Au Natural Again

How the Internet Restarted an Old Conversation

September 1, 2005

One thing I have learned since I started to write this column a little over a year ago: there is no such thing as a whisper when it comes to the internet. I find myself in the Kingdom of Google, where millions of net surfers have access to whatever tangle of words I might try to pass off as the gospel of golf. It can be daunting to imagine so many potential critics, but it also makes it possible to carry on a lot of interesting dialogues.

In one column last fall I mentioned wallyball, which is a kind of volleyball played in a racquetball court. The next day I received an email from Joe Garcia, the Executive Director of the United States Wallyball Association. This association promotes athletic participation in wallyball for the people of our sedentary generation, who spend too much time, well, surfing the internet. Who knew?

aunaturalagain1In another column I referred to Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the next day my inbox was a virtual battleground of supporters and enemies of the religion who sent emails from all over the country.

I wrote several times about Pinehurst Resort, and each time I received a note from their Communications Director, who offered a lot of helpful information and a few friendly corrections.

Just this week I received an email from a long-lost high school friend who found my column while surfing at her home in Austria. It really has become a small world.

One column in particular has really stirred some interest. A year ago, a reader from Waynesboro asked about Natural Golf, a “single-axis” approach to playing golf. He wanted to know more about this method, specifically because he had heard that it was good for golfers with back problems.

I briefly outlined some of the ideas and claims of Jack Kuykendall, a physicist who created Natural Golf, the system and the company. I said I thought there was some merit in the way the system simplifies the swing; but I also pointed out that few of the people I know who tried Natural Golf ever got better. Several players chose to return to a traditional swing.

As for a swing suitable for bad backs, I suggested that there might be some benefit from the Natural way, but that a modern swing does not necessarily strain the back very much, especially with a few modifications.

aunaturalagain21The day after the article on Natural Golf appeared I received an email from a director at the company. He thanked me for the interest in their method of swinging a club, and he also wanted to make it very clear that Natural Golf and Jack Kuykendall had parted ways years ago. The director seemed interested in having a deeper conversation about Natural Golf, but nothing ever really developed, and I did not think much more about it.

Months passed with silence on the topic of Natural Golf. Then the internet got inexplicably revved up again. Almost a year after I wrote the article, I received an email about it from Ron in Chandler, Texas. Then the following week I got an email from James in Arlington, Virginia, also about the Natural Golf column. Getting all this feedback a year later helped me realize the quirky nature of the internet: it is like a huge elephant that sucks up everything in sight and never forgets a thing. And occasionally this elephant randomly spits things back out.

Anyways, Ron from Texas was nice enough to point me in the direction of the missing physicist who founded Natural Golf. On the website of Kuykendall Golf, there are several claims against Natural Golf—that they unethically (but legally) wrestled ownership of the company away from Kuykendall; that they consistently misrepresent the system of golf that Kuykendall created; that they are inappropriately (perhaps illegally) using patent numbers on their golf clubs; and that they repeatedly give credit for Kuykendall’s thoughts and writings to other people.

Wow, we have got some real drama going on in the world of golf! Corporate takeovers, mudslinging, accusations, and legal wrangling. It might be a gentleman’s game on the course, but it looks like golf can be a little ugly in the boardroom.

Ron, by the way, tried Natural Golf and gave up on it. It sounds like he might give Kuykendall Golf a shot at redemption, though.

James from Arlington, on the other hand, wanted to talk more about golf for people with aching backs. He wanted input about adjustments to a traditional swing that will make it more back-friendly. Unfortunately, I will have to save that for a personal email, or for a future column.

I have to say that it is one of the best parts of writing an online column to receive feedback from interested and interesting people around the country, even if it comes a year later. It makes me realize how careful I need to be about what I write. This is not like writing in the sand.

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