all clubs almost all the time. The six may not be able to hook it around a tree, fade it over the water, make it back up from 100 yards out, or hit it dead, solid perfect more than once a round, but all the shots across the range of clubs are generally solidly struck most of the time. When he splits the fairway, he does not get intimidated by the perfect lie, angle and distance left to the green. When she misses a putt, she doesn’t take it out on the ball on the next tee.

And among the 138.5 things that make this game so infuriating (and rewarding I suppose) is that there is just no room for error, no accommodations made for inconsistency. To post a sub 85 (the generally acceptable goal for a mid-handicapper) requires every shot be decent, every shot be consistent, every shot remain in play.

But boy, when the stars align and 80 is threatened, is there anything better?


An Affair of the Cart

A writer comes clean, sort of

 By Mike Trevino

My wife thinks I am having an affair.  The signs are abundant; working late, unexplained absences, a marked increase in meetings, an inability to be reached despite pocketfuls of communication gadgets.  My appearance betrays me. My hair is frequently mussed, my face flush, my breath is sometimes just a bit too fresh, and my clothes usually rumpled.  I have even caught myself returning home in the evening in a different shirt than the one I left with.  And when confronted with questions about any of these, my responses are hesitant, ambiguous and evasive. 

Yes, I am having an affair.

But my adultery is not with another woman.  It is with the game of golf; a far more demanding mistress.  I am not proud of this.  It tears me apart, the cheating, the lying, and the misdirection.  My heart is heavy with guilt and my mind is taxed keeping this web of deceit from unraveling.  But the sick thing is, I mean the really twisted part is that I would rather have my wife think that I am having an affair than uncover my link slinking.

The little clues that could be my undoing require almost daily vigilance.  Pulling money from my pocket at the checkout line reveals a scramble of tees, ball marks, repair tools and other detritus of golf.  I must diligently police my pockets to retrieve a scorecard before it goes through the wash, pluck the receipt peeking from my wallet, or toss a stubby pencil before it can rattle through the drier.

I no longer wear cuffed pants.  They fill up with sand and grass.  The same goes for light colored trousers.  Try explaining the grass stain on your behind.  I have done it but I’m not proud of it.  When she starts to wonder why the rubber bottom is separating from the upper leather at the right toe of every pair of shoes I own, I’m done for.

My car must undergo a regular cleansing of the game’s flotsam and jetsam.  Loose balls roll around the deck; tees are wedged into the crease of every seat; range tokens clutter my cup holders; score cards, yardage books, and empty ball sleeves litter the back seat.

The ATM near my local course knows my name but the pro-shop does not.  I haven’t paid a green fee with a credit card since I have been married.  There is not a golf course in the county that knows my real name.  At one, I am Mike Palmer, another Mike Watson and less often since I got a quizzical look, Mike Trevino.  The guys at the counter comment on my apt name.

Last year I took a set of six lessons from a local pro; paid cash.  He still greets me as Mr. Kite.

Enter “g” on my cell phone, press “search,“ and it will display every golf course within skulking distance.

I clear the calls made as a regular part of my commute and panic if I forget to erase the history of golf web sites on my computer.

I regularly exceed the speed limit sneaking off to make my tee time

And the deceptions are not limited to my spouse.  With my kids I reference the game as a model of behavior for life. Not just the obvious values involving honesty but importantly the skills of resiliency and focusing on the moment.  Then I tell them Daddy’s got to run some errands and shoot over to the range for a large bucket.  To the strangers I partner with as a single, I hold various cool entrepreneurial jobs that allow me to play in the evening.  Even to my regular playing partners, I cannot share the great shot I made last week or yesterday when I lipped out to miss my first sub 80 round.  I have come close to an ace more than once during my surreptitious rounds and wondered what the exposure could bring.

In a game where you are your own umpire, where integrity and honesty are valued above all else, I am a cheater. Not on the course but to get to the course.  I’ll hit a practice ball after a muff just to keep my confidence up during the round but I’ll play the original ball.  I only post online so I can lie about the date. I have been known to pick and clean in the winter, play a leafy in the fall, nudge a ball from casual water in the spring, but never when there is money involved, when in competition friendly or otherwise and never without announcing my intentions to my partners.  In anything more than a friendly round, I am meticulous about the rules.  But with my wife, I lie and cheat like a sociopath.

From tee through green I am as good a partner as you could want.  But on the links of relationships, I would be blackballed from the club.

Flirting with 79

For the average golfer Is there any better number to post than one starting with seven?

By Larry Palm

I am 47 years young, and I have been working golf since I was 10.  I am a respectable mid-teen index.  I know the etiquette, I know the rules, I know when to keep my mouth shut and I know when to pick up the pace.  In other words, I am a golfer.  What I don’t know is the joy of breaking 80.  All those who can empathize slosh your beers.  Yes friends, that sound is a tsunami.

I have had my moments; confident over the ball, swing grooved in, a sense that every putt had a chance.  I have had that great but all together too rare feeling that a good round is possible because my bad shots are still good misses – they are in the rough, not the trees.

Despite the inevitable boogies, I am managing the course smartly, taking the percentage shots, laying up, aiming for the middle of the green, taking the risky shot only after a precise risk/reward calculation.

Even on the last hole with south of 80 in striking distance, I keep my mind focused on the shot in front of me, not the last one, not the next one.  I have my mantra, “what’s my target, what’s my target.”  I keep it loose, swing without fear, and crush a high soaring driving that carves the sky like a broad sword as it sails sharply right and out of bounds.  And of course, with 79 gone, I tee up, swing with resigned abandon and split the fairway.  A mid-iron, a chip close and a tap-in leaves me with an 81.  Curses, foiled again.  Still a great round for me.  Just not great enough.

If I start the round with a couple of pars, I can see 79.  I have played enough to maintain focus on the shot that is before me.  I have read enough books to know that it is me and only me that controls things.  Not my partner, not my competitor, not my equipment, not the rub of the green.  Just me and my swing.

If I start with a couple of bogies, especially if they result from duffs, not near misses, I know this is not the round to score, but a round good for other things.  Like experimenting a bit with one of the hints from last week’s golf rag; working on tempo, keeping my head still.  Nothing drastic, mind you, just swing tweaks or mental imagery since this is not starting off as a career round.

But mostly after a start like this, I remind myself, usually unsuccessfully, that golf is not a game of perfect.  It is a game of recovery.  The real skill, I know, is overcoming adversity by making smart decisions and staying in the moment.

The golf swing is complex; there is no doubt about it.  It is a difficult game.  But this is not my problem.  I can point to two and only two things when my shots go awry.  One is I swing too hard.  I am impatient to get to the ball and swing furiously, ferociously.  The other is a lack of mental focus.  The club head is not two inches into the backswing before I begin thinking about work, my spouse, how this ball is going to land on the green like a butterfly with sore feet.  I know I am doing a thousand other things wrong, but they all bud from these two thorns.

But then of course, 79 has become such a bugaboo, I can’t get out of my own way.  I can only hope for years to pass and patience to grow.  Yet hope springs eternal and there is not a day I tee it up that I don’t think this will be the day.



The Story of My First National Championship

an oldie but goodie



   The 1910 Amateur Championship at The Country Club, Brookline, where I saw Mr. Herreshoff make the drive above mentioned, was the first national event I ever entered, my age at the time being seventeen years. I did not qualify, but my failure did not make me feel very badly, considering all the circumstances. My total of 169 in the qualifying rounds was only one stroke worse than the top qualifying figure; and among those who, like myself, failed to get in the match play were such noted

Golfers as Robert A. Gardner, then the national amateur champion, and H. Chandler Egan, a former champion.

   Furthermore, I played under circumstances that were a handicap in themselves. The championship field was inordinately large, and I was among the late starters for the first round, getting away from the first tee at 2:44 in the afternoon. This would have been ample time to get around before dark, had it not been an extraordinary congestion at the third tee. Some one of the earlier starters was exceedingly slow, not to mention the time taken to search for a ball, and other little things that helped to cause delay and hold the players back. When my partner and arrived at the third tee, there were ten pairs then waiting for an opportunity to play that hole, and there was nothing to do but wait. An hour and ten minutes of waiting at one tee in a championship is not conducive to best efforts; at any rate, it was not in my case.

   While waiting at this tee, I remember having watched W. Chick take eight for the sixth hole, and, while mentally sympathizing with him, I did not dream that I would get a similar figure for my own card, when I finally did play the third hole, for I had started most satisfactorily with four for the first hole, the same figure for the second. When it came my turn to drive from the third tee, I drove into a trap, lost a stroke getting out, put my third in the woods, was back on the fair green in four, on the green in five, and then took three putts for an eight. But from that point, I was forty-four strokes for the first nine holes. By this time, the afternoon was pretty well gone, and my partner and I had to stop playing at the fourteenth, because of darkness. As my card showed even fours for the first five holes of the inward half, I was beginning to feel better able to complete the round that day, I think I might have been around in seventy-nine or eighty.

   Along with several other pairs who were caught in the same dilemma, I had to go out the following morning to play the remaining four holes, and the best I could get for them was a total of nineteen strokes, whereas I would do those same holes ordinarily in sixteen strokes, at most. My score of eighty-three for the first round was not bad, however, and a similar round the second day would have put me in the match play.

   But I had made one serious mistake, as I learned in the course of the second round. My supposition had been that, after playing the last four holes of the first round on the morning of the second day, I would have ample time to go home to breakfast and then return for the second round, my home being in close proximity to the grounds. What actually happened was that, after completing the four holes of the first round, I was told to report immediately at the first tee for my second round, in which I was have the pleasure of being partnered with the then president of the United States Golf Association, Robert C. Watson. For the first nine holes I had reason to feel satisfied, doing them in forty-one strokes, with every prospect of doing even better in the scoring for the last nine, which are less difficult. But by this time the pangs of hunger had taken a firm hold, and I feel myself weakening physically, which was the result both of my failure to get breakfast, and the strain of a week hard practicing. The consequence was that I made a poof finish, took forty-five for the last nine, eighty-six for the round, and had one hundred and sixty-nine for my thirty-six-hole total, or just out of the match-play running. The moral is to be properly prepared or competition.

   About that "week of hard practicing" I would like to add a little. My experiences of practicing for the championship of 1910 taught me a good lesson, it practicing may easily be overdone. My idea of practicing for that event was to get in at least thirty-six holes a day for the week prior to the championship. This was based partly on the idea that, with so much play, the game could be brought to such a point of mechanical precision that it would be second nature to hit the ball properly. The thought of "going stale" from so much play never occurred to me. Probably one reason was that I never had had a feeling of physical staleness in any sport up to that time. I always had been keen for golf, from the time of becoming interested in the game, and could not imagine a state of feeling that would mean even the slightest repugnance for play.

   This is, perhaps, an error natural to youth and inexperience. It was not for me to know that a growing youth of seventeen years is not likely to have such a robust constitution that he can stand thirty-six holes of golf a day for a week, not to mention fairly steady play for weeks in advance of that, and still be on edge for a championship tournament.       

   It was not only on the Saturday previous to the championship (which began Monday) that I noticed this feeling of staleness. It did not come on all at once, by any means, and I did not realize what was the trouble, for on the day that I first noticed that I was not so keen for play as usual, I made a particularly good score. That day I was playing in company with H. H. Wilder, R. R. Freeman, and W. R. Tuckerman. This round was more or less of a tryout for places on the Massachusetts State team and I was fortunate enough to get in the best round, a seventy-six. Incidentally, I might add that this performance did not land me the coveted place on the State team, for Mr. Tuckerman reached the semifinals of the championship the succeeding week, which gave him precedence. That year I did play one match for the state team however. It was against Rhode Island when the Massachusetts team found itself one man shy on the day set for play, which also was at The Country Club. Somebody discovered that I was in the vicinity, looked me up, and I played with a set of borrowed clubs, and also won my match.

   To revert to the physical strain of too much practice, I found that on Saturday of the practice week my hands were sore, and I was playing with unwonted effort, though not getting any better, results that when hitting the ball with normal ease. It was my first lesson in the knowledge that when the game becomes a task, rather than a pleasure, something is wrong physically.

   My advice to any golfer preparing for a championship is, therefore, not to overdo the practice end. To my mind, the wise thing is to play thirty-six holes a day for perhaps two days a week in advance of the championship. Then spend a morning in practicing shots with the irons, the mashie, and putting, followed by round of the course in the afternoon. This might be done for wo or three days, with special attention given to the club which perhaps is not getting satisfactory results. One round of golf, without special exertion, the day before the tournament, after such a program, ought to put the player in good shape for the real competition. As for the superstition of some golfers that a particularly fine round in practice means so much less chance of duplicating it in tournament play, I hold a different view, which that an especially good round gives an inspiration to equal it when the real test comes. I always feel after such a round that if I
can do it once, there is no reason why I cannot again.

   Elimination from the championship, in the qualifying round, had its compensations. It gave me the opportunity to watch he championship play for the remainder of the week, to see in action those golfers of whom I had heard so much. That in itself was a treat. Some of the matches, moreover, gave me some new ideas about golf as played in competition by men in the foremost ranks. For one thing, it was rather startling, if such a word can apply, to see a golfer like Mr. Herreshoff literally “swamped” in

is match with Mr. Evans. Mr. Herreshoff had made the lowest score of the entire field in the qualifying round, yet here was the same man unable to put up anything but the most feeble opposition to the young Chicago golfer. Such a match only goes to show that the best of golfers occasionally have their bad lays, days on which they find it seemingly impossible to play satisfactorily. That is a good thing to bear in mind—no match is lost before it is played. When a golfer possessed of such ability as had Mr. Herreshoff can be defeated eleven up and nine to play, it simply shows that golf is a game or uncertainties, after all; that, in fact, is one of its great charms.

   In that same championship, the uncertainties of the game were shown in another match, and again Mr. Evans was one of the factors, though this time on the losing side. He had been playing in form which made him a distinctive favorite for the title, and, in the semifinal round, he came to the sixteenth hole two up on W. C. Fownes, Jr., of Pittsburgh. The sixteenth is a short hole, just a mashie pitch. Mr. Evans reached the edge of the green with his tee shot, whereas Mr. Fownes made a poor effort, and put his ball in a sand-trap.

   The match appeared to be over, then and there. But a match in golf never is over until one player has a lead of more holes than there are holes to play, a fact which was demonstrated anew in his match. Mr. Fownes played out of the trap, and holed a long putt for a three, while Mr. Evans, using his mid-iron instead of his putter from the edge of the green, was well past the hole
on his second shot, and failed to get the putt coming back. Hence, instead of winning the hole and the match, as he seemed bound to do, he lost the hole. Then, as so often happens when a man apparently has a match absolutely in hand and loses an opening to clinch it, Mr. Evans lost the seventeenth, likewise the home Instead of winning the match and the championship, as nearly everybody figured he would, he only got to the semi-finals. It is true that Mr. Fownes made a wonderful recovery at the sixteenth, to get his three; he played a remarkable shot at the seventeenth, too; but a man is apt to do that after recovering from an almost hopeless situation.

   It was in that championship that I was astonished to see such a great golfer as Mr. Evans using his mid-iron instead of his putter most of the time on the greens. He was then following the same practice that was true of his play in the middle west, notwithstanding that the putter is a much superior club for greens such as are found at The Country Club. He could not be expected, of course, to come east and learn to get the best results from the putter in such a short time as he had for practice.

   To see him use the mid-iron on the greens, and then practically lose his semifinal round match, and possibly the title, because he could not lay a mid-iron approach-putt dead at the sixteenth, helped me to form one resolution for which I since have been thankful. That was to use my putter from any point on the green, provided there was no special reason for doing otherwise. Of course, there are circumstances when the mid-iron is better for an approach-putt than the putter, as, for example, when there is a little piece of dirt on or in front of the ball, casual water, or uneven surface to go over. But under normal conditions, nowadays, I would rather use my putter and take three putts, than take a mid-iron or another club. By adhering to that policy, I think I have gained more confidence in my putting, and confidence is a wonderful asset in this branch of the game. Watching the good players in that championship gave me one distinct ambition, which was to try to steady my game down to a point where I would not play four holes well, say, and then have wo or three poor ones before getting another three-or four-hole streak of satisfactory play. The steadily good game is better than the combination of brilliant and erratic. It is something like the hare and the tortoise.  

The Fifteenth of Clubs

A case for one more arrow in the quiver


I am the average golfer. Not an average golfer, the average golfer. I am the mean, the mode, the medium, and the middling. The typical, the ordinary, the run-of-the-mill. By every demographic and golfing metric, I am the guy the public pictures in their mind’s eye and the target customer of every club maker and training aid manufacturer from Carlsbad to Quanzhou. With one exception.

I am getting better. I say this not to brag but to establish my bone fides as a golfing everyman. Every regular golfer has his or her ups and downs but over the last 12 rounds I have gotten better. That doesn’t mean I am scoring lower with every subsequent round, it means that my scores got lower than they were before and they have kinda stayed there. It means that now, when I stand over the ball, I feel pretty confident I am going to put a serviceable swing on the ball. I don’t expect a towering draw, a frozen rope or a power fade, but I expect and get a ball that is almost always in play at worst and positioned for par at best. How have I achieved this?

Patience. But this isn’t a story about that. I’ll let you in on that secret later. See, a little test of your patience with that tease right there.

This is about the tools of the trade and an argument to increase the number of clubs one can pack from 14 to 15. My epiphany came to me like this.

I finally, finally, started to hit the driver in play. At least when I exhibited some patience, i.e. stopped exhibiting the desire to crush the ball in to submission. But sometimes I need a tee shot that while still long enough to give me a fighting chance at a GIR, I could count on to be a little straighter, a little more reliable. For me that’s a three iron. Don’t ask, it just is. Irons look better to my eye. I hit it low and it runs to an acceptable distance on any fairway that doesn’t suck the cleats off your feet.

From long to middle-long distances for the second shot (this is not a driver/wedge story), the sticks in my bag are adequate. A long second with a generous, hazard-free landing area is addressed with my three-wood. A longish shot requiring some height is accomplish with a hybrid while mid irons cover the area up to wedge distance.

The short game, as every golfing pundit will tell you, is where the scoring is done. I have a handful of clubs including the putter, wedge, gap-wedge, sand-wedge and a 64-degree trouble-wedge because my natural ball flight, even with lofted clubs, is pretty low. I like to chip the ball more than pitch it because it is a safer shot. But on more occasions than I would like, a semi-heroic, (I am hesitant to say flop) high, soft shot is called for, thus the 64.

And this should be enough clubs, right?  Except it’s not. I am not even that good, and I’ll switch out a long club for a short one if the course has more holes than not where I can land short of the green and hope to run it up. I’ll pack another wedge and leave the long hybrid in the trunk if most of the greens are protected in front on today’s track. Why do I need to make this choice? Isn’t golf hard enough?

Clubs are generally designed for 10-yard increments. The length between one club and its immediate neighbor can vary anywhere from a quarter of an inch to a full inch. Lofts between clubs change from three to as many as five degrees. So, having the club to match the distance (and using the same swing) makes perfect sense. Up until inside 100 yards that is.

Around the green, where most of us end up on their second shot, the scoring zone, the choices are limited to one, maybe two clubs for the entire range of 100 to zero yards. That is, every increment of ten yards has to be addressed with the same club or two requiring you to vary the loft and distance either by chocking down, opening the face, hitting it off the toe, or varying the length and speed of the swing. It bears repeating; some eight – very important – shots must be accomplished with a single club.

I am not suggesting a set of 10 wedges but there should be legal to carry another club to help fill in the gaps between 100 and 0 yards. Or to fill in any other gap for that matter. While not necessarily making the game any easier, allowing a fifteenth club in the bag does carry the possibility for lower scores. And happier golfers. And if customer satisfaction is not motivating enough to the USGA and R&A, how’s this:

The economic impact is obvious and huge. And needed. Let’s face it, the industry is struggling to remain relevant and viable.

Every manufacturer, both major and minor, is given an opportunity to sell one more club as is every retailer and reseller.

Designers and manufacturers might be motivated to create an innovative hybrid, a specialty club, a super-draw bias driver. Creativity would be unleashed. Whole sets could get tweaked.

A fifteenth club generates more demand for heads, shafts, grips, head-covers, glue, tape, shipping materials and shipping services benefiting the entire supply chain.

Old bags are at once obsolete as consumers run to golf shops everywhere for bigger bags with 15 slots. Will they be a little pissy? Yes, at first, but every golfer loves to buy golf stuff almost as much as they love to play.

Course owners and managers benefit too. The golfer now has another tool. It could be a specialty chipping club, a long iron to cheat the wind off the tee, a trouble wedge for getting out of, well, trouble. Scores go down, golfer is happier, plays more rounds, buys more rounds, puts more money in course owners’ pockets.

What’s not to like?


Alone in a Sea of Humanity

A team of one


Golf is a lonely sport.  This may seem counterintuitive if the only golf you play is on daily-fee tracks and the only time you watch it is 12:00 to 3:00 Pacific Standard Time.  But if you are among the chosen few to whom golf is a calling then you know just what a stupendously lonesome game it is.

A survey in a national golf magazine asked men about their favorite part of the sport. The majority stated that it is the camaraderie, time spent with buddies, that is most enjoyable.  This is response that pollsters refer to as a socially acceptable answer. Meaning that this is the response you give because it sounds right, plausible and somehow acceptable.  Yet any player worth his green fee knows that the true, unmitigated joy of the game is out driving your buddies, out scoring your pals and flat out spanking that little dimpled orb as far and as straight as humanly possible.  And these all too rare joys are achieved irrespective of your playing partners.

That golf is a lonely hunter is no more evident than at the practice rounds prior to the traditional Thursday commencement of a professional tournament.  For it is on these Mondays, Tuesdays, and early misty Wednesdays, that one can observe the grinders alone with their thoughts in an undulating emerald sea.  On these days the players, who are only slightly better known than their caddies, but significantly better groomed walk alone, play alone, and live and die alone.

Preferring solitude to crowds myself, I spent Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday watching the nameless and faceless prepare for the AT&T National Pro-Am on the Monterey Peninsula.  Prior to the antics of a Bill Murray, the 15 handicap swing of a professed scratch Dennis Quaid, and the wind-cheating two-irons of “these guys are good” tour pros, walk the near great, the dare to be great, and the I wish but know I never will be great.

They walk, and I follow, among the most dramatic landscape ever created by nature and enhanced by man.  Yet the sum-total of their attention is on a common white ball and a four inch hole in the ground. They care not for natural beauty but only for the physical beauty of launch angle, spin rate, swing speed and moment of inertia. I am, but tell myself I am not, awed by an azure ocean, breaching whales, and homes bigger than the Inn at Spanish Bay. But none of this really matters to the lonely wanna-be. What is truly inspiring is the silky poetry of a golf swing generated by even the most common of aspiring tour players.

I cannot watch golf for more than a nano-second before wanting to swing away myself so I wave down one of the ubiquitous Buicks trolling 17-Mile Drive. A very old and very nice volunteer drives me at three-miles an hour to the closest course a struggling writer can afford.   And although I am partnered with three other golfers, I am alone as I would be in the middle of the desert. 

With visions of the senior tour, I flail, I thrash, I slash. The ball hooks, ducks, slices, worm burns, drop kicks, tops, chili dips, skulls, teases and taunts. My playing partners feel for me. But once, once in 87 swings, I attain the solitude that only a golfer can enjoy.  My swing is effortless, smooth, fluid.  The ball sails against the blue and drops on the green just as me and Mr. Titleist intended.


Patience is a Virtue

And a key to lower scores


If you’re at a bit of a loss for a tip, trick or swing thought, here’s a timeless idea: Patience. This is decidedly not a tip, trick or swing thought but an approach to the game that tenders very real and tangible improvements. You see, golf is a time-consuming activity and unless you are among the lucky few who can spend all the time in the world playing and practicing, you are inevitably pressed for time. Now this time pressure can be real or simply illusory, but is pressure nonetheless.

If you’re successful at all in any endeavor; parenting, business, exercise, etc., you must possess some degree of urgency, some degree of meeting the goal, some degree of competitive drive. But these qualities, for the most part, are antithetical to a good golf game. I cannot tell you the number of guys I play with (and myself on more occasions than I wanted) who rush through the round either just wanting to be done or to make a meeting or simply to not be away for that long. This git-er-done-itus is not conducive to scoring. Here’s how a little patience can benefit you.

Most mid-index golfers, i.e. the vast majority, wants to hit the ball far. This means speed. This means a rush to get the club head to the ball. And this means swinging from the top because using the arms to start the downswing is faster. Using the hips to trigger the downswing takes time and patience. But that’s what is required for a better strike. Think about pausing at the top and swinging from the bottom.  Hideki Matsuyama does that. Maybe too much for some but not a bad approach for most.

You can groove this by swinging in slow motion and exaggerating the pause to ensure the transition from backswing to downswing is initiated by the hips.

Patience is also a great tool throughout the round. When you hit the clunker on any given hole, the natural tendency is to race to the ball, hit fast and erase the memory. But of course, the opposite is true. While sometimes just swinging away is the best course of action, it helps to bear in mind that one bad shot per hole does not mean purgatory. Even if it is a big miss, maybe par, likely bogie, maybe double is within reach. And here’s the next thing about patience.

A bad hole or even a couple of bad holes don’t kill around for the mid-indexer. In my endless quest to break 80, I used to just give up after an early round double. But as I settled down (it only took 10 years) I was able to regroup and make a few pars and get back on track. Did I break 80? No, but I hovered around 85 and south and have learned to be happy with that.

Patience is also an effective game strategy. You hear Nick Faldo speak to that all the time. There are holes to score on and holes to do as well as you can and get out of there. There are pin placements to attack and ones to avoid. Simply stopping the aggressive, caveman, flag hunting approach and opt for the fat of the green on just a few holes can be the difference between a score you’re content with and the desire to quit for life.

Patience doesn’t mean slow, it means mindful and deliberate. Remind yourself before the first tee. Walk at a pace right for you. Approach the ball and ready the shot at a pace right for you. Breathe. Enjoy the surroundings.  Patience; swing to swing and hole to hole.


A Guide to the PGA Tour

Bigger than the NFL



Who generates more annual income the NFL or the PGA Tour? If you were a high school student taking the college boards and didn’t know the answer you would puzzle it out through simple test taking strategies. To wit: this is a golf site for one and the obvious, common-sense answer is the NFL so clearly that’s not it.

Yes, it is the PGA Tour and as an avid golfer you’d know that but what is staggering is the size differential between the two.  Per IRS schedule 990 the PGA Tour generated income of nearly $1.1 billion in 2014.  The NFL? Almost $300 million.  That’s right the PGA Tour is nearly 4x the size of the NFL, reputedly the most powerful and certainly the most visible American sports league in history.

$1.1B in income doesn’t get you on the Fortune 500 but as a nonprofit you are ranked in pretty good company just ahead of the YMCA and Goodwill.  And that’s only what’s reported as a nonprofit.  Its actual income is bigger, considerably bigger.  Though truth be told a little harder to tease out.  A big organization comes with a big spreadsheet.

The Tour’s income is generated through a diverse, and more importantly steady, set of revenue streams.  It owns six other Tour properties: the Tour, the Mackenzie Tour (Canada), The Champions Tour, PGA Tour, LatinoAmerica, and PGA Tour China.

It manages plenty of events, no surprise, but none of the majors.  The closest it comes is the President’s Cup, the WGC’s and the Players.

It is in the golf course business owning or licensing 32 resort and private clubs through its TPC Network.

It is in the software business with EZLinks, a golf course management platform, and has recently launched a, a tee time reservation system.

It is in retail, licensing its brand in dedicated superstores, store within store concepts and restaurants familiar to most airport visitors.

It is in the partnership business maintaining marketing relationships with virtually every significant golf-related nonprofit from the First Tee to the World Golf Hall of Fame.

While it is now among the most profitable of non-profits it was not always so.  Like all sports franchises the Tour is an advertising driven endeavor and more to the point television advertising. But televising a golf event is a herculean task requiring more cameras, more announcers, more travel, more equipment, more staff, and more to the point, more money.

From its inception through the late 1970’s the business model depended on selling broadcast rights to the networks. And while it worked for a time, it was becoming increasing untenable.  It was then that commissioner Deane Beman developed and executed a strategic plan worthy of Harvard Business School Case Study.

Instead of selling the broadcast rights and placing the burden of peddling the advertising space on the networks, the tour packaged the events and sold them as sponsorships to the advertisers themselves.  It was a brilliant win-win deal all around.

The broadcasters loved it.  They received a pre-sold inventory of advertising and little trouble filling the balance of time slots because they were now a limited and thus more valuable commodity.

Corporate marketers loved it.  They purchased high quality exposure to an affluent demographic and the positive halo that comes with being associated with a charity.  They reached new customers and feted current ones.

The players loved it.  Purses grew then soared with the professional debut of a certain golfer who just happened to born around the time the first deals were struck.

It is hard to see this business softening anytime soon.  While the other leagues face their own set of hurdles; NFL and concussions, baseball and boring to name two, the PGA Tour is uniquely positioned to thrive.  It is the only franchise where its fans actually play the same game as the pros. Not exactly the same, obviously, but every fan has the opportunity to play the same courses and once in a great while hit shots with similar results.

This aspect is a significant competitive advantage to the Tour as it competes for eyeballs. Avid golfers are an addictive lot and will scoop up new equipment, lessons, gadgets and experiences to feed their need. They are also an affluent lot purchasing insurance, financial advice, luxury automobiles and cruises.  And this does not begin and end with the coveted millennial demographic of 18-34. Golfers golf and buy stuff as long as they can still drive a cart even if they are no longer allowed behind the wheel.

It is a perfect storm of a business: happy fans, happy players, and happy marketers all bathed in the soft sweet light of a charitable enterprise.