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Tom Turtle

goes a'Golfing

Man, do they need to rake this trap!

Heigh-ho, fellow linksters! I am just so thrilled to be able to rub that green again, getting my wedges dirty and putt-putt-putting those things around in that place where the pins are flapping lustily in the wind! What son or daughter of nature wouldn't leap and gambol at the chance to saunter up a fairway, bathe in the sand, and play one-holed billiards on the grassy slope of the dune?

Problem is, I had to first be fitted out with clubs. For a personage of my stature, that was a ticklish matter, at best. As everyone knows, turtles age quite slowly, and the last time I had played the royal game was in the 1960's—which means my sticks were outdated. I had learned the finer points of swing and lurch in my infancy, around the time of Sarazen and Charlie Chaplin, and back then a turtle could get by with one curved piece of hickory and a polished rock. But by the '60's I had invested in a full set of top-of-the-line metal contraptions with hozzles and ferrules and buttplugs and whatnot, fully gripped and cantilevered and counterweighted. With a bag of these worthy bats, as well as a cartful of dimpled balatas and colored tees and leather-lite gloves and shoehorns and spike removers and divot replacers and tom collins mixer, I was able to shave my handicap down to the low triple digits. For the golf laity, that means I could break three hundred, wind and weather permitting.

But now, some four decades later, I found my old equipment would not cut the proverbial mustard. Technology had advanced at double the rate my hairline had receded, and my once vaunted clubs were now only objects of derision and contumely. Yes, upon my return to the digging range I had been mocked unmercifully. Large clods of dirt and plastic rugging had been lobbed in my direction, and I have to believe it was no accident or crosswind.

Of course my only recourse was to rush pellmell to the pro-shop and beg to be immediately hooked up to the all the machines. As those know who have done it, what happens is you are surgically inserted into a sort of standing cat-scan device, where all your curves and leans and angles and sags and fluid levels are monitored, via electrodes dangling from all ten fingers. From the lead-shielded control tower, your pro gives you the thumbs-up, which is indication for you to make your “natural” swing. After the laughter dies down you are presented a video of yourself, a list of numbers in booklet form (approximately as thick as the third Harry Potter installment), and a token for one free visit to Psychiatry, Inc. By consulting the aforesaid booklet—and the entrails of local guinea fowl—your local pro is able to scientifically match you to a set of $1000 irons that he just happens to have leaning against the wall. The drivers and metal “woods” and wimples and brassies and spoons and warblers and wedges and niblicks and putters and pimbletons are then arrayed around those irons in a strategic assembly, the strategy being to make sure your golf bag is too heavy for any human to carry, but just light enough not to flip the cart over backward when you hit the electric “gas”.

Assured of the correct launch angles, lie angles, loft angles, moments of inertia, grip sizes, and anti-matter influxes, I was now prepared to return to the digging range, to see how straight and far I could hit my divots. Sure enough, there was real improvement. I hit one divot over three times as far as my tee (using the old outdated equipment, I had been hitting my divot no more than twice as far as my tee).

I only discovered one problem with my new set of clubs. In order to convince me that I was hitting the divot farther than ever before, the manufacturer had shifted the lofts on all the irons. Whereas the loft on my old 5-iron had been 30o, the loft on my new 5-iron was 24o. So I was really hitting a 3-iron, by the old standards, with the number 5 on the sole of the club instead of the number 3. This was great on a par three, when one of my pals would ask me what I hit. I would look like a stud when I hit my divot 90 yards with a 5-iron. But when it came time to hit a wedge, I was in trouble. By the same math, my wedge was now an 8-iron, so I needed two “gap” wedges to fill the new hole between the 8 iron and sand wedge. My new wedge was 43o, so I needed 47o and 51o gap wedges. According to touring pro Boo “Boob” Weaklily, for hard sand I needed a 54o “sand” wedge, and for soft sand I needed a 58o “sand” wedge. According to teaching guru and hypnotherapist Dave “Davey” Delz, I needed a 60o “lob” wedge for lobbing over medium soft sand from a tight lie to an oblong or obtuse green. And according to touring pro Phil “the Pill” Nickollsson, I needed a 64o degree “bopper” wedge to flip the ball back over my head when facing away from semi-hard or extra-softish sand (or when trying to save par from the bottom of the baby pool in mid-winter). With seven wedges, I had no legal room in my bag for any “woods” or “putters”, so in tournaments I had to putt with my “bopper” “wedge”, slapping it left handed in an inverted “S” pose.

When driving from the elevated tees of long par fives, I would blade my 3-iron (loft 17o, lie 56o, MOI 5011, length 39.25”, swingweight D1, clubweight 13.4 oz., specific gravity 3.022, non-specific urethritis: no) out to about 130 yards, then top the lob wedge into the green from there. Normally this took no more than 8 or 9 extras hits. I found that chipping was best done with the 7-iron, hitting it with the grip first, and if that still left me with a putt too long for the back of the 64o wedge, I would just kick the bastard. But even this was done with all due diligence and technology. I had a precisely calibrated titanium flange welded onto the toe of my right golf shoe, with cavity back and adjustable screws. With practice I could lag a 90 foot putt to within a dozen yards or so, depending on my lie.

This brings us to the greatest advance in golf technology: the ball! No longer a roundish rock or a piece of pale rubber pulled from a poor equatorial tree, the modern ball is a feat of engineering and advertising ne plus ultra. Some are still relying on the latest release from Simon-Callow-A or Tite-Leash, but my pro was good enough to hook me up with next year's technology. At first look, this ball seems like any other: 394 shallow dimples in a fixed pattern. But on closer inspection, you find that four of the dimples are actually tiny screwheads. With the proper $400 screw driver, you can make the ball veer higher or lower, left or right. For an extra $3999 (sold separately), you can even have remote screw control. To make this especially cloak and dagger, you can install the remote on the end of your driver. The levers are then installed under your grip, with a wire running down the inside of the shaft. As the ball is in flight, and you in your “natural” follow through, the head of the club should be pointing roughly toward the hole (supposing you finish somewhat like Michelle Wie). With simple (and clandestine) pressure from your fingers, you can manipulate the four screws, and thereby the flight of the ball. Just don't be too obvious about it: there is only so much you can assign to the wind or to a normal massé!

I couldn't afford the remote assembly, so I just purchased the screwdriver. Unfortunately I positioned the ball wrong on my tee and the ball flew up my pants leg. This can be solved, I am told, by purchasing a self-positioning tee. The tee monitors the positions of the four screws and automatically adjusts, solving the ball-up-the-leg problem.

Now properly outfitted in club and ball, I was ready for my first lesson since 1948. This was going to be a chore, for both me and the pro, since I had to fit my swing to the new game. Back in the day, I had fit my timing to the whippy shaft swing of Bobby “Bob” Jones, whereby the clubhead was supposed to tap you lightly on the left hip at the top of the swing arc (also see John “John” Daly “Daly”). At the height of my game, just after the Boer War, hickory was in short supply, being used to build submarines, and I often had to make due with a substitute shaft. If I broke my hickory shafted mashie-niblick in mid-round, I found I could play just as well with a buggy whip tied to a brick.

This loose swing did not impress my new coach, however. Bolstered by the information from my booklet, he pointed out to me that my arms were 45% shorter than average, that my neck was 90% too long, and that my torso was actually shorter than my feet. In addition, I was informed that I only had 7 vertebrae and that my overbite was impeding my backswing. To firm up my release, he tied red handkerchiefs to my right and left hips. If both handkerchiefs billowed in the same direction, I was OK; if they billowed in opposite directions, he hit me with a dirt clod. He then lashed my right elbow to my right hip, by a short spring with a monitor. This was to keep my elbow from “flying.” If the tension on the spring exceeded 10 pounds per square inch, a looped track of Debbie Boone singing “You Light up my Life” began playing. He then tied a yellow flag to my left shoulder and a blue flag to my right shoulder. We were seeking a “Hogan” address, so if the yellow flag dipped below the blue, he hit me with a pie in the face. He then affixed plastic aerials to both my ears. Using a large protractor, he set the angle of the aerials at address to 35o from absolute vertical. If, during my swing, the angle increased to over 40o or decreased to under 30o, he shocked me with a cattle prod. Finally, he attached a large hula hoop to my midsection with clothespins and duct tape. If my club came into contact with this hula hoop, the flags, the aerials, or the handkerchiefs, he stormed off the range and filed an anonymous report with the IRS, accusing me of W2 violations.

This regimen did wonders. In no time at all, I was fanning it with astonishing consistency. You could set your watch to my whiffs. I got to where I just left the flags and aerials and all the rest on at all times. I even slept with them on, including the hula hoop, to build confidence, sort of like Jackie Burke used to sleep with his putter. I wore them to the office, to the gym, to Starbucks. It was great. Nobody even cared. They were all in nicotine patches and ipods and so on, so they wouldn't have noticed had I been sporting an Iron Maiden and a bow tie.

Before long, my handicap was so high, they just gave me the trophy when I got out of the car. If I broke 20 on any given hole, I was a shoe in, and besides they didn't want to have to watch. People would pay bets on the first hole and fake calls from my wife, just to get me off the course.

It didn't phase me. I wasn't there to worry Tiger Woods or to impress the intelligentsia of golf (the intelligentsia of golf?). I was there, as I said in the beginning, to wander the fair fairways under the glorious sun, to hail the hares and wink at the prairie dogs. I was there to get some grass under my fingernails and some sand in my collar and some leaves in my hat. If I occasionally rolled in a long putt for a dodecapupple bogey, so much the better. For a turtle, life is always good as long as the grass is green, as long as the clouds are light and fluffy, and as long as the cart girl pokes her head out of her shell and smiles occasionally.
In a pile
Upon a log
Over the water
Third from the bottom
Secreting my own hard shell
Tom Turtle

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