Random golf Trivia…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Trivia

Since the Sherpa has overloaded you with tales of woe or golf tips, I thought it would be fun to tee up some of my favorite pieces of golf trivia…without being trivial.

Why are there 18 holes in golf?

I wish it were because of some symbolic linkage to 18 shots of whisky (as I have heard in faux trivia sound bytes).  Alas the origin seems to be more about an apparent desire to simply add more playing capability (to existing courses) than a deliberate effort at some drinking sport.

Oddly enough, written history dates back to the veritable mecca of fine spirit distillation.

In Scotland, you see,  it was common to have all manner of course designs that included typically between 5 and 14 holes.  Clearly no standard existed…until St. Andrews changed their layout in 1857.

Between 1857 and 1858 they put in second holes in 8 of their double greens on the Old Course and the 18 hole round was born.  Later the trend was legitimized further by Old Tom Morrise himself when he advised Carnoustie to extend their 10 holes to 18.

Jean Van De Velde is still wishing Old Tom had stopped at 17.

Do women play more slowly than men?

The Sherpa has no charts or graphs to support an aggregate theory of females and their speed of play.  Instead, I will tell you what I have observed over these past years.

  • Men and Women alike play extremely slowly if their handicaps are high…they lack experience and skill…its not a girl thing.  Usually it’s exacerbated by some knucklehead 20 handicapper trying to give his girlfriend or wife a litany of bad tips which only make the poor woman more insecure and less capable of making a reasonable swing at the ball…sorry guys…we do this…like it or not.
  • My best friends aunt Beverly by contrast is a mid handicapper and has been playing for over 10 years.  “Bev” is so quick to prepare for each shot that I am usually the slow one.  What’s more…I have not played a round with Bev that took more than 3 and half hours when the course is loose.  God bless her…

Bottom line: If any woman is skilled and doesn’t have to deal with a knuckle dragger intent on “helping” her…she will play just as slow as men.   Again…this is just opinion based on what the Sherpa has seen over the years.

Why is one under par called a birdie?

According to Wiki Answers:

“Over a century a go “bird” was a word used to describe something good, like cool is today, it is believed back in 1899 in Atlantic city a pretty good golfer called Ab Smith was playing with some friends. On the last hole he hit his shot to a few inches of the hole on his approach and called out “That was a bird of a shot!” He then made the putt. He and his playing partners subsequently decided to call a score one under par a birdie.”

My research came across several sources that said “bird” was the “cool” of the 1800’s so the quote above seems plausible.

The only contravening anecdotal evidence is etched in family lore of my dearest great grandfather “Apa” when he had his once in a decade spell of unmitigated anger directed at my poor grandfather “Jawich” (his beloved son in law).  Said a different way, “bird” has evidence of a “not so desirable” connotation…at least when my Apa used it on my Jawich one fateful day.

History recounts the two driving along a bank of a waterway observing things on a property that my Apa owned.  Jawich lost focus and ran the truck (and his 92 year old father in law) into the drink.

Later as the farm tractor was pulling the waterlogged truck out of the canal Jawich’s son Jerry offered to drive them back to the house in his truck.  Apa turned to his grandson and in an angry monotone uttered the now famous phrase…

“Ok Jerry, you drive”, then pointing an accusatory finger back at Jawich said, “but THAT BIRD, sits in the back of the truck”.  Apa was pissed…and “Bird” was definitely not “cool”.

Why does a golf ball have dimples?

This question was the one that took the most research and synthesis (so that I did not replace your sleeping pill with my answer).

The answer is really pretty cool and is broken in to two sub-questions.

Aside from the mechanics how were dimpled balls discovered to have better flight? 

The answer lies in the history of the gutta percha ball (developed in 1845) which was made from the gum of the Malaysian Sapodilla tree.  In the heating and molding manufacturing process this waterproof ball had a smooth surface.  Ironically at the time, smooth golf balls were expected to possess better flight characteristics…but it flew worse than it’s predecessor the “featherie”.

Soon, it is believed that a professor at Saint Andrews University in Scotland noticed that older used balls, with nicks and scrapes, flew further.

How do dimples help ball flight?

Interestingly the answer lies in what happens behind the ball as a result of the dimples.

  • On a smooth ball you get more dense airflow around the ball called “laminar flow” .  This type of flow is so rigid and uniform that it makes a nasty little pocket  behind the ball as the airflow stubbornly keeps separating from the point at which the ball initially cut the air.  This little pocket of air behind the ball acts kind of like a weight and puts drag on the ball.
  • On a dimpled ball you get a less dense airflow around the ball called “turbulent flow”.  This type of flow is much less rigid and therefore, “hugs” the ball much longer.  This soft hug extends well to the back of the ball, choking out the nastly little drag pocket left by a smooth ball’s “laminar” flow. 

Bottom line: Kill the pocket…lift the ball.

I love thinking about this stuff but Mrs. Sherpa also wants me to ponder how much I spent on golf balls last week.  I did a bad thing and must be punished.

Play on…

The Sherpa