Army Golf

        First off, let me update you on Australia Sam. They had to put his surgery off till Monday.  I think it was due to exhausted surgeon syndrome.  As much as I know they hate to wait, I’m glad the surgeon was up front.  If he’d been up all night, it’s best to rest and then go again Monday AM.  Y’all keep up the prayers and I will update you then.


        There’s an old joke in golf.  When a man has a bad day and can’t keep the ball in play, we often call it ‘Army golf.’  (You know; “left, right, left right.”)  With that concept in mind I want to open discussions about the human brain.  What makes us work off the left vs. the right side?  More important, how can we learn to tap into both?

        This will take more than one post, but I’m gonna start with golf.

        Once I had a patient who was a brilliant man. He was a true rocket scientist.  I had all respect for him, but he was a hemi-hypertrophied left brain man if there ever was one.

        He’s forever bring me complicated mathematical formulas he’d derived to adjust his Coumadin dose.  The only problem was they didn’t work.  Coumadin adjustment has always been more art than science, a fact that distressed the man to no end.

        When you’d talk to him about blood clots you couldn’t say, “Well brother, think of it like the difference in a river and a mill pond.  All that junk won’t grow on a rapid river but the water on the pond just sits there, and vegetation can fluorish.  Your circulation is slower now, and when that blood pools up it makes for a good place for blood to clot.”

        He’d look at me funny every time.  It was an indication he didn’t know whether to trust a man of science who talk such as that, so I’d proceed to go on and on about the latest theories on endothelial cell dysfunction and platelet aggregation.  Then he was satisfied.  As for me, I liked the mill pond analogy better, but the other was the latest hip thing he might have read in ‘Scientfic American’ and it suited his style better.  It is always best to know your audience, and play their tune.    The only practical value for me was it helped me fill in more correct bubbles on my Boards.

        Anyway, my rocket scientist patient decided he was gonna take up golf.  I advise most folks past fifty who are as left brain-ed as this man to take two weeks off then quit, but he was insistent.  He wanted to come out and watch me hit some balls one day, so I gave in.

        I recalled a surgeon friend who took a stab at the game in middle age.  He was very left brain dominant, and also a man I respected highly; one I would let operate on me or my family in a minute.  After a few tortuous years, one day he threw his clubs down and said, “I’m just too d@#^ smart to play this game.”  The man was right.  He just couldn’t let his right brain take over even for a day.

         My rocket scientist pal joined me on the range one Wednesday.  I was a beautiful sunny Carolina spring day.  A few clouds drifted overhead, and a pilot buzzed around in a Piper Cub.  Some birds rode the wind.

        “Let me warm up,” I said.  I tossed a bit of grass in the air, and made a very rough calculation of the wind, more out of habit than necessity.  I closed my eyes for a minute and tried to recall the old days with Snookers in  high school when we had not a concern in the world.  I began to hit  some wedge shots.

        After my back was limber, I moved on to a driver.  Trust me, I am no great golfer, but as a 7 handicap I can play enough to fool the uninitiated.  I hit a few draws.

       He watched intently for a while, then spoke.  “I notice as you project the ball it tends to ascend and then just before the the apogee it curves from the three o’clock positon back to the mid-line.”

       “Yes sir.  They call is a draw.  When Billy Casper hit the tour his shot was a big draw; more like a hook.  Sam Snead watched him and said,”I know a man can hit a ball like that, but I don’t know why he’d want to.”

       My patient didn’t even hint at a smile and remained in deep concentration.  “I notice the ball has a number of circumferential small indentations.” 

       “Yes sir, they are called dimples.”

       “My interpretation is to achieve the desired trajectory, and for it to be repetitive, one must impart the correct amount of spin by delivering the strike to the ball in a consistent fashion.”

        “Yes sir, something like that.”

        “Hm.  I notice your left thumb is slightly right of a vertical position, approximately three millimeters of deviation from midline.  I assume this results in a slight closure of the striking surface as it contacts the ball.  Is that how you generate the required torque to accomplish this repetitive flight pattern?”

       “Hm. Well not exactly.  I ain’t no great golfer, but I just try to set up a bit closed and think draw.  Sometimes the image of tossing a bucket of water over my left shoulder helps.”

        “Beg your pardon?” 

        Oh yeah, I thought.  I forget he wasn’t that big on a water analogies.  He came out of the space program.

        He stuck with it about two weeks.  The man was retired and had plenty of time on his hands.  I’d go by on my way to work and there’d he be studying that grip and doing his best to calculate a formula that might conquer an impossible game.

        I saw him a month later.  “How’s the golf going?” I asked.

       “I gave it up.  It is not a reasonable game for a man of science.”

        “I agree, John.  I think you’re too d#^%^d smart play that game.”

        He smiled.  We had connected.  He was my patient all the way until he moved to Florida, and brought me scientific articles to read just as regular as some folks bring tomatoes.  They were quite good, and my left brain and his got along fine.  I’m glad he didn’t take up the mandolin though.  Somehow I don’t think it’d a worked out.

Dr. B

Note:  I finished this post before I realized what day it was.  God bless all the victims of 9/11.  -Dr. B

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19 Comments on “Army Golf”

  1. Cindy Carter Says:

    I will be the first to admit that I am severely handicapped when it comes to left brained thinking. I always enjoy your posts….you got that left brained lingo down just right. When people start talking like that, my eyes usually roll back in my head and I take a little nap.

    Not that doesn’t mean that I aint savy….just means I have way more common sense that anything else. I like to mess with people’s minds! LOL

    I second your God Bless to those of 9-11.

    • drtombibey Says:

      Ms. Cindy,

      I have found there are a lot of women who can work off the left brain just as well as men, but most men are not as good as women with the right brain, esp in verbal skills.

      Dr. B

  2. Julius Says:

    Dr. B, it’s like you know exactly what’s going on during my days. I’m having problems with thinning the blood of some of my patients right now. Oh, and I used your boy’s advice on “filling in the right bubbles” today–I mentioned that before a test today to a couple people, and I used it during the test. Only missed one….

    PS, Sam will still be in my prayers tonight.


  3. pandemonic Says:

    Oh, my, so funny… I never thought you could be too smart to play golf, but there you go.

    Your rocket scientist reminds me of an employee of ours. He’s in his early 60s and working on his fourth PhD. He works part time for us for something to do, and he’s a nice guy and all, but talking to him is like you talking to your rocket scientist. It’s entertaining for a while, but exhausting after a long while.

    I’m not so smart, which is why I haven’t given up on golf yet… 🙂

    • drtombibey Says:


      I have a few consultants who are very good, but they don’t communicate with folks that well. Patients will come back and ask, “What did he say?”

      I’m with you on the golf, not smart enough to give it up and still hacking away.

      Dr. B

  4. danny fulks Says:

    Tom, my right brain said I was in love. My left brain said maybe I ought, or as we say here, ort to think it through, will we have enough money, how will she treat children, will she still be a friend, will she take turns spending holidays with each of our families, will she gripe when I play golf while she is home with a screaming baby, stuff like that. As a seasoned citizen I think now if we only had the left brain we would not have romance and eroticism; the human race would have gone by way of the homing pidgeon by now.

    • drtombibey Says:

      Dan, Yeah, a left brain man with any rational sense would never fallen in love, have children, be a country doctor, pick bluegrass music, or play golf. It sure woulda been a dull life.

      Dr. B

  5. markps2 Says:

    Maybe if someone just enjoys hitting the ball, the sound and feeling in hands of a good contact, in time they will improve their aim.
    Would being alone help? or is their own self criticism too harsh to allow them to enjoy it?
    Maybe they want/need a more destructive event from a physical action to enjoy it.
    Is it controlled power to swing and hit the ball or controlled anger? Depends on the day?
    Is it anger or (overthinking) worry screwing up peoples shots?

    Muscles do the swing on auto pilot once learned?

    There are other hobbies/sports to try for a tactile connection to the world. For action-reaction (I physically exist, in a physical world) and healthy exercise in a open air/sky environment.

    • drtombibey Says:


      These are all excellent thoughts. I think a lot of times the mind gets in the way of the body and if we can clear it out we can perform better.

      Dr. B

  6. Julius Says:

    Hey Dr. B. Have you heard yet how Sam is?


  7. Andrew Says:

    Thanks for referring me to this article. I found it very interesting and though I find myself to fit into the catergory of being left-brained, I am nearly not as bright enough to realize all the little details that your patient managed to pick up so quickly. I have, however, been able to improve my game simply by playing with more “feel” rather than thinking of club face angles, swing planes, and things of that sort that I’m sure you know about. I am curious about what each side of the brain is responsible for and how being one-side dominant may leave one to possibly be disadvantaged.

    • drtombibey Says:


      Thanks for your visit. Love your comment.

      As a doc I am very left brain-ed and as a writer I tend to believe in books, and yet in golf I am like you and do my best when I play by feel.

      One time a bass player told me he had to learn everything with the left brain and then transfer the cerebral file over to the right brain and let it take over for the music to have any soul. Maybe golf is a bit like that.

      I am always fascinated with the way humans learn.

      One thing that helps me the most in golf (and music) is perspective. In my line of work I see a lot of bad things, so if we have a bad day of it I always say, “Well guys, it wasn’t that bad. At least I didn’t have to tell anyone their mama died.”

      When I began my writer journey I told my agent I didn’t have to have every reader in the world but I did hope to find the smart and thoughtful ones. I appreciate your visit and hope you will come back.

      Dr. B

      • madeinchina21 Says:

        I only know all too well what that bass player was talking about. Thanks again for the insight. As a side note, I will be going to UC San Diego as a human biology major in a few days and hope to attend medical school in the future, and I am inspired by your blogs so thanks again.

  8. Miki Says:

    Hi Dr. B
    I followed your advice and came to your bog to red this post, which is, in fact, highly entertaining! Although my English is perhaps not good enough to understand all the subtilities of your language swing…
    My experience is that golf is not a reasonable golf for most of the people, men and women, scientists or not. But is reasonability a reasonable criteria when one is speaking about golf? 🙂
    For me, although being a scientist, golf works. I just empty my brain, it becomes a big back hole in which the golf balls sometimes wonderfully drop into… sometime!

    • drtombibey Says:


      Cool. So good to hear from you. Yeah, to me golf is a big mystery science can not explain. Perhaps magic does, I don’t know.

      Hope you’ll come back to visit again.

      Dr. B

  9. Smitty Pres. of Neuse River Fan Club Mississippi Says:

    Doc, my angular gyrus is really active with these post. On another note, my orthographic processor is filtering at a high rate. One time I went to a reading conference and had to report back what I learned. I learned that my angular gyrus was telling my gluteus maximus that it was very tired of sitting in this meeting, at least I knew why now.

    We are headed to open for a Hee Haw show next week.We will be picking for a Baptist church-it will be a alot of fun. We always think of you just driving in and picking. Say hello to Marfar, she is a jewel.

    • drtombibey Says:


      Due to the jump start and short sprint nature of the game, baseball players tend to develop the gluteus maximus quite well. At least that it what Marfar used to say when she watched Javy Lopez on televsion. To me he just looked like another ball player.

      Looking forward to the next Hee Haw show. The last one was much fun.

      Dr. B

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