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  #1  
Old 04-21-2000, 03:12 AM
Beakeroni Beakeroni is offline
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I am a golf fiend.

Yes, I can admit it: golf consumes my thoughts. I play whenever I am able, and when I can't, I talk about it with others who may, or may not, share my addiction.

One thing bothers me, though, and it is this: Why is golf so hard? I have never understood how I can swing well on one day, and on the following day, spray the ball all over the course. How is golf different from a learned skill like touch-typing, or riding a bicycle? I understand the addictive nature of the sport (intermittent rewards--lab rat that I am). I would like some insight as to why golf falls into the category of "sometimes-you-get-it-sometimes-you-don't".

Any thoughts?

(As for why I am posting to Great Debates, I lump golf in with religion/belief systems, etc. If this issue has been previously addressed in another forum, or in an older thread in this forum, please reference.)

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  #2  
Old 04-21-2000, 05:50 AM
Smile Smile is offline
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As an incredibly bad golfer, who has a mother with a single-figure handicap, I can honestly say I don't know. If I did know I'd probably be better. But I have a theory.
A golf swing requires very precise motion. The slightest little perturbations in your muscle will throw you off. Some days, you just aren't capable of the fine motor control necessary. It's a given fact that golf is one of those sport where everyone does get better at it with time (with the possible exception of me). This, I would posit, is down to conditioned reflexes taking over.
Anyone who's ever golfed has experienced the yips. The yips is the syndrome of being completely incabable of putting straight. It's cost more than one professional golfer a championship. What causes the yips? Noone's quite sure, but again, muscle perturbations are a good probable cause.

Anyone got any science to back this up? And what is the scientific term for muscle perturbations? (Y'know, like when you're holding a glass of water, and you can see that your hands are shaking slightly.)

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  #3  
Old 04-21-2000, 05:58 AM
Boogarrheal Catastrophe Boogarrheal Catastrophe is offline
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It's pretty clear from the OP that you're using 'golf' as a euphemism for something else.

As Dr. Ruth might advise, don't try so hard! Just relax, be yourself, and let nature take its course. You shouldn't feel any pressure to 'play golf.'

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  #4  
Old 04-21-2000, 06:22 AM
WillGolfForFood WillGolfForFood is offline
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One reason why the game seems so hard is that we're all thinking of our scores in terms of "par", and making pars is tough.

In earlier days, you didn't compare your score to a par. Your score was compared against an imaginary opponent - called "Colonel Bogey" - and matching or beating the Colonel was considered good. Colonel Bogey was assumed to be an average (not a terriffic) player, whose score on each hole was what we now think of as a bogey.

However, better golfers didn't think that was good enough, so everyone started comparing their scores on each hole to one below Colonel Bogey's - what we now think of as "par".

So, the next time you're on the golf course, just play against Colonel Bogey. You'll feel much better. (And, as a practical matter, for years the average USGA handicap has been around eighteen anyway, so in effect you're just comparing your score on each hole to what the average USGA handicapper would get.)

(I'm a high-handicaper who struggles to break 100, so Colonel Bogey's scores look pretty good to me.)
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  #5  
Old 04-21-2000, 07:09 AM
BF BF is offline
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Smile,
I don't have the specific cite but a few months ago Golf Digest did a writeup on the yips and they postulated that it is a mental disorder (? for lack of a better term) that affected muscle movement causing the golfer to actually twitch or jerk the club. There have been a number of professional golfers whose careers were ended prematurely due to the yips, let alone losing a tournament.

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  #6  
Old 04-21-2000, 10:46 AM
Beakeroni Beakeroni is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Boogarrheal Catastrophe:
It's pretty clear from the OP that you're using 'golf' as a euphemism for something else.

As Dr. Ruth might advise, don't try so hard! Just relax, be yourself, and let nature take its course. You shouldn't feel any pressure to 'play golf.'

Yeah, I know. Every so often when Golf Digest runs a poll, the question "If you had a choice, would you choose golf or sex?" generates weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth and an almost even split amongst the respondants. Of course, the [Golf Digest] question is intended mostly to generate discussion and has nothing at all to do with any real choice that anybody, ever, has had to make. One does not take a vow of celibacy to become a golfer.

For what it is worth, I am relaxed and totally comfortable when I play golf. I don't bet money and I am not a professional trying to win money. I took up golf in order to get some stress out of my life. I do not find golf at all stressful, but rather a relaxing and enjoyable activity. As for whether sex is in any way analogous to golf, I suppose that if one were keeping score in sex (how many strokes did you take?) and if one's technique were on display for a group of strangers to comment on, sex would become an event similiar to a typical golf experience.

I just do not understand why, even when I totally do not care about the results in golf, my technique or skill level fluctuates so wildly from one day to the next.

I have read all of Bob Rotella's books. I have subscriptions to all of the golf magazines and weeklys. My library is extensive. All I have been able to conclude from my reading is: eh, golf is a metaphor for life.

Like I tell my golf buddies after the third or fourth consecutively errant shot, "There goes my Stanford scholorship!"

Nothing really hangs on my ability to golf well. There is no monetary advantage to golfing well (unless money is on the line, or if one is a professional). Pride can be at stake, I suppose. I just wonder why; all things being equal, somedays I suck, somedays I don't.




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  #7  
Old 04-21-2000, 01:20 PM
WillGolfForFood WillGolfForFood is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by BF:
a few months ago Golf Digest did a writeup on the yips and they postulated that it is a mental disorder
Hey, just playing the game of golf is evidence of a mental disorder according to my wife - and she's probably right.
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  #8  
Old 04-21-2000, 01:34 PM
Dangerosa Dangerosa is online now
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On the subject of par and it being unrealistic....

I always tell beginning golfers - take par for a hole, double it. If you make that you are doing great for just starting.

I still take my own advice - I'm a double/triple bogey golfer who now has a baby and a toddler - no golf for mommy for the next few years (or precious little). They didn't tell me the sacrifices I'd make for kids!
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  #9  
Old 04-21-2000, 01:36 PM
Dangerosa Dangerosa is online now
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Oh, yeah, another helpful thought for when you can't hit straight - we call that "value golf." Your cost per stroke goes way down.

Dangerosa
(who once actually did kill a gopher with a "gopher greaser").
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  #10  
Old 04-21-2000, 03:36 PM
Beakeroni Beakeroni is offline
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I guess, maybe, I should differentiate between the game which is golf, and hacking around the golf course on a nice day with a cooler in the cart. The former requires thought, and a lot of it. If I am trying to score well, I must be able to find the best solution to the problem of getting the ball into the hole in the fewest number of strokes--the problem resets itself everytime I hit the ball. Even superb ball strikers wrestle with the game because the ball just will not go where it's supposed to. The golf gods are invoked, the weather is blamed, the "rub of the green"...by the time the game has concluded, the brain has melted down and dripped out the ears. Ever noticed how at the conclusion of a professional tournament, even the victor looks like they've been through a carwash in a convertible? The game does this to the golfer at every skill level.

The mechanics of the golf swing is the other area that boggles me. Hucksterism is rampant in golf like no other sport I know. I've seen so many theories on the swing that directly contradict each other that I have lost count. If any one method demonstrably worked best, I cannot believe that there would be room for the others.

"Master, I seek enlightenment; show me the way."

"Sure, I charge fifty dollars an hour, you'll be coming to me for the rest of your life, and sometimes I don't break 80."

I am not at all bitter. I love to play. I would not give up the game for any reason other than involuntary dismemberment (and maybe not even then, medical technology advances apace!)

Nevertheless, I feel as though I've been sucked in, spit out, and stomped on. Golf can be a harsh and fickle mistress!

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  #11  
Old 04-22-2000, 12:08 AM
BobT BobT is offline
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Golf's intrisic beauty is that while it is difficult every once in a while, you hit the perfect shot. After that shot, you say "Wow, I'm great. I should play everyday."

You then embark upon a vain journey to find that perfect swing again. Just when you are about to give up. It happens again. It's very cruel.

I don't play much golf now (2-3 rounds a year), but I've learned that's it much more to just play for fun and accept the results. I don't take mulligans and just hack my way out of trouble. Once I get to 10, I stop on a hole (that usually only happens once a round.)
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  #12  
Old 04-23-2000, 12:17 AM
Dangerosa Dangerosa is online now
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Well, the "sweet spot" on a golf club is incredibly small. And its a long way away from your direct control (i.e. on the end of a stick). And not only do you need to strike the ball with the best part of the club, you need to have the clubhead facing the correct direction when you do it. A centimeter of change - up, down, in or out, a degree of angle, and all is lost (or at least the ball is).

Getting this consistency takes most people a lot of practice. Grinding at the range hour after hour. And then you get on the course and have to deal with non-range conditions - rough, hills, dips, so you have to play a lot too. And its a game where if you get the muscle memory early (i.e. start playing when you are ten or twelve), its easier. It isn't a surprise that a lot of good golfers caddied, and played, as kids. Most golfer didn't get to play much as kids.

We took my brother in law out last year to a driving range - first time he'd ever hit a golf ball. He duffed a couple (I think he had a seven iron), and then started hitting really well - nearly a couple hundred yards and straight - consistently. So at the end of the bucket, we congratulate him on his talent. His reply - "but I was aiming for that flag and I never hit it - next time I'll hit the flag."
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  #13  
Old 04-23-2000, 08:29 PM
dpr dpr is offline
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It's not necessarily difficult - we make it so. It's all mental. We put pressure on ourselves.

Maintaining a consistent swing isn't that hard. Putting it into practice during a round though often is. But realising you're only playing against yourself and using some meditation methods will help your game out of sight.
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  #14  
Old 04-23-2000, 09:08 PM
Jo3sh Jo3sh is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by BobT:
Golf's intrisic beauty is that while it is difficult every once in a while, you hit the perfect shot. After that shot, you say "Wow, I'm great. I should play everyday."

You then embark upon a vain journey to find that perfect swing again. Just when you are about to give up. It happens again. It's very cruel.
Isn't this essentially how the folks who run casinos make them so goldurn fascinating? They actually set thing up to give the player just enough back in winnings, just often enough to keep him coming back. Net result: you lose your shirt. Golf is a very clever conspiracy by all the fine folks who manufacture all the equipment. Do you REALLY think that $300 club will make you a scratch golfer?

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  #15  
Old 04-23-2000, 09:13 PM
Beakeroni Beakeroni is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by dpr:
It's not necessarily difficult - we make it so. It's all mental. ...using some meditation methods will help your game out of sight.
What, specifically, are the meditation methods you use? I will be happy to try them out!

(This won't require that I have to learn anything too "far-out", will it?)


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  #16  
Old 04-24-2000, 11:14 AM
DSYoungEsq DSYoungEsq is offline
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I was going to stay out of this thread (it is so easy to get sucked into golf conversations) but now I just have to answer the OP with some thoughts. For explanation, I have played golf since I was 8, am now almost 40, and generally play to something between a 5 and an 11 handicap (depending on the amount I play). I hit the ball approximately 275+ with a driver, 250 with a 1-iron, and 140 or so with a controlled wedge.

Golf is difficult because we are never satisfied with what we can do; we always attempt to achieve what we cannot do regularly. As an example, I can hit a very controlled 150 yard nine-iron shot. On most courses, I could play with nothing in my bag but 9-iron, PW, SW and putter, and score 85. Am I satisfied with that? No. Do I tee off with that lovely 9-iron shot? No. Do I do this to myself? Yes. (sigh)


There is, of course, a tremendous amount of difficulty in making the 'perfect' golf swing; so many major and small muscle groups are involved in a full swing. Hell, I can't even hit the bull's-eye regularly from 10' in darts, and that's only my hand and arm moving; how the hell am I gonna hit a perfect shot all the time on the course?


But, of course, it really goes beyond that. ANYone can take a putter, and with little practice, putt the ball tolerably well. You could, then use the putter to putt the ball all the way around the course. After posting the inevitable score of 200, you would go inside and drink your post-round drinks the same as everyone does, and feel quite good about the fact that you never were in any trouble on any hole. Then, of course, your mind would start thinking: "if only I would try hitting that first shot on 4 a little harder, I bet I could hit the next shot past the water hazard and cut a stroke off that hole..." At that point, you would be on the way to the self-made hell that golfers all call heaven.
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