January 2010

Your golfing options are limited in Times Square. (Image: Robert Bruce's iPhone)

So the wife and I just got back from a trip to New York City.

We did about everything we could possibly do in three-and-a-half days. It was the total tourist experience.

Two Broadway shows (Phantom of the Opera and Memphis), three incredible dinners (I would HIGHLY recommend Babbo, owned by Mario Batali of Iron Chef and Food Network Fame), the Empire State Building, NBC Tour, Double Decker tour through the whole city. The list could go on forever. But suffice to say that we were busy the whole time.

That said, for all the exciting things there are to do in Manhattan, I was struck by the lack of golf options. In fact, there aren’t any.

Yesterday, I googled “Golf in Manhattan” and found a course in Manhattan, Iowa and a lounge in New York City called “The Country Club.” Of course, there’s the occasional golf store, but golf just doesn’t exist on the island.

What a pain that must be for golfers. I’m just imagining the inconvenience of hopping on the subway (clubs in tow), PATH, or even driving to another course off the island.

When I lived in Atlanta, I think one of the main reasons I didn’t play much golf was because it was just a pain in the butt to fight traffic on a weeknight to play. Fourty-five minutes of traffic for 45 minutes of range practice just wasn’t worth it after a busy day at work.

So I can’t imagine how hard it must be to be a golfer in Manhattan. But I guess if you live in Manhattan, you have more important interests.

So what do you do if you want to play golf and you live in Manhattan?

Random photo of drug capsules in the shape of the American Flag to visually enhance this post. (Image: pappajohn1969/Flickr)

Back in the fall, I totally missed the story of a little known former Tour player, Doug Barron,  who was given a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour. Barron was the first person to violate the Tour’s anti-doping policy. Barron hasn’t played on the PGA Tour in three years. The ban kept him from participating in Q School last fall.

In response, Barron signed up for the eGolf Professional Tour last week. eGolf is a mini-tour based out of North Carolina. The leading money winner made $140,000 last year.

Barron tested positive for testosterone and propranolol, saying a doctor gave him approval to use the drugs for health reasons. He’s currently appealing the suspension.

The story isn’t that interesting, really. I know…so why post it on my blog? I think it raises a greater question. How prominent are steroids and performance-enhancing drugs in golf?

Look, golfers don’t deal with ongoing injury problems like baseball and football players. But if a quick pill can keep an ailing knee or a painful back from being so bothersome, or speed up the recovery process, then will pro golfers take the bait? And, if so, is the doping policy going to be effective enough to stop them?

I honestly don’t think a lot of golfers are doping. But we’ve got a whole new generation of kids coming up who watched one pro athlete after another get suspended or make the news for using steroids. Let’s hope they haven’t bought in.

Please read this article I wrote at my day job. Find out a little bit about the people of Haiti and how you can help them recover after these tragic earthquakes.

And thanks for not getting mad at me for posting about Haiti on my golf blog. I know I’ve been known to get off topic every now and then. But who plays golf in January?

Here’s the article link.

Image: MatthwJ/Flickr

During a press conference call yesterday, Jack Nicklaus spoke briefly about Tiger’s indefinite leave–and how Tiger’s absence will affect his quest to break the Bear’s record for wins in a major.

“If Tiger is going to pass my record, I think this is a big year for him in that regard. If he doesn’t play this year, obviously the chore is going to be a little tougher,” said Nicklaus.

With majors at Augusta, Pebble Beach, and St. Andrews–not to mention Whistling Straits–it’s hard to imagine Tiger will miss any of the majors this year. But there hasn’t been a peep out of the Woods’ camp since his late November accident that started this entire unfortunate situation.

Nicklaus says the game will survive Woods absence–and it will. But at this point in the history of professional golf, does it need to worry about “surviving.” Shouldn’t it be prospering to some degree–even without its greatest star?

Did anyone hear anything about the SBS Championship this past weekend? Geoff Ogilvy won again, by the way.

Golf is totally off the radar. Yes, when major season rolls around, the discussion will certainly pick up. But if Tiger isn’t back yet, the PGA Tour has problems.

I have a theory about golf simulators. They are solely designed to sell golf clubs. They make the average Joe Golfer think he’s pounding the ball about 20 yards farther. Clubs sold.

For this golf pet peeve, I’ll take you back to the early days of my blog when I wrote about my experience with a golf simulator at a local golf store. Wanna hear it? Hear it go.

So I’m in the market for a driver.

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned that I was going to demo the Nike Sumo. I pretty much don’t buy anything Nike, so this was quite a compromise—one of which I feel quite convicted about now. But that’s neither here nor there.

These machines lie. (Image: seikatsu/Flickr)

Anyway, so I’m on my lunch break at this Pro Golf store, and I decide to hit a few balls in their indoor golf simulator/video screen/driving range/ thing.

You’ve got understand my frame of reference here: when I quit playing golf ( and I know this is beginning to become a theme on the blog…”back when I was a young man…”) the Pro Golfs of the world had the little side room with the green net. You hit the ball and basically judged by feel how well you hit it.

So now, they’ve got these massive simulators. You swing, the ball flies into a screen, the projector then displays your ball flying through the “air”.

The device tells you how far the ball went, your trajectory, swing speed, ball speed, whether the ball had a hook, slice, fade, or draw. It stores each shot so you can see how your shot patterns develop throughout the session.

Well, here’s my opinion of these fancy little contraptions: crap. Crap, crap, crap. Let me explain. My second shot with said Nike driver was a nice heel job. With my ancient Great Big Bertha, it’s the type of shot that would probably be a low fade, 230 yards out in the fairway. I really mishit the ball.

But with this Pro Golf “simulator” I’m like Ernie Els hitting some kind of power draw 325 yards down the middle of the fairway. The pattern continued. When I hit the ball solid, it estimated my drives anywhere from 280-290; my misses were in the 270 range.

So I take the club out to an actual driving range. I hit the Nike, then my Bertha (which averages 255ish). Zero difference. The Nike actually ballooned on me a good bit, causing me to actually hit the Bertha further in many instances.

It was a stiff shaft, so that wasn’t the issue. Needless to say, I was thoroughly unimpressed. Thankfully, I made the wise decision of taking the club out on the range and not trusting those God-awful simulators.

I’m sure if you bought one for yourself, you could calibrate it to be accurate. But no doubt the issue is this: the golf stores are going to fix the devices so they estimate a good 20-30 yards farther.

Joe Hacker comes in, swings the hot new club, and he’s amazed by how much farther he hits the ball. He’s got “golf club fever” now, and he makes the buy. It’s a screw job on the store’s part.

When I asked the salesman if the simulators were accurate, he responded, “Dead on.” Right. I should have known something was up when I was hitting 190-yard six irons. But it took the experience with the driver for me to figure this out.

Don’t trust these machines. The grass and the air at your local driving range is much more honest.

Previous Golf Pet Peeves:

#10: Pre-Shot Routine Guy

#9: Cell Phone Guy

#8: The Intrusive Golf Course Maintenance Worker

#7: The Drunken Wedding Party

#6: The Distance Exaggerator

#5: The Golf Channel Guy

#4: Stewart Cink’s Green Shirt

#3: The Mulligan Golfer

#2: The Shot Jinxer

#1: The Shot-By-Shot Recap Golfer