Cape Gazette
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The 19th Hole

Golf gear, other oddities

By Gene Bleile | Aug 15, 2013

When I first took up recreational golf about 20 years ago at the age of 46, I was easily swayed by the commercials and golf instructors on TV that promoted new ground breaking technology in golf equipment.

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Twenty years later, my garage is now like a golf museum with such innovative clubs as the Captain Hook (guaranteed to stop your slice), the Black Widow wedge (deadly within 20 yards of the green), the non-skid putter (a hinged five iron that will actually collapse and hit you in the back of the head), an assortment of metal rescue woods and - somewhere in a box -  a golf glove that clicks when you bend your wrist on your takeaway for any given shot.

I also remember seeing a golf swing  jacket on TV.  It forced your arms to swing on glides connected to the front of the vest area, a golf ball that hung from an L-shaped bracket to show you if you hooked or sliced the ball at contact and a golf glove that had a plastic insert to keep your thumb and fingers in the pro position during your swing.

Add in a dozen golf balls advertised as long and straight, extra feel or optic yellow and don’t forget the hat band you soak in water then place in the freezer to keep you comfortable on a hot day and voila...you can shoot par or better in every round.

Hogwash! I am living proof that you can’t buy a better golf game. Someone once said that “a fool and his money are soon parted,” but I can go one step farther. “A novice golfer, who thinks he can buy a swing and shoot par and his money are soon parted.”

Now that I have vented about my golfing past, I am going to enlighten you to some strange but true golf equipment facts that will make you sound like an expert, even if you can’t shoot par.

You probably have never heard of R.J. “Dick” Jackson, but every time you play golf, especially on a hot day or on a long, winding golf course, thank him numerous times. Mr. Jackson was an avid golfer and car salesman from Houston, Texas, who also suffered from arthritis.

In 1948, his limited mobility and love of golf gave him the idea of inventing a “golf car,” which was gas-powered and small enough to carry two players and their clubs.

He named his invention “the Arthritis Special” and sold the patent to John Watson, who mass produced them for public use.

In 1962, Merlin Halverson invented the present day battery-powered golf cart, which was an instant success because it cut down on the noise and pollution on every golf course in the world (so in reality, you need to thank all three inventors).

What about walking the course? When the Scots first invented golf, they just carried their clubs with them by hand on the links. Years later, rich golfers hired caddies to lug their clubs around all day by hand.

Then came John Doe (his real name was lost to history) who was an English sail maker sometime in the 1870s. John decided he was tired of carrying all his clubs under his arm, down the fairway and onto the green, so he invented the first golf bag. He simply stitched together two pieces of sail cloth, added a strap and started what today is a $300 million industry.

Golf gear oddities:

• Golf shoes with cleats were invented by the Scots in 1857 and were “roughed with small nails or sprigs.”

• Alan Shepard hit two range balls on the moon marked with Property of Jack Harden, his golf pro at Houston’s River Oaks Country Club. One six iron shot went close to a mile.

• In 1935, Sam Parks won the U.S. Open with two putters in his bag. One was for lag putts, while the other was used to hole out short putts.

• In 1982, Wayne Levi won the Hawaiian Open using an optic orange ball.

• Golfing legend Sam Snead was the only player to have the number “0” imprinted on his tournament golf balls for identification purposes.

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