The Golf Guru: things every golfer should know

Q What percent of fans who follow golf tournaments are golfers? I feel a reasonable guess is 90 percent.

T.J. Brzezinski, Warren, Mich.

A Roughly a third of people who attend tournaments aren’t golfers (nor are two-thirds of TV golf viewers), which is why you sometimes hear funny comments from the gallery. Once, when Greg Norman was leading a tournament at 11 under par, he parred the first hole, and a red 11 was duly posted on a giant leader board next to his name under Hole 1. “Oh my God!” exclaimed a chubby man in the bleachers. “He made an 11 at the first hole!” Then Norman parred the second hole, and the same thing happened. “Two 11s in a row! Wow!” When Norman birdied the third, and a red 12 on the leader board sent the fellow into a fit of apoplectic incredulity, The Golf Guru felt duty bound to intercede.

How to be a good spectator? Go early in the week. Take binoculars, a notebook and sunscreen. Figure out the best vantage points. Spend some time on the range and soak up the swings. Look, listen and learn. Above all, no yelling. At the British Open, we always hear how the galleries over there are so much more “knowledgeable” than the average American yahoo. This is not true–nor is the notion that British galleries are made up of lords and ladies dressed in tweeds, all uttering humorous verse by Oscar Wilde. They’re no smarter, they’re just quieter, and silence can be mistaken for profundity. As Mark Twain said, it is better to sit in silence and let people think you are a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

I’m 17 years old and about 5-feet-10, and while playing at a local course I was threatened by a man in the group behind us because he thought we had taken his ball. There was no way to convince him otherwise. How do I solve such a dispute? We offered to let him search our bags, we offered him $5, but he would not agree. With my age and size it seems the tough-guy attitude comes out a lot in the other guy when there is a dispute. Is there something I can do to handle it differently besides just bowing down?

Bob (last name withheld), Gainesville, Fla.

One good way to deal with all your enemies, including pests like this guy, is to kill them with kindness. Lavish them with unrelenting courtesy. They really hate that. It’s like a bucket of cold water poured onto the spark of their childish anger. This is not the same thing as bowing down–quite the opposite. Under no circumstances should you have offered this guy your bag to search, let alone money to replace the ball that you didn’t steal. In any dispute, the strongest person always wins. But strength doesn’t come from age, size, squareness of jaw, quantity of tattoos or degree of shaved-headedness. It comes from the truth. In the face of a bully, remain calm and polite, but above all stick to what is true: You have no argument with me. If all else fails, walk away.

While I was watching TV I saw an item that claimed Sam Snead had once shot 59 in a tournament. If this is so, then why isn’t he “Mr. 59” instead of Al Geiberger?

Joe White, Pasadena, Tex.

It’s golf’s four-minute mile, and you’re right: Sam was the first to do it, in the Greenbrier Open in–what else–1959. The scorecard is on display in the clubhouse. But Al Geiberger was the first to shoot 59 in a bona fide PGA Tour event, at a soggy, 7,249-yard Colonial Country Club in the 1977 Memphis Classic. Only two others have matched that feat since–Chip Beck in 1991 and David Duval in 1999. Annika Sorenstam did it, too, on the LPGA Tour in 2001.

Hey, Guru! I use the logo on my ball to help with alignment on the tee and the green. I line up the logo, then set up and swing accordingly. Is this legal?

Ed Cochard, Battle Creek, Mich.

Yes, it’s legal. The professionals all do it, too. Alignment is so important–it shouldn’t require any great skill to get right, yet it’s the source of most bad shots. It’s easy to lose your way in this funny old game. Step back from time to time and check that you’re heading in the right direction. A friend can help. If you don’t have a target or a goal or a dream, then you aren’t aiming at anything, in which case the game has no point at all.

Got a question for the The Golf Guru? Write with your name and hometown to, or to The Golf Guru, Golf Digest, 20 Westport Road, P.O. Box 850, Wilton, CT 06897-0850.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Golf Digest Companies

COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning

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