(If this is your first time reading this web log, read the first part of this before continuing. You can read it here.)
I’m one of those people that hates borrowing anything or having anything used. When I was in 4th grade, I wanted to learn to play the guitar and insisted my parents buy me a brand new guitar rather than play a used, borrowed, or even worse, rented (gasp!) acoustic guitar.
Needless to say, I lost that battle in a fairly lopsided way and it’s probably the main reason I am not an internationally famous and respected singer-songwriter today. Don’t feel guilty, Mom and Dad. I’m just saying.
So the notion of borrowing or using used clubs right when I got started playing really was never an option. And I remember vividly the feeling I had when I walked into the Pro Golf Discount (now Edwin Watts) in Atlanta. That complex, three-dimensional feeling of 100% terror and 100% excitement is probably why pricing is one of the functions that I’m so passionate about to this day, actually. Associative emotion and all of that.
There were so many golf clubs and they were so (SO!) expensive. This was 1993 and I was making exactly $18,575 a year. Yes, that was the exact number. It was a fortune for a 22-year-old kid right out of college…until I stepped into the golf shop. My money didn’t go very far.
I walked up to the first rack of clubs I could find. Now, for those of you who remember how off-course golf retail was merchandised 20 years ago, it reminded me a little of the scene at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark when they store the Ark of the Covenant in that giant warehouse stacked to the roof with a million boxes.
Except rather than boxes of government secrets, they were golf clubs. Irons, wedges, drivers, 3-woods, all of it. Yes, there were signs next to the clubs telling the brand and model, but little else. I was looking for more of a self service situation but this was more like a store expertly designed by Erno Rubik.
This was 1993 and I was making exactly $18,575 a year.
I was lost.
“Sir, can I help you?”
“Uh, no thank you. I’m just looking…”
In hindsight, I know the guy knew I was totally out of my league in there. He also probably thought there was no way I was going to buy anything since I clearly didn’t even know how to shop in a golf store. I was completely unprepared. He knew it, I knew it.
I was looking for more of a self service situation but this was more like a store expertly designed by Erno Rubik.
“Well, if you need anything just let me know. My name is Mike. Or Bill. Or Pete. Or Steve.”
I made that last part up. I honestly can’t remember his name but I remember what he looked like generally, and he looked like a Mike, Bill, Pete, or Steve.
The first set I picked up was a set of forged blades. I don’t remember the brand, but I’m pretty sure, in retrospect, they were probably Wilson Staff. They were beautiful. They looked exactly like what golf clubs should look like. The golf club paradigm. Text book stuff here. Soft and sultry.
I honestly can’t remember his name but I remember what he looked like generally, and he looked like a Mike, Bill, Pete, or Steve.
The rounded muscle on the back of the iron was smooth and cold to the touch. The topline was more like a butter knife than a Ginzu. The blast of the face and grooves lent a very interesting and artful contrast to the chrome head. And the grips were so…NEW! Is there anything else like the feel of brand new grips?! Pure.
The shafts were bright and you could see the contrast from the stepped design all the way down to the hosel and blending in with the par area, flowing elegantly into the leading edge, to the blade and back around to the topline (of course I knew none of these terms at the time, but I do have an eye for aesthetics, and these were gorgeous.). Just…textbook. That’s the only word I can think of to describe them. First set and I was in love…
..until I picked up the set directly above it…
These sang a symphony of emotions. They were similar in that they were forged blades (also a term I didn’t know then), but so very different in their visual presentation and every other sensory reaction too, for that matter. These were more contemporary, more technical looking, and were finished completely differently.
These were like a new modern office building with steel and glass that had been fused with the simple clarity and beauty of a structural ancestor. And done with complete precision and absolutely minimal interference or transgression. It was like Frank Gehry conjured up the ghost of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and they collaborated on an iron set!
The lines were both soft and sultry, but sharp and aggressive at the same time. How is that even possible? A perfect marriage of technical progression and the fundamental principles of traditional clubmaking. Breathtaking. Absolutely breathtaking. And these had a very technical sounding name: MP14.
First set and I was in love…until I picked up the set directly above it…
What?! What do these hieroglyphs mean?! Should I ask? Who would know? How can I find out? I NEED ANSWERS!!!!! Okay, just relax, I told myself. I needed to continue on, take a cold shower, and examine the other 200 sets that were on the wall.
And as I walked down the row and looked at every single set on the wall, I was falling into and out of love more often than Taylor Swift off her Xanax. (This, by the way, would be a lifelong pattern…No, not Taylor Swift falling into and out of love, because we have to assume at some point she’ll mature and her songwriting won’t be about heartbreaks and sparks flying…I digress…No, I mean my passion and love affair with new gear. I do the same thing now, 20 years later, though my tastes and preferences have become more specific and refined, obviously).
It was like Frank Gehry conjured up the ghost of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and they collaborated on an iron set!
I looked at the clubs for what seemed like an hour but was probably closer to three. I shook off MikeBillPeteSteve a few more times, since at this point, I realized I wouldn’t be buying any irons that day. But since I needed to buy something, I only had the courage to walk out with a putter.
It was a Bullseye putter. I could write another 10,000 words on that putter alone, but I won’t for two reasons: 1) nobody would be interested in 10,000 words on a Bullseye putter, except maybe a product manager at Acushnet.
And 2) a 10,000 word essay on the emotional connection to a single putter is probably the best way to end up in a nice, quiet place in the mountains, surrounded by guys wearing white scrubs. William Carlos Williams would have a field day. “So much depends upon a gold Bullseye, drenched with artificial store light, beside green carpet. ”
That putter selection is also revealing of a constant personal war raging between two opposing themes: form versus function. Science versus art. Progress versus conservatism. Or more concretely put, what I really, really really want to play and what I really, really, really should play.
William Carlos Williams would have a field day. “So much depends upon a gold Bullseye, drenched with artificial store light, beside green carpet. “
I can’t remember how much the putter was but I do remember I paid $20 for a bag full of logo overruns (this would prove to be a running joke with GTSG for a while). I had a putter and a bunch of assorted balls with various boring corporate logos on them, but I didn’t have anything else. I was hardly a golfer yet. But I didn’t consider my trip to the golf shop a total failure, because I left with a head full of questions.
Or more concretely put, what I really, really really want to play and what I really, really, really should play.
And of course, I could think of nothing else but those beautiful, expensive irons. But I needed some help navigating that storm. I needed to call upon GTSG once again…
Tags: Life On The Pirate Ship