Q. I'm 14, and sometimes when I get stuck behind a slow group, they play even slower. Why do junior golfers get treated with less respect than adults?
-- Michael Czarnomski / Atlanta
A. Some readers might be surprised to learn that The Golf Guru was 14 once. Many years ago though it was, I too can remember how my friends and I were rarely let through by slow-playing grown-ups, and how many a busybody would cross three fairways to berate us over some supposed infraction. "Kids today" those old fossils would mumble.
Kids today are no better or worse than they've ever been. Translations of prehistoric cave markings in Mesopotamia or ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics say the same thing: Kids today! They're nothing but trouble, they show no respect, they never replace their divots, what is the world coming to? Kids have provided a convenient scapegoat since time immemorial, especially because they're smaller than us, too young to fire us or vote us out of office and lacking the necessary funds to sue us.
Basically, we are jealous of you. You aren't yet burdened by cynicism, aching limbs, overdue bills, yipped putts. For you, reality has not yet begun its inexorable assault on possibility. You don't even realize how lucky you are, how amazingly great it is to be 14, and alive. We have to take our frustrations out on someone. Sorry it has to be you. Your best course of action is to make sure your behavior is exemplary, challenge us when ours isn't, and try to forgive our childish behavior. And when you, too, clamber onto the shores of adulthood, try to do better.
Q. I'm starting to notice a pain in my elbow. What would cause a problem like this?
-- Chris Lanzar / Holbrook / N.Y.
A. Tennis elbow is common among golfers. If you have a short, quick swing and weak arms, and you play on a hardpan course, and hit a lot of balls off driving-range mats, and you take big divots, and you use steel instead of graphite shafts, and you're partial to arm-wrestling contests at the 19th hole, there's a good chance you'll develop some pain on the outside of the elbow joint.
The far less common "golfer's elbow" is a pain on the inside of the joint. The pain comes from inflamed tendons, caused by their repeated stretching and pulling, plus the jolt of impact.
As always, prevention is better than cure: Build strength in your forearms and wrists, and keep them fairly loose during the swing. Try not to take as big a divot. And if you already have pain? As for so many ills of the body, mind and soul, the best cure is time and rest. Winter's approaching after all, so you can hang up the clubs for a month or two, reflect on all the great shots you hit this year and dream of plenty more to come in 2008.
YOU KNOW YOU'RE NOT IMPROVING AS A GOLFER WHEN . . .
√ Someone from GHIN calls and asks how you're feeling.
√ You're searching through the woods and find the ball you hit there . . . last Saturday.
√ You go to your weekly lesson and find the instructor hanging from a shower rod.
√ The guy who fetches balls from the water sends you a ham at Christmas.
√ You ask for a bucket of balls, and the guy behind the counter says, "What for?"
√ A cell phone goes off in your backswing, and you hit your best shot of the day.
√ Before you putt, you catch your partner writing down your score.
√ Your forecaddie is wearing Kevlar.
√ They create a new flight for you in the club championship.
Ask The Golf Guru: Send him your questions and he may answer it in an upcoming column.