Would You Rather be Deaf or Blind?

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.

Now I Know Why Microsoft Abandoned the Band

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).

Winter Golf on an Empty Course, Plus the Best Winter Golf Gloves

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.

An Indispensable Accessory for the Locker Room in the Trunk of Your Car

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:

My Latest Favorite Golf Accessory

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.

How to Keep Your Golf Bag Dry in the Rain

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.

Golf Clubs in a Museum Devoted to Trash


Nelson Molina worked for New York City’s Department of Sanitation for 30 years, driving a route that included the East Harlem neighborhood in which he grew up. When he found something that he felt shouldn’t have been thrown away, he put it in a bin on the side of his garbage truck and took it back to the garage, on East 99th Street. Today, items he recovered fill most of the building’s second floor — maybe a quarter of an acre. He retired last year, but he returns to the garage three days a week to tend the collection, which he calls Treasure in the Trash. I wrote about Molina in an article in a recent New Yorker. His collection looks a little like the housewares department at Sears and a little like the closing scene of “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” The stuff Molina rescued includes a fair amount of sports equipment—including tennis rackets:


And baseball and hockey memorabilia:


And yo-yos:


But it doesn’t include all that much golf stuff:


The reason can’t be that New Yorkers don’t play golf, because they do. There are 13 municipal courses inside the city limits, and many of them are not only terrific but also crowded a lot of the time. Maybe the answer is that New Yorkers play with the same old crap forever—or that when they become fed up with the game they heave their clubs onto the Belt Parkway rather than lugging them home on the subway and setting them out on the curb. Or maybe the city just has fewer frustrated golfers than frustrated writers:


Incidentally, I don’t blame the person who threw away The Square-to-Square Golf Swing, an instruction book written by Dick Aultman, with help from Jim Flick and the staff of Golf Digest, and published in 1970. The square-to-square idea hurt at least as many golfers as it helped. As the legendary British golf instructor John Jacobs told Jaime Diaz in Golf Digest in 2010, “Many theories come and gone. Most of them I’ve disagreed with. Many arise from the originators being focused on fixes that apply to their own games. When the Square-to-Square theory was unveiled in the late ’60s, advocating that the takeaway should be initiated with a counterclockwise curling under of the left hand, I found that both co-authors—my good friends Jim Flick and Dick Aultman—had flattish actions begun by rolling the face open. If I’d been teaching them, I might have advised them to feel as if they were curling under. But that doesn’t mean that fix should have been given to the golfing population at large.”


Five Ways to Accessorize Your Pushcart

First, duh, you need a pushcart. Most of the guys in the Sunday Morning Group now use them, as you can see from this partial view of the lineup behind the first tee the other weekend:


And it’s not just old guys who use them. Addison, who his 25, recently began using an old one of mine, after borrowing his father’s Bag Boy for a state tournament and realizing that rolling his bag instead of carrying it spared his shoulders and his back, allowing him concentrate on golf.

I myself now own and use two: a Big Max Blade, which folds nearly flat and is ideal for travel in a crowded car, and a Clicgear 3.5+, which is my latest acquisition and my current favorite for everyday use. Recently, I added several extremely useful Clicgear accessories, among them a steering knob, which screws into the umbrella socket in the middle of the handle:


It doesn’t actually “steer” my cart, but if gives me an alternative, rotating projection to grab onto, and it lets me propel and guide my cart with one hand. It reminds me a little of a necker’s knob, which, back in the days before power steering and seat belts, enabled you to steer your car with one hand while using your other hand to bother your girlfriend, who was sitting right next to you in the front seat. (Truck drivers sometimes still use necker’s knobs, also known as suicide knobs, to make big-rig steering easier.)

I also added a Clicgear cooler bag, which attaches to the struts:


It has an insulated lower compartment, which is large enough to hold a six-pack and lots of ice, and a roomy upper compartment, which can be used as a humidor:


The standard Clicgear beverage holder is big enough for a can of beer but not big enough for most insulated water bottles. So I added a supersized version:


Clicgear sells a couple of cigar holders. If I ever decide to start smoking cigars, though, I’m just going to do what Barney does on his Clicgear, using the top of the storage compartment:


Clicgear sells lots of other accessories, too, including a rain cover, an adjustable umbrella-holder, and a little seat, which attaches near one of the wheels. I’m not ready for that one yet. But maybe soon.