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Chips + Putts

BEAUTY REBORN

Those who remember Woodstock and Watergate will likely also recall the classic looks and heavenly feel of that era's irons. A set of '67 MacGregor VIP muscle backs evokes the same wistful sighs from golfers that a '65 Pontiac GTO muscle car does from auto enthusiasts. The odds of finding such a set in decent condition at a yard sale are slim, but golfers can turn the clock back at House of Forged (houseofforged.com). Based in San Diego, it sells re-chromed and refurbished vintage blades, mostly in the $300 to $800 range per set. Fresh grips and modern shafts from Rifle or Dynamic Gold give the clubs a powerful second life in the hands of talented players, but these reborn beauties look so good you may just want to keep them in a display case. —Thomas Dunne

BACKYARD CLASSICS

Synthetic putting greens have long been a backyard staple for Tour pros and other golf aficionados. The most advanced greens drain well, hold hundred-yard pitch shots and can be rolled to putt at almost any speed. The latest wrinkle is replica greens. Leading companies such as SofTrak (unitedturf.com) and TourTurf(tourturf.com) can build 'em like you want 'em. One SofTrak client, for example, based his backyard green on architects' renderings of his favorite hole at the King & Bear course in St. Augustine, Florida. TourTurf has an arrangement with Arnold Palmer's design company to re-create any green from any Palmer-designed course used in a PGA Tour event at a client's home. Building a customized green costs a bundle—from $15 to $20 a square foot, or up to $30,000 for a typical 1,500-square-footer—but the long-term maintenance costs are minimal. —T.D.

Q&A

Would taking beta blockers help my yips?

If your problem is a wild heartbeat caused by anxiety under pressure, they might. Beta blockers are widely prescribed by doctors to block the pulse-speeding effects of adrenaline. They have proved so effective in enhancing performance that they are banned in archery, shooting, diving and billiards. Many symphony musicians and public speakers take them to calm the nerves. But the verdict is out with golfers. The Mayo Clinic believes that the putting yips—an involuntary jerking of the hands and wrists, especially on short putts—may be more of a neurological problem than an anxiety issue, and beta-blocker side effects such as fatigue and muscular tension may limit their effectiveness as a general stress buster in high-pressure tournaments. Neither the PGA Tour nor the USGA currently has any specific ban on beta blockers.

SWING STICK

It may look like the antenna from an old sci-fi movie spaceship, but David Leadbetter's Swing Setter ($120) is simple to use and can help you build a better swing. The handle has small protruding fins that force a proper grip and an extending pointer that helps you visualize the right swing plane. But the magnetic balls on the shaft are the major innovation. When your timing and release are just right, the balls split apart with audible clicks. (The magnetic resistance can be adjusted for different swing speeds.) Two short sessions a week can work wonders, especially on tempo. In three grip sizes (medium only in left-handed). Call 800-514-6504 or visit swingsetter.com.

Numbers Game

Cuts missed by Tiger Woods in 142 consecutive events from 1998 to 2005: 0

Cuts missed during Tiger's streak by Ernie Els, Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson, respectively: 10, 15, 21
Cuts missed during Tiger's streak by all PGA Tour players (approximate): 7,580

Percentage of starts won by Annika Sorenstam since February 2004: 50
Percentage of starts in the same period won by pitcher Randy Johnson: 47
Percentage of PGA Tour events in the same period won by the "Big Four" (Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson) combined: 39

Average number of golf carts available per eighteen-hole course in the U.S.: 54

In Scotland: 2.3

Sources: PGA Tour, Major League Baseball, Golf Research Group

THE WAY WE WERE

When Horace Hutchinson first published British Golf Links in 1897, the gutta-percha ball was in its last days and some of the profiled courses, such as Dornoch, St. George's and Lytham & St. Anne's (only later given their "Royal" designations), were in their first decade or two of existence. Republished now in a facsimile edition (Sports Media Group, $85), the book is an immersive snapshot of golf as it was. Most remarkable are the sharply reproduced black-and-white photographs of mostly treeless courses set amid wild dunes, with eccentric green complexes and scruffy turf. The book's chief fascination lies in comparing those images to what we know today of those courses that have survived (about half). The text by Hutchinson, a two-time British Amateur champion, is also intriguing for the window it opens into the game's nineteenth-century mindset. Attitudes toward scoring, for example, were more relaxed; "par," as we understand the term, was unknown.

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