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Feb 02

Golf IQ and College

Golf IQ – How Much Intelligence Does It Take to Play Golf Well

I wonder about things like – how much intelligence does it take to play golf well, or is it much more of an experiential thing, a feeling thing? And, isn’t that a sort of intelligence? Then I wonder about the whole collegiate thing. Are the Ivy Leaguers really that smart. I know that many of them are fairly formidable in the IQ department, but the whole collegiate comparison story is partly based on a touch of blarney. Yes, people at Harvard, Princeton, Yale and the others often spend forty hours or more on an 8 page paper, while there are other institutions where writing it the night before or the morning of is more the norm. But, they have a carefully groomed image and academic condition, curried and well-groomed by businessmen, government powerhouses, etc. for hundreds of years. It’s a great act, and often, it’s real – but do they play better golf?

golf smartI tried to get a handle on the collegiate rankings, and come up with some sort of conclusion, but the reasons for one school being highly positioned and another missing the boat completely is vulnerable to a lot of causes. When I visit Ivy League websites, I see that a very happy-looking group of young, probably high IQ ladies are celebrating a six-stroke advantage over their rivals at Columbia, with a golf coach who has a predilection for humor and good cheer. And yet, a six-stroke victory over Columbia is not winning the NCAA championship. Ok, maybe for the forty hour paper writers, golf has to be more of a social grace or a way of discharging stress.
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This year, the collegiate rankings don’t seem to bend toward an IQ range at all, although I know many people at non-Ivy League schools have the mental numbers that the Eastern Seaboard claims to have. Heading up the list this year is Washington, a school by many Pacific Northwesterners as one of America’s best-kept secrets. They’re pretty good at a lot of stuff, and apparently, one of them is golf.

Geography seems to play a part in the upper list, as Arizona, Arizona State, USC, UCLA, and Texas are perennial powerhouses. But then again, so is Rutgers, a Northeast school within elbow-rubbing distance of Princeton. Outside of that, bearing in mind Tiger Wood’ s association with Stanford, there are only two or three outlier Ivy League schools that are ranked, including Duke and Vanderbilt. Now, those are southern schools, and a whole lot of golf IQ has come from south of the Mason Dixon line.  But think of the Southern pros who were geniuses on the course, and non-starters in the classroom. I don’t recall that Sam Snead ever thought of it as an essential part of the golf swing. Lee Trevino didn’t get his golf IQ in the hallowed halls of Yale. He probably got it in the Marines, where he had to keep his wits together under pressure – seems like the perfect place to get good nerve training.
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The ratings of collegiate prestige don’t necessarily seem to boil down to a direct teacher on student experience, rather things like alum giving, teacher/student ratios, and number of graduates on the Supreme Court, Goldman Sachs, etc. And, in terms of golf, which isn’t even discussed in the ratings, it could come down to effective recruiting and weather patterns, for all we know. You’ve got to hand it to Stanford for attracting such fine athletes in most pursuits, who are also real students, not just plug-ins. Still, that doesn’t always translate into national championships.

I’m pretty sure, as I think of it further, that golf smarts come from that deep down place that academia can’t reach – good old, natural genius that sometimes confirms more than learns from its own kind. Whether you’re accepting your Phi Beta Kappa key from Harvard, or playing barefoot in a swamp (a really stupid, low IQ thing to do in alligator states), the gene of golf greatness can switch on…or off. You never know who’s going to graduate Magna cum Chippus or Putta cum Laude. It’s a game that takes brains, all right, but I still can’t put my finger on what kind of IQ we’re really talking about.

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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.