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It's okay to admit golf is just an excuse to drink beer

By Chris Baldwin, Contributor

GENOA, Nev. -- "There are two truisms in Nevada," the Chamber of Commerce guy says, signaling for everyone to quiet down and listen.

Charles Barkley
Tiger Woods doesn't bug Charles Barkley with golf rules - even shoes.
Charles BarkleyGolf friendsPutt with fun

"I own my own pickup and I was just helping that sheep over the fence."

Tom Metcalf doesn't wait for a rim shot. He already has the laugh track.

It comes from a small van-bus crammed with 13 media members. Metcalf is one of the Carson Valley-area hosts entrusted with making sure the writers, radio hosts and TV types get a good picture of golf in northern Nevada.

And he's doing it, sheep jokes and all (most of the "all" being unsuitable for a general-audience Web site). That's because Metcalf is acting like a regular golfer, letting the off-color humor fly. He sounds just like that loud cutup in your regular foursome.

His 12-hour-plus performance is part of the Divine Nine media tour, one of those press trips that golf destinations arrange to create buzz, and probably the most off-the-wall of the lot: 18 holes played on nine golf courses in one day, via a vehicle loaded with enough booze to satisfy your average army platoon.

The day's tally: 112 beers consumed. Oh, and two Cokes. True fact.

It's the kind of trip a lot of uber-serious golf-industry types would do good to attend, and not just to prove the stereotype of overweight sportswriters bouncing Coors Light cans off their bellies. This is how most golf trips, media and otherwise, are conducted. People are going to laugh a lot and not remember much of anything.

Golfers travel to hang with their buddies, to tell the same bad jokes they've been telling for 20 years (only in a new locale), to add another tale that only they'll laugh at and will still be laughing at when they've traded golf carts for nursing-home scooters.

I was reminded of that tour on a recent trip to play golf in Myrtle Beach.

By its nature, Myrtle Beach is the golf mecca where pretense is dropped. When golf courses compete for attention the way personal-injury lawyers do, using giant roadside billboards, you don't feel so bad about admitting you're there mainly for the beer.

There tend to be fewer discussions of the finer points of that Tom Fazio design and more on that new girl at the strip club ("new" meaning since your group's last trip south two years ago).

"We all know Hilton Head has better golf," Pennsylvania vacationer Harry Connors says, gesturing around his group of cigar-smooching buddies. "But there's no women there between the ages of 15 and 50. I swear.

"A certain part of my body feels much healthier in Myrtle Beach. If you know what I'm saying."

Okay, it's crass. There are nuns in Nepal who'd know what he's saying. But how often do you come across a Myrtle Beach golf group that just hated the trip?

Uncouth or not, guys like Connors could show many course owners, general managers and head professionals a thing or two. As games go, it's hard to beat golf for relaxation and BS potential.

For one, there's little risk of pesky sweating, even if you're "roughing it" and walking.

And what other sport can be enhanced by six beers? Try that in a pickup basketball game and see how you feel at the free-throw line.

Stuffiness kills golf

There is no better place to break into the easy-kidding rhythm of friendship than a golf course. All the golfing powers-that-be need to do is not screw that up.

Yet they do. Think of the number of golfers who quit each year, saying it's just too difficult. Yes, golf can be as crazy hard as playing Risk upside-down underwater. That only goes to show how who much the wrong things have been stressed.

Who cares if you're shooting 112 if the beer's cold, the banter's quick and there's a beach or a great meal waiting?

All those librarian-serious starters who drone on and on about the importance of playing the "right tees" are casting a pall over the game. You're the customer. You know what the right tees are? The ones you feel like losing the most golf balls from.

The USGA doesn't help either, with its sanctimonious rule-book talk from an executive committee that seemingly never got out of the 1950s.

Even the best golfer in the world just wants to have fun when he's out on the course with his boys.

"Tiger's not making me follow any rules when we play together," famous bad golfer Charles Barkley roars, laughing. "Are you kidding me? He's happy if I can stand up straight."

That's the kind of attitude that lets you enjoy a day in which 13 media members manage to lose 81 golf balls over 18 holes and 94.4 miles. It's why you can believe Reno weekend sports anchor Garrett Dearborn when he says the annual Divine Nine day "is better than Christmas for me."

And why you can't believe what anyone says on the van-bus about their wife.

Dearborn is a squat guy who looks like he works out his neck and upper arms nonstop, but only his neck and upper arms. He's something of a cult figure in Reno, known for wearing shirts on the air that show off his biceps. He's such a character you know he has to be a golfer before you ever see him swing a club.

It's hard not to love this game. If only they'll let us.

Chris BaldwinChris Baldwin, Contributor

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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