November 4, 2009

Hammer, Nail, Head: "Golf Magazines Are Essentially Equipment Catalogs"

Sometimes a truth is so obvious that it is never mentioned. That's when it almost seems like a revelation when it's said out loud. The Monterey County Herald's opinion writers did just that yesterday when they said that golf magazines are essentially equipment catalogs and that many golfers are always looking for an easy fix to the woes that dog their games. That can be in the form of a new $500 driver, something this author is especially guilty of, or perhaps a new putter, a new sand wedge or a dozen new golf balls guaranteed to fly effortlessly into stationary orbit when struck on a tee box.

While they did point out a Big Truth, what they didn't say is equally obvious, and equally compelling:

One thing more than anything else makes a golfer better: practice. The second thing that makes a golfer better? More practice. And some more practice after that.

I know what you are thinking. It is probably something like "No kidding, say it ain't so. Really?"

I may as well have told you that it's dark at night or that young men generally consider Megan Fox to be an attractive woman. Don't slap your forehead. It is what it is.

Practice is not the whole story about improving your golf game, however, because practice needs purpose and that purpose is best given by an expert. You've probably met that expert - he's your local pro. I think of Robert Foxworth, the fellow who tries his best to teach me, as a coach. He tells me what's going on, what I need to do, and how to go about doing it. The rest is up to me, and over the past couple of years, we've seen some success but still have a ways to go. That's not Robert's fault, God Bless him, he's given me the same lessons over and over again for months. I just need to learn better.

All too often, players will go and take a lesson but never hone in what they have learned by hitting balls on the range until a bad old habit is broken and a good new one is formed. After all, practice is not that much fun, while playing 18 certainly is. Most of the time, anyway.

Here's what they said out on the left coast, and tell me it ain't the truth:

Golfers are always chasing that new and improved gear that they hope will straighten their slices, add yardage, increase backspin and otherwise reduce the damage when their games are in tailspin. Golf magazines are essentially equipment catalogs with tiny blurbs about quick fixes tossed in so the glossy ads don't stick together.

Lessons? Practice? Yes, they are mentioned in almost every edition, but the casual reader can be forgiven for being blinded by the giant headlines.



What the magazines don't tell you is that you will almost certainly never, ever be like a PGA Tour player, or an LPGA Tour player, or even as good as a Hooter's Tour player. Fact is, 98% of all golfers never sniff par for 18 holes, and that probably wouldn't even put you at the top of your own club, much less good enough to qualify for the Tour. You probably don't have the right physique and you almost certainly do not have the wiring inside your body to achieve that level of golf. Sorry if that is bad news you don't want to hear, but deep down, you already know it.

Consider the numbers: the average golfer has a handicap of around 17, according to the USGA. That would mean that the average player doesn't break 90 in a typical round. And what the USGA doesn't say is that the average player plays fast and loose with the rules, either through ignorance or simply by saying that "this rule isn't important" and ignoring it. Pros can't do that. Those that do don't last long at all in the game. Pro golf hates nothing more than a cheat, and the conduct of a typical golfer in a typical round would yield (in my opinion) as many rules violations as a typical pro would commit in his entire tournament career. Under those conditions, Mr. Average Golfer, you wouldn't have a candle's prayer outdoors in a tornado.

All of this said, there are really two games of golf: the one they play, and the one we play. Sure, you might hit a shot or make a putt as good as Tiger or Phil or Lorena ever could in a given round. The difference is that they do it time and time again, whereas we might hit one or two every times we loop our course. Big difference.

My final Perfectly Obvious for you this morning: Tiger and Phil and Lorena practice out on the range. A lot. Actually, a helluva lot. Probably more in a day than you do in a month, if not a whole golf season. They hit ball after ball after ball after ball until they have grooved the objective that they have for their swing. They hit balls until the improvement to their swing is subconscious and automatic. That's because when they go on the course, you can bet than they don't too think about swing mechanics, they think about course strategy. That's actually liberating, and while you may never have the physical skills they do, the one thing you can learn from them is to make your good swings a habit and then go and play golf instead of trying to learn it while you are with your Sunday Foursome.

In other words, you can be a better player and it won't come from the pages of a magazine or from whatever new gee-gaw the pro shop has that's caught your eye. Instead of dropping five or six Franklins on that shiny new driver, why not spend it on a lesson and then spend the next two weeks grinding what you learn into your brain until it becomes an automatic? Seems like a better investment to me. And it will make golf more fun, because one of the best feelings in golf is giving your buddies a good thrashing that they didn't see coming.


  1. Do something for me - check the reactions the next few days and see if they have the guts to print a reply that points out that newspapers are basically coupon books with a few stories, mostly politically biased, thrown in for good measure.

    Then ask this guy how the heck we're supposed to fix our slices without the multiple anti-slice lessons in every golf magazine ! :-)

    Of course magazines - ALL magazines - are advertisements with a few articles tossed in for good measure. That's how they get people to subscribe. If they were monthly books of articles, it would cost people $20 or more a month to buy them instead of $10 a year.

    Advertisers pay the freight. (psst - advertisers pay that guys's salary, too - but he doesn't seem to understand that)

  2. You are overlooking advertising disguised as editorial content, Court. Disingenuous, yes or no?

  3. no I'm not - that goes in with the newspapers' biased articles - and yes - it's very disingenuous. reviews that consistently put Scotty Cameron putters or Taylormade drivers (just as examples) at the top of the lists are bogus and paid for by advertisers.

    In all honesty, I don't read many golf magazines anymore outside of the occassional weekly - and I stopped subscribing to them because they couldn't deliver them before the middle of the week following the tournament they were previewing. I already know what they are going to say.

    I'm not even saying that this guy from The Herald is wrong - but his article is the pot calling the kettle black.


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