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Chips + Putts

Handicap Helper

Those of you still without an official handicap index are out of excuses. In the old days, all scores had to be posted in person at a player's home club, but in 1998, an amendment to the USGA Handicap System Policy allowed some scores to be e-mailed in, and two years ago another amendment allowed for occasional online posting, either at a home-club web site (if it has one) or at ghin.com (if the club permits it). So now, instead of trying to hang on to scorecards and then remember them the next time you go to your club, you can update your handicap from any computer. The USGA still encourages players to post scores in person, but relaxing the rule seems to have worked: The average number of postings per player per year has gone from twenty-three in 2001 to twenty-nine in 2003. If your club doesn't offer web posting but would like to, direct it to ghin.com or a golf software company (such as Mark II Systems; scorekeeper.com). And get your scores posted!

GIZMO Feel the Force

It is . . . alive! Or at least it seems to be. The Dyna-Flex Power Ball ($40) is a new training device that exercises twelve muscles in your arms, hands and wrists. Begin by pulling the red string attached to the inner ball, then rotate the entire mechanism back and forth with your wrist. Easy enough—until the internal gyroscope starts whirling around at almost 14,000 r.p.m.'s. Just keeping your grasp on the thing can be a challenge at first, but the external rubber grip helps. If it worked for 2002 long-drive champ Carl Wolter, maybe it'll work for you. Visit dynaflexstore.com.

"Where's the UNEMPLOYMENT line?"
—Curtis Strange, after resigning as lead golf analyst when ABC failed to give him a long-term contract. Strange turns fifty next January and should find regular work on the Champions Tour.

Q & A

THE OLD NAMES FOR GOLF CLUBS, LIKE BRASSIE (TWOWOOD), SPOON (THREE-WOOD) AND NIBLICK (NINEIRON), WERE GREAT. WHEN AND WHY DID GIVING CLUBS SUCH COLORFUL NAMES GO OUT OF FASHION?
We still use club names, of course, like driver, wedge and putter, and recently manufacturers have had to coin new ones for specialty sticks such as hybrids and iron-woods. But it was the club makers themselves who eliminated the old names, in the first quarter of the last century. Previously, clubs were more or less hand-made and sold individually. If you wanted a mashie (fiveiron), you tried out several from a bin of them until you found one that you liked. That club, however, would have no design connection to the spade-mashie (six-iron) already in your bag. Matched sets came about only when hickory and then steel shafts started being mass-produced and big companies found it less confusing if they just numbered the clubs. These days, except in the bags of "hickory hackers" and collectors, baffy spoons live on only in the pages of P.G. Wodehouse.

Numbers Game

Number of balls hit into the water on the seventeenth hole at TPC at Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, per year: 122,000
Number of balls the average player loses on seventeen, per round: 3

Total number of golf courses in the U.S. as of 2003: 15,899
Number of new courses expected to be opened in the U.S. this year: 175
Number of rounds of golf played in the U.S. in 2002: 502.4 million
Number played in 2003: 494.9 million
Rank of the weather and the economy as the determining factors in the decreasing number of rounds played: 1 and 2
Projected annual growth rate of the golf market in India and China over the next five years, as a percentage: 28

SOURCES: TPC AT SAWGRASS; NATIONAL GOLF FOUNDATION; E-COMPOSITES INC.

Foozle

Finally there's a guy who makes Vijay look like a slacker. On Saturday, April 3, at the BellSouth Classic, David Ogron hit the range at the TPC at Sugarloaf and with three-wood in hand belted 2,272 balls in one hour. That's thirty-eight shots per minute, or just more than one every two seconds. The previous record was 2,146; at press time, Guinness World Records was evaluating the claim (each ball had to travel at least one hundred yards and end up in a target area thirty degrees wide). However many blisters he raised, Ogron raised about $5,000 for charity.

School of Hard Putts

Torn between helping your children with their homework or helping them with a different kind of course work out on the putting green?Here's a solution. The Sciencenter museum in Ithaca, New York, just opened an interactive eighteen-hole mini-golf course, which illustrates eighteen different principles of physics, math, biology, chemistry, etcetera within a golf context. Conversely, we like to think it's more of a putting aid hidden inside a science context: Learn about the dog-eat-dog Tour mentality at the "food-chain hole." Get used to handling those wild breaks that you just didn't see coming at the "gravity hole," the "roller-coaster hole" or the "optical illusion hole." Find out if some people are just born with the skills it takes to win at the "DNA helix hole". Finally, allow kids to tackle the thorny issue of women playing in men's tournaments at the "X chromosome/Y chromosome hole." Better yet, just go, have a good time, and maybe bestow some wisdom upon the young and impressionable while you learn something yourself. The museum will be tossing new hole concepts into the rotation every couple of years (607-272-0600 or sciencenter.org).

Match Play

Phil's Major 2 and 1 Phil's Monkey
Claret Jug 3 up Wanamaker Trophy
Tiger's Slump All Square Tiger's Slam
Butch Harmon 5 up Mark O'Meara
Aree Song 4 up Michelle Wie

A New Fairway Wood

Has the memory of that miraculous hole in one faded?Maybe there's a fondly recalled hole from your last golf vacation that's just not quite captured in pictures?Put Englishman Nick Gibbs on the case. Gibbs can hand-carve a detailed replica of virtually any hole in the world (or in your imagination) complete with trees, bunkers and flag, atop a small wooden chest (with drawers perfect for tees, cuff links, cigars or scorecards). Design your own dream hole; place a ball where your record drive ended up. Any way you want to slice it, Gibbs will execute it from the finest hardwoods. (Prices start at around $700; call 011-44-1285-850481 or visit fairwayoriginals.co.uk.)

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