Yo, golfers. come out of the sports closet. It's O.K. Bring those saddle shoes and fuzzy head covers with you. No need to hang your visors in shame. We have an announcement to make. Golf isn't dorky anymore. Golf is cool.
We're talking pants with actual belts and cotton shirts that won't start a three-alarm polyester fire. We're talking 3½-hour rounds and caddies. Golf carts are out. They're actually building golf courses where you can walk again.
Golf is a trip. Jack Nicklaus is 50 and could leg-wrestle you to death. George Bush plays golf. So does Alice Cooper. Cripes, Batman plays golf. Willie Nelson has his own course and his own tournament. Dork has never been within three counties of Willie Nelson.
Tennis? Tennis is over there in the Goodwill pile with jogging and Jazzercize. And if you don't believe us, check out this latest government report....
July 1, 1990
FIFTY REASONS WHY GOLF IS COOL AGAIN
Golf has this knack for lunch. Dinner, not so much, but lunch, golf knows. You've never had the lobster at the National Links? What about the snapper soup at Pine Valley? How about the artichoke soup in The Tap Room at Pebble Beach? What about the melt-in-your-mouth haddock that the bartender's wife whips up between 18s as you gaze out at the North Sea at Royal Dornoch in northern Scotland? No?
Playing golf by yourself at twilight is just you, your swing, the ball, the tufts of sweet-smelling grass, the delicate squeak of your spikes in the elegantly mown, checkerboard fairway and the delight in watching a perfectly struck four-iron rise and fall against the pink sky. You can watch The Simpsons next week.
3) Jack Nicklaus
O.K., you knew Nicklaus was cool, but here are some cool things we bet you didn't know about him.
•If you call his house, he or his wife, Barbara, usually answers. They haven't changed their number in more than a decade.
•Aboard his Gulfstream II jet—Air Bear—he has a bed, TVs, VCRs, a fully equipped kitchen and eight fully reclining seats for sleeping.
•Nicklaus has received an honorary degree from Ohio State, but he never graduated.
•Nicklaus hates limousines. Wherever he goes, he likes to have a Lincoln waiting for him. He drives it himself.
•Nicklaus's trophy case is so valuable it is protected by motion detectors, contact alarms and bulletproof glass.
•At Upper Arlington Junior High in Columbus, Ohio, Nicklaus was the center on the basketball team, catcher on the baseball team, sprinter on the track team and quarterback, placekicker and punter on the football team.
•Nicklaus fainted at the births of his first three kids.
•For a time, Nicklaus held the world record for the largest black marlin ever caught—1,385 pounds. He caught it off the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
•When Nicklaus stopped smoking, he reduced his life insurance premiums by $150,000 a year.
•Nicklaus's new house in Beaver Creek, Colo., will include a racquetball court and an elevator.
4) Tommy Armour III, grandson of the Silver Scot himself
Armour wears long-sleeved cotton shirts with the top button fastened. He wears Giorgio Armani slacks, baggy and pleated. He has longish hair and likes rock music, and yet, to golf's surprise, is not a member of the Communist party. He can also flat-out play. He has already won at Phoenix this year. Armour is to cool golf what Gerald Ford was to dork golf.
Ever hear any good lacrosse jokes? Tennis? No sport lends itself to humor like golf, probably for the same reason there are so many earthquake jokes. Here's a golf joke from teaching pro Bob Toski:
Priest comes to a par-3 with a giant lake in front of the green. He is not a very good player, and he can't decide whether to hit his last good ball or get out an old ball. "God, please help me decide," he says. Suddenly, there is lightning, a clap of thunder and a great opening of the clouds. "Hit the new ball" booms the voice of God.
The priest is shaken, but grateful. He tees up the new ball and prepares to hit it. Again, lightning, thunder, clouds parting. God says, "Take a practice swing." So the priest takes a practice swing. God: "Hit the old ball."
6) Femur damage
It's unlikely you will suffer any playing golf.
7) Cool people (listed here with their handicaps) do it
Michael Keaton, 19
Huey Lewis, 18
Greg Norman, +6.4
Michael Jordan, 6
James Garner, 10
Johnny Bench, 3
Bobby Rahal, 8
Ivan Lendl, 9
Robert Wagner, 14
Stan Smith, 7
Nelson Doubleday, 10
Gary Carter, 12
Sean Connery, 12
Don Johnson, 18
Burt Lancaster, 22
Clint Eastwood, 19
Orel Hershiser, 6
Curtis Strange, +5.9
Dan Rostenkowski, 18
Hal Linden, 17
Peter Ueberroth, 10
Dan Marino, 8 (hah!)
Bob Hope, 22
Jerry West, 3
Dan Quayle, 7
Jack Lemmon, 19
It is possible, even desirable, to have sex on a golf course, something you can't say of tennis, bowling or motocross.
9) Laura Davies can hit it a lot farther than you
The 26-year-old Brit routinely hits her driver 300 yards. Par 5s for Davies usually require two clubs: driver and eight-iron. You want Laura Davies in your next scramble tournament.
10) You're pretty much unfaxable while playing golf
11) No two golf courses are the same
Nobody ever comes back from a tennis vacation and says, "Wow, you would not believe the courts we played over there. They were fantastic!" Tennis is the same whether you're playing in Kuala Lumpur or Kankakee. In golf, every course is a birthday present waiting to be opened.
12) Not only that...
Golf courses can be a little eccentric, too. At the Prince Course in Princeville, on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, the 1st hole does not count. It's a warmup. At Knollwood Country Club in White Plains, N.Y., there is actually a 19th hole, not a bar, which is used to settle bets. At Pole Creek in Winter Park, Colo., the 7th hole is shaped like a horseshoe. In the tee box at the 1st hole during The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra, Fla., there are tees, matches, bandages, pencils, candy, suntan lotion, aspirin and antacid.
Then there is the 1st green at the Cottonwood Valley golf course in Las Colinas, Texas. It's in the shape of Texas. It even has a bunker shaped like Oklahoma off the back right edge, exactly where Oklahoma ought to be, and a giant pond where the Gulf of Mexico is. You figure the cup is San Antonio?
13) Golf is harder than calculus, doing your taxes and wallpapering the baby's room put together
According to the United States Golf Association, if your driver is out of line by one degree, the ball will be off target by 10 yards. So if you hit one well, rejoice, and enjoy the walk down the middle of the fairway.
14) Everything you need to know about golf you learned in kindergarten—or earlier
The language of golf is simple. What people yell on the course is the same thing you've been hearing since you were one year old: "Sit!" "Run!" "Stop!" "Bite!" "Hurry!" "Grow teeth!" "Get up!" "Get down!" "Not therrrrre!" "Not in the sand!" "Dance!" "In the hole!" "That's a snowman."
Nothing in this world is much cooler than making a ball spin backward on a green. Anybody can do it. First of all, get a 100-compression balata ball. GoFlites, Renegades and Xcaliburs ain't gonna do it. Next get a nice, tight lie on the fairway, and then nip the ball, making sure to hit the ball first and take a shallow divot. Be sure to hit the shot to a slightly wet but fast green and you, too, can have eternal happiness.
16) Roger Maltbie
You could search the seven continents for the perfect drinking, smoking and golfing buddy and not find one better than Maltbie. He's more fun than Twister. He won a tournament once and had such a good time celebrating that he lost the winner's check. At the Andy Williams tournament one year, somebody asked him what he needed to shoot to win. Said Maltbie, "The rest of the field."
17) You tan beat Chris Berman to the punch
Readers of the San Francisco Chronicle were asked to come up with nicknames, a la ESPN's moniker-making Chris Berman, for golf pros. The winners:
Howard (Summer In The) Twitty
Larry (I Can't Believe) Mize
Charles (Celebrity) Boiling
Gary (Rum And) Koch
Andy (Lieutenant Colonel) North
Mike (Why Can't Johnny) Reid
18) And you can add a few of your own, as I did...
Hal (All Of A) Sutton
Bob (He Went That) Tway
Fuzzy (Locked In The) Zoeller
Jeff (Seattle) Sluman
Duffy (I'm At The) Waldorf
Brad (Don't Bother Me, I'm) Faxon
19) And a few of the caddies'...
Curtis Strange: "Money"
Ed Fiori: "Dr. Strangegrip"
Hal Sutton: "Halimony"
Mac O'Grady: "Wacko Macko"
Mike Reid: "Radar"
Frank Conner: "Boxhead"
Bob Tway: "Brillo"
Wayne Grady: "Mate"
Fred Couples: "Boom Boom"
20) Fred Couples
Possible CEO of Cool Golf. He dresses cool, walks cool and never, ever, loses his cool. His swing is so slo-mo-relaxed cool that he looks like he's on Valium. Yet nobody hits it farther than Boom Boom. From 125 to 140 yards out, he's hitting nine-iron. His five-iron goes 175-185 yards. The guy makes birdie or eagle more than 20% of the time. In his free time, he collects vintage Mustangs. His wife, Deborah, plays polo and owns a few ponies. Way cool.
21) You can be good at golf longer than you can be good at anything else
William Hyndman III, of Huntingdon Valley, Pa., has won club championships in the 1930s, '40s, '50s, 70s, '80s and '90s. He has won them at the Old York Road, Huntingdon Valley, Torresdale-Frankford and Cedarbrook country clubs, all in Pennsylvania, and at the Adios Golf Club in Hillsborough, Fla., among others. He has also belonged to Pine Valley, Seaview and Stone Harbor in New Jersey, St. Andrews in Scotland, Pine Tree in Florida, Squires in Pennsylvania and Pinehurst in North Carolina, among others. This is not such a bad way to spend a life.
22) You can be bad at golf longer than you can be bad at anything else
Take Angelo Spagnolo, winner of the Worst Avid Golfer Contest five years ago at the TPC course in Ponte Vedra. Spagnolo had the misfortune of carding a 257 that day, including a particularly unfortunate 66 on the island-green 17th that brought him from well ahead to well behind. Since then, he has gotten a little better. He played in a two-day tournament in May and shot 295. Yet Spagnolo still loves golf and plays once a week.
"I'll always stay with it," he says. "I've had so much fun and met so many nice people through golf. Besides, sometimes I think I'm starting to get the hang of it." Bless this man.
23) You can't make bets in tennis
Messrs. Hyndman and Spagnolo could have a wonderful Saturday afternoon together, because, with handicaps, they can bet. In golf, you can bet from here to Newfoundland and back. Here's a list of favorites from America's most avid bettor, inventor of rewards and fines, and scratch dice player, Leonard (Two-Down) O'Connor, of Littleton, Colo.:
•Aloha. Having lost every bet through 17 holes, the disadvantaged player can simply say, "Aloha," and the final hole is good for double or nothing.
•The dreaded in-flight press. Once the ball is airborne and, say, headed for the Denny's across the street, the opponent can declare an extra bet beginning then and there. A particularly cruel bet.
•Chuck Wagon. Player losing the hole just before the snack shack buys refreshments for the entire group.
•Super Chuck. O'Connor arranges for a catered gourmet lunch—lobster, rack of lamb, vintage wines—at the snack shack. As the group approaches, his opponent is rattled when he sees chefs at work. O'Connor heightens the effect by shouting "What's for lunch, cookie?"
•Hit and whip. Ten-dollar fine if the caddie is blamed for errant shot.
•Venturi. Five-dollar fine for analyzing your swing too much.
•Hackaloosky. Five-dollar fine levied against a player who gives swing advice to player with lower handicap.
•Titanics, barkies, Arnies. An extra five bucks laid out to anyone who makes par from the water (Titanic), from off a tree (barky) and from the rough (Arnie).
•Ernest & Julio. Extra $5 for whining about how much you lost.
24) Golf bags
You would be amazed at how much stuff you can get into a golf bag. Here, according to the Los Angeles Times, is exactly what was in Greg Norman's bag at the TPC this year: two MacGregor wedges; a set of Spalding irons, each featuring a tiny shark insignia on the back of the club; a Ping putter; a MacGregor driver and three-wood, each covered by red-and-white pom-pom head covers; tees; a rain suit; a rain hat; an extra towel; an extra glove; pencils; a bottle of sunscreen; a small velour bag containing his watch, money clip and car keys; and a dozen Maxfli 100-compression balls, which is interesting, inasmuch as Norman endorses Spalding Tour Editions. A photographer reports that she also saw two rabbit's feet. (After David Frost holed out a sand shot on the 18th to beat Norman in the USF&G tournament in New Orleans in April, Norman's daughter, Morgan-Leigh, said, "Daddy, you need a bigger rabbit's foot.")
25) Golf is harder than titanium
At Rancho Park in Los Angeles, perhaps the busiest course in the country (135,000 rounds a year), the 18th hole is out of bounds left, and there is a driving range on the right, which is also out of bounds. The club finds "about four dozen golf balls a day" in the range, according to one of the assistant pros. The pros turn around and sell them four for $3. That's about 17,520 balls found, at 75 cents each—$13,140 a year.
Golfers do not get hit with right crosses or dig pucks out of the corner. As such, they are usually left with enough synapses to carry on a conversation, sometimes with great success. Match the quote with the person who said it:
1) "Drive for show and putt for dough."
2) "If Jack Nicklaus had to play my tee ball all his life, he'd be a pharmacist."
3) "A game in which one endeavors to control a ball with implements ill adapted for the purpose."
4) "The woods are full of long hitters."
5) "Through years of experience, I have found that air offers less resistance than dirt."
A) Woodrow Wilson
B) Harvey Penick
C) Al Balding
D) Jack Nicklaus
E) Lee Trevino
Answers: 1) C, 2) E, 3) A, 4) B, 5) D.
27) It's a gentleman's game
In every other sport, what's legal is whatever you can get away with. In golf, players call violations on themselves. At the Colonial tournament in Fort Worth this year, Ben Crenshaw called a one-stroke penalty on himself because the ball moved as he was addressing it. When he told an official two holes later, the official said, "Did you replace it?" Crenshaw hadn't and was thus docked another stroke. Crenshaw won anyway, but can you see Dennis Rodman suddenly stopping play, walking over to the ref and saying, "Please award Mr. Jordan two free throws. I was secretly hooking him with my elbow"?
28) Cool rules
For instance, it is illegal to
•Ask your opponent what A club he hit.
•Tell your opponent he is overswinging.
•Suggest to a competitor that he declare his ball unplayable.
29) Ken Green
O.K., so nobody likes Ken Green except me. But this guy has single-handedly gotten rid of the peroxide-computer-golf-clone rap that writers used to hang on the Tour, and somebody ought to thank him for it. This guy sets balls down in his living room, opens his sliding glass door about a foot and hits four-irons through the gap. He has lost count of how many putters he has thrown in lakes. He says he refuses to get a haircut in Augusta, because it might end up looking like Masters chairman Hord Hardin's. He wears the brightest, ugliest green shoes ever seen on a golf course. And he's proficient at rental-car golf, wherein you park the rental car in the middle of the yard, open the windows and the trunk, and try to score points by chipping in golf balls.
30) Mark Calcavecchia
This guy is Nicklaus with an attitude. He thinks he can make birdie from the men's grill. Nobody plays golf with more joy than Calcavecchia, who would probably be on the pro Tour if all they gave out were stuffed armadillos. You might as well get to know him. He's going to be great for about 20 more years.
For one thing, Calcavecchia has his own language. A hook is a "yank," a dreadful hook is a "smother-toe," the rough is "gunch," a three-putt is a "three-jack," long grass is "the muff," a badly hit shot is not shanked but "skanked," to chili-dip a pitch is to "Hormel it," to sink a lucky putt is to "scum it in," a putt that comes back at you is a "power lip" and playing bad is "slashing it."
He's a born golf genius. One time he showed up for an exhibition match at Somerset Hills Country Club in New Jersey without clubs or clothes. He borrowed pants and a shirt from Peter Jacobsen, socks from Hubert Green, shoes from a club member and a set of clubs from a spectator. Then he went out and shot 62, a course record.
Two weeks after he won the 1989 British Open from Greg Norman and Wayne Grady by playing the gut-twisting four playoff holes in two under par, his wife, Sheryl, gave birth to a baby girl. They named her Britney.
31) Green and Calcavecchia
Together, these two guys are standing golf on its visor. Said Green of Calcavecchia: "There are not any better friends in the world than Calc and I, and it will be the same way until one of us dies. Preferably him first."
32) 19th holes
Like a high school prom, golf is one of those things best looked back on. Beers taste colder, friends seem closer and life feels sweeter with a signed scorecard and the 18th hole behind you. Our top five 19th holes in the world:
•The patio at Club XIX at Pebble Beach. Overlooking the 18th green, defeated and exhilarated from playing the most spectacular course in the world, you sip a Del Monte Fizz (gin, orange juice, vanilla and cream).
•The Jigger Inn at St. Andrews, Scotland. Ask for a single-malt Scotch, listen to the bagpipes moan in the distance and try to keep the goose bumps from tearing your shirt.
•Mauna Lani clubhouse, island of Hawaii. Sit on the terrace, keep the pi‚Äö√†√∂¬¨¬±a coladas coming and see which will disappear faster, your troubles or the sun.
•Copenhagen Golf Club bar, Copenhagen, Denmark. Three thousand deer graze outside the window. That's because the royal deer park surrounds the course. And not a lot of doe.
•The main bar at the Kawana Hotel at the Kawana golf resort in Japan. The Pacific crashing underneath you, Mount Fuji out the other side and one of the world's most beautiful golf courses under your belt. More sake?
33) The very best golfers in the world can be every bit as dog-breath awful as you are
Playing in the Australian TPC last year, Robert Edmond drove his first two balls on the par-5 1st hole into one water hazard and a third into another. He found the third ball and decided to take oil his right shoe and sock and slog into the water to hit it. He flailed at the ball twice and never advanced it. So he decided to take a drop, but the ball rolled into his shoe for a two-stroke penalty. He finally reached the green with his 15th shot, but the ball rolled back onto the fringe. Perhaps dazed, he marked his ball—another no-no, another two-shot penalty (17)—then two-putted for his 19.
34) The USGA Museum
Wait! This really is cool. Besides all the zillions of cool things in the museum (including an antique slot machine that pays off in golf balls), there is a computer that lets you design your own golf course. On the giant five-foot screen, you can design 18 holes of golf or just one giant, par-70 hole if you want. You can put trees, lakes, bunkers, rough, rivers, tees, greens and flags anywhere you want. That same computer also lets you play golf trivia, compare the swings of great golfers and set up a game called "Play Away, Please." As you're leaving, you can buy the actual, signed U.S. Open scorecard of your favorite player.
35) Golf is no longer as slow as the Iran-contra hearings
Some courses are requiring foursomes to play within time limits. At Denver's City Park course the maximum is four hours and 20 minutes. If you miss the deadline, you operate the driving-range cart for a week. Besides, next time somebody's playing too slow, remind them that Jim Carvill, the Guinness record holder, played the Warrenpoint Golf Club in Northern Ireland in 27 minutes and nine seconds, without a cart. He shot 78.
36) Golf gods
All true golfers believe in the golf gods. If your ball bounces off a squirrel and ends up six inches from the cup this Saturday, it will unaccountably bounce from the middle of the fairway into a tree crotch next week. Nobody is immune. In 1983, Tom Watson, then 33 years old, won his second straight British Open title, his fifth overall. But during the presentation ceremony, he dropped the famed claret jug, putting a bend in the base. He has not won the British Open since.
37) Golf is still a bargain Try it in Japan, where some club memberships cost close to $3 million. Not here. There's still time to get in on the bargain memberships at
Winged Foot: $25,000
The Country Club: $12,000
Cypress Point: $40,000
Los Angeles C.C.: $85,000
Congressional C.C.: $25,000
Chevy Chase: $20,000
Pine Valley: $15,000
Bel Air: $100,000
San Francisco G.C.: $25,000
Olympic Club: $18,000
Shinnecock Hills: $13,000
Burning Tree: $9,000
38) Career opportunities
For instance, you could be a caddie. You laugh? Tom Kite's caddie, Mike Carrick, probably pulled down $100,000 last year, figuring $350 a week, plus 5% of his man's winnings and occasional overtime for an exhibition. Carrick stays at nice hotels, keeps a tan and has been to England, Scotland, Ireland, Switzerland, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Japan. Get a line on that.
39) Ben Hogan aside, golf has never taken itself too seriously
The last time golf was an Olympic sport, 1904, the winner, a Canadian named George Lyon, accepted the trophy by walking down the path to the presenter on his hands.
40) Golf is mystical
Did you know that there is no filmed record of the PGA Tour's lowest round ever? Al Geiberger's remarkable 59 at the 1977 Danny Thomas Memphis Classic was seen by only a precious few. One Memphis television station had a tape of the round, but it was ruined in a fire. Perhaps man was not meant to shoot 59. Do not mess with the golf gods.
41) You could be working
42) British commentators
One time, a player was having a disastrous time on a hole. He slashed the ball from the rough to the water to the trap. Through it all, the famed British golf writer and announcer Henry Longhurst remained absolutely silent. Finally, when the last putt dropped, Longhurst spoke. "Pity," he said.
43) Golf is so hard, even defeat has glory
On the final 36-hole day of the U.S. Open at Cherry Hills in 1960, Ben Hogan hit 34 straight greens and was tied for the lead. But his shot to the 35th hole, No. 17, landed within a few feet of the pin, spun back and deposited itself in the water that surrounds the green. That and a triple bogey on 18 cost Hogan a fifth Open. Arnold Palmer won.
When he was asked afterward if he was bitter about the loss, Hogan replied, "Hell, I played with a kid who should have won it by 10 shots." The kid he played with was Jack Nicklaus.
44) Cool clubhouses
In the U.S., there are some clubhouses and locker rooms where you would be quite content to chain yourself to a table leg for the rest of your days, elegant but comfortable places like The Country Club of Louisiana in Baton Rouge, or Arnold Palmer's Isleworth Golf and Country Club in Windermere, Fla. The clubhouse at Desert Highlands in Scottsdale, Ariz., is what the desert might look like if it were perfectly decorated.
But the best clubhouse in the land, maybe the world, is the one at Castle Pines in Castle Rock, Colo. Grown men have been known to leave screaming and crying when the place attempts to close. The centerpiece of the men's locker room is a gorgeous white fireplace. The lockers snap open with the featheriest of touches. Giant windows frame the 18th hole, with the Rocky Mountain Front Range in the background, anchored by Pikes Peak.
The service at Castle Pines is legendary. By the time you've changed into your golf shoes, your street shoes have been whisked away to be shined. The staff will press your clothes, clean your tie, wash your car, whatever. People have visited Castle Pines once, returned after six months and had the waiter say, "Let's see. Tuna salad, steak fries and ice tea, right?"
45) "L" wedges
46) Golf is supernatural
It is no wonder that even the best players try to ward off evil spirits. According to the L.A. Times, Nicklaus always carries three coins in his pocket when he plays, never more, never less; Paul Azinger marks his ball with a penny, with Lincoln's eyes looking toward the hole; Mark Wiebe uses a coin minted in the middle 1960s, because he wants to shoot in the middle 60s. Most players will not use pink tees nor golf balls with the numbers 5, 6, 7 or 8 for fear that is the score they'll take on that hole.
47) Par-6 holes
The 5th at the International Golf Club in Bolton, Mass., is a par-6 if you play it from the gold tees, which are behind the championship tees. From there it's 695 yards.
48) The Raiders won't let you watch them practice, but you can go to any golf tournament and stand five feet away as some of the best players in the world practice their craft
You would be amazed at how hard they work. Gary Player makes himself hole five bunker shots before he'll leave the sand. Every day that he practiced, Ben Hogan would hit an entire shag bag full of balls for every club in his bag, from sand wedge to driver. Greg Norman will often set up 20 balls in a circle four feet out from the hole and he won't go home until he has sunk them all. It is said Byron Nelson was so accurate that when he was on the practice range, his caddie would shag his balls with a baseball glove. Know any good Joe Montana practice stories?
Unlike many other big-time athletes, pro golfers earn their money. In baseball, you make your 1.4 jillion dollars a year whether you're playing great or hitting .167. In golf, if you're no good, you miss the cut and it's on to the Hardee's Golf Classic, at your own expense. This is private enterprise at its purest. Buy one of these guys a drink, for crying out loud.
And, of course...
50) Don King has absolutely nothing to do with it