No single outdoor sport offers as many indoor ways of keeping in the groove as golf does. All a golfer needs is room enough to swing a club without knocking the prisms off the chandelier, and he can "play golf" all winter long. If he takes advantage of the proper practice devices now available, he could end up, come spring, a couple of notches nearer to par on his favorite course. One new indoor device, Tell-Tale Golf ($22.95, Marshall Field & Co., Chicago) has the unique advantage of allowing the golfer to use his full power indoors, with all of the satisfaction of outdoor driving—the feel and noise of impact. The "ball" is actually a stiff cardboard disc which is set up, held by a cardboard tee, in a slit in a protective composition mat. This ball is driven into a target, made of soft paper backed by a plastic screen and supported by a sturdy aluminum frame. Even a poorly hit shot will stick in the paper, which is marked to indicate whether or not you've driven an eagle, a birdie, par—or less. The target has a calibrated dial and is tilted to score for any number of club—one through nine. The ball itself will reveal whether or not it was struck squarely: if sliced, the edge will be bent away from you; if hooked, toward you; if topped, nicked on the top edge; if hit squarely, split evenly down the edge. Eight targets, 250 balls, 150 tees come with the kit. A replacement kit with 250 balls, 150 tees and six targets is $5.
For the indoor putter, there are many challenges. The newest one is the Right Angle Putt Trainer ($9.95, Parris Manufacturing Co., Savannah, Tenn.). It consists of a "green" made of porous canvas, 11½ feet long and 9 inches wide, nine positions marked along the route for putting practice from various distances, right-angle markers to line up the putter and a raised hole—the ball rolls back when it misses. Another putting gadget is the 19th Hole ($9.95, Brandell Products, 3401 West Belmont, Chicago 18, Ill.). This consists of a molded plastic golf hole which, when plugged into house current, has a returning mechanism for sending the ball back to you after each putt. Yet another is a game called 5 Hole Golf ($8.95, Abercrombie & Fitch, New York). This one has five separate molded plastic greens, each a different shape and with a felted surface to simulate the grass of the green. These can be placed around the room or out of doors to form a family brand of miniature golf.
One of the most ambitious indoor golf setups on the market is the Pak-A-Way golf driving range ($585, FOB factory, Alex Taylor & Co., 7 East 38 St., New York 16). This is too large for the average home, but can be set up in a gymnasium, a private club or a large basement. It consists of a range, large enough for two people to play simultaneously, with nylon and cotton net walls, a drill canvas top, a nylon backstop strong enough to stop the hardest balls without rebound. The range measures 21 feet long, 11 feet high and has a 20-foot opening for the players. It is attached by guy wires to concrete, brick, block or frame walls and is so designed that it can be folded up against one wall in less than two minutes. There are two driving platforms with brush mats and rubber tees, one for a left-, one for a right-handed player. The works weighs 260 pounds.
A company which manufactures golf driving-range tee mats has a much less ambitious aid to driving practice for at-home use: a Chip-N-Drive golf tee mat ($11.95, Von Lengerke & Antoine, Chicago). The mat is made of heavy-duty airplane-type nylon-corded rubber with a tough brush insert that simulates the fairway for iron shots, a built-in rubber tee for use with wood clubs, a heavy-duty spring steel-wire binding. It is to be used on hard surfaces or on your lawn—or can be used indoors, with an accompanying net basket, for practicing chip shots.
The First Flight swing speedometer ($6.95, Professional Golf Co. of America, 1233 Carter St., Chattanooga, Tenn.), endorsed by Tommy Bolt and Chandler Harper, is a new instrument for determining your proper club head weight and ball compression. Theoretically, its regular use while practicing will enable you to groove a golf swing that repeats. The instrument is attached to the shaft of a club. It registers, in miles per hour, from 40 to 140, the clubhead speed. It is reset by releasing a trigger spring after each swing.
Another instrument to aid the golfer is a range finder ($17.85, Federal Instrument Corp., 12-10 Broadway, Long Island City 6, N.Y.). The bioptical range finder comes in a leather case and will measure, by focusing so that two images are placed into alignment, the distance to the flag better than the most experienced caddie.
Putt-Pins ($3.95, Abercrombie & Fitch, New York) are another form of indoor putt practice. This game combines golf and bowling, scoring exactly as in bowling. The wooden pins are scaled in ratio to bowling pins, and a golf ball (not included) is in the correct ratio to them as a bowling ball to actual pins. There is a scoring pad and a felt base for setting up pins.
Two new devices in one package have been designed with an eye to improving putting skills by showing you the correct path of your putter swing. One is called the Grip Finder, the other the Putt-O-Graph Golf Swing Gauge (both $4.95, Golf Research Institute, Country Road, Westport, Conn.). The Grip Finder is a simple, plastic form which is attached to the grip of your putter at the point of balance. It then has clearly marked on it the proper position for your thumbs so that the head of the putter will strike the ball at right angles to its line of flight. The Swing Gauge is a flat metal device which is set on the ground, or rug, three inches behind the ball. A lever called the "path finder" is set to the proper angle of swing for a golfer of your particular height or stance. Practice with it will indicate your best "inside-out" groove.
Among the many books published about golf this year, two should be of particular interest to the golfing followers of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. One is The Story of American Golf by Herbert Warren Wind which has recently been brought out in a new edition, completely revised and brought up to date, with more than 100 photographs ($4.95, Simon and Schuster). An earlier, $15 version of the book, published in 1948, is out of print. It is a definitive history of America's greatest participant sport, from the laying out of the first course through "The Age of Hogan." The other is Book 2 of Tip from the Top, containing 52 more of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S weekly golf tips from top pros. ($3.95, Prentice-Hall.)
Most items in these columns are also available at pro shops, sporting goods and department stores countrywide.