Masters week kicks off Monday, and with it so does the unofficial start of golf season, especially in cold-weather states like Michigan.
As we all prepare to dust off our clubs, it’s a good time to come clean about something. You see, I have a deep, dark secret. I’ve been ashamed of it for a long time, but now it’s time to clear my conscience and unburden my soul to you gentle readers.
Here it is: I’m a bad golfer.
Yes, it’s true. I’m a lummox on the links, a cur on the course. I’m a confounded wretch who watches wayward shots spurt and scream across the golf course like ungovernable children hopped up on soda and running wild at Chuck E. Cheese.
Here’s the sad part. It wasn’t always this way. I used to be a decent single-digit handicap. I took lessons, practiced often and with purpose, and played more than 50 rounds a year.
But now I need help. I’m pushing 50 and feeling it. My knees bother me. My wrists bother me. My game bothers me. I don’t have the time for lessons and practice. Let’s face it, the game’s too damn hard for most of us.
Detroit Free Press sports writer Carlos Monarrez tees off during his round at Orchards Golf Club in Washington, Mich. on Friday, May 1, 2020.
So I have a solution: A new set of equipment rules for casual hackers like me that will make the game easier, more enjoyable and more accessible.
In fact, this idea is sort of already in the works by golf’s governing bodies, the U.S. Golf Association and the R&A, which announced in February they were exploring two sets of rules, mostly to limit distance gains by elite players.
This so-called bifurcation of the rules has been a source of debate in the golf community for a long time. Purists think it’s bad for the game. Realistic, good-souled and selfless champions of golf like me think it’s not only good for the game but that bifurcation needs to go a lot farther — just like our golf balls should.
You see, the problem with golf rules is they’re made by golf’s blue blood, blue-blazered elite, people who probably wear smoking jackets and swirl snifters of brandy as they come up unnecessarily complex rules: “Of course lift, clean, place should only be executed with the finest chamois and performed in counter-clockwise fashion. Jolly good suggestion. You’ve done it again, Smails!”
Look, I’m kidding. I know people at the USGA and rules officials. They’re dedicated stewards. But most of what they do applies to competitive golf and not to the vast majority of recreational golf you and I play. There’s nothing in the rules about “breakfast balls” and “just hit another one” and “just drop it here” – you know, real things that happen on a Saturday morning when the foursome behind you is breathing down your neck.
Now I’m going to tell you another secret. And it’s a big one: What if I told that right now I could magically make you hit your driver 50 yards longer and straighter than you’ve ever hit it? Nah, you wouldn’t be interested in that.
Carlos Monarrez is a staff writer for the Detroit Free Press, part of the USA Today Network.
But it’s true. All you have to do is put some Vaseline or Chapstick on the face of your driver to reduce side spin. I first learned about this trick when Rick Reilly wrote about a high-stakes Las Vegas gambler in his 2003 book, “Who’s your Caddy?”
“I was 50 yards longer and 30 yards straighter than I’d ever been,” Reilly wrote. “I kept looking for my slice and never saw it.”
I tried it for myself and yes, there was a big difference in length and accuracy. There were only two problems, as Reilly noted. You get addicted to that kind of advantage, and it’s completely against the rules.
There are other “illegal” equipment aides out there. A company named Polara has made “self-correcting” balls for years that claim to correct “more than 75% of a hook or slice” and “can cut 45 minutes off a round of golf … and make the game more enjoyable.”
I’ve tried the Polara balls, too. And they sure do work. When a friend of mine had the driving yips and couldn’t get off the tee without a giant banana slice, I suggested he use the Polara ball as a “driving ball” just to get him started. It worked great and we were able to resume our match, eliminating time and frustration and increasing our enjoyment.
Here’s where the rules come in. It’s my deep suspicion that if the USGA and R&A allowed the equipment companies to go hog wild and create equipment for recreational players, companies like Callaway, TaylorMade and Titleist would revolutionize the game for hackers. Distance and forgiveness would grow by leaps and bounds. Imagine 300-yard drives being commonplace. Imagine golf balls that flew high and straight every time. Drastically deep-grooved wedges that make balls spin and back up on greens.
I’ve been inside PGA Tour equipment trucks. These people can do anything – if they’re allowed to.
The big question is whether they’ll ever be allowed to. I doubt it because I suspect the people in charge of golf’s rules are too comfortable to consider someone like me who’s chasing down his caffeine-addled kids while holding a jar of Vaseline.
Carlos Monarrez is a writer for the Detroit Free Press, part of the USA Today Network. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.