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Tips to survive summer golf

Jim Fraiser blasts a shot wearing the traditional nickers, argyle socks and a Hogan cap.
Jim Fraiser blasts a shot wearing the traditional nickers, argyle socks and a Hogan cap. Special to the Sun Herald

Not everyone loves golf, and many people who do wish they could give it up.

For those who love the “sport,” there is no substitute for whacking the little white ball and strolling through green pastures on the way to a few frosty draft beers in the clubhouse.

For seniors, summer golf in the sub-tropics can be more challenging, but rest assured these tips offer all senior golfers will need to know to survive this Scottish torture technique all summer long.

1. Respect the game: If not, don’t play it and take up a spot on the course. My good friend, Judge Felicia Dunn Burkes of Gulfport, says she doubts golf is a sport at all.

“You ride around in a cart then hit a ball that’s standing still. Golfers say it’s a mental sport, but chess is very mental, and it’s not a sport. And for that non-sport you make your wife a golf widow all summer long? Give me a break!”

I tried to argue the point with her over a game of chess, but after she checkmated me in four moves, I took the better part of valor and headed to the links alone.

2. Don’t make your wife a golf widow: Marriages, and even budding, passionate relationships between consenting single adults have suffered dearly because golfers spend several days a week, tournament weekends and holidays golfing with their pals at all points of the compass, leaving their wives home to contemplate divorce, hubbicide or (horrors) feeding hubby’s golf clubs into the trash compactor.

Compromise is the word, here, gents. Play nine holes Saturday and spend the rest of the weekend with your family. I don’t admonish female golfers similarly; they have too much sense to violate this rule. P.S. Don’t schedule a tourney during the week of your honeymoon.

3. Walk, don’t ride: What exercise do you get riding a golf cart and hitting a stationary ball, apart from lifting a cold brew in your hands 30 or 40 times? Get a pull cart for your bag and push it down the fairway (that works better than pulling), or purchase an electric pull cart, walk the course and exercise a finger to push the button to roll the cart.

4. Dress appropriately: Yes, the Mississippi Coast gets hot during the summer and senior golfers need to come prepared to play stroke free (that’s cardio stroke, by the way; you will have many golf strokes during the match, more if you get overheated and fade on the back nine).

The solution is a stylish Ben Hogan linen cap, a wicking collared shirt, and a crisp pair of knickers with argyle socks.

Yes, I said knickers. They keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and they look old-school sharp. You are way too mature to wear a baseball cap and shorts; apart from the esthetic disaster shorts creates, you should have given those up after college. It’s a gentleman’s and gentlewoman’s game. Look the part, feel the part, be the part.

5. (Speaking of that …) Immerse yourself in Zen golf: In his 1971 novel, golfer and author Michael Murphy extolled the virtues of Zen golf, i.e., relaxing into a near-meditative state, banishing all negative thoughts, enjoying a stroll through nature’s lovely sylvan glade, and coincidentally stroking your ball in the direction of the stroll you’re taking.

Trust me, that attitude is better than blowing your top and practicing the infamous whirlybird toss of the offending $400 driver.

6. Get the right equipment: Yes, they’re expensive, but large-head drivers offer a better chance of connecting with the ball, and an expensive putter is more likely to send the ball in the general direction you desire. Comfortable shoes and polarized sunglasses make the walk more enjoyable, and golf balls with the ideal compression for your swing will boost your confidence.

That is, until you hit the $6 ball into the lake and follow it in with your whirlybird toss of a $400 club that your wife gave you for Christmas. Hmmm. Time for that baseball trip with the guys for a last fling before your wife orders the guillotine from France.

7. Golf with your pals: No, I didn’t say take lessons, because they won’t do you any good. Either you won’t stick with it and that’s more of your wife’s hard-earned money down the drain, or if you do, you’ll end up being too good to play with your pals.

And that would defeat the purpose of senior golf. My favorite golf partner, Ocean Springs physician Paul Harris, has my same optimistic outlook on the links.

“Things always look the darkest,” he says, “before they turn black.” Yet he loves the game dearly. “No matter how bad my golf is,” he declares,” it’s better than anything else I might do or have done to me.”

Spoken like a true doctor. And we both love to let it all hang out in a rivalry that’s been going now for more than 60 years. We’re loving it.

Follow these tips and hit the links with gusto, girded with the sure and certain knowledge you’re ready to shoot your best game ever. And, more important, you’ll live to tell about it in the clubhouse and at home.

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