Last week, as several friends and I approached the midpoint of a thirty-six-hole day, Kevin looked in my golf bag and said, “You really ought to get new wedges.” Because I do anything that people in their twenties tell me to do, I went into the golf shop between rounds and came out with two Cleveland 588-RTXs, their heads and grips still wrapped in plastic. I liked them so much that, two days later, I bought a third, and made room for it in my bag by moving my 3-hybrid into the trunk of my car. And Corey, our pro, said I really ought to replace my wedges every couple of years, so I’ve now added “BUY BUY BUY” to July 1 in my calendar in every odd-numbered year between now and the end of time.
I’m still getting used to my new clubs. The ball checks up more than it did with the old ones, even from light rough, so I’ve had to make some adjustments—although worrying about excessive backspin, for a golfer like me, is like worrying about having too many interesting things to say to Jennifer Anniston. Most of the time, I don’t even bother to clean my grooves, never mind using them to terrorize my opponents.
The pros sometimes cause trouble for themselves by spinning their shots too much, but it’s hard for an average player to think of that as a problem. If every approach I hit came zipping back into a bunker, I’d feel as proud as if I’d taught myself to breathe underwater. Anybody can accidentally hit the ball close to the hole; the awesome thing is to look like you’ve got an inside line on the laws of physics. I myself manage it occasionally—usually from a bunker, or on a day when the greens are soft, or when I’ve swayed so far forward during my downswing that I’ve unexpectedly hit my ball before hitting the ground—and it’s always a thrill.
Even in its truly malignant forms, ball rotation can be exciting. I once played a round with a guy who had a two-fairway slice. His wife was riding in the cart with him, and she’d never seen him play before, and when he hit an unusually spectacular banana she gasped, “How do you make the ball curve like that?” A slice is just backspin lying on its side, so we should treat it the way the guy’s wife did: with respect.
I can think of only one thing that would make me happier than routinely making balls shift into reverse. Some winter, I want the Sunday Morning Group to hire a couple of high-school kids to meet with us every weekend, in the club hall, and teach us double dutch jump rope. We’ll work and work and practice and practice, and then, at the big cocktail party in the spring, we’ll suddenly break into our routine—a dozen overweight middle-aged men doing snappers and caterpillars and buck splits and scissor jumps. We’ll blow everybody away. Here’s what we’ll look like (age-adjusted):