The Single Most Important Truth About Golf

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You can find out what it is at this blog’s new home, on the Golf Digest website. And if you “subscribe” to myusualgame.com, by filling in your email address in the blank on the right side of this page, you’ll be notified every time I post something new. And, if you’re willing to wait a month or so, you can find complete versions of all my old posts on this site, too, by paging down until you reach them.

The Goff 1743

My Latest (and Therefore Favorite) New Golf-Travel Accessory

eBags, one of a select group of companies for which I am an unpaid shill, makes my favorite carry-on bag, my favorite laptop backpack, my favorite packing accessories, and, now, my favorite travel toiletry case:

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You can read more at this blog’s new home, on the Golf Digest website. And if you “subscribe” to myusualgame.com, by filling in your email address in the blank on the right side of this page, you’ll be notified every time I post something new. And, if you’re willing to wait a month or so, you can find complete versions of all my old posts on this site, too, by paging down until you reach them.

Lester’s Wheels Come Off, Plus a Contest

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Actually, it was just one of Lester’s wheels. His car had been in the shop the day before, and something hadn’t been put back correctly, or something. He made it to the golf course, though, and the wheel didn’t come completely off until he was in the parking lot. (He made a deep gouge in the gravel.) If all that had happened at speed on a highway, he probably would have missed his tee time. You can read more at this blog’s new home, on the Golf Digest website. And if you “subscribe” to myusualgame.com, by filling in your email address in the blank on the right side of this page, you’ll be notified every time I post something new. And, if you’re willing to wait a month or so, you can find complete versions of all my old posts on this site, too, by paging down until you reach them.

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18 Good Things About Golf: No. 14

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14. Golf is a game of good and bad luck. It is played on purpose under circumstances that ensure superior skills alone will not always determine the victor. A ball sliced out of bounds may hit a tree and ricochet back to the middle of the fairway. A perfectly struck drive may land on a sprinkler head and carom out of bounds. In an attractively thought-provoking way, golf is frequently unfair. You can read more at this blog’s new home, on the Golf Digest website. And if you “subscribe” to myusualgame.com, by filling in your email address in the blank on the right side of this page, you’ll be notified every time I post something new. And, if you’re willing to wait a month or so, you can find complete versions of all my old posts on this site, too, by paging down until you reach them.

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Change Your Own Grips and Win a New Driver!

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Two days before my friends and I left for Scotland and Ireland, last spring, I decided to replace the grips on all my golf clubs, both as a gesture of respect to the great courses we’d be visiting and as a way of avoiding work. A few weeks before, I’d bought thirteen Lamkin Crossline Full Cord grips and a bunch of gripping supplies, all from Golfsmith. You can read more at this blog’s new home, on the Golf Digest website. And if you “subscribe” to myusualgame.com, by filling in your email address in the blank on the right side of this page, you’ll be notified every time I post something new. And, if you’re willing to wait a month or so, you can find complete versions of all my old posts on this site, too, by paging down until you reach them.

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Two Ryder Cup Shots You Didn’t See on TV

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You didn’t see them because they happened in a different Ryder Cup, the one the Sunday Morning Group held while the American tour stars were getting whupped in Scotland. Twenty-four guys signed up in advance, and Corey, our pro, divided us into two teams. The youngest guy in the field didn’t show, apparently because he had met someone interesting in a bar the night before. Corey took his place, after persuading his mother, our club’s immediate past president, to watch the golf shop for him. (The guy who didn’t show made a big mistake, in my opinion. The time to establish golf in a romantic relationship is at the beginning, before the non-playing party has had time to develop a case.) You can read more—and watch video clips of the two shots—at this blog’s new home, on the Golf Digest website. And if you “subscribe” to myusualgame.com, by filling in your email address in the blank on the right side of this page, you’ll be notified every time I post something new. And, if you’re willing to wait a month or so, you can find complete versions of all my old posts on this site, too, by paging down until you reach them.
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Naked Putting With Jennifer Lawrence! (I Mean, a Poet Laureate for Golf)

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Billy Collins was the Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001-’03. He has taught at Lehman College, in the Bronx, since 1968, and he is a senior distinguished fellow of the Winter Park Institute, at Rollins College, in Winter Park, Florida. He’s also a golfer. This summer, he wrote to ask for advice about playing golf at Askernish, a restored Old Tom Morris course on the island of South Uist, off the northwestern coast of Scotland. I put him in touch with Ralph Thompson, the club’s chairman, and Collins visited with his fiancee, whose name is Suzannah. You can read more at this blog’s new home, on the Golf Digest website. And if you “subscribe” to myusualgame.com, by filling in your email address in the blank on the right side of this page, you’ll be notified every time I post something new. And, if you’re willing to wait a month or so, you can find complete versions of all my old posts on this site, too, by paging down until you reach them.

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Better Golf, in Fizzies Form

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I played football in junior high school and for a little while in high school, in the late 1960s and very early 1970s. We had two-a-day practices each August, before school began. This was in Kansas City, where summertime temperatures occasionally reached a hundred degrees, and the humidity was so high that the air felt like aswimmable liquid, and the droning of cicadas gave the heat anaural dimension. My school’s locker room had a salt-tablet dispenser. We were encouraged to help ourselves before practice but weren’t supposed to drink much water, which was said to cause cramps.

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Taped to the wall was a large photograph, labeled “Johnny Condition,” of someone throwing up into a toilet—probably a water guzzler. There was a drinking fountain behind home plate on the baseball diamond; we were allowed to visit it once or twice each morning and afternoon during football practices, but we were encouraged not to swallow. Then, midway through a practice in 1970, our coaches gave us each a paper cup containing an orange liquid, which they had produced by stirring powder into a big plastic tub. The powder had been invented by scientists at the University of Florida, and the liquid was called Gatorade. It was the dawning of the Age of Hydration.
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Nowadays, of course, there are people who won’t attend a thirty-minute office meeting without a big bottle of something to sip on. But overdoing it is undoubtedly healthier than underdoing it. And I’ve observed, over the course of many summers, that not drinking enough water on a hot day has a major impact, late in a round, on my ability to swing a golf club. Drinking water also gives me something soothingly self-distracting to do while my opponent dithers over a shot in a tense match.
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The problem with Gatorade and other sports drinks is that they’re loaded with sugars or artificial sweeteners, and if you drink them like water they’re also expensive. Recently, I’ve discovered an excellent workaround: “Active Hydration” tablets made by a company called Nuun.

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They contain the good stuff in sports drinks, including electrolytes (whatever those are) and various other things, and they don’t contain sugar. They come in plastic tubes, which you can safely keep in your golf bag, and when you drop one of the tablets into your water bottle it fizzes. Do you hear me? It fizzes.

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I Don’t Get Blisters Anymore, But if I Did. . . .

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Golf shoes by True Linkswear, a company for which I am an unpaid shill, are so comfortable that I now wear one or another of my many pairs not just when I play golf but also almost any time I can’t get away with being barefoot. My favorite model at the moment is the “lyt dry” (I don’t pick the names). The photo above shows what they looked like on my feet at the men’s member-guest, back in August. I’m also quite fond of a similar model, called “vegas.” (Again, I wasn’t asked.) Here’s what those look like:

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My very first True golf shoes were a little like clown feet, or flippers, but they were so ridiculously comfortable that I didn’t mind. Recent models have been more shoe-like, in both appearance and construction; some of the latest ones even have heels. That’s a good thing if you want to wear golf shoes when you go out to dinner with your wife, as I do, but it’s mildly worrisome if the thing you loved most about your first pairs was that they felt like bedroom slippers. I’m just going to trust True’s designers not to go overboard with the conventional-shoe stuff, and to keep working on whatever technology they use to make the waterproof models waterproof—a technology that, in my opinion, they haven’t perfected.
I haven’t had a single blister since switching to Trues—not even on the two days when my friends and I played more than a hundred holes between sunrise and sunset. If I ever do get a blister, or feel a blister coming on, however, I know exactly what I’ll do: cover it immediately with a Band-Aid Advanced Healing blister pad:
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The pads are actually manufactured by a Danish company, and are called Compeed everywhere but in the United States. (The company also makes pads for corns and cold sores.) Each one contains a “hydrocolloidal” gel, which both acts as a cushion and draws moisture from the affected area, helping it to heal. Ideally, you leave the pad on until it falls off—and it stays stuck, even in the shower, and doesn’t slide around the way an ordinary bandage does. I carry several in my golf bag, and issue them to whimpering friends.
My wife uses them with her new hockey skates, which she’s still breaking in. She also uses another Band-Aid blister product, called a Friction Block Stick, as a blister preventative:

 

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It’s basically Crisco in a plastic applicator, as near as I can tell. (The main ingredient is hydrogenated vegetable oil.) But my wife says it works.

 

Two Golf Dreams, Featuring St. Andrews and Stevie Wonder

I’ve often wished that I’d taken up golf twenty years earlier, not only so that I could havekatieredgown wasted my physical prime on golf courses instead of in classrooms, libraries, and bars, but also so that I could have attended the University of St. Andrews instead of the college I did. I’d have bought a student golf ticket, which would have enabled me to play virtually free rounds on the Old Course and all the other Links Trust courses until I flunked out—and I still could have ended up in my current profession, since writing about golf requires no education at all. Instead, I’m forced to live vicariously through Slade, whose granddaughter Katie (in the sharp red gown in the photo at right) just matriculated at St. Andrews. As far as I’m concerned, she’s living the dream. And I know that the rest of the Sunday Morning Group shares my conviction that no one ought to pass her college career without frequent visits from her grandfather and his friends, who will be happy to camp out on the floor in her truly awesome-looking dormitory, which is barely a thousand yards from the first tee:

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Closer to home, my friend Ellis recently had a golf-related dream, which had nothing to do with the Old Course but is of special interest because Ellis doesn’t play golf. Here’s his account:
My wife or girlfriend is Naomi, who is a real person I dated in the 1970s. She’s present when I’m approached to take part in some kind of TV event during which I’m to pretend to be Stevie Wonder. No singing, no makeup or disguise, just regular white old me, saying I’m Stevie Wonder. I say OK. We go to this big motel room, where there are a lot of TV tech people and others, plus broadcast equipment. I am given two golf clubs (a putter and an iron), and there is talk of a saxophone. Everyone behaves like this is an ordinary event, and nobody says, Hey, wait, you’re not Stevie Wonder.
There aren’t even any formal questions, or even a host. I kind of stand around, with the golf clubs, chatting with people. And that’s it. I realize that the event is over, and the crew starts packing up. One tech guy complains to me about his device and I nod as if I know what he’s talking about. I have a general sense that nobody really knows what they’re doing. Finally, Naomi and I leave, traverse some distance to “go home,” and end up at a wall covered with fabric. At the base of the wall is some sort of concealed hatch. She goes through it, I push down on it with whatever object I’ve been carrying, and prepare to go through it myself. And then I wake up.
And I hadn’t known Stevie Wonder was a golfer. The things we learn from dreams.

 

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