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May 02, 2008

Renaissance Man: A Few Whiffs on the Fairway

Be the ball.

VitruvianmanConde Nast Traveler stuntman Mark Schatzker is on a mad quest to make himself into a modern day Da Vinci during a month's stay in Europe. His first task: Learn golf in Scotland.

Are you having trouble sleeping? Do you find yourself daydreaming at work, unable to concentrate on the task at hand. Do your children miss you ever since you mentally checked out 24 hours ago? I know what's going on. You're wondering about my golf game. How is Mark doing at golf? You keep asking yourself, over and over, as you pour orange juice in your coffee and don't even notice.

So here's the answer: I don't know. I haven't taken a single shot that Jim Farmer has been unable to critique. Routinely, he singles out a flaw, unpacks it, and then prescribes a solution. I follow his orders and concentrate on the flaw, and in the process forget about some other crucial piece of the technique puzzle, and the consequence pronounces itself in the next shot.

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club: Site of Mark's golf fantasy.

And yet, my putting, chipping, and pitching aren't so bad. During our first chipping session, I hit the flag on my sixth shot from 15 yards out. If I'd put a little less power in the ball, I would have sunk it. Driving, unfortunately, is a different matter. When I hit the ball cleanly--and by cleanly I mean when I manage to make contact, because there have been a few out and out whiffs--I almost always slice hard to the right. Only once have I hit it dead straight. This means that less than 1 percent of my shots end up going in the intended direction. It sounds terrible, I know. It is terrible. But Tiger Woods only keeps something like 70 percent of his drives on the fairway, and if he's having an off day, it goes down to 30 percent. So in actuality, on an off day Tiger Woods is only 30 times better than I am at golf. And yet he makes far more than 30 times more money than I do. I don't know about you, but that doesn't quite seem fair to me.

Regarding those RAF jet fighters I mentioned, I have spotted a flaw in their technique: They're not going fast enough. They fly at subsonic speeds, and nowhere near close enough to St. Andrews for my liking. I should be able to take a shower, then open my hotel window and blow-dry my hair in the jet wash. RAF, if you're listening, I realize gas has become disgustingly overpriced of late, so I'd be willing to kick in for a few hundred gallons if that's what it's going to take to get one of your pilots to become intimate with the afterburner.

Mark recreates Jack Nicklaus's 1970 win at the British Open.

Here's my fantasy: Standing in front of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, which is plunked right at the foot of first tee of the Old Course at St. Andrews, I let rip a cracking drive. Just as the ball reaches the apex of its 500-yard arc, a squadron of Eurofighters blasts overhead at Mach 7, dropping a sonic boom that leaves the entire East Coast of Scotland deaf for 12 hours. After an experience like that, I'd be able to leave this Earth content with the life that I have lived.

I know, some of you are thinking, Is this guy crazy? Nope, I'm just male, that's all. (An answer that roughly half of you will take as a yes.)

The truth, though, is that I could learn a lot from those jets. The problem with my drive, as Jim keeps telling me, is that I'm muscling it too much. In short, I'm trying to whack the crap out of the ball, when really I should be uncoiling my body in a very fluid manner. I've managed to do it once or twice. It feels good. It feels so good and each time I've become so drunk with confidence that I step up to the next ball and attempt to whack the crap out of it. My problems, it would seem, are undeniably mental. But you already knew that.

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To improve your game consider drinking more scotch while you are playing. The logic is pretty straight forward: you are not from Scotland, but scotch and golf are. The more scotch you ingest the more Scotland you have in you and by extension the more golf you will have in you. The science is hard to dispute.

The caption on top of your blog reads "Lean golf in Scotland". I'm not sure that it was you intended.

Maybe you should stick to tennis.

In the RAF they don't call them afterburners, they call the reheats. Anyone who does not know this is not worthy of getting the hairdryer treatment from a Typhoon.

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