Why you aren't a pro golfer: A video slide show.

Ancient game, new science.
Aug. 12 2010 10:58 AM

Why You Aren't a Pro Golfer

A video slide show.

This series is available as an e-book for the Kindle. Download it today.

"What an incredible Cinderella story! This unknown comes out of nowhere … to lead the pack … at Augusta. He's on his final hole. … He's about 455 yards away. … He's gonna hit about a 2-iron, I think." So begins the legend of Carl Spackler, and the finest improvised golf monologue in cinematic history. Not to be too literal-minded about a riff from Caddyshack—but why couldn't a former greenskeeper win the Masters?

One of the many ways that golf boggles the mind is how you can be both so bad at it and so good. Golf will allow moments of grace, like the 5-iron that rolls to two feet or the 40-foot putt that finds the cup. For that brief, shining moment, you hit a shot as well as a human being possibly could. You will never wrongfoot an NBA defender, you will never turn on a 95 mph fastball—but on the golf course, you can occasionally equal the best in the game. Right?

Actually, no. Golf researcher Mark Broadie has a database full of amateur shots: the drives we shank, the 9-irons that go sideways. He compared the amateur game with the pro game. The results were instructive, but they were not pretty.

Let's take a video tour.

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Next: Zen Golf vs. Moneygolf

To hear Michael Agger, Josh Levin, Mike Pesca, and Hanna Rosin discuss Agger's "Moneygolf" series, click the arrow on the audio player below and fast-forward to the 16:35 mark:

You can also download the podcast, or you can subscribe to the weekly Hang Up and Listen podcast feed in iTunes.

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Michael Agger is an editor at The New Yorker. Follow him on Twitter.