Carbon Copies

March 15, 2009

One of my nieces complained (in a swimming pool several years ago) that "Daddy and Uncle David are hard to tell apart when they're wet." Even dry, my brother and I resemble each other, and not just because we look increasingly like our father. When we play golf, we often arrive on the first tee wearing pretty much the same thing, making people think we must have planned our wardrobe, like the guys at my member-guest who always wear plus fours, argyle socks and ivy caps. But that's not the case. As my brother, whose name is John, once explained to his wife, who had accused us of colluding, "We work from a limited palette." If all your golf pants are khaki Dockers and all your golf shirts are solid-color polos, there's going to be some overlap.

Unrelated golfers, whether wet or dry, can be hard to tell apart, too. My friend Jim, playing at another club, took a photograph of a member who looked so much like our Harry that Harry himself was fooled. When I walked into the dining room at Bandon Dunes a couple of years ago, I was struck by how familiar most of the diners looked, down to the logos on their windshirts: At almost every table, there was at least one guy who reminded me of somebody in my Sunday-morning group. Just one table away was a patient-looking man in reading glasses who was reviewing scorecards, distributing cash and ignoring boorish remarks: a parallel-universe Hacker (real name)! At another table were four huge guys in their late 30s whom you could have swapped, straight up, for Chic, Klinger, C.J. and Jaws. The next day, on the course, I pointed toward a foursome on another fairway and said, "Hey, look, they have a Nick!" and Tony said, "They also have a you."

A golf club is a closed ecosystem.

Male golfers are like General Motors cars: There are more models than chassis. In almost any sample of sufficient size, the same few basic types recur. Every country club in America, for example, has a member who looks like Ken Venturi. A golf club is a closed ecosystem, and the number of available niches is small.

That doesn't mean there are no differences between individuals. My brother once played on a best-ball team whose members had each been born in a different decade from the 1930s through the 1960s. When John sank a long putt for birdie/net eagle, there was a moment of confusion because each of his teammates tried to congratulate him in a different, age-specific way—handshake, high-five, knuckle bump—and his own hand couldn't be at all those angles and altitudes at the same time.

But they worked it out.

Oil Your Cleats Before The Golf Season

Warning: If you've waited longer than 25 rounds (or about three months) to replace the plastic cleats on your shoes, you might need to replace the shoes.

"People think they're saving money by not changing their spikes," says Oscar Reyes, a locker-room attendant at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md.

Instead, worn out cleats often become jammed into the shoe and can ruin the sole, especially if they can't be extracted properly.

To help prevent stripped cleats, Reyes recommends spraying WD-40 on the threads before inserting them in your shoes.

--Jeff Patterson