Golf’s Big Three: Beer, Golf, Beer

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I haven’t had a drink more than ten years, but I’m nevertheless one of the world’s leading experts on the effect of alcohol on the golf swing.I’m the originator of the Beer Draw Hypothesis—the difference between a slice and a draw is a certain number of beers—and the author of a lengthy article on the topic which was published in either a distinguished scientific journal (I’m pretty sure) or Golf Digest. I also happen to be a member of the Sunday Morning Group, an all-male golf-club-within-a-golf-club, which contributed to my early research and has made many significant additions to it in the years since I left the field. Among our resident experts are Mike A., in the photo above, and Klinger and Fritz, at this year’s member-guest, in the photo below:

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Recently, the Sunday Morning Group had an opportunity to review the products of GolfBeer Brewing Company, which was founded by a threesome of well-known tour players: Keegan Bradley, Freddie Jacobson, and Graeme McDowell. Their slogan is “Crafting the Perfect Round.”

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GolfBeer sells three products, tailored to the inborn taste preferences of the founders: a “Scandinavian style” blonde ale called Freddie’s (Jacobson is from Sweden); a “Celtic style” pale ale called G-Mac’s (McDowell is from Northern Ireland); and a “New England style” lager called Keegan Bradley’s (would this be an appropriate place to ask Bradley to abandon his bird-looking-for-a-worm pre-shot routine?).

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After golf on a recent Sunday, the boys tried all three. The verdict: big thumbs-up all around, (although Howard wasn’t fond of Keegan Bradley’s).

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Sad to say, GolfBeer isn’t available in our area yet. We had to import our samples from Florida, where the company is based, and to be on the safe side we had them shipped as “salad dressing.” But we hope to be able to buy it here soon—ideally, in bulk, so that we can load it into our clubhouse kegerators.

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Two Ryder Cup Shots You Didn’t See on TV

You didn’t see them because they happened in a different Ryder Cup, the one the Sunday Morning Group held while the American tour stars were getting whupped in Scotland.

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Twenty-four guys signed up in advance, and Corey, our terrific pro, divided us into two teams, one red and one blue. The youngest guy in the field didn’t show, apparently because he had met someone interesting in a bar the night before. Corey took his place, after persuading his mother, our club’s immediate past president, to watch the golf shop for him. (The guy who didn’t show made a big mistake, in my opinion. The time to establish golf in a romantic relationship is at the beginning, before the non-playing party has had time to develop a case.)
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And after everyone had finished we had our usual lunch of cheeseburgers, hot dogs, and beer, on the patio near the practice green:
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Before I get to the two shots that weren’t shown on TV, I’d like to make two general observations about the other Ryder Cup:
1. What is the source of Ryder Cup Europe’s pathological golf-course selections? In the sixties and seventies, the trans-Atlantic side of the contest was held exclusively on Open courses: Royal Lytham & St. Annes, Royal Birkdale, and Muirfield—an over-reliance on England, granted, but otherwise impeccable. Since then, the thinking has apparently been that crummy venues deserve international exposure, too. The worst is the Belfry, also in England, which has hosted the matches four times—more than any other course in history. The Belfry has just two good holes, the ninth and the eighteenth, and most matches don’t reach the eighteenth. This year’s course, at Gleneagles, was in the works when I first played golf in Scotland, in the early 1990s. At that time, the Scots had seemingly decided that the way to attract American golfers to Scotland was to hire Jack Nicklaus to build something that would remind them of Florida, cart paths included. Somebody, please, wake up the people in charge. The PGA Centenary Course, as Nicklaus’s creation is now known, isn’t even the best course at Gleneagles.
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2. There’s been lots of angry speculation about the reasons for this year’s American defeat, but no one, so far as I know, has hit on the real explanation: the extraordinarily annoying pre-shot routines of Jim Furyk and Keegan Bradley. In TV broadcasts of regular tour events, producers have become adept at keeping the cameras away from those two until they’re almost ready to make a real stroke. During the Ryder Cup, though, so little actual golf is under way at any moment that they had no choice but to make us watch full sequences—all the tics and twirls and feints and bird peeks and pocket scrunches and everything else. True, we were spared Furyk’s 5-Hour Energy wardrobe, and thank goodness for that. But the other stuff was increasingly infuriating, and by Saturday afternoon (I’m guessing) so many U.S. TV watchers were mentally rooting against Furyk and Bradley that the cosmic tide irretrievably turned. Those two golfers, between them, won two points and lost four; turn those Ls to Ws, and it’s a blowout the other way.
Now, back to the other Ryder Cup. The two shots you haven’t seen were both hit by Doug, who was my partner. In each case, he went on to triple- or even quadruple-bogey the hole. But that was OK because I had him covered.

Does Practicing Making Golfers Worse?

Rory McIlroy during the final round of the 2011 Masters, on a day when he spent plenty of time at the driving range before teeing off.

Rory McIlroy during the final round of the 2011 Masters, on a day when he spent plenty of time at the driving range before teeing off.

I haven’t hit a ball on my club’s driving range in two years, and during that time I’ve played the best, most consistent golf I’ve ever played. I’m not sure that’s a coincidence. In fact, I’ve often wondered whether hitting range balls didn’t make me worse. My first few shots on the practice tee would inevitably include my best shot of the day. Then, as I worked my way through my bag, my swing would deteriorate until I was shanking my wedges, fatting my irons, and slapping weak leakers with my woods. And then I’d go play. One day, I decided to skip the warm-up.

I also stopped using the practice green, and almost immediately I became a better putter. One possible explanation: when I tee off now, I’m the only guy in the group who hasn’t missed a putt that day. I’ll watch other guys on the practice green, to get a feel for the speed, but I won’t stand there lipping six-footers.

The explanation is probably just that I’m a bad practicer. In the old days, when my swing would turn sour I would attempt a frantic intervention, by churning through two or three buckets in the hope that at some point quantity would metamorphose into quality. All I was really doing was cranking my tempo into the red zone and filling my head with negative thoughts. I was also rehearsing, and therefore ingraining, whatever problem had sent me to the range.

But even for players who practice well, hitting range balls before teeing off may be overrated—as Rory McIlroy demonstrated on the final day of the Ryder Cup this year, when he nearly missed his tee time for his singles match with Keegan Bradley. He didn’t have time to go to the range before teeing off, yet he birdied four of the first nine holes and beat Bradley two-and-one.

Rory McIlroy at the 2012 Ryder Cup, after not going to the driving range  before teeing off.

Rory McIlroy at the 2012 Ryder Cup, after defeating Keegan Bradley two-and-one in their singles match, on a day when he didn’t go to the driving range before teeing off.