My right hand felt heavy when I woke up one morning, and my fingertips tingled. The tingling persisted through breakfast. I shook my hand, did a few pushups, and squeezed a rubber ball. The tingling persisted through lunch. I consulted a medical website and discovered that I was suffering—as I had suspected—from poor circulation, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, a herniated disk, a tumor, Guillain-Barré syndrome, and multiple sclerosis.
I paced nervously through my house, and thought about how much I love my children, my wife, and our furniture. I fretted about whether to call my doctor. It was Sunday afternoon, and he was probably playing golf. Should I page him on the course or drive directly to the emergency room and schedule my own M.R.I.?
Thinking about golf and my doctor made me think of something else. With a flash of insight possibly comparable to Pasteur’s realization that moldy bread can cure pneumonia, I was suddenly able to diagnose my malady as pseudo-carpal-tunnel syndrome brought on by sleeping in an awkward position while wearing one of those copper wristbands that Seve Ballesteros used to endorse. I removed the wristband—which was crimped against the underside of my arm like a staple in a stack of papers—and within an hour all my symptoms had disappeared.
Despite the side effects, I loved that wristband. It was made by a company called Sabona of London, whose headquarters are in Sikeston, Missouri, a legendary American power vortex. (Also in Sikeston: Lambert’s Cafe, “The Only Home of Throwed Rolls,” where waiters throw fresh-from-the-oven dinner rolls at customers all the way across the restaurant.) Pretty many of the golfers I saw on TV wore copper wristbands; wearing one myself seemed like an easy way to become exactly like them.
When my wife first saw my wristband—which she called a bracelet—she laughed out loud, and I took it off for a while. But then I put it back on. I lost it eventually, but several years ago, at the P.G.A. Golf Merchandise Show, in Orlando, I persuaded various merchants to give me new wristbands, and ever since then I’ve worn them in rotation, with occasional replacements. Most are made of “surgical-grade silicone,” rather than plumbing-grade copper, (One, which a woman in Bogota, Colombia, gave me after I’d admired hers, looks liked barbed wire.) Several have proven power-boosting components, among them magnets, titanium pieces, ion-emitting discs, and holographic images like the ones on credit cards (also a well-known source of power). The effect on my golf game has been, quite literally, unbelievable, as you will see in the video below, which we made at the show.
I have an article in this week’s New Yorker about hearing and hearing loss. There’s only one teensy mention of golf, in the second paragraph, but hearing is an important subject for all golfers, especially as we get older. Much of what athletes in several sports think of as “feel” is actually aural feedback rather than anything to do with the sense of touch. Arnold Palmer, when he was in his seventies, said he had of trouble playing golf if he wasn’t wearing his hearing aids. (“Without my aids, I lose all feel for what I want to do,” he told Golf Digest.) The reason is that good shots sound different from bad shots, and if you can’t hear that difference from one swing to the next, over the course of a round, you can lose your way.
The same is true in other sports. Liam Maguire, a hockey analyst in Canada, once said, “You can’t handle the puck if you’re not able to hear it hitting the stick. It’s amazing how much hearing plays into these basic capabilities.” A recent article in the New York Times described an 18-year-old deaf tennis player, who is notable because at 143rd in the world he’s the highest-ranked deaf tennis player ever. He has compensated for his deafness by learning to see things that other players hear, including the spin on a serve.
You would think that, for an athlete, not being able to hear would be less of an impediment than not being able to see, but that isn’t always the case. A hearing researcher at Harvard Medical School who is also a serious sailor told me that much of the ability to sail a boat depends on having fully functioning ears—both hearing and a sense of balance. An experience sailor, as long as he didn’t run into anything, might actually have an easier time sailing blind than sailing deaf. The Vision Cup, an international tournament for blind golfers, will be held in British Columbia in July. Is there a Hearing Cup? Maybe someone knows.
I used my Microsoft Band 2 for maybe four and a half months before the wristband fell apart (clumsily repaired by me with Scotch Tape in the photo above). This is not a minor problem, because the wristband is not replaceable and the tear exposed important-looking metal innards. Nor is it an uncommon problem, as I learned from Google. What a piece of crap! I apologize for saying nice things about the Band in this post, back in July. Microsoft has announced that there won’t be a Band 3, and it’s unloading its Band 2 inventory at a discount. Don’t be tempted.
Until my Band fell apart, I actually liked it and wore it all the time, even though it wasn’t waterproof and all I really used it for was to count my steps and tell the time. Also, it barely got through a whole day on a single battery charge. I could probably cover all my personal fitness-tracking needs with a wristwatch and a pedometer, but when my Band self-destructed I replaced it with an approximate counterpart from another manufacturer: a Fitbit Charge 2 Heart Rate +. The Fitbit does pretty much everything the Band did—in most cases, better—and because it isn’t tricked out with a lot of pointlessly fancy graphics its battery lasts much longer. And the wristband is replaceable.
Recently, I read that some people who wear fitness bands are more likely to gain weight than people who don’t, apparently because they view their supposed “calorie burn” as a license to overeat. I myself have always ignored the calorie-counting feature, since nobody really knows how to count calories and the relationship between food consumption and weight gain is immensely complicated. I just like knowing roughly how far I’ve walked when I play golf and walk the dog—and, occasionally, taking a peek at how long I slept the night before (which the Fitbit tracks automatically).
Joe was out doing errands last Sunday. He drove past a public course in the town next to the one we live in, saw that there were only a few cars in the parking lot, and guessed correctly that they must belong to people he knew.
The cars belonged to Tim, Doug, Mike A., and me (plus the kid behind the desk in the golf shop). We’d already finished eighteen, but Joe borrowed a hat from me and clubs from everyone, and joined us for a few bonus holes. The course was the only one still open in our immediate area, yet nobody at all had played it the day before, and nobody but us had shown up that morning. The kid charged us half-price.
The temperature was below freezing, but there was hardly any wind, and after we’d played a couple of holes we were so hot we took stuff off. The great thing about winter golf is that your drives run forever, and if the greens are frozen you can practice the kinds of run-up shots that come in handy in Scotland and Ireland.
Mike A. had some Tommy Armour Silver Scot golf balls, which he had dug up somewhere. One cracked when he hit it—because it was frozen, we assumed:
But then a second one cracked, too:
The cracks may explain why not even Tommy Armour III plays Tommy Armour balls. (The only reviewer on Amazon complained about cracking, too, and gave them one star—maybe overly generous.) We had the course completely to ourselves until a single guy showed up and somehow got ahead of us. We waited for him on every hole!
Tim and I both wore my favorite winter gloves, Winter Xtreme, by HJ Glove. They’re thick but flexible, and they have nice grippy silicone webbing on the palms and fingers.
If the day had been ten degrees colder, I’d have worn a pair of rain gloves underneath them. But for 29 degrees they were plenty.
You can watch it here.
The so-called locker room at my golf club doesn’t really have lockers, so I keep all my golf stuff in the trunk and back seat of my car (and also in the front seat). I try to be organized, with separate canvas bags for rain gear, extra clothes, winter gear, extra shoes, and so forth:
I store extra balls and several hundred lucky ball markers in a yellow plastic tackle box. (I keep more lucky ball makers in my office, and I have so many that even if I lose one or two per round from now on I won’t possibly live long enough to get to the end of them.) That white thing hanging above the tackle box in the photo below is a glove. I used its Velcro closure to stick it to the carpet-like lining of the trunk:
I keep sun screen and bug spray in a crappy shoe bag that was a freebie at some tournament I played in:
That green-and-white fabric you see in the background of the two photos above is an old table cloth, which my wife and I used on our screened porch until my wife said it had become too gross even for that. It’s heavy and, doubled over, it makes a great trunk liner. I can shake it out, and when it starts to smell bad I can throw it into the wash. The dark spot on the left in the photo below was made by my water bottle, which has a leaky top:
My best recent addition to my trunk is a small whisk broom — a kind the Fuller Brush man used to sell door-to-door. (For those of you who are younger than I am, the Fuller Brush man was a sort of 1960s brush-and-broom version of Amazon Prime.) I bought it because one day this past summer I saw that Gene had one in his trunk. I use it to remove leaves, dirt, and grass clippings from my golf bag and the wheels of my push cart before I put them back in my car:
It even works on really nasty stuff, like this:
In May, eleven buddies and I spent a week playing golf in Ireland, and one of the guys on the trip, Mike B., brought a travel accessory I’d never heard of: a pair of cigar-shaped electric boot dryers, which he takes on ski trips. When I’m traveling, I usually dry wet golf shoes by balancing them upside down on the shade of a bedside lamp in my hotel room (a method made both less hazardous and less effective by the death of the incandescent bulb) or by wedging them between the dashboard and windshield in my rental car and blasting them with the defroster. At home, I’ve always leaned wet golf shoes against a wall in front of a small portable fan.
We had such great weather in Ireland that Mike never had to use his boot dryers, but they got me to thinking. Recently, I bought a larger, at home-version: a shoe-and-boot dryer made by a company called Peet. It stands just under two feet tall and consists of two cylindrical plastic chimneys mounted on a sturdy plastic base. You place wet shoes upside down on the chimneys, and by morning they’re dry and toasty, inside and out. The device is silent, and it’s so gentle that it won’t harm fancy leather, but it thoroughly dries even shoes you’ve worn while playing all day in the rain.
When I bought my Peet dryer, I expected to use it only on golf shoes I’d worn in crummy weather, but since then I’ve realized that it’s great for shoes and boots of all kinds, and that even on nice days ordinary perspiration can make the inside of your shoes damp to the touch. Dry shoes last longer, and they don’t get stinky. My wife now uses my Peet dryer on her hockey skates, too. In fact, before long we may have to trade up to the two-pair model.
My part of the country is now more than a year into one of its longest droughts ever. Gary, our terrific superintendent, has done a remarkable job of keeping our course in great condition, but you can tell that we need rain. Here’s what the creek that feeds our irrigation pond looks like:
Here’s what the same creek looked like exactly three years ago, when we had the opposite problem:
The ideal, of course, would be something in between. Anyway, on a recent Sunday we finally got a semi-decent amount of rain, and I was able to test my new Rain Tek bag-and-pushcart cover:
It’s easy to put on —you don’t need to remove your bag from your pushcart to do it — and it has zippered openings that let you reach through to the pockets in your bag. The top is stiffened with foam and has a handle, so it’s easy to open and close:
When you play in the rain, it’s impossible to keep almost any of your stuff from becoming at least slightly wet, but using a bag cover shortens the post-round drying time considerably.