August 27, 2008

Golf Guru

Things every golfer should know

__Q: At a local range, a man was talking on his hands-free cell phone, hitting balls as he spoke. I asked him if he wouldn't mind taking his conversation someplace else. He responded, "Yes, I do mind." Was my request out of line?

Edward Calvin / Denver__

A L'enfer, c'est les autres. That's what Sartre would have said about this--hell is other people. He's right. People can drive you potty. Who is it that cuts you off in traffic, talks loudly in hotel corridors late at night, doesn't care where their cigar smoke goes, stands in the way on the sidewalk, tries to jump the line at the post office, doesn't return your calls, sends you lame-joke e-mails, gives you parking tickets, votes complete losers into office, cheats at golf or jabbers on a cell phone when you're trying to concentrate on 57 swing thoughts on a quiet afternoon at the driving range? Who? Who? People, that's who! Sartre was right. And he wasn't even a golfer.

What to do in this situation? French existen-tialists are somewhat lacking when it comes to offering practical advice. The truth is that the rules of etiquette for a driving range aren't the same as for a golf course. There's usually a lot of chatter, often in the form of one terrible golfer giving his even worse golfer friend some instructional advice (as Erasmus says, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king). So maybe talking on a cell phone at a public driving range isn't the worst crime in the world. Inconsiderate? Yes. Unnecessary? Absolutely. In the end, you did all you could. You let your feelings be known, and thus liberated them from deep within your marrow where they would otherwise have festered and rotted and possibly turned into some sort of unseemly tumor. Being civil is so rare these days that it sometimes feels subversive, an act of rebellion. But let's all try to hold ourselves to higher standards--we would never talk loudly on a cell phone in such a public place, would we?--and remain sanguine when nobody else does.

__Q: I've always been a terrible putter. Any advice on holing more?

Jake Thompson / Chicago__

A Tommy Armour said: "Love and putting are mysteries for philosophers to solve. Both subjects are beyond golfers." In truth, nobody knows a lot about either. But we do know that technique can only take you so far. Real success can come only if your mind is clear and your heart is true.

Send your questions to the Golf Guru.