Lee Bacchus

Golf Gimmicks and Gizmos

It's called the Swing Jacket. I saw Peter Jacobsen endorsing one on TV. It looks like a cross between a flak jacket and a straight-jacket and it's supposed to improve your swing. But just looking at the padding, hooks and restraints involved, I couldn't imagine breathing in it, let alone hitting a golf ball.

Like the flurry of butt-firmers, thigh-busters and ab-crunchers that hit the market in the late '80s, golf has produced its own menagerie of gimmicks and gizmos all promising to magically conjure a perfect swing out of hacker's twitchy spasm. You only have to leaf through the latest golf mags to see alchemy at work.

Butch Harmon is endorsing the "Proflex," a "stretching machine" that has an eerie similarity to a medievel torture rack.

There's something called a Tac-Tic, a kind of strap-splint thing that goes on your wrist and whose creators swear "is a golf aid that's not a gimmick." Whatever that means.

How about the "Ball Liner," a plastic deal that allows you to mark a little red equator onto your ball to help you align your putts? Or "Par-Buster," a complete in/outdoor practice range that even comes with artificial rough.

But when it comes to golf marketing, nothing beats the techno-babble of the major manufacturers. Their logic seems to be: build it, make it sound scientific-like, and they will come with wallets open. Maxfli has "angled groove design." Ping sings about its "patented variable face thickness." Tight Lies brandishes "vibration-dampening graphite tips," while Wilson has upped the titanium arms race by producing drivers with "hyper-titanium." TaylorMade touts its "Feel Cartridge" technology. And speaking of cartridges, Callaway is packaging its new ball in boxes that look like ammunition containers, and Cleveland has a new line of wedges called "Gun Metal."

Even shoe-makers are getting into the act, with Adidas and their "Torsion-stabilized soles." Of course, we all know that none of this stuff works. If gizmos actually delivered what they promised, the world would be one big tour stop and we'd all have buns of steel. The fact is, golf marketing is a game of wishful thinking on our part: Hey, maybe if I struck that injection-wound ball wtih those Fat Shaft irons, I could break 90….

Naturally, I've transcended all this hype myself. Not that I play with hickory shafts and gutta percha, but I haven't bought a new club for at least a month now. Yes, I've come to realize that talent rests with the carpenter and not his tools. And that's a good thing, since lately I been hitting the ball like I'm swinging with a ball-peen hammer.

Lee’s Top Five Golf Topics
1. AIYEEE! Louisiana native David Toms wins in the Compaq Classic in New Orleans. The only thing more appropriate would've been the Big Easy (Ernie Els) winning in the Big Easy.

2. PHIL THE CHILL. Once again Phil Mickelson fades down the stretch. But, hey,I'm not betting against him to finish second at The U.S. Open…

3. CASEY AT THE BAR. Casey Martin's case against the PGA is to be decided next month. I think they should allow him to ride in a cart as long as he sells beer from it as well.

4. CELEBRITY HACKERS. Every Hollywood hero these days wants to be a legend on the links. Adam Baldwin carries a 2.5 handicap, while Dennis Quaid's a 7. Sly Stallone claims he's a 10, but then he also says he's six-foot-one.

5. CADILLAC CADDIE. Tiger Woods' caddie Steve Williams stands to make close to a million bucks this year. I've already started training my five-year-old by putting rocks in his backpack.

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