Beware readers, we are delving into the furthest reaches of coolness as it pertains to golf. No one has ventured into golf’s innermost cool zone since David Duval shot his final-round 59 at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic all of thirteen years ago. Since that time, golf has changed much and there are many harsh truths that we have forgotten when it comes to what is and what is not cool in golf.
In the past, the art of “cool” was slowly introduced to golfers by other club members as they took up the game. The rich tradition of reserved play, quiet confidence and sharp dress is a gift to golfers of all walks by the golf gods themselves. However, as more and more people abruptly took up the game, the uninitiated are overwhelmed by consumerism and walk as sheep among the wolves (OEM’s I love you, but really?). There is little mentorship in golf right now… but I digress. We have forgotten what is cool in our sport, my friends, and we need an Iceman to set us straight.
Who is an “Iceman?”
There have been relatively few Icemen in golf, and yet it seems like there has always been one around in any era of play…except for this one. You may already have formed your own thoughts regarding which players I am referring to, at least to an extent. In addition to David Duval, you could also include Raymond Floyd, Ben Hogan, Lloyd Mangrum and maybe a few others.
Let’s take a moment to make some observations about what made the aforementioned players “Icemen.”
First, there are the sunglasses. You never knew what this guy was thinking at any time because he covered most of his facial expressions in a pair of wrap-around shades. If “the eyes are the pathway to the soul,” you would never see Duval’s through those shades. And you weren’t going to get much else from the way he comported himself.
Nothing throws other players off more than a quiet dude wearing shades who doesn’t let on that anything bothers him. You just can’t read the emotional ups and downs, so you push harder to get a reaction out of him and end up doing something stupid in your match – just like he planned. Even if he is playing poorly, you wouldn’t know from the way he reacts; and this bothers some players who expect to see some kind of reaction. We all know that once we see a “defeated” looked on someone’s face during a match that we have already practically won it. After all, competitive golf includes a degree of gamesmanship. It makes things tougher when an opponent never shows a defeated reaction to you. It is the quiet suggestion that, “I will never give up, you will never get in my head, and I will not give you any satisfaction.” That is as tough as it gets, folks.
Ahhh…the infamous Floyd stare, or glare. Young dudes, have you seen this before? The opposite of Duval, in that many might have preferred that Floyd actually put on a pair of shades so they wouldn’t be creeped out by the look on his face when he was “in the hunt.” Floyd maintained this cold glare throughout every match, although it wasn’t always directed at people; it looked more like he was trying to frighten the golf ball into obeying him. He was the picture of concentration; the only thing that was going to bother Mr. Floyd is if he didn’t hit the shot he wanted. In any case, the expression never changed.
Do YOU have that level of concentration and commitment when you get over each shot? If you did, what would it tell a playing competitor if you could appear that “steely” and still not get upset even if you made a poor shot? I’ll tell you; it would say that, “If you were hoping I was going to make a mental mistake or get upset, you might as well give up now. YOU can’t win this match – I can only lose it.”
That is powerful stuff people, but is hard to pull off every time. I see many younger golfers (or at least new golfers) these days that can’t bring themselves to make consistent eye contact with another person. It takes a lot of confidence to simply stare right at someone on the tee when they are looking back. There is something immediately uncomfortable about it. I don’t want to put too much emphasis on gamesmanship (because it is only cool to an extent), but every once in a while, it can give you an advantage if you can somehow send the message to a competitor that you are keenly aware of what they are doing in their own game, and that it doesn’t throw you at all. For Floyd, it was all in the stare.
The “Wee Ice Mon.” Mr. Hogan earned that title by sharing his dislike of the greens at Carnoustie in 1953. That alone is a quality of an Iceman – simple honesty with yourself and with others. People simultaneously hate and crave honesty, but often are not fond of those who candidly share it. Mr. Hogan is usually described as something of an introvert, but apparently spoke his mind when asked. It is definitely cool to speak openly when invited to do so (if even people get riled up a little), however an “Iceman” would never simply go around sharing random thoughts in order to get attention. That would be tragically “un-cool,” and definitely not Hogan-worthy. Being honest lets you know whom your friends and where others stand in relation to you.
Another point about Mr. Hogan that puts him in the “Iceman” category is the amount of work he put into himself. After the round, are you the type to sit around getting tipsy at the clubhouse, or are you the lone wolf over at the range working on his swing? Can you say you know more people on the maintenance staff than you do in the pro-shop or clubhouse? Do you leave a 5-by-5 inch divot “signature” out at the range each day? A true Iceman could and does, because that person doesn’t care for after-round bragging or unimportant small talk. No, he or she is more interested on what is happening on the course, reflecting upon the events of their round, and putting in the time to correct weak spots. Such a reputation makes its way around the membership. Hard work earns respect. Competitors know they are going to have to get lucky with such a player, because they certainly did not put in as much time into their games or preparation for a potential match.
Lloyd Mangrum earned the name “Mr. Icicle” due to the relaxed way he played on the course. During World War II, Mangrum was offered a head professional position at Fort Meade that would have kept him out of the fighting…but he declined. He earned two purple hearts and was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge, taking shrapnel to his chin and knee. He was also part of the D-Day landings and was one of only two surviving members of his original unit during the war. I challenge anyone to mention a tougher professional in the history of the game of golf (Okay, maybe Larry Nelson).
Mr. Mangrum once said:
“I don’t suppose that any of the pro or amateur golfers who were combat soldiers, Marines, or sailors will soon be able to think of a three-putt as one of the really bad troubles in life.”
I have never served in a combat situation and would never pretend to know, truly, what Mr. Mangrum’s words really mean. However, my humble (personal) interpretation as it pertains to golf, is that there are no true risks taken in a game, as there are in real life.
While I am not suggesting that golfers should go out and play shots that are not consistent with good strategy, I do feel it important to point out that – it is just golf. I have always found it funny how announcers describe shots as “dangerous.” Well, there are NO shots in golf that are actually dangerous, so at no point should a golfer be fearful or nervous about playing a shot.
No “buts,” either. It IS just that simple: No guts, no glory. There are no college scholarships, there are no first place checks, there are no long drive payouts…unless you perform the shot. You have nothing to lose, because you haven’t yet earned anything. So, step up and make it happen!
Sometimes when you play against other golfers, you are forced to play a shot that you are uncomfortable with. So my question to you is, are you going to whimper and worry about what you may or may not be able to do, or are you going to be a cool customer and rip it close? Golfers who are Icemen keep things in perspective. Fear is detrimental and needless – there is always more golf to be played, and you will always get another shot; if not this year, then next year; if not here, then somewhere else. There are things to be afraid of in life, but golf is not one of them, so be fearless in your play, and don’t be afraid of performing poorly (or well) in any given scenario.
Who is NOT an Iceman?
Like I said earlier, there aren’t many of these individuals and we haven’t seen one recently in pro golf. So few possess the inner confidence, fearlessness, top-notch games, mature perspective, soft-spoken demeanor and true humility all at the same time. It definitely is a tall order, especially as the “team sport” mentality has crept into both professional and fan mentalities alike. It can be hard to properly categorize an “Iceman” when you suspect you see one, because there are so many types of criteria. Here are some ideas that can help you weed out the wannabees from the true cool customers.
Dress and Overall Appearance
This is going to be a tough one for some folks. While I don’t wish to offend anyone, there simply are do’s and don’ts when it comes to playing it cool. If you are the sensitive type, skip to the next section on “Equipment.”
Rule 1 – Don’t dress like the circus came to town. I have gotten eye-strain from playing with certain folks just because they are trying to do the whole bright, mono-color thing that is big on tour now. Oddly enough, I see more middle-aged men doing this than the kids the clothing is actually marketed toward. I will be the first to admit that I am not an expert on fashion, but I am a child of the 70’s. I submit to you that, if people wouldn’t dare wear clothing with certain color schemes in the 70’s, then YOU shouldn’t be wearing it now. Let’s move forward from that dark era, shall we? Don’t become your own caricature.
Rule 2 – A belt buckle is not a codpiece. A CODPIECE is a codpiece. If there is one thing I know from growing up playing 80’s metal, is that any substitution for a decent codpiece, or loincloth, screams “poser.” It happened when Poison got the edge on Judas Priest (the band) and it is carrying forward now. It is even worse when those who don’t have a physique that really supports wearing such an accessory (like me, but I don’t) try to wear them. Let us consider carefully the disadvantages as well as the advantages of wearing such accoutrements. If you aren’t man enough sport the proper jewel-encrusted, leather codpiece out on the golf course (OR the grocery store), you aren’t going to make up for that with a three hundred dollar belt buckle either. Such are the woes of life.
Rule 3 – Don’t put your name on your gear. You want the nice, big staff bag? Fine. You want the Tour Issue baseball caps? Fine. You want the customized wedge with all the distracting symbols (and no good grinds)? Fine. You want the shiny belt buckle…nnn…well, that is NOT fine. Just…don’t put your name on them. No one wants to remember who you are unless you are on a professional tour. An Iceman would never invest in gear and apparel that cost more than your average used car. A good game should speak for itself, so why would you go about turning yourself into a billboard? Let’s face it, in any one given round with a total stranger, we are all likely to shoot poorly or medium-style at best. Why sign your name to an “epic fail” that others will (now) remember long after the round is done?
A real Iceman would have a bag that avoided “trend” like a mid-cap tries to avoid the shanks…um, I mean…the U.S. Ryder Cup team tries not to lose…ummm, well you know what I mean. In any case, I believe my distinguished colleague Jeff Singer described how best to build an intimidating bag of clubs that is free of poserness, so I will refer you all to the proper thread…
Let me say, however, that an Iceman would never let his/her clubs speak for their game when ability alone should have that honor.
The “Teeth Test”
Do you ever notice that we are seeing more teeth in golf than ever before? I am tired of seeing TEETH! I don’t need to see your food tools, thanks, OR be reminded of how poorly you floss. No Iceman is going to engage in open-mouthed, self-congratulation at any time out on the golf course. If you want that kind of thing, go to a football game, sit with the drunks, and wait for an end-zone dance. Oddly, even the NFL has rules about self-celebration while the PGA Tour apparently does not.
An Iceman would never do this, as the focus on “self” is…well…selfish. A winning round, or losing round, should look no different than if you finished in the middle of the pack. Putting on a “show” is disrespectful to those you are playing with, as well as those you might be playing against. This truly is sportsmanship 101, and it is a shame that we have forgotten.
Seriously, could you ever imagine Jack Nicklaus putting on a fist-pumping spectacle on the 18th green of a major? Could you imagine Ben Hogan “riding the bull” during a Ryder Cup match? No, of course not! I bet some of you actually crossed yourselves and closed the shutters when you read that, didn’t you? This is team-sport behavior, and an Iceman is the antithesis of that. So, if you ever see a player giving him or herself a personal cheering session, they likely won’t pass the teeth test. A quiet smile or acknowledgement to the fans or gallery is one thing; roaring at the top of your lungs and riling the masses for your own benefit is another. Let modesty reign!
Why Do We Need An Iceman?
Stated simply, a golfing Iceman is the manifestation of the sum total of all that is cool in golf. He or she serves as the point of comparison that all golfers use to determine whether their actions, mannerisms, equipment selection, style of play, etc. fall on the “cool” side, or the “lame” side, of the spectrum. There have been no real Icemen on the PGA Tour since Duval, which is supported by the clear reality that we are inundated with equipment, apparel, marketing, and on course behavior that doesn’t pass the straight face test.
We need to bring “cool” back to golf. Not just cool, but principle and sportsmanship coupled with great play. The “Iceman” represents the best aspects of all of these, but we don’t currently have one. (No, Jason Dufner doesn’t count. He apparently doesn’t have a problem with people referring to him as a furry, burrowing mammal. Sorry, but some nicknames are cooler than others. His isn’t. You have only yourselves to blame.)
The golfing Iceman is a figure so inherently cool and reserved, that he or she pulls you into being a fan as a matter of course. No image enhancement, no Facebook pages, no Twitter, no “rep,” no BS. What you see is what you get, but what you see is the coolest person you could ever imagine playing golf. Not being a fan is almost harder than being a fan.
Weird Iceman “Facts”
(okay, they are MY facts, but what else have you got to do?)
- Only one professional (male) golfer has ever finished at the top of the money list and still been considered to be an Iceman, and that was Ben Hogan. Let’s face it folks, it is tough to be great and still look like you aren’t interested in how good you are.
- You can lose your Iceman title if your coolness drops below a certain point. Just look at poor David Duval. One of my favorite players, but he has (for now) lost his game. The title of Iceman comes with great expectations.
- Icemen hate the lead in a match. Simply put, it is cooler to chase than be chased.
- All Icemen are good putters. See how rare they are? I am guessing you had hopes there for a minute, didn’t you?
- Icemen will never show you their true distances with any club. Just assume there is much more in the tank than what you see.
- Icemen will only be found playing with others who are equally focused on their games. They may not be Icemen themselves, but are individuals who don’t place an emphasis on the social aspect of the game. As such, Icemen might be found in regular groups or as singles most often. If they are spotted as a single, they will NEVER crowd you; if they are in a foursome, you will never catch up to them.
- Icemen rarely talk about golf when they are away from golf. Sounds weird but also sounds totally true, right?
- Icemen are mostly self-taught and are skeptical of formal instruction.
- Icemen don’t take practice swings or look at their ball flight for more than a second or two.
- You will never find more than one Iceman at any club or on any professional Tour at any given time. They are very territorial, it seems.
There it is. What is YOUR opinion?