From whiffle balls to the hockshop

I taught myself to play golf by reading Ben Hogan’s Power Golf. I later learned that Five Lessons might have been a better intro, but I was pretty much flying solo.

No one in my immediate family was a golfer. My father was a great guy, but he was interested in most everything except sports. He was once on the phone with our minister on Superbowl Sunday, and when the reverend asked who was ahead in the game my father honestly replied “You’re probably talking to the only male in Houston who doesn’t even know who’s playing.”

We visited my uncle once a year or so, and he was a sports fan and golfer. I believe he was the one who got me interested in golf – it was either him or I just caught the general Arnold Palmer fever of the early 1960’s. My uncle was an entertaining guy, a newspaper publisher and Oklahoma politician, so he could really generate some enthusiasm. Anyway, he gave me a few of his old clubs and ten minutes of instruction in his backyard.

After I whacked whiffle balls around my own yard for a few months my mother took me to a pawnshop and I bought my first set of clubs. The irons were hickory shafted Spalding Kro-Flites and there was some rust on the steel shafts of the mismatched woods, but they were mine, purchased with my own money earned by mowing lawns and pulling weeds.

The pawnshop was on the tough side of Houston, far away from my usual haunts, and I felt like I was in a foreign country. It wasn’t until years later that I realized how odd that shopping trip must have seemed to my mother. Imagine June Cleaver taking the Beave to a hockshop and you get the picture.

I got my first glimpse of the other side of the game from Sam Snead’s The Education of a Golfer. Slammin’ Sammy’s tales of big money games and psyching out opponents didn’t have much to do with my rounds at par 3’s and munis with a few equally incompetent teenage friends, but I got the idea there was something to this game besides hitting a ball.

It’s now over 45 years since that day in my uncle’s backyard. I’ve had a lessons from three pros during those years for a total of maybe 15 hours of professional instruction. Some of it helped, some of it hurt.

We also covered golf technique in my freshman P.E. course, but the instructor was a former Marine Corps badminton champion and he used my self-taught swing as the class model, so I can’t say that experience improved my game. It did stroke my ego a bit.

With these exceptions, I’ve continued to go it alone except for golf reading and watching golf on the tube. I don’t ask for directions in a strange city, either. I play to a single-digit handicap now, but I think that’s mostly because I play frequently and have tried and discarded a lot of things that didn’t work.

So why this blog? I plan to comment on things about golf and golf writing that interest me. If a book or other piece catches my eye and I think it might interest you, too, I’ll say something about it. Books on the mental side of golf will get extra attention because I was a clinical psychologist and professor in my former life. If you have a book you like or a comment, I’d love to hear about it.

I’ll also comment on the psychological aspects of golf as I think of them. Maybe it’ll be because I really screwed up in my round today, maybe because I observed something a pro or a fellow player did, maybe for no good reason. And if something entertaining or interesting happens during one of my rounds, I’ll let you know. I hope you’ll do the same.

So let’s see where this thing goes.

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2 Responses to From whiffle balls to the hockshop

  1. Scott says:

    This sounds a bit like my own journey through the halls of golf instruction…mostly books and some well meaning advice here and there. Wish I’d had any Ben Hogan book when I first started playing in my teens. I fear that I learned the basics from lesser books. Enjoying your blog!

    • ckprokop says:

      Thanks for stopping by. I think a lot of us get into golf through a combination of relatives/friends and instruction books. And as college professors, we’re both used to looking to books for help.

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