You know that guy on the greens. His swing is silk, his pants are crisp and creaseless, and his eyes twinkle. He's smooth. You can be, too.
And here's how, thanks to some expert advice.
David Toms put on one of the greatest ball-striking exhibitions in memory en route to the 2005 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and has already won again in '06 -- with all the visible effort of a man stifling a yawn. His tempo tip? To thine own self be true.
"Everybody's swing comes from their personality type," says Toms. People "play their best when they're in sync with their natural rhythm. When they're not, that's usually when they can't find their golf swing."
According to the 12-time PGA Tour event winner, there's even hope for those of us whose natural rhythm falls somewhere between herky and jerky.
Getting into a reasonable tempo, Toms believes, is something that can be practiced.
"You can hum, or say really slow words, or count out loud 'one-two-three,' where one is on the backswing, two is at the top and three is on the way down," he explains. "Just don't rush the downswing -- when there's a problem for anybody, that's where it's going to happen."
If you can't play a good game, you can still talk it. Mike Tirico, the play-by-play man for "ABC Golf," does just that, all the while refereeing the cage match between booth mates Paul Azinger and Nick Faldo.
Rule No. 1: Know what the heck you're talking about.
"It's a lot easier to talk if you have confidence in what you're saying," Tirico says.
However, going easy on the hyperactive blow-by-blow also helps you avoid sounding like a blowhard on the course or at the 19th hole. Beyond the basic tenets of good public speaking -- making and maintaining eye contact, for starters -- Tirico suggests you reflect the game's leisurely pace in your golfing gab.
"Talking about golf is definitely different from talking about other sports," he says. "It's a lot slower, and it should be."
Smooth Small Talking
"The easiest way to put someone at ease is just to get him talking about himself. Where do you live? Where do you come from? Are you married? Do you have kids? You shouldn't be embarrassed to ask simple, generic questions -- you're just doing it to get the guy talking. It doesn't take a Dale Carnegie course to find out what people like to talk about. For most people, it's themselves. You just have to be willing to listen and show them the respect that you're giving them your full attention."
Who is the source of this wisdom, Dr. Phil? No, it's the PGA Tour's resident nice guy, Nick Price, who as a 23-year veteran of pro-ams and corporate outings, has spent as much time meeting more new people on the golf course as anyone.
As a rule, Price requests afternoon pro-am tee times, which leads to his second bit of advice for turning strangers into friends.
"I always encourage ...
golfers to drink beer -- always!" he says. "No matter what happens on the front nine, you pop a beer on the back nine. Because I want you to have fun!"
The above two words bring a Pavlovian two-word response: Brad Faxon. Golf's foremost flatstick artist says "smooth" is just the word when you're hunting for birdie -- or bogey.
"I like 'smooth,' especially on the transition from the backswing to the forward stroke," Faxon explains. "It's easy to lose that smoothness when you're in your own way. A lot of people worry so much about whether they're going to make or miss the putt that they get tight."
To internalize the syrupy flow of a carefree stroke, Faxon suggests putting balls on the practice green. Um, duh, you say? Not at a hole, says Faxon. Subtract results from the equation and smoothness rears its shaved head -- a mindset you need to take to the course.
"If you just rated yourself on how smooth your stroke looked and felt, not whether the putt went in, you'd always shoot better scores," says Faxon. "Unfortunately, you can hit good putts that don't go in. There are a lot of things out of your control on the greens -- don't let that give you bad feedback, where you try to adjust your stroke and lose the smoothness."
No one on the Tour's got a smoother handle than Tommy Armour III (sorry, Dicky Pride), nor is anyone better garbed (sorry, Duffy Waldorf). Bon vivant TA3 lives well and looks sharp -- being tall, rich and handsome with great hair doesn't hurt -- but notes you don't have to knock over a bank to be a killer dresser.
"I've got some clothing deals, but I also shop around a lot," Armour says. "There are about 20 stores around the world I really like, and I always know when they're having sales. I don't pay full price for anything."
The clothes themselves? The 2003 Valero Texas Open champ says to trust your taste -- and, with apologies to Fernando Lamas, that if you feel marvelous, you'll probably look marvelous.
"There's nothing more to it than picking what speaks to you," says Armour. "I don't worry about brand names, only whether I like the clothes and whether they're comfortable. One last thing: black is very easy to travel with and coordinate. I've never been a real big color guy. I sweat a lot, and sweat shows through colored shirts."
So, the saying holds: If you wanna be cool, never let 'em see you sweat.
Smooth the Ruffled Feathers of Your Golf Widow(er) Spouse
It happens to every golfer at some point in his or her marriage -- no, not
. We're talking about playing too much golf for your spouse's liking. Dr. Lee H. Baucom, author of
Save the Marriage
, has seen this issue many times in his 16 years as a marriage counselor. His first suggestion: See if your spouse wants to be included.
OK, stop laughing. Or crying. If that's not an appealing option, go with Plan B. "Explain why golf, which does take up a lot of time, is so important to you," says Baucom. "Emphasize the health benefits, stress relief and how it recharges your batteries -- that is, how golf is actually good for your relationship."
Just as important as what you say is when you say it. Don't offer this line of thinking over your shoulder as you toss the clubs in the trunk, Baucom cautions. Instead, set aside a mutually agreeable, unrushed hour for both parties.
And when it comes around, consider suggesting an activity to share that takes as much time as golf. Like, say, scrapbooking.
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Evan Rothman is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn. A former executive editor at Golf Magazine, his work has appeared in The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Esquire, Men's Journal and other leading publications.