Can Ski Gloves Cure the Yips? How to Dress for Sub-freezing Golf


On New Year’s Day, fifteen of us played the Red Course at the Wheel. The temperature was 20 when I woke up and 25 when we teed off, and it never got to more than a degree or two above freezing. Our cars were virtually the only ones in the parking lot when we started, so the guy at the desk (who took the photo below) said we could play as five threesomes, three fivesomes, two seven-and-a-halfsomes, whatever. We played as three fivesomes.

The festive cardboard glasses that everyone’s wearing in the photo above were a seasonally appropriate gift from Chic, who is the chairman of our golf club:


The ground was so hard that getting tees into it was a problem. Shouldn’t there be a power tool for this?


We always award two extra handicap strokes to anyone who wears shorts after December 1. Only Fritz did on New Year’s—a seemingly reckless decision, but a profitable one, because his team won:


Fritz said later that only has face had been cold. If I’d worn shorts, I’d have gotten a handicap stroke on the Money Hole, so dressing rationally cost me ten bucks. I don’t regret that, though, because I was comfortable for the entire round. After many years of playing golf in bad weather, I’ve figured out what I need to wear to stay warm. As always, I dressed in layers, so that I could take stuff off if I got hot and put it back on if I got cold again—although on New Year’s I didn’t take anything off until we were finished.

I wore three long-sleeve shirts, the first of which was very thin and two of which were turtlenecks. All three were made of synthetic stuff. Here’s the one I wore on top, by Under Armour:


On top of that, I wore my brand-new Sun Mountain Tour Series Rain Jacket, which I love. There was no rain in the forecast, but rainsuits are good for wind, too, and we had plenty of that: 20 miles per hour all day:


My Sun Mountain rain jacket reminds me of my Galvin Green rain jacket, which I also love, but the Sun Mountain jacket sells for less than half as much. One of its best features is that it’s extra long, so that it can’t ride up, We’ve had a fair amount of rain so far this winter, in addition to the other stuff, and I’ve happily worn the jacket many times. I like everything about it:


On top of the rain jacket, I wore a Uniqlo Ultra Light down vest. Wearing a down vest over three shirts and a jacket made me look like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, but the vest really is ultra light, and because it doesn’t have sleeves it doesn’t get in the way of a golf swing. I keep it in a Ziploc bag in my golf bag all winter, for emergencies. It squishes down to such a tiny package that last year I forgot to take it out when the weather got warm again:


I own long johns in three different “weights.” On New Year’s Day, I wore the mediums. They aren’t really long johns; they’re actually running pants, or something, for men who don’t mind being seen in public in tights. They work like long johns, though:


On top of those, I wore rain pants. One of the keys to successful rain-pants-wearing, I think, is to wear them as pants—over bare legs if it’s warm, over long johns if it’s not. Another key: suspenders. Wearing suspenders with rain pants keeps the pants from sliding down when you stuff a gloved hand into your pocket to retrieve a tee or a ball marker. In fact, rain pants should have built-in straps. My suspenders have plastic grippers, which I think are gentler on expensive waterproof fabric than metal grippers are. They also supposedly won’t set off airport security equipment, should you choose to adopt a totally suspenders-based lifestyle:


On my neck and part of my head, I wore a Gore-Tex Buff, which may be my single favorite cold-weather accessory. A Buff is a tube of fabric. You can wear it in a million different ways, and if you get really cold you can pull it up (or down) over your face. The guy who invented it got the idea after wearing a pair of underpants on his head to keep his ears from freezing while he rode his motorcycle:


On top of my head I wore a regular golf cap, and on top of that I wore a bright orange knit cap from Cabela’s, which sells stuff to hunters:


On my feet, I wore two pairs of wool socks, one of which was pretty thick. The kind I like best are made by SmartWool. The great thing about wool, whether it’s smart or not, is that it keeps you warm even if it gets wet:


I had room for both pairs of socks because I was also wearing my super-comfortable True Linkswear Chukka golf shoes — a style the company seems to have dropped, I’m sorry to say. (True Gent Chukkas, which the company does sell, are not the same.) I now own eight or ten pairs of True golf shoes. I love them all, and the Chukkas are among my favorites, except when I’m wearing shorts:


On my hands I wore two pairs of golf gloves: a pair of FootJoy Rain Grips, which are thin, and, on top of those, my favorite winter golf gloves ever, HJ Winter Xtremes.


You might think that wearing two pairs of gloves would reduce your so-called “touch,” especially on the greens, but if it does anything it probably has the opposite effect. Debbie Crews, who is the sports-psychology consultant for the women’s golf team at Arizona State University and the chair of the World Scientific Conference of Golf, sometimes tells golfers with the yips to try putting (in her lab) with ski gloves on. They usually putt so much better that it’s amazing,” she told me, “because they can’t manipulate.” I wrote about Crews and her research last year, in an article about the yips for The New Yorker. You can read it here.


Afterwards, lunch, of course.



Mardi Gras Report: Golf Solves a Beer Problem

Mardi Gras beer-001

Matt Manco, a reader in New Orleans, writes:

Second only to bathroom proximity, the main concern of Mardi Gras planning is how to get drinks to the parade. This year, our answer was my Sun Mountain Micro-Cart (thanks for the recommendation), which has been taking up space in my office while I recover from a herniated disc. With no golf in my near future and a long haul with a heavy cooler coming up, I started working on a harness system to take some stress off the cart and keep the beer in the cooler.

Beer cart co-inventor Spencer, with test load. Note the innovative use of the golf-bag stabilizer arms as a super-secure articulated cup holder. Also note that the cart is still furnished with golf tees, just in case.

A friend of Manco’s, with a test load. Note the innovative use of the golf-bag stabilizer arms as a super-secure articulated cup holder. Also note that the cart is still furnished with golf tees, just in case.

This cooler (Go Tigers!) was the best fit of the options on hand. A few small bungee cords on each side and twenty-five feet of sturdy rope kept the cooler from sliding, slowing us down, or—worse—falling off the cart and shaking our beer. We were surprised that the Micro-Cart maintained most of its agility, despite the extra weight and the altered center of gravity. Turning took a little planning, and pushing it on cracked sidewalks was out of the question. The lack of maneuverability wouldn’t matter as much in a well-paved city, but New Orleans, being the unsettled swamp it is, will never have smooth roads.

Manco and his invention, Mardi Gras 2014.

Manco and his invention. The red bag is for recyclables.

Manco is a fan of a Mardi Gras parade organized by TitRex, a so-called “micro-krewe,” which, he writes, features “shoe-box-size designs that are meant to imitate, elevate, and irritate the creators of the much larger floats, which are pulled by tractors.” You can read more about TitRex here.

manco mardi gras 1Manco continues:

Enough ice melted during the parade to allow us to lighten our load and free up the movement of the cart on the walk home, making two-wheel turns an option again. We saw several people pulling beer in red wagons, but none of those had cup holders, umbrella holders, koozie pockets, or handbrakes, so we’ll keep the Micro-Cart in action for another year.

This float is pedal-powered, by what appear to be long-tailed galley slaves. There may be a golf application.

This float is pedal-powered, by what appear to be long-tailed galley slaves. There may be a golf application, though probably not at this size.

Mardi Gras celebrants who were less inventive than Manco and his friends didn’t necessarily have to watch the parade sober. Here’s an industrial-grade version of the Micro-Cart beer trolley, operated by a street vendor and scowled at by a group of sign-bearing non-golfers:

Beer vendor, mardi grasNow, back to waiting for winter to end.

The Muny Life: Swope Memorial, Kansas City

Clubhouse, Swope Memorial, Kansas City, June, 2013.

Clubhouse, Swope Memorial Golf Course, Kansas City, June, 2013.

My Muny Life column in the current issue of Golf Digest is about Swope Memorial Golf Course, in Kansas City. The course and the huge urban park that contains it were named for Thomas H. Swope, who gave the city thirteen hundred hilly, wooded acres in 1896. (Five hundred more acres were added later.) Swope died in 1909, and many people suspected that he had been poisoned by Dr. Benjamin Hyde, who attended him in his final illness and was the husband of one of his heirs, a niece. Swope’s body was disinterred and checked for strychnine, and Hyde was tried for murder but not convicted. In 1918, Swope was reburied, about a hundred and fifty yards from the tenth tee, under a monument that overlooks downtown.

IMG_1750Among the people I played with was James Armstrong, at right in the photo above. He spent thirty-eight years in the shipping department at Hallmark Cards, a job that was good for his game, because his shift was late. He’s one of the best putters I’ve ever seen, including on TV—his nickname at Swope is Drano—so I was surprised when he said, toward the end of our round, “This year is going to be my last.” I asked him how he could even think of giving up golf when he was still playing so well, and he said, “No, this is the last. Starting next year, twice a week is going to be it for me.” I asked him whether he really considered playing twice a week to be quitting. He thought about that for a moment, then said, “Sometimes I might squeeze in three.”

Drano, sinking a long one.

Drano, sinking a long one.

Like me, Armstrong believes in customizing his gear. Here’s his pushcart, a Sun Mountain Speed Cart, which began as a castoff from another player:

Note the improved cupholder and pencil caddie.

Note the bespoke cupholder and pencil caddie, which he made from an old headcover.

Armstrong has added distance off the tee by giving his driver an improved paint job:

P1070243Two days later, I played with Joe Cutrera, a Vietnam veteran, who owns a liquor-and-grocery store not far from the golf course. The store is in a high-crime area, he told me, but he hasn’t been robbed since 1984.

Joe Cutrera, Swope Memorial.

Joe Cutrera, Swope Memorial.

Cutrera’s job, like Armstrong’s old one, leaves plenty of time for golf, since he doesn’t need to be in his store all the time. He had customized his pushcart, too:

P1070354Swope Memorial was redesigned by A. W. Tillinghast in 1934. The city thoroughly refurbished it in nineteen-nineties, and when I visited it was in extraordinary condition. On one hole, an assistant superintendent was watering a new bunker, to de-fluff the sand. Do they do that at your club?


Swope’s fairways are zoysia, just like the fairways at the Kansas City Country Club, another Tillinghast project, and the whole property is beautiful and beautifully maintained—as you can see from the photos below.







I Bought a New Push Cart!

Trolleys: Brendan, Tim, Tony, Rick, Hillside Golf Club, Birkdale, England, May, 2010.

Two years ago, during a buddies trip to England, I became a convert to what the British call trolleys. My first was a Sun Mountain Micro-Cart, which I gradually customized:

This is my old push cart. If my wife played golf, I’d give it to her.

I ran it pretty hard, for more than a thousand miles, and a couple of months ago a friend commented that it had started to look like a farm vehicle. That’s not manure in the photo below, but I see his point:

Not manure, but almost.

Anyway, a couple of days ago I did something I’d kind of been hoping I’d do: I busted it beyond repair. I was pushing it up the fourth fairway, and suddenly it started wobbling and making a funny noise. Eventually, I realized that a spoke in one of the wheels had broken.

Busted Micro-Cart wheel–at last!

Replacing the wheel probably wouldn’t be expensive, and I’ve been very happy with my Micro-Cart, but I was itching to try something new. So as soon as I got home I ordered a Clicgear 3.0, from Amazon, for a little less than $200. Unfolding and folding it is tricky, but I got the hang of it out after a couple of tries. I’ll be pimping it a bit in the coming weeks, of course. And there are lots of official accessories, several of which I want to buy. More about that later.

My new ride.

My Clicgear 3.0 weighs more than my Micro-Cart, but it actually folds down slightly smaller. That’s important because this year I also bought a new car, which is slightly smaller than my old car. At the moment, I’m dealing with that by throwing all my extra golf junk into the back seat, along with all my other extra junk. Eventually, though, I’ll have to get the trunk organized. So, really, I had no choice but to buy a new cart.

My new cart is heavier than my old cart, but it’s a teensy bit more compact when folded up. Or so I claim.


Sharpiegate: An Update

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about two beefs I have with my golf bag, here and here. Yesterday, I received a response from Steve Snyders, who handles public relations for Sun Mountain. (I’m delighted to learn that the Sharpie problem I complained about was solved not just quickly but, apparently, retroactively.) Here’s what Snyders wrote:

With regards to your concern about the depth of the pen holder pocket on Sun Mountain golf bags, I think you will be pleased to learn that as of 2012 all pen holder pockets on all of our bags are at a standard depth that will allow a full size Sharpie marker to be inserted and for the clip on the lid to be clipped to the bag. For bags older than 2012, depending upon the exact model of the bag, some of the pockets may be deep enough for the clip to reach and some may not. In all instances, the pocket is deep enough that the majority of the pen fits within the pocket while allowing enough of the pen to stick out so can be easily grabbed for removal. If owners of a bag that is older than 2012 are having issues with their pens falling out of the pockets when their bag is inverted, some of the comments on your post offer good suggestions to include: using a mini-Sharpie or inserting the pen upside down so the fit is tighter and the pen will not slide out.

Sun Mountain does not make public, information about other brands for whom it manufacturers products, but as of 2012, any bag designed and manufactured by Sun Mountain that incorporates a pen holder pocket has this standardized depth pocket.

Also, as some of your astute readers pointed out, the 2012 Three 5 stand bag has two pockets, one for a scorecard pencil and one for permanent marker. And, Sun Mountain carts bags have two pen holder pockets, one of each side of the bag, so easily accessible regardless of which side of the cart your bag is placed.

Regarding the legs on Sun Mountain stand bags, all decisions with regards to materials used on Sun Mountain products are strongly scrutinized within the company. All parts used are judged first for function and durability and then for weight with a goal of finding the perfect balance. A number of years ago the decision was made to switch from a harder, more brittle, heavier plastic on the stand bag leg joints, to a softer, more flexible, lighter material.

The older, harder plastic kept its shape forever but it was prone to breakage due to its rigidity. And, it was heavier. The newer plastic parts are more flexible so less prone to breaking and are significantly lighter. The company made the determination that the benefits of the lighter more flexible leg joints outweighed the benefits of the harder, more rigid, heavier joints.

If you were to call Sun Mountain customer service with the issue you describe in your blog, the representative would suggest a replacement leg set and talk you through the simple process of replacement. If within the one year warranty, the leg set would be no charge. Outside of the warranty period, a replacement leg set is $9 plus shipping.

For any issues with Sun Mountain products – legs, zippers, etc —  please call Sun Mountain customer service at 800-227-9224.

Thanks again for using Sun Mountain products and for caring enough to try to help us continually improve to meet your needs.


Another Beef About My Golf Bag

The annoying part in question, lower right-hand corner.

While we’re on the subject of golf-bag design, I’d like to raise the topic of legs. My first Sun Mountain bag (which had the Titleist name on it) worked great, and I liked it so much that I wore it out. My second, third, and fourth Sun Mountain bags, however, had a problem that it took me some time to diagnose. After a while, the bag stand on each would become noticeably harder to use, and eventually I found that I had to really slam the bag on the ground to get the legs to extend far enough to make it stand up.

Titleist bag (made by Sun Mountain) with the same problematic leg joint.

The problem, I finally realized, was that that the plastic joint connecting the leg to the bag had twisted, from the stress of repeated use, and no longer pushed the legs out as far or as easily as it had originally. That couldn’t happen with the original design, because on those bags the joint was super-sturdy—a solid hunk of plastic that couldn’t be torqued out of alignment.

Bag with original, untwistable leg joint.

I solved this problem for myself by performing a radical legectomy on my first Sun Mountain bag (which I still had in my garage because I never throw away golf stuff) and transplanting those legs onto my current Sun Mountain bag—which now works great. I mentioned this to Rick Reimers, the C.E.O. of Sun Mountain (whom we should all bow down to for his long record of fearless innovation), at the P.G.A. Golf Merchandise Show, in Orlando, back in January. He wrote down my gripe on an index card but said he’d never heard of it before. I know I’m not making this up, because other guys I play golf with have noticed it, too. Or maybe we just play insanely many rounds and therefore have difficulties that normal people don’t. Thoughts?

Sun Mountain, Please Fix This Problem

Sharpie inserted all the way into the pen holder on Tony’s Sun Mountain golf bag.

I own pretty many Sun Mountain products—golf bag, push cart, rain suit, travel case—and I’m generally satisfied with all of them. I even defended Sun Mountain’s rain suits after all that trouble at the Ryder Cup. But Sun Mountain golf bags (and golf bags that Sun Mountain makes for Titleist) have an annoying defect that I first pointed out to the company, to no avail, eight or ten years ago: the pen holder on the bag (see photo above) is too shallow to engage the pocket clip on the cap of a Sharpie, which is the de facto official indelible ball-marking pen of the game of golf. As a result, the pen holder cannot be used for the only thing it’s meant to be used for. If you put a Sharpie in the pen holder on a Sun Mountain golf bag, the Sharpie will fall out, either during your golf round or, later, when you throw your bag into the trunk of your car. Making the pen holder a half-inch deeper would cost nothing but would solve the problem. Why hasn’t this been done?

Pimp My Ride

A year and a half ago, I bought a Sun Mountain Micro-Cart–a compact four-wheel push cart. It has made a big difference to my back, shoulders, and knees, and it folds up so small that I can easily stow it in my car or take it with me when my friends and I drive around the Northeast looking for golf courses that aren’t closed for the winter. My Micro-Cart worked very well right out of the box, but during the past eighteen months I’ve made certain modifications. A few were necessitated by my apparently unbreakable habit of letting my Micro-Cart go at the tops of hills–to find out, for example, whether it will roll all the way across a bridge at the bottom. Sometimes it makes it across; sometimes it doesn’t. (On one run, I accidentally broke off one of the two arms that hold the bag on the cart. My workaround: use the bag’s umbrella loop to secure the bag to the remaining arm.) I also used epoxy glue to reattach the little metal plate that the magnetic score-card holder sticks to. (The plate had popped off in a crash.)

Most of my modifications, though, have been improvements to the original design. For example, the Micro-Cart has a useful plastic-lidded waterproof storage compartment near the handle. However, the lid wouldn’t close over my Bushnell PinSeeker 1500 laser rangefinder, which is somewhat bulky. (The lid is angled, and the narrow end hit the fat bottom of the rangefinder.) My solution was to use some of my son’s old Lego bricks to create a shim, which lifts the rangefinder into the deeper part of the compartment. I also used Lego bricks (and epoxy glue) to create a rim at the edge of the smaller, upper compartment, where I like to keep pencils. The Lego rim keeps pencils from sneaking into the lower compartment and hiding behind my rangefinder:

An especially useful modification was invented by my friend Tony, who also owns a Micro-Cart. He attached the cylindrical umbrella holder to the handle and then covered it with a putter head cover that he’d selected from our club’s extensive lost-and-found collection. This turned his umbrella holder into a sort of padded pommel horn–very useful for one-handed cart-pushing and occasional stunt steering. I’ve done the same. (The umbrella holder is problematic for in-motion umbrella-holding, unless you’re well under six feet tall. But in my opinion umbrellas are more trouble than they’re worth anyway.)

Sun Mountain has introduced a new version of the Micro-Cart, for 2012. After another crash or two, I’ll be ready to upgrade. And I’ll save my current cart for parts.