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SURE CURES

July 09, 1990
July 09, 1990

Table of Contents
July 9, 1990

Focus
First Person
No-Hitters
New York Mets
Superconferences
Bill Fralic
The Golf Boom
Perspective
On The Scene
Sideline
Point After

SURE CURES

(And if you believe that, we have a nice little S&L we can snow you)

How would You like to hit the ball 30 yards farther Every time? How would You like to say Goodbye to the rough?!? Can you imagine the look on Your friends' faces when you one-putt Everything!!! How does slashing 10 to 15 shots off your score Tomorrow sound? Wouldn't you Love to drive it straighter, shoot for every pin and Never miss-hit a putt again? Well, wouldn't you?!?

This is an article from the July 9, 1990 issue Original Layout

We would. Which is why, a year ago, we set out in search of the one gadget that would turn the insidious game of golf into nothing much more difficult than lifting a spoonful of Frusen-Gladjè into one's porky little mouth. In short, we were bent on discovering golf's One True Secret.

We tried inflatable arm straighteners, knee benders, head holders, mind trainers, tilted shoes, mystical shirts, secret balls, sticky spray, grip-makers, grip-breakers, two-colored balls, three-colored balls, 812-dimple balls, no-dimple balls, balls that find themselves in the rough, soft putters, hard putters, vibrating, rubber-band and pinball putters, long, short, ultrashort, bent, straight, steel, glass, marble, jade, gold and cowbell putters, straps to hold your arms in, head down, hands together. We bought, borrowed or begged until we had practically every gadget, gimmick, aid, trick, "revolutionary scientific breakthrough" and miracle cure ever invented to improve your golf game. If it promises to give you 20 extra yards, it's in our basement.

Not that we wanted to set out in search of golf's One True Secret. We were drifting along quite happily, not giving a sloth's intestine about golf's One True Secret, until the leaf blower got us.

If you've ever heard a leaf blower, you know that a good one would have gotten Noriega out of the Vatican embassy a helluva lot sooner than Twisted Sister or whatever finally did the trick. Leaf blowers are loud. So it was that we had a cushy little seven-iron into 18 that day, and right in the middle of our backswing a man in green overalls started his world-class leaf blower. We chunked our shot into the large body of water in front of 18 and, visibly shaken, proceeded to deposit the rest of the sleeve there, too. We went on to make a 9, which helped propel us to a 97. For a 12 handicap, a 97 is not a desirable score. A 97 will cause a 12 to: a) walk to the bottom of a lake and eliminate himself from the gene pool altogether, or b) seek help.

Naturally, we did not seek help from our local PGA golf professional. That would have made too much sense. Instead, we sought help from the club know-it-all, Carnac. Carnac took one look at our swing—indoors, because he wouldn't leave the bar—and clearly and concisely identified the problem.

"Droopy knees."

Droopy knees? we thought to ourself. Of course. We must be letting our knees droop, which is why we hit so many shots fat. From then on, droopy knees vexed our life. Droopy knees were all our brain would process. It is very hard to fix droopy knees because, until Carnac told us about them, we never thought of knees at all during the golf swing. It's like someone waking you up in the middle of the night and saying, "You shouldn't sleep with your tongue out like that." Tongue positioning is all you can think of from then on.

Anyway, we began to search in golf magazines for some cure for droopy knees and were amazed at all the ridiculous items available to our Visa card. That's when the proverbial light bulb clicked on. Armed with story approval and an expense account, we began our search. And why not? Golf, more than any other sport, has a history rich in gadgets. Did you know that Alan Shepard's lunar six-iron was a gadget? Yes, it was a club head rigged to a collapsible tool he used to scoop up moon soil. Gene Sarazen came up with a good golf gadget one day in 1931, the sand wedge. Hey, even President Bush is a gadget-head. He putts with the Pole-Kat extralong putter.

So the search began, and, we must say, it was not without its humiliating moments. We bought a thing called the STANCE GUIDE, which we thought sounded scientific. In fact, the Stance Guide was merely arrows you stuck to the toes of your shoes so they pointed to the target. You have not known embarrassment until you've walked into the men's grill with arrows stuck to your shoes.

We bought TOP TIPS, and we now have little stickers on the butt end of each of our grips, diagramming exactly how to address the ball for that particular club. There is no way to look cool with a Top Tip on the end of your driver. We paid $44.95 for the IMPACT BAG. It's specially designed to teach you the feeling of impact. You fill it up with sheets, towels, anything you like, and zip it up. Then you place the bag against an immovable object and swing your club into it. Or you could not blow the 45 smackers and use a pillowcase instead.

We even tried buzzing things. The SWINGTHING, which you attach to the shaft, beeps every time you swing faster than your preset swing speed. If you're swinging correctly, the beep should come at or after impact. If you're not, the beep comes before. But anything you might learn is lost in the embarrassment of standing on the driving range sounding like the Roadrunner.

Still, we never found a droopy-knee breakthrough until we discovered the STABLE FLEXOR, a molded piece of plastic that straps around your right knee to keep it from drooping during the backswing. Wearing the Stable Flexor makes you feel like Walter Brennan, because you are not able to stand up straight. But it seemed to do a nice job on the droopy knees. On a golfer's scale, we gave it a par. Only, for some reason, when we took it off to play, we hit everything thin.

"Looking up," said Carnac between sips.

Any blowhard with no more golf knowledge than Donna Reed can tell when you're looking up. Personally, we've always looked up, in case the tree was sending our Titleist back at our head. Still, we decided to beat this dread disease.

We came upon a man named Leo M. Kelly Jr., of the Old Chicago Golf Shop. Kelly showed us that people have been trying to cure lookuppedness for centuries. In 1940 they used the GOLF TRAINING RACK, a football helmet attached to a metal pipe. You simply stuck your head in the helmet, strapped yourself in, snookered down into your stance and swung. You were guaranteed to keep your head down. Keeping your spine attached to your neck was the problem.

In 1925 a man named William Goldworthy rigged up a sharp hook to the golfer's hat. If the golfer lifted his head, the hook would snatch off his cap. Or, possibly, half his forehead. This became known as Death by Goldworthy.

In the 1970s there were the GOLF GLASSES, a pair of glasses that were opaque except for a half-inch vertical strip across the center. The idea was that if you moved your head, you lost sight of the ball. We tried it. Didn't work.

We found some spectacles at Golf House, the USGA's headquarters in Far Hills, N.J., that have a little tube attached to each lens. If you move your head, you lose sight of the ball. Also great for diamond cutting.

These days, the hopeless up-looker can try the CROTCH HOOK, available in fine stores everywhere, in which you attach a Velcro strap to your head and a metal hook to your crotch, and then swing. This is amazingly efficient in keeping the head down. Unfortunately, it also results in numerous lost golf balls because you cannot look up to see where your ball went until someone comes along and frees you.

We settled on the HEAD FREEZER, a wire doohickey that attaches to your cap or visor and has two parallel wires that run horizontally in front of your eyes. On each wire is an orange bead. When you look at your golf ball, the two orange beads become four, just as one pencil held in front of your nose becomes two. Now the four beads give you a perfect rectangle in which to keep the ball framed as you swing. This gadget taught us to keep our head rock steady through the swing, and we hit more good shots with it than bad. We give it a birdie. Unfortunately, it looks like night braces, those things kids wear to bed to straighten their teeth.

Now we were keeping our knees good and high and our head good and low, but for some reason, we weren't getting any distance. We stepped into Carnac's office, third barstool from the end, and he outlined the problem.

"No club speed," he said without even looking up.

No club speed, eh? We'll fix that. Naturally, we began where anyone would begin, with the POWER GOLF SHIRT. The ad said the Power Shirt would add yards to our drives, but the only way we could figure a shirt could give you extra yards is if they made it for Chris Patton. The shirt comes with arrows that stick out of the shoulders, making you look like a doorman at the Hotel Mars. You start your backswing, turning the arrow on your left shoulder until it points outside your right instep and then let fly. That's a turn big enough to worry a chiropractor. We gave this one a par, because it's hard to keep your eye on the arrow and the ball at the same time. Still, can Power Socks be far behind?

We forged ahead, buying the SKYHAWK HI-SPEED DRIVER, which is a driver with a hole in the head to reduce air drag, thus getting you more club speed. One brochure said it would give us an additional 19.3 yards per shot because it reduced air drag by 41.3% according to air-tunnel tests at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida. We do not know where the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is, but we would hate to be a cheerleader there. O.K.! Gimme an "E"! You would have to have a hole in your head to buy this thing. It's about as tinny as Bolivia. There is nothing more disconcerting than hitting a driver that makes a mousy, wimpy little whiiiish sound on the downswing. Besides, one guy who came up and looked at it said, "This looks like a Chrysler I had once." Double bogey.

Far better was the MERCURYLOADED DRIVER. We didn't care whether it worked or not, we just liked saying it.

"What you hittin' there, Frank?"

"Oh, just a little mercury-loaded number I picked up."

The idea is that mercury, one of the heaviest liquids known to man, actually straightens the club face at impact, giving you a more accurate tee shot. Unfortunately, the thing feels like you're swinging a bunker rake. Bogey. However, it makes a nice thermometer.

We could have gotten elemental and bought the YAMAHA EX GOLD KEVLAR IRONS, which are "investment cast, perimeter-weighted steel clubheads with Kevlar inserts in back of the cavity...with Kevlar-graphite composite shafts," but we had that for lunch. We could have tried thousands of metal woods, but that's old hat. Metal woods have been around for years. Kelly showed us a 1919 ad that read, "Metal Golf heads.... They never rust!"

We actually saw a graphite tee that is supposed to give you more distance. Speaking of which, we also found tees made out of wood, rubber, sponge, metal, Bakelite, cork, cardboard and sand. One tee Greenpeace would have loved had seed inside so that when it broke, it would heal its own divot. There are tees that adjust to the kind of club you're hitting—higher for driver, shorter for wedge. There is a tee with a joint in the middle so you can't break it and a tee on the end of an arm that swings away from you after you've hit. There was once even a tee that was connected to a reel attached to your shoe. You hit your shot, then you merely tapped the retrieve button on the reel and zzzzzzip, the tee would come whirring back into place on your foot like a Black & Decker measuring tape.

But nothing we found—tee, club, ball or glasses—was as good as the POWER TEE we found in Tokyo. Actually, the print on the box was entirely in Japanese and we never did figure out what the name of it was, so we dubbed it the Power Tee. It was simply a plastic tee with a cup for the ball to rest in. Since the club doesn't directly touch the ball, it imparts no spin, thus there is less air resistance. We did not hit a slice or a hook with this thing. The ball just went eerily dead straight. The first ball we hit with it went 290, allowing us a four-iron into a par 5. The second one, 270, uphill. Not only that, but the assistant pro tried it and couldn't slice the ball with it. This, truly, may have been golf's One True Secret. The problem was, the box came with only five tees in it and we broke all but one. If word of the Power Tee gets out, we sincerely believe it could tip the balance of world power.

Japan: "Fine. We will manage your military and your industry, plus we get Brooke Shields."

U.S.: "Right. And we get eight boxes of Power Tees."

O.K., so now we were hitting it farther. Unfortunately, we had somehow acquired a debilitating slice. Actually, we know this slice. We have seen its ugly face for years. Our knees were un-drooped, our head unmoved, our distance unmatched, but our slice was unstoppable.

"Change balls," said Carnac, who was now demanding the price of a dollop of Cutty for each office visit.

Hmmmmm. Maybe it was the ball, not us. We began anew. What we found were slews of balls, some of them contraband, promising unheard-of distance or pinpoint accuracy. We tried the NITRO. Couldn't tell a difference. Same with the SLAZENGER, which was supposed to be better because it was banned by the USGA. Zippo difference.

We ordered some MIRACLE-FLITES because the advertisement said, "Many golfers report a hole-in-one the first time they use Miracleflite." We would like to report that we had a six the first time we used Miracleflite.

There is the supersecret CODE NAME "S" ball. You've seen the ad for this one. It looks like a newspaper story, with the headline SMALL COMPANY'S NEW GOLF BALL FLIES TOO FAR; COULD OBSOLETE MANY GOLF COURSES. The ad says one pro routinely hit the ball with the Code Name "S" 400 yards. We routinely hit it 400 yards, too. In three swings. Bogey.

In the past there have been balls with locating devices in them. One specially painted ball came with a pair of glasses. If you hit it in the rough, you would simply put on the glasses and the ball would appear to you clear as a bell. There was once a ball with its own peculiar smell, not commonly occurring on your local links. Eau de Top Flite. The idea was, if you couldn't see it, you could smell your way to it. There was also a pneumatic golf ball, but it fell out of favor with the public because on hot days it tended to explode in the golfer's bag.

There was the Great Dimple Race in golf balls. Companies kept coming out with balls with more and more dimples. It is the dimples that keep a ball aloft. Finally, in 1988, the Excalibur topped them all with 812 dimples, 300 and some more than anybody else had ever had. Except that all those dimples had to be very small to fit on the ball, and what you ended up with was a golf ball that was pretty much smooth and went nowhere. They marketed it anyway.

We tried the POLARA, the world's first and only self-correcting golf ball. "Hooks or slices seem to turn in midair and head right back toward the center of the fairway!" the ad said. The secret is the design, the Polara people claim. The dimples are shallower at the poles (thus, Polara) and deeper in the center, giving it a "gyroscopic" effect, they say. Unfortunately, the patented "gyroscopic" effect makes hitting the Polara like hitting a can of Del Monte green beans. Furthermore, not once did the Polara come to the aid of any of our slices, despite great pleading on our part.

Then the USGA's Bill Forbes, one of the people who regulate golf balls, told us we were crazy. He said almost all balls are about the same. He said the top 80 USGA-approved balls are all within eight yards of each other on a 280-yard drive. We returned to Chez Carnac.

"It's not the ball," we said.

"Too much right hand," said Carnac, wiping off a bit of spittle.

Right hand, eh? Now this was a toughie. We decided to delay no further. We took the problem right to the experts, PGA Tour pros.

Pros, as a rule, do not try many gadgets, mainly because they don't hook or slice or hit things fat. We have not yet attended a Masters where the second-place finisher comes in and says, "I don't know what happened. I couldn't get rid of this big banana slice I had going."

The closest we came to a pro's telling us a gadget story was Payne Stewart, who suffers, now and then, from a bad back. A man in Los Angeles approached him with a pair of underpants that had two pennies and a nickel sewn into the fly and a magnet that slid into a pouch in the back. The man explained that the current of electricity from the magnet drawing on the coins through his innards would relieve his back suffering. Stewart quit using the underpants after one week. His back felt no better, but he made seven cents on the deal.

One day before this year's Honda Classic, the USGA ruled that John Huston's Weight-Rite shoes were illegal. The shoes feature a wedge on the outside edge of each shoe to help force the golfer's weight into the right position for hitting a ball. Huston promptly went out and won the Honda in regular flat shoes and dang near won the Masters a month later, too. Maybe because his feet felt so much better. We tried on a pair of Weight-Rites and found that, though they worked as advertised, they could make you knock-kneed. We also ordered up the FOOT WEDGE, a simple, wedge-shaped piece of wood you're supposed to set your right foot on. "Made of durable maple," the ad said. This thing had to be somebody's Junior Achievement project.

We got a great gadget from David Leadbetter, the man who taught Brit Nick Faldo to come to the U.S. and steal all our trophies and money. It's called the SWING LINK (SI, July 2), and it has straps and Velcro that bind your upper arms to your chest so that you end up looking like the head pro at Walter Reed hospital. The idea is that you'll get more centrifugal power in your swing if your elbows don't fly away and you use your body to swing, not just your arms. No wonder Faldo is so good. This thing works wonders. You hit with it for about 20 minutes, and when you take it off, your muscles remember. Birdie.

But none of this had anything to do with Carnac's right-hand stuff. We were getting desperate. One day, after shooting a phone number, we ordered up the SHANKPROOF WEDGE from Barber-Goldentouch Golf Inc. in California. The first thing the lady said is, "Did you have a bad round today?" No, lady. We just shot 69 and couldn't wait to get to the nearest phone and order up a Shankproof Wedge.

We also ordered some MASTER'S GRIP SPRAY, which is USGA legal and actually makes the grip cling to your hand better. We tried the SHOTMAKER GLOVE, which has a rib built into it for the club to fit into, but it hurts after about an hour of wearing (bogey). Kelly showed us a driver with wheels on the bottom and a 1940 advertisement that promised it "Prevents Schlaffing." For three weeks we worried about schlaffing and still don't know what it is.

We got New Age. ALPHASONICS, which sells subliminal tapes that promise everything from positive body image to weight control, also does golf. We picked "Putting Is Mental." The idea is you put the tape in and listen to the pleasant sounds of a babbling brook and the occasional cricket. But under the stream sounds are one million messages per hour telling you things like "I can make putts!" and "Putting is easy!" Our putting got no better, but then again, we got a little confused about which tape was which. Come to think of it, we did lose eight pounds.

We got high tech. We bought the ACTION TRACKER camera, which gives you four shots of your swing in one print. Unfortunately, the four photos are taken in about .1 of a second, so all you get is a backswing or a downswing, but not both. We even tried lasers. Lasertrack's PATHFINDER is a five-iron with a laser beam coming out of the top of the grip. As you take the club back, you keep the laser following the path to your target. Not a bad idea actually, but you can't see it outdoors, which is a problem. If Han Solo ever takes up golf, this is his club.

We got big into training devices and gave almost all of them double bogeys. The MERLIN is something that everybody wanted to pick up and couldn't wait to put down. It's an iron with a double handle that separates your hands. You never hit a shot with this thing. You just swing it and feel "the correct hand and shoulder rotation." We are not that desperate. Then we plunked down $80 for the SWING RING. The brochure sold us. "Golf's Greatest Teaching Aid!" it said. "A list of renown [sic] players now using the Swing Ring: 1. Bobby Heins, 2. Jim McClean, 3. Randy Erskine, 4. Lynn Janson." Really? You mean, Bobby Heins is using the Swing Ring! Order me a dozen! This thing is about as much fun as flossing. It's a ring made out of polypropylene tubing that can be adjusted to screw up your swing 100 different ways.

We even tried science. The RANGEFINDER, a hand-held viewer for figuring yardage to the pin, said, "Range your shots like an artillery officer." The nearest we could get to exact with this thing was somewhere between 100 and 200 yards. An artillery officer for Grenada perhaps.

We tried mainstream pro shops. The TOMMY ARMOUR E.Q.L. IRONS are all the same length, that of a six-iron. The idea is, one swing, one club length. Not bad.

We then found the WRIST LOCK. As everyone knows, the left is the hand that controls the golf swing, and this thing keeps you from bending the left wrist. We also found the HOOKER, which is endorsed by Calvin Peete. As everybody knows, the right hand is the hand that controls the golf swing, so this thing keeps you from bending the right wrist. Calvin Peete hits more fairways in one day than the Toro Company, so maybe there's something to it. The problem with the Hooker is it looks like a bowling apparatus, and smart alecks say things like, "We need a reset on lane 8." Forget them. This thing works. We hit 20 range balls, 15 of them straight as Marilyn Quayle. We make it a birdie.

O.K., now we were hitting the ball straight and long, but we had forgotten one crucial factor. Our putting. We were putting like someone in an iron lung.

"Bad path," was Carnac's short and, we might add, terse reply.

Bad path meant our putting stroke was off-line. This would be cake. Above all else, inventors are brain-bent about putting. We found putters with level bubbles in them, putters with guitar-string faces, putters with rollers on the bottoms, putters with only golf balls at the end of them, putters with rubber-band faces (they work), and even mirror putters, wherein you look at your putter and see not only the ball but also the hole, which is reflected in the mirror. In this way you can check to see not only if you are perfectly aligned, but also if there are any Cheetos in your teeth from the snack shack at 10.

We found putters that look like Romulen space cruisers, with two giant winged appendages, putters with convex faces, putters you adjust for lie. There was a putter not more than four inches tall, which you hit by getting down on your knees. It's amazingly accurate, but illegal, as is much of this stuff. We even found one putter that looked like a tail pipe from a '53 Nash Rambler. In fact, it was the tail pipe of a '53 Nash Rambler. "As you can see, these people need to get new hobbies," Forbes said with a sigh.

There is one putter, the ACCULINE PT-1000, that stands up by itself, allowing you to walk around behind it to see if you're lined up correctly. Gardner Dickinson won a Super Seniors competition with the putter before the USGA nixed it. Now Acculine has come out with another, legal version. There is the pinball putter, in which a piston hidden inside the blade fires when you pull a trigger ring in the shaft, knocking the ball nearly dead straight every time. Free Game.

Everybody knows about the long putter, popularized by Charles Owens of the Senior tour. We tried one and gave it a par. We found it to be wonderful on short putts, but impossible on long putts.

Why not carry two putters? The long putter is great for unplayable-lie drops. When you're allowed two club lengths, it's perfectly legal to stretch this big sucker out and give yourself another foot and a half or two feet.

The worst putter in the world today is the BINGO TOPROLLER, the face of which is set at a 45-degree angle downward. The idea is that all you have to do is hit the ball and you get immediate topspin, which makes for a truer roll.

"Makes your present putter an instant antique," says the brochure. But mostly what the 45-degree blade does is maul the ball into the green. This is the worst-feeling thing we've had in our hands, up to and including the frog we dissected in seventh grade. If someone tries to hand you this thing, run. Quadruple bogey.

Don't let the CONTROLLER putter near your golf balls either. This thing has scoring lines that are supposed to keep your putt from going off-line. If you push the ball, the Controller's scoring lines will "apply a counter-clockwise spin that brings the ball back toward the cup," and vice versa. Right. We three-putted four straight greens with this hunk of scrap metal and put a counterclockwise spin on it into a nearby lake.

Coors, the beer people, sent us the COORS TZ putter, made of "one of the strongest and toughest materials available today"—ceramic. Coors says you want the hardest material possible so the putter face is extremely flat and the ball rockets off the club face.

The next day in the mail came the DOUGLASS DISTANCE ONE putter, with a faceplate made of the softest material legal—Surlyn. See, you want soft so you can take a bigger stroke.

"You're more accurate with a bigger stroke," Douglass says. Is putting a fine science or what?

That was when we decided our solution maybe wasn't the putter, it was our putting. We needed a putting cure. There are a million, but we ordered up the KLANGER, two aluminum rails you use to keep your putter on line during the stroke. It worked great—for about 10 minutes. Once we took the rails away, our path was as lousy as ever.

The best, though, was the PRECISION PUTTING SYSTEM, which was nothing more than three golf balls that look and roll exactly like normal golf balls, only they're bigger. The idea is that when you're finished putting these thyroid balls, the real golf ball looks tiny and the hole looks gigantic.

Unfortunately, experiments showed that we weren't getting any better. This was starting to be maddening. We were out of things to try. Did golf even have One True Secret? Had we blown all this time and money and dollops of Scotch for nothing?

Just then, at Golf House, we saw it, a U-shaped hoop with staked ends, about three feet high. Hanging from the middle of the hoop was a pendulum. It was a putter. You simply stuck the hoop into the green directly above the ball, pulled back the pendulum and let it fall in its natural arc. The pendulum can't help itself, it just has to send your little white ball directly into the hole. In 25 tries we made 24 putts. It worked from close in. It worked from far out. It worked from the coat closet. It was, indeed, the perfect putter. And since 43% of the average golfer's round is putts, it was the thing that really could take 10 to 15 strokes off your game Tomorrow. Homer Simpson could get around in 20 putts with this thing.

We were elated. Frank Thomas, the technical director of the USGA, would not let us have it, but we could easily have one built. A sixth-grader could make one. Instantly, we would be a five handicapper. With a little work, we would be scratch. Could the Open be far away? We really would one-putt Everything. Our life once again held purpose.

But Thomas had a funny look on his face. He did not seem happy for me. "Everybody wants to make the game easier," he said. "But do they really? I had a mountain climber friend of mine come in one day, and he tried this putter. He was outraged that we wouldn't approve it.

" 'Why not let the manufacturers build this?' he said. 'Golf is such a slow, tedious game. This would let people enjoy it. They'd have so much more fun.'

"So I told him, 'O.K. We'll approve this putter, but only if you let somebody erect a ladder up the side of the Matterhorn. Then everybody can enjoy climbing the Matterhorn. It will be so much more fun.' My friend immediately realized what I meant. If you sat at your desk and threw a piece of paper clear across the room and into the wastebasket, you'd feel pretty good about yourself. But if the wastebasket was as big as a garbage can, and you set it right next to your desk, the fun would be gone, wouldn't it?"

It was as if a blindfold had been lifted from our eyes. That was really the point, wasn't it? The addictive nature of golf, the lure of it, is the very thing we were trying to eliminate. What's fun is not mastering it, but trying to master it. If all of these gadgets worked and we shot 72 every single time out, we would have been bored out of our skulls and taken up Jarts years ago.

Heart lightened, we returned home and went out for one last round with our favorite gadgets before they wound up next to the scuba gear in the far corner of the basement. We had high hopes. If all the ads were true about our Miracleflites, the mercury-loaded driver, the Enforcer weighted grips, our last Power Tee, the Foot Wedge, the Power Shirt, the Hooker, the Head Freezer and, of course, the Stable Flexor, according to our calculations, we would be hitting our drives 495 yards. We would have to chip back to most of the par 4s.

Naturally, we schlaffed it all over the place on our way to a 97.

But it felt right. The game had held all that stuff off. If we were going to get better, we would have to do it. No secrets or miracles. As we were happily replacing the flag at 18, we heard a voice from behind calling, "Hey, mister...."

It was him, the leaf blower, the infernal green-overalled pest who had started this whole mess in the first place.

"What?" we said.

"Mind if I give you a little tip?"

"What is it?"

"You got droopy knees."

PHOTOBRAD TRENT/OUTLINEIn his pursuit of excellence, the author tried a Head Freezer and a Power Shirt.SEVEN PHOTOSBRAD TRENT/OUTLINEILLUSTRATIONROSS MACDONALDILLUSTRATIONROSS MACDONALDKlanger rails, the Merlin, and a meter to measure club speed offer rays of hope.ILLUSTRATIONROSS MACDONALDA Crotch Hook, aaagh, cures uplooking; a Stable Flexor is for the dread droopy knees.ILLUSTRATIONROSS MACDONALDPutters abound, but the Power Tee (with Condor ball) may be the One True Secret.ILLUSTRATIONROSS MACDONALDNo design is too bizarre, no ad too farfetched for the vexed golfer.ILLUSTRATIONROSS MACDONALDIf the gadgets worked and we mastered golf, all the fun would be gone.