Playing Golf with a Bad Back
I wanted to play WITHOUT hurting my back
Back pain has been a fact of my life since I was moving into my dorm room in college. (Carrying a pressboard mural over my head and climbing stairs was a bad idea.)
My youngest brother had turned me onto EA Sports Tiger Woods O8, and playing a virtual round of golf had become part of my morning coffee routine, for a decade!
AS I reached retirement age, I wanted to learn how to play golf, for real. But I saw how my brother, 10 years younger than me, had golfed for 2 or 3 decades and now found himself with disks so deteriorated that his back is actually "bone on bone" in one place.
So I was not thrilled about investing years, trying to learn, how to strike the ball, not to mention the cost of good clubs, lessons, and
My scouting visits to a local driving range bore out some of my fears. There I walked past one retirement-aged guy who cursed and smacked the tee mat with his iron in frustration, after shanking a shot. My brief efforts found me struggling to hit even one out of 7 shots at all well.
The next time I tried a swing, I had bought a golf trainer at a Big Golf Store. It had a training grip to assure I was holding it correctly, a bend in the shaft and a chrome plated weight at the end. Just a couple of light practice swings, and one normal speed swing, and I felt my back "tweak" on me. I stopped immediately, tried to stretch it out, iced it immediately, and retired to my zero gravity recliner. Still, I was in moderate pain for a couple of days.
And my brothers admonition- "all golfers have bad backs" - came painfully back to mind.
But I continued to go to my local practice course where they have a magnificently-groomed, double-tiered and contoured putting green AND a separate chipping green -- with several deep and challenging practice sand traps beyond that. I really enjoyed learning to putt and chip.
It was so-o-o different from Putt-Putt golf - my only other real practice with a golf ball. THIS was what it was really like around the green!.
I thought if I can find a way to get down the fairway to the green, I could walk the little 9-hole Par 3 course they had developed. Many local golfers worked on their short game here.
The longest hole was less than 200 yards.
And it was far less expensive to play here than on a full 18-hole course.
I "walked" the course a couple of times, dropping my ball just off the green, chipping, long putting and short putting all 9 different greens.
I researched alternatives including golf-ball slingshots. But looking at their range, I saw that none could shoot the ball more than a 3rd or perhaps half of the distance needed to reach the Par 3 greens, even from the closest tees.
Finally I happened upon Frank's little shop site where he was selling his multi-launcher, a compressed-air or CO2 gun for shooting T-shirts and confetti into bleacher stands, tennis balls (to play fetch with Fido), frozen bait attached to fishing line for long casts, and --- a golf ball launcher.
All the other launchers I had seen, including a couple built by Frank, had been cannons - bigger or taller than some adults, based on the potato cannon using compressed air or gas. These had been advertised by fund-raising companies who rented them to charities for long-drive events.
But Frank's little entry looked intriguing, and if I compared with the other pictures, I wondered if I could fit his barrel into standard golf bag???
This started half-a year of correspondence, interrupted by my two different surgeries.
In recovery though, each time, I came back to thinking about golf. After I found myself with "a bionic eye" (my cataract surgey replaced one lens completely)- corrected to BETTER than 20-20! So I realized I could probably now see where the ball was going, and maybe even where it landed.
So I found myself searching through my old email conversations, and again looking up Frank's golf-ball launcher.
And then I started re-connecting with him, and asking him to do unique, "custom" build just for my own use.
I wanted to adapt his design NOT just to a long-drive function, but to actually at least replace the Tee Shot - a club striking the ball off the tee. With my Par 3 course, that's all I would need to hit or get close to the green.
Then I started working through all the complications.
Like charging it. Could I carry a portable tire inflator? A CO2 canister?
I would need a "remote line" as in paintball, which I had never played and knew very little about. And my custom launcher would have to be built with two different connectors, one for each of these chargers.
Thankfully, Frank had grown up in his family's paintball business, and graduated from being an Air Tech - fixing paintball guns, to a fully-certified "AirSmith" - who could actually safely design and manufacture replacement parts - and build a compressed-air gun from "scratch." So all this time, Frank very knowledgeably and patiently responded to all my email queries.
But what impressed me about Frank was his sincere promotion and pursuit of safety. Many of his designs had been designed as alternatives to the home-made contraptions made famous by FAIL videos on YouTube - glued-together plumbing-grade PVC pipes with compressed air or gas connectors. These generated high internal gas pressures which those water pipes were NEVER designed to contain! And so, they sadly blew up in the users' faces!! While the lucky ones survived serious injury (at least long enough to post the FAIL videos), the responsible ones at least WARNED people "NOT to try this at home!"