The Pursuit of Par

Golf fanaticism in Rancho Bernardo

Jeff Cooper and John Logan, Rancho Bernardo Inn. “You can have 17 bad holes and one great hole, and that’s the one you remember."
  • Jeff Cooper and John Logan, Rancho Bernardo Inn. “You can have 17 bad holes and one great hole, and that’s the one you remember."
  • Image by Joe Klein

What is it about golf?

Here’s a game that takes at least four hours to play, usually five. Combine that with traveling and warm-up time on the driving range, and you’re talking about a six-to-seven-hour experience, an entire day sacrificed to a game. Then there’s the money. It’s tough to find a game of golf in San Diego for under $20, and that’s without the extra $15 or $20 for a cart — which isn’t always optional, by the way. Not to mention the cash a golfer can spend on equipment, which can range from $200 to.... Well, new limits are being reached every day. How could anyone waste so much time and money on a game? For what? The worst case of frustration you’ll suffer your entire life, in the pursuit of that perfection known as “par."

Millions of men and women (mostly men) all over the world sacrifice hours and shell out money for golf. They’re like drug addicts or alcoholics; life is lived from one round of golf to the next.

I must include myself in this group of golf slaves. Worse, I’m a once-recovered addict who’s backslid into golf addiction. During high school, golf was my obsession. After school, at least three times a week, I was on the local public course (junior rate, $4). On weekends, my brothers and I caddied at a private golf club to support our golf habits and to earn golf privileges at the club. Monday afternoons were spent playing golf for free with my brothers.

I was a terrible golfer. In the vigor of my youth, I tried to hit every shot as far as possible. Control was a foreign concept. But I was addicted, and through sheer repetition, I gradually improved. I was on the verge of shooting under 80 when I went to college. With no extra money and little time to spare, I played no golf. Withdrawal was difficult at first, but by graduation, I felt cured of my golf addiction. I was happy. “Think of all the money I’m saving by not playing golf,” I thought to myself. “I pity the poor fools who haven’t figured out, as I have, that life is better without golf.”

But as Proverbs says, “Pride goeth before a disaster and a haughty spirit before a fall,” and lately the golf addict is growling again. I find myself on the driving range if I have a free hour or two. And when I should be working, my mind drifts to dreams of 300-yard drives down the middle of a verdant fairway or 30-foot birdie putts dropping into the hole.

Curing an addiction starts with understanding its intricacies. What are its symptoms and patterns? What is common to all who suffer from golf addiction? I talked to a few fanatics over a round of golf to get some answers.

“I’ve been a golf fanatic since I can remember,” says Jeff Cooper. “Every time I’ve had the chance to play a lot. I’ve played as much as I could. I’m playing four days a week — at least now — and I’m playing on weekends. The day I have off, I have lessons. I’m hitting golf shots every day. I’m hooked.” Cooper, 29, is tall with blond hair parted and combed into a Bob’s Big Boy swoosh in front. As he drives our golf cart from the first green to the second tee at Rancho Bernardo Inn, I ask him how he first knew he was a fanatic. “When I started lying to my wife about how much I was actually playing,” he says laughing.

John Logan is a 51-year-old retired air force lieutenant colonel. About 5'10“...., he’s portly in build, with big forearms and hands. His round face is darkened by the sun, and his black hair is flecked with gray. Asked if he considers himself a fanatic, he answers, “Oh, absolutely. I play a lot of golf. I play or practice just about every day of the week.”

As we wait to tee off, he tells me, “I knew I was a golf fanatic when I found myself looking through newspapers and magazines for golf equipment ads.

I was reading all of the classifieds looking for clubs for sale and looking at all of the club advertisements in Golf Digest — things like that.”

Obsession with golf equipment is a sure symptom of golf addiction. It comes in two strains. The first type of equipment enthusiast will try anything new hoping it will shave a few strokes off his game. The second type becomes attached to the clubs he has and will not make a change.

Charlie Heylman, 36, is the first type. Heylman, tall with curly blond hair and mustache, says, “We golfers are a funny breed. We’re always looking for the next piece of equipment. One day you’re married to this putter, the next day you’re married to that putter.”

Logan is also this type, but he not only buys golf clubs, he makes them. Along with Heylman and Cooper, he’s a student at the San Diego Golf Academy, a four-semester school in Vista that teaches the business of golf. Through the academy, Logan has become a certified club fitter and makes clubs himself. “I’ve built three sets of clubs,” he says. “I’ve assembled maybe five more. I’ve built seven or eight different club heads because I like shaping the wood, and I like the color of it, the touch and feel of it.”

The tendency to shift from one club to another also makes golf-equipment fanatics of the first type susceptible to advertising. They will pore over ads — especially those that use technical, scientific terminology. An ad for a Goldwin Golf AVDP System driver from Golf Magazine reads: “The AVDP system is a finely tuned system of balancing the weight of the major components of a golf club to create maximum performance with minimal swing effort. The AVDP dramatically shifts the balance point towards the head of the club producing high swing weights of D-7/D-9 versus the conventional club swing weights of C-9/D-1. A golf fanatic, after reading this ad, might lie awake in bed wondering whether his driver had a D-9 swing weight or just a D-1 — without even knowing what that meant.

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