The Bad Golf Conspiracy

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Bad golf is not your fault.

You might say that a lot, after every terrible shot. Somebody coughed, your grip was wet, you’re hung over. But I’ve uncovered the real reason you can’t break 80. Or even 90.

Put on your tin-foil golf hat—it’s a conspiracy.

I overheard my country club pro whispering about a secret golf industry consortium that would squeeze more money out of his club members. The group is called BOGEY—Buyers for Optimized Golfer Expense Yield—and I decided to infiltrate this year’s trade show. I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement, where the penalty for violation was “unfortunate consequences.” A big guy behind the table made it clear he would personally administer said consequences, using a game-improvement 5-iron with lead tape on the back.

As I entered the exhibition hall, a middle-aged man with a golfer’s tan and a shark’s smile saw my confused look and stepped up to greet me.

“First timer?” he asked, and I nodded. “Welcome to BOGEY. I’m Wayne, orientation specialist. Think of me as your local caddie.”

He guided me to the center aisle.

“BOGEY is about optimizing your country-club’s profits by selling equipment, services, and booze to your floggers—that’s what we call the golfing public here. Of course, gear that gets lost or breaks is an obvious replacement sale win. But the big money comes from bad golf—frustrated floggers buy lessons, range balls, and extra practice rounds thinking it’ll help their game. And nobody drinks in the bar like a guy who just triple-bogied the 18th hole to finish with an 81.”

The first booth had a putting strip with a bucket of water alongside. The sales guy handed me a putter and a ball.

“Here’s a tour pro ball; go ahead, try to sink it.”

I stroked it straight, missing by an inch.

“Not bad. Tour pros use uncompromised equipment and play on perfect courses—which raises expectations for how normal floggers should play. Now, let’s try the BOGEY version.” He handed me an identical ball. “Looks the same as the tour ball, and we’ve got versions for every brand. Once you sign up with us, you can stock these in your pro shop to sell to your floggers.”

I putted again; this time, it turned sharply toward the bucket.

“Water-seeking golf balls were a major breakthrough for BOGEY,” Wayne said as he led me to the next booth. “Wonder why you can’t avoid the pond on the right? Hint—it’s not your slice. And that advice about putts breaking toward the water? Ditto.”

We looked at golf shirts that react with sunscreen to stain the color and emit a nasty odor, forcing a replacement every few months. Next door, a guy was demoing lasers and GPS rangefinders. Apparently they’ve been generating random distance-to-the-hole errors for years, but this year’s models communicate with each other via Bluetooth, so everybody in the foursome gets the same error, and all four shots come up short.

We proceeded to the grounds-keeping tech aisle. The horticulture booth showed hybrid tree varieties that push rock-hard roots inches above the ground for twenty yards either side of the trunk. “They only grow perpendicular to the fairway, so the flogger has to punch out sideways,” Wayne noted. “And if he does try to hit toward the hole, he’ll break the club.”

But the showcase vegetation was Venus Ball Traps.

“You plant these little beauties in the rough,” the saleslady said. “They’ll snatch up and hide a nearly perfect drive that the flogger would swear was right there, just off the fairway.”

The zoology booth had robot alligators to keep floggers from recovering balls around the pond, and GMO feed that attracts geese to the course and quadruples their poop output.

“How does that help my bottom line?” I asked.

“It increases flogger frustration and thus liquor sales,” he said, “but wait till they try to clean super-sticky goose crap out of a pair of soft-spikes. They’d rather buy new shoes.”

The networking booth touted their coordination with the National Weather Service to downplay rain forecasts on the weekends.

“Not only do you get a greens fee instead of a cancellation, they’ll buy rain gear, have a crappy round, and drown their sorrows in the bar. It’s a win-win-win.”

I saw so many more tools to frustrate and annoy floggers I finally had enough. I thanked Wayne for the tour and slipped away, wondering if blowing the whistle would do any good. If nothing else, now you know who to blame for those four shots into the pond last Sunday.

—Dave Agans is a flogger who wrote the conspiracy comedy The Urban Legion exposing the hidden forces behind everyday annoyances. He is currently in hiding from the thug with the 5-iron.