Get A Gander Of Geist's Golf Game

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CBS News Sunday Morning Correspondent Bill Geist, in the spirit of humor, offers a commentary about his golf game. This segment originally aired May 20, 2001.

Among my many crowd pleasers: I once teed off and had the ball land behind me. It didn't bounce off a golf cart or a tree or anything. It just went straight up and landed behind me.

The truth: I really didn't play golf. And it seemed like all the rest of the world did! I went to parties where everyone was talking about shanking and chili dippin and I didn't even know what they were talking about. So, a year ago, I set out to try and learn this maddening frustrating game. And I wrote a book about it. As the title ("Fore! Play: The Last American Male To Take Up Golf") suggests, it wasn't pretty.

My ill-fated journey began in an elementary school gym in a golf class where we hit little plastic practice golf balls off carpet swatches that often flew farther than the balls. It wasn't exactly the Jack Nicklaus Golf Academy at Pebble Beach, but it was cheap.

I studied the rules and etiquette of golf. There's a 140-page rule book and a 600-page companion guide on decisions on the rules of golf. And the etiquette! What other sport even has rules of etiquette?! Show me the etiquette book for the National Hockey League!

"Please accept my humble apologies for hitting my golf ball into the country club's patio dining area, skimming it across your consommé and putting your mother in a coma!"

I needed practice. It was time to hit the driving range. I didn't even know how the ball machine worked.

You have to buy so much equipment. High performance golf socks. Technologically advanced tees. Special eyewear. Possum skin gloves. All guaranteeing to take strokes off your score. (If you bought everything in the store, you'd take off 100 strokes and I'd still be just slightly over par.)

Do I really want a $400 golf club with an oversized forge titanium head, a 10.5 degree loft and a graphite shaft just so I can hit my ball farther into the woods?

What they don't tell you when you learn golf is that there's nowhere to play. At public courses, golfers sleep in their cars overnight to be in line to sign up for tee times. I played at 6 a.m. one Sunday morning. 39 degrees. Light mist. My cleats kept getting clogged with worm meat. There's got to be a better way.

So I walked into a private club and asked for an application form. They thought I wanted a job. Turned out they wanted $125,000 to join and letters of recommendation and background checks. And there were dress codes telling me how far my shorts can be from my kneecaps.

At the public golf course, you don't have to worry if your clothes are legal and golfers are dressed to mow the lawn in cutoffs and T-shirts. Rules are a little more lenient. But membership there is a little more reasonble: 375 bucks and they've never turned anyone down!

I've been searching in vain for someone I can beat. I've tried playing children and little old ladies. I even entered a blind golfers' tournament and couldn't win. Those guys are good!

Then I heard about the Bad Golfers Association Tournament in Kansas City. where 132 really bad golfers get the opportunity to test their ineptitude against the worst of the worst (as the gallery hides behind the benches). I did quite poorly but, alas, didn't win there either. I don't know if high or low score won. I know one guy shot a 188. Isn't that a bowling score?

I've decided that all the rules and restrictions take all the fun out of the game, so I've compiled a few of my own. Rule No. 1: Play the closest hole. If your ball lands at another hole, play that one.

No out-of-bounds balls. A concept for prissy undadventurous sorts afraid of wilderness treks and crossing thoroughfares.

Believe it or not, after all of this and practice, I have shown improvement. You'd never know it by looking at my scorecard. I am no longer a spectacularly horrendous golfer. Just a consistently bad one.
Read an excerpt from the book.



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