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Can someone - anyone - tell me why we play a game that makes even the best player in the world feel like this?
Can someone - anyone - tell me why we play a game that makes even the best player in the world feel like this? (Courtesy of the PGA of America)

They call it golf because all the other four-letter words were taken

By Claude Diamond,

CHULA VISTA, Calif. - So there I was on the famous eighth hole of the late Hopatcong, N.J. municipal nine-hole golf course. I say late because the genius leaders of the community turned it into a senior citizen center.

It was circa 1970 and I am on a golf date (still beats bowling) with this very attractive 16-year-old blond. I figured this was a creative way to go on a first date and certainly a way to impress her with my putting skills. (Don't worry, the jokes get worse!)

There was only one problem, she was kicking my butt. I kept trying to kill the ball and as a result I was losing my balls and my temper while the high school girlfriend was playing her own game and doing quite well. She was playing golf for the first time and was effectively destroying my fragile 18-year-old male ego.

That was the last time I played golf for 30 years. I sold my clubs, bag and even the shoes to someone for $20 which I spent on a tank of gas, one New Jersey pizza with anchovies, a tasty Sub Station ham, provolone and genoa salami hoagie and enough left over for the drive-in movies with popcorn included! (Hey $20 went a lot further then.)

Back to the future: It is now 2001, a new millennium. Tiger Woods is almost a billionaire (good for him), In & Out Burger has a cult following, Starbucks makes the best non-fat Mocha Espresso (hold the whipped cream), the world has gotten a little older and so have I.

I live with my family half the year in perpetually sunny San Diego, land of endless golf courses and the home of the fish taco, but it was my other home in beautiful Grand County, Colo. where I re-discovered the love of the green links. It was last summer and just about everyone in the small town of 552 that I spoke to proclaimed what a wonderful 27-hole golf course with adjacent bar, restaurant and pro shop had been built with public funds (taxes, of course). Now being a major contributor to that fund I felt it only wise to enjoy this recreation facility that I helped pay for.

It just so happened on that warm 4th of July weekend, the local historical society was having its annual summer fundraiser. This is a time honored custom where instead of throwing something out of your garage you donate it and get a tax write-off. (Is this a great country or what?) I figured this might be a good place to look for some used duffer equipment. I drove up a long dirt road to the facility (a local farmer's barn) where the sale was being held.

Lo and behold, in the corner between the used Suzanne Sommers thigh master and a two-wheel manure hauling trailer (beats the s**t out of me why anyone would want to get rid of one of these) was where they stored the golf goodies.

I'm not sure if someone was trying to make a commentary on golf by the positioning of the equipment, but I forged ahead and began diving into all sorts of clubs, bags, etc. I even found a cardboard box with hundreds of used balls.

I discreetly looked around to make sure no one was watching me, grabbed one of the drivers, placed a few balls on the ground outside the barn and hit a couple of shots driving the balls across a pond and into the farmer's field. It's a shame I was aiming the ball in a completely different direction and almost hit a poor cow grazing in the pasture. (This must be where Mad Cow Disease came from!)

Environmental Alert Note: Being a concerned conservationist, I figured the balls would eventually go to seed, grow and multiply. The farmer could start selling fresh golf balls with the usual corn and tomatoes at his roadside stand. We all have to do our part.

All of a sudden a mature gentleman tapped me on the shoulder and told me that I needed to not lift up my head during the swing and the ball would go where I wanted it to (in golf as in child raising, everyone has an opinion). He then took it upon himself to demonstrate his well honed technique as he grabbed my club and swung. While I was getting my free golf lesson a friend of the old time duffer came along and decided to voice his opinion on the perfect swing, show his style and take a few free shots.

Before I knew it, there were five other guys pulling out golf balls and clubs from the old barn. An instant golf course was set up and the balls and tall stories were flying. All we needed was someone serving cocktails and life would be perfect. This was much to the dismay of the fundraiser volunteers and the irate farmer who arrived in his pickup to disband the new golf facility located in his pasture!

While the commotion was going on, I headed back to the barn and found a nice set of Spalding clubs that came in a bag with a dozen balls. I was told that the price was set at $12. Maybe it's the real estate investor in me, but I offered $10 and got my price! Claude's Cheap Golf Equipment Rule: Ask for everything, expect nothing and have the guts to see what happens!

It was time to give golf a second chance. I know, fool me twice shame on me, but I decided to give the ancient Scottish game another try. I went to the golf course and found that schlepping a 25-pound bag of the regulation 14 clubs did not enhance my renewed love of the game.

I know about electric golf carts and caddies on wheels, but it's still a pain in the posterior! Going back and forth dragging clubs, grabbing clubs, dropping clubs and picking them up again isn't worth it! (I really prefer to get my exercise by walking, not lugging stuff!) All the while I was thinking that someone should find a better way to make golf practical otherwise it would take another 30 years before I got on a course again.

I did a little research on the Internet and found the answer to my problem. Claude Note: Whatever you do, don't type the word "Golf" into a search engine unless you want reading material that will last until the next Millennium! My search took several hours until I found what I was looking for, the adjustable golf club (that's right, club as in singular). It acts as a complete all-in-one set of clubs including drivers, irons, wedges and putter. It was developed by an ingenious inventor in Ohio named Steve Divnick.

The club has an adjustable face that uses a simple thumb screw to set it to whatever angle you need. Best of all, the entire shaft is collapsable and fits into a convenient fanny pack which also holds balls, golf tees, cash, an old hummus sandwich and a water bottle. (What more could you ask for?) I immediately ordered.

The next day I was out on the driving range and I discovered that with a little practice I could actually hit the ball consistently and straight. Believe me, this is a very big deal for me. Having only one club of the same length really improved my game and made golf fun without all the lugging around of the immortal bag.

The next day I was invited to play nine holes with my neighbors. They immediately asked where my golf bag was. They were astounded when I showed them the one club which I deftly extracted from my fanny pack and with one swift motion it expanded into a full length iron.

While they were looking for their lost balls in the woods and thick brush, I hit my shots straight and short. We finished the nine holes, and proceeded to the club house for soup and a salad. I laid my now retracted golf club and carry pack on the counter reminiscent of Clint Eastwood ("feeling lucky, punk?") as the local golfers came over and exclaimed "Hey buddy what the hell is that thing?"

Yes, the buzz was working. That day I realized that golf could finally be fun and challenging without all the pain of the long learning curve and the equipment dragging. An amateur such as myself can reach an acceptable level of play without humiliation and have fun.

And that folks is how I got back into the sport of golf. (Tiger has nothing to fear!)


You're probably wondering whatever happened to my beautiful 16-year-old blond girlfriend. Well I married her (or she married me, I forget)! She still can kick my butt in golf, but I don't seem to mind it as much.

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