Geeks, Golf and Differential Equations

Summer is the season for many things. Like tomatoes, or mosquitoes. It is also the season for Golf. In recent weeks, R has been disappearing frequently on weekday evenings and weekends. I am, as you can imagine, very pleased. I politely refuse all invitations to go along and happily potter around in the garden.

But R is not a happy golfer. He frets over how rusty his game is, and how his handicap is too high. He worries about his swing, he worries about his grip. He worries that he thinks too much about his shots.

R, in other words, is on his way to becoming a goof. A “goof”, as defined by the Oldest Member in P.G. Wodehouse’s “The Heart of a Goof”. is, you see, “one of those unfortunate beings who have allowed this noblest of sports to get too great a grip upon them, who have permitted it to eat into their souls, like some malignant growth. The goof, you must understand, is not like you and me. He broods. He becomes morbid. His goofery unfits him for the battles of life.”

R is not there yet, but I can see him becoming a bit more of a goof each passing day.

But there’s worse – R is not only part goof, he is also a geek. Now what does a geek do when he tries to learn golf?

He follows the laws of Geekodynamics. The First Law of Geekodynamics, as everyone knows, is that “Geeks like to read.” So R reads a book on golf. Or twenty.

The library is full of books on golf that no one else seems to ever borrow. So we have borrowed all the books on golf that the local library has. We plan to visit a few more suburbs to mop up all their books too.

Some of these books have lots of pictures of people playing golf and sentences like “Golf is a game that is played over a course of 18 holes.” and “Golf balls come in various colors, but most of them are white.” These books are clearly aimed at toddlers, or anyone with the same IQ level. (And no, I don’t think they are saying most of the colors are white).

Photo courtesy chispita_666

After toddlers, dummies apparently form an important category of golfers. So there is the “Golf for Dummies”, then there is the “Golf Essentials for Dummies” (just the essentials, presumably for those dummies who think “Golf for Dummies” is too complicated) and the “Golf Rules and Etiquette for Dummies”. There is also the “Golf’s Short Game for Dummies”. Surprisingly, there is no “Golf’s Long Game for Dummies”. I wonder why. Perhaps the Long Game is considered way too complicated for dummies.

Then there are the books which promise to lower your handicap in 10 days, cure all your golfing errors, give you an “immaculate” swing and generally change you into some combination of Tiger Woods and the Virgin Mary.

But these are not the books geeks love. The Second Law of Geekodynamics says that “Geeks read books that have charts and graphs, and where at least one word in every sentence is either a jargon or an abbreviation.”

So what do geeky golfers read?

They read “The 7 Laws of the Golf Swing”, which says things like “Torque 1 – creating biomechanical efficiency at address”, “bring your swing speed ratios closer together” and “Law 3 – how your midsection holds orbit.”

If you thought golf was not rocket science, reading this book might leave you seriously confused. I, for one, wonder whether the part about mid-sections in orbit was written for rocket scientists or belly dancers.

But the true geek does not stop at mere jargon. It’s all very well to talk about torques and orbits, but where, he asks, are the tables and charts? Where are the trigonometric equations? Where indeed is the calculus?

Enter “The Physics of Golf“, written by a physicist after 20 years of research. Only a geek knows what geeks like to read. This book has charts – it has charts on downswing angles, calculations of angular velocity and angular acceleration. It has computer simulations of swing speed and Stroboscopic photographs of the golf club in motion. It has probability charts, diagrams, and data tables.

The book talks about the effects of lift and drag on the ball, tilting the spin axis and how dimples on the ball increase turbulence in boundary layers.

There are appendices filled with everything from trigonometric equations to Lagrangian differential equations.

Obviously, this is the book for the true geek golfer.

Sometimes I wonder whether one would get better at golf by reading this. Does knowing how Bernoulli’s Principle affects the spinning of the golf ball improve your ability to drive? Should you calculate wind drag and change in velocity when deciding how hard to hit the ball?

But there is something that puzzles me even more. Take me, for instance – I am not playing golf every alternate day. I don’t want to improve my golf, and I certainly did not borrow any books on golf.

Then why am I reading “The Physics of Golf”?


30 thoughts on “Geeks, Golf and Differential Equations

  1. Have you considered that “the part about mid-sections in orbit” was written for rocket scientists who are belly dancers? Health reasons apart, how else do you think astronauts spend so much time in space without any entertainment? 😀

  2. Gives me the creeps. The Physics of Golf ! Phew.

    I didnt get far in physics in the first place. And now, they established a connection of physics to golf !! my my ! And to top it all, they have a book on that..!!

    As far as i know, golf is simple. To watch. You can see someone hitting a shot and switch channels watch something else and catch him doing the same thing in some other direction soon !!

    So much for golf. And so much for physics.

    BTW, let us know if the book had a good ending !

  3. Because the definition of a goof says nothing about actually playing the game?

    Tsk, tsk. Lekhni a goof. Who woulda thunk the day would come?

    • Hmm, that’s an interesting mean I am obsessing over my stroke even without playing a single stroke? Ok, this is too deep for me 😦

  4. LOL! Enjoyed every word of this! And “The Heart of a Goof” is one of my favorites. The last line, if I remember right, is “He embraced her, using the interlocking grip”.

  5. Zeroth law of geekodynamics: The practice of some sports is above all rules articulated by physicists and practised by marketers* (in this instance, marketers of custom Callaways, the perfect Footjoy or the ideal glove).

    *Library raids are immensely more preferable to raids of Pro-Shops linked to golf courses and manned by PGA guys who have the selling skills to make the aspiring golfer pay _them_ for _his own_ wife, if they convince him she could somehow improve _his_ drive.

    • More ideas for R 😦 I certainly don’t want him to start thinking of raiding pro-shops. He has already begun talking of a new Callaway set because his old one is, well, old. And yes, he is also convinced that if I start playing golf with him, his game would improve. (Besides adding one more set of golf clubs to the household).

      • Lekhni: Supplying more ideas was not my intent but trust me, these will occur to R with time on their own. As a kaizen golfer he needs no help. 🙂 And unless you are both equal in height and same-handed (as in both right or both left), an extra set of clubs isn’t very useful. Also I have never known “a couple that plays together improves together” 😉 If anything I have watched with amusement a lot of domestics starting on the golf course, in a proxy of the car I imagine. Good luck. I am sure by now you have also heard the old misogynist adage “GOLF stands for Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden”!

  6. Ah, my relatively neophyte golfing husband should read this. He has bored me to death with some horrendous videos on how to play golf. I’m happier when he just goes out there and plays:)

  7. Pingback: Math World | Geeks, Golf and Differential Equations | The Imagined Universe

  8. Pingback: Latest toddler left handed golf clubs news – Can You Grow Crystal Meth In Ice Chest, Cavalier Hope Chest …

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