Beef Box*: Golf Shirt + Golf Glove = Trouble

One of the most surprising features of modern life, to someone who went to high school in the early 1970s, is the renewed popularity of clothing made of synthetic fibers. Not that long ago, a clear indication that someone was completely out of it was that they still made jokes about golfers wearing “polyester pants.” But golfers are again wearing polyester pants.

Actually, polyester pants are great for golf trips, because they’re somewhat rain-resistant and they don’t wrinkle when you wad them up and throw them on the floor. But I would never wear mine anyplace where a non-golf-playing friend, such as my wife, might see me. I’ve also got a few polyester golf shirts. They’re supposedly better than cotton at keeping you cool, but they feel like they’re made of pantyhose.

And now I have a new reason to complain. Today, I noticed a growing constellation of snags on the front of a brand-new Ashworth polyester golf shirt, and after about fourteen holes I realized what the problem was: every time my glove brushed against the fabric, the bristly part of the Velcro closure yanked some of the threads. Photographing snags in golf-shirt fabric turns out to be really difficult, but the picture at the top of this post should give you the idea.

*With apologies to Joe Pyne.

Beef Box*: Another Reason to Get Rid of All the Television Commentators

If you’ve been watching the Open on TV, you’ve undoubtedly heard the commentators refer to this or that hole as the “easiest” or “hardest” at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. They’re always wrong, and here’s why: there’s a difference between an easy hole and an easy par. A par 5 on which the scoring average is 4.5 is a harder hole than a par 3 on which the scoring average is 3.5, even though the par 5 is easier to birdie. The ease or difficulty of any golf hole is determined solely by the number of strokes taken to play it. Whether that number is higher or lower than “par” is immaterial.

A club near where I live recently shortened a par 5 by thirty yards and renamed it a par 4. The consensus among members is that this change made both the hole and the course “harder.” Actually, though, it made both of them easier, since the hole and the course are now thirty yards shorter than they were before—the same effect  as adding thirty yards to everyone’s tee shot. The hole is now tougher to par than it used to be, but it’s nevertheless an easier hole, since the average number of strokes needed to play it has come down.

To see this more clearly, forget about par for a moment. Imagine that Tiger Woods has challenged you to a two-hole match, on the second and twelfth holes at Augusta National, and that he has offered to give you one handicap stroke, which you may use on either hole. Would that stroke be more useful to you on the second (a 575-yard par 5) or on the twelfth (a 155-yard par 3 where Tom Weiskopf scored a cumulative 20 during the first two rounds of the Masters in 1980)?

Conventional wisdom says that Augusta’s twelfth is a “harder” hole than the second — Jack Nicklaus once called the twelfth “the toughest tournament hole in golf” — but wouldn’t you rather have your stroke on the second, which is 400 yards longer? If you wouldn’t, you should. Tom Weiskopf notwithstanding, the second is a harder hole. Woods has a very good chance of reaching the green in two, while you’ll have  to play well to get there in three.

*With apologies to Joe Pyne.