Knock off the rust

May 15, 2014

Welcome back to the beach and the start of the 2014 season for sunbathing, swimming and golf.

For a while, I wasn’t sure if the winter would ever end. How can you play consistently when it is 30 degrees one day and 65 degrees the next afternoon?

In recent memory, this was one of the worst winters for golf. If you haven’t played much since last fall, now is the time to knock off the rust and get serious about your game.

I could hear my clubs calling my name from the back of the garage on that 65 degree Saturday, two days before the Great Snow of St. Patrick’s Day.  It was then I played my first round of golf in 2014 – shortly after taking two Aleve.

The Aleve helped ease the soreness from hitting 30 balls on the practice range, but a 15 mph wind didn’t help my mental state driving into the wind for what seemed like all day.

To make matters worse, I was playing with a new set of Callaway X-Hots with steel shafts. I had no idea how far they would go, since I had played with graphite Taylor Made irons for the past 15 years. As President Roosevelt said, “This day will live in infamy.”

After a round of numerous chili dips, short and long windblown shots and putting like I had a sledgehammer in my hand, I hobbled into the clubhouse with my buddies where we drowned our sorrows.

My goal of at least one par had been met, so I was not totally unhappy and I did play with the same ball for 13 out of 18 holes.

It’s not rocket science, but knowing your distance with each club is essential to your game. And the latest equipment and newest golf ball is only as good as the golfer swinging the club.

With that thought in mind, I will tell you about some golf equipment oddities that I discovered on a cold and snowy research day.

Golf equipment No. 1: In 1928, Michael Manning, a judge in Talladega, Alabama, became the first unofficial record holder for playing the most rounds with the same ball.

On November 15, 1928 he purchased a Pro-Flite golf ball from his local pro shop and played 46 consecutive rounds of 18 holes before he used a new golf ball on January, 28, 1929. It was estimated that he drove and/or used his irons to hit the ball more than 2,000 times. (My current record is 13 holes; see above.)

Golf equipment No. 2: Would you show up playing in The Masters tournament without a driver in your bag?

Well, in 1934, playing in the first Masters (known then as the Augusta National Invitational), Horton Smith did just that. Prior to the first round, he borrowed a Bobby Jones model driver from fellow competitor Paul Runyan and won the tournament by one stroke.

Golf equipment No. 3: Write this name down and remember to thank Dirk Jackson each time you play golf. Jackson was a car dealer in Houston, Texas in 1948.

He loved the game of golf but battled arthritis. Using his auto body and engine knowledge, he invented the Arthritis Special, which became golf’s first gas-powered golf cart. It is estimated there are more than 750,000 golf carts in America today.

Golf equipment No. 4:  All kidding aside, sunscreen is an important item and should be used before each round. Late last fall, on the urging of my wife, I made an appointment to have a small dark spot near my right ear checked.

No big deal, I thought.  I wear a hat and occasionally I use sunscreen. The dermatologist’s checkup took me by surprise.

After using a special cream for three weeks, it revealed numerous unseen pre-cancerous lesions on my entire face and bridge of my nose.

The cream did the job and I got a clean bill of health two weeks later.

So don’t try to be macho and end up with skin cancer. A routine checkup could save you a lot of trouble.