Beef Box: Don’t Call Fairway Woods “Metals”

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My first driver—which was partly responsible for my decision, at the age of thirteen, to give up golf for more than twenty years—was a two-generation hand-me-down with a head that could have filled in as the foot of a Queen Anne chair. Nowadays, though, even seven-year-olds demand titanium. A few years ago, I played in a senior event with a guy from another club who carried an ancient Spalding persimmon 3-wood, but he was the only Luddite in the field and he never hit a good shot with it. Golfers who still use clubs with wooden heads are invariably older than seventy, and they are stubborn, cheap, ignorant, or a combination of all three. You seldom see actual wood anymore even in the golf bags of estranged wives, who occupy the lowest rung on the club recycling ladder.

The question, though, is whether this change in technology necessitates a change in terminology. Various prominent television commentators,  Johnny Miller among them, have decided that it does. They refer to woods as “metals,” saying, for example, that a certain player has elected to go for the green with a “fairway metal” of some kind—perhaps a “3-metal.” Jim Nantz, on CBS, sometimes refers to a fairway wood generically as “a metal-headed club.”

There are three things wrong with this trend. The first is that it creates more confusion than it eliminates, since almost all modern golf clubs, including irons and putters, are “metal-headed.” The second is that “wood” is no more anachronistic than “iron.” (Irons haven’t been made of iron since Britain was ruled by Romans. Should we start calling those clubs “alloys”?) The third is that avoiding “wood” is excessively fastidious, like objecting to the use of the (useful) word “hopefully.” The television commentators are proposing a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist.

Besides, retaining an archaic expression creates the possibility for creative revisionism later on.

“Why are woods called ‘woods’?” your great-great-granddaughter may ask you someday.

“Well, Little One,” you can explain, “there was an awfully good player back around the turn of the century. He hit the ball farther than anybody else, and he won every prize there was to win. In fact, I taught him everything he knew. Woods were named after him.”

Why Don’t All Tour Pros Follow Mickelson’s Example?

When it started to rain during the Presidents Cup, Phil Mickelson did something he’s done in nasty weather for several years: he switched to rain gloves. In an interview once, he explained why: “they can get wet and my grips can get wet and I’m not constantly trying to stay dry.” Usually, he leaves them on even to putt:

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My regular golf buddies and I all use rain gloves, too:

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They work so well that I don’t understand why so few tour pros have followed Mickelson’s example. Of course, those guys have unlimited access to new gloves, and they have caddies to dry their grips and hold their umbrellas and protect their towels, and even in nice weather they don’t seem to mind fussing around for a couple of minutes before taking a shot. Still, leather turns slimy when it becomes even slightly wet, and a caddie who has to focus on keeping gloves and grips and towels dry doesn’t have time to think about more important matters. The great thing about rain gloves is that, once you’ve put them on, the weather ceases to be an issue, for exactly the reason Mickelson gave. You can just play.

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The pros probably worry that wearing rain gloves would affect their “feel,” but, if a player as famously feel-oriented as Mickelson can handle them, so can anyone else. Besides, if you have to squeeze your clubs even slightly harder to compensate for the slickness of your grips, you’ve already abandoned feel. I would bet that most pros have never even tried them. During the Presidents Cup broadcast, Johnny Miller said that one reason Mickelson wears them is to keep his hands dry—but no one who had actually played in rain gloves could possibly think that, because they don’t:

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Rain gloves don’t keep anything dry. What they do is enable you to hang on to your clubs when your hands and grips are soaking wet—even when the two-foot-wide stream at the bottom of the second fairway looks like this:

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Beef Box: Golf Idiots, and Neckties on TV Commentators

In 2001, I played 136 holes in one day at Doral with Jim McLean, who runs a golf school there. We started on the Blue Monster and averaged forty-five minutes per eighteen, and to save time we often teed off simultaneously, as in the photo above.

In 2001, I played 136 holes in one day at Doral with Jim McLean, who runs a golf school there. We started on the Blue Monster, where Tiger won over the weekend, and we averaged forty-five minutes per eighteen. To  save time, we often teed off simultaneously, as in the photo above.

David Lee, a reader in Appleton, Wisconsin, sent the following email to the PGA Tour over the weekend:

After hearing it again in today’s TV broadcast, I have a suggestion. I’m referring to a fan shouting out immediately after a Tiger hit: “IN THE HOLE!” It has become so obnoxious to hear these comments, seemingly elicited so that the fan can tell friends at home afterwards that it was his voice doing the shout-out—I’m guessing that that’s the reason because the comment occurs within a nanosecond of the clubhead contacting the ball, oftentimes on a very long shot and without regard to the quality of the shot. Current technology must make it easy for the TV networks to block out such shout-outs—I’m not talking about spontaneous outbursts of support—I think that you and I know which outbursts we’re discussing here. The PGA Tour should do some PR communicating to tournament spectator attendees that such comments are frowned upon and that they will not make it to the air-waves anyway—and take action to eliminate these outbursts from the telecasts. I think that the vast majority of your golfing fans would support this move, as well as would the Tour players.

I don’t know whether what he suggests is technologically possible, but if it is I’d be in favor of it. Or how about using something like a surgical staple gun to implant a device under the scalp of each spectator which would administer a painful but nonlethal electric shock each time the spectator shouted something stupid? And let’s do same to guys who sit behind home plate at baseball games and clap as each ball is pitched, in the hope of bothering the batter.

Nobody else at a golf tournament dresses like this. Why do they?

Nobody else at a golf tournament dresses like this. Why do they?

And, as long as I’m complaining, how about not allowing TV golf commentators to wear neckties? Golf courses should be tie-free zones for everyone but Tim Finchem and the manager of the grill room.

I don't mind seeing ties on ten-year-old caddies in 1925, as in this photo, which was taken at my golf club. The pro when I joined, in 1991, was the son of tiny kid who is fourth from the left in the front row.

I don’t mind seeing ties on ten-year-old caddies in 1925, as in this photo, which was taken at my golf club, but everyone else should knock it off. The pro when I joined, in 1991, was the son of tiny kid who is fourth from the left in the front row–who was the son of the (tie-less) man at the right, the pro in 1925.