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Opinion & Analysis

18 hints of joy in golf

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Joy in golf, really?

Can you really find joy in golf? There is no joy in a score that approaches or exceeds triple digits, hitting a bunker shot that sails over the green into another bunker or missing a three foot putt and failing to record your lowest score ever.

Seventy five years ago, we learned there was the Joy of Cooking and 41 years ago our suspicions were confirmed with the publication of the Joy of Sex. But is there joy in golf or is joyless golf par for the course?

You can lay down your VISA card and purchase a pair of FootJoys, but this is joy only for the soles of the feet and may not touch your golf soul. And have you noticed that FootJoy is not so certain that we can find joy, and have abbreviated their brand to “FJ,” which could also stand for foolish jerk or forever jinxed?

“Oh my goodness,” I can hear you say as you read this post.

“I hope he is not into another one of those golf articles about finding our bliss when I have trouble finding my ball in three inches of fescue, or taking two drives off the same tee box only to realize I have lost both my balls in the woods.”

I am not suggesting you “bliss out” on the first tee and merge with the ball so that you and the ball achieve some cosmic oneness. What I do want to suggest is there are always scents or a sense of joy in golf that can reward us and keep us playing.

Sometimes these joyful moments are spectacular, such as Shawn Stefani’s hole-in-one at the 2013 U.S. Open in Merion on Sunday at the 213-yard 17th. If you did not see this shot, pause your reading and watch the video here:

[youtube id=”bGijqpUGqyc” width=”620″ height=”360″]

It was enthralling to see the 4-iron shot bounce off the side of the mound on the left side of the green and take the long roll culminating with the ball tumbling into the cup, and a thrill to watch Stefani and his caddie engage in their bouncy and joyful celebration of the shot. When he arrived at the green, Stefani kissed the spot where the ball hit before beginning the slow roll descent to the cup. Yet Stefani ended up tied for 59th with a score of 19-over-par that included an 85 in Round 3. We must find joy where we can, and realize that it must not only be contingent upon a miracle-like shot.

Of course, you know what it is like when you are upset and someone tells you to calm down. That is the last thing you need to hear. So I am not telling you to find joy — I just want to offer you 18 hints of joy that can be found in golf, because even one moment of joy can ease the pain of a terrible round. The 18 hints are just a short primer for joy and I am sure you can find your own hints of joy.

18 Hints of Joy

  1. Being outdoors in fresh air with good company.
  2. Playing a round of golf with your dad.
  3. Watching in awe as your 3-year-old swings a giant plastic orange golf driver with a fluid and natural tempo.
  4. Feeling the freshness and possibility as you open up a sleeve of new golf balls to start a round.
  5. Hearing the sweet sound of the clubface making solid contact with the ball.
  6. Observing a long putt that pauses for just a moment before cascading into the cup.
  7. Offering your partner a tip and seeing instant improvement in his or her game.
  8. Engaging in a sport that offers you delivery service of a beer to celebrate or commiserate the round while you are still playing it.
  9. Taking in the beautiful views and vistas on the course while smelling the earthiness of freshly cut grass as you hear the swish swish swich tempo of distant sprinklers.
  10. Playing Pebble Beach, St. Andrews or any other iconic track.
  11. Hitting a terrible shot that thunks off a tree and ends up 11 inches from the hole.
  12. Never waiting on a tee box all day, because everyone is maintaining a rapid pace of play.
  13. Hooking your drive into the woods, finding your ball plus a few others, and realizing you have a clear shot to the green.
  14. Experiencing the vicarious joy of having someone you are golfing with make a terrific shot or score a hole in one.
  15. Kibitzing in nonstop playful banter with your partners giving you more laughs than swings to complete your round.
  16. Being the first person to tee off early morning on the back nine and feeling both peaceful solitude and robust connection to the course and game.
  17. Finishing a round feeling rejuvenated, refreshed and re-energized with eager anticipation of getting out again immediately.
  18. Drifting to sleep at night with images of great shots, good rounds, and gratitude for the wonderful golf friendships you have made.

As Walter Hagen said: “Don’t hurry, don’t worry, you’re only here for a short visit, so be sure to smell the flowers along the way.” I encourage you to experience many scents of joy in your next round.

Where do you find joy in golf? I would love to read your joyful responses in the comments, thank you.

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David Zinger taught Educational Psychology at the University of Manitoba for 20 years focusing on counseling psychology and how to teach adults. His master's thesis was on humor in counseling. During this time he has studied and kept a keen interest in the various elements of golf and performance psychology. David lives in Winnipeg, Canada so he contends with six months of snow hibernating his limited time to golf. David is primarily focused on employee engagement and runs a global network of 6000 members focused on the topic. Many of the key principles of engagement also apply to golf: connecting to results, energy, strengths, progress, performance, meaning, and moments. Although David only plays golf occasionally he has a passion for the game that dates back to being a $2.00 a round caddy at 12 years of age for Riverside Golf Club in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He enjoys playing golf with his wife Susan and they both relish each having a hole-in-one. Website: www.davidzinger.com Email David: david@davidzinger.com

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. George Steiner

    Aug 12, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    Being called “Kid” when you’re over 50.

  2. Dave

    Aug 7, 2013 at 8:26 am

    One of the life lessons I’ve been lucky enough to learn is GRATITUDE. It’s pertinent since we can so easily forget, on those less than stellar ball striking days, to be grateful for the privilege to enjoy this game and all the gifts it bestows upon us. Here’s an example of what I’m grateful for:

    1) The maintenance crew’s hard work to create quality turf conditions.
    2) A beautiful setting in nature.
    3) The opportunity to pull off a difficult shot.
    4) As a golf instructor, I get to share my love for the game with others.
    5) I’m lucky enough to have made birdies and eagles, but still eagerly awaiting my 1st hole-in-one.
    6) The anticipation of a golf trip to Bandon Dunes.
    7) New golf clubs.
    8) Playing a course for the first time.
    9) Beating my personal best score.
    10) Confidence with the putter.
    11) A quality practice session where I learned something new.
    12) Seeing someone get hooked on golf for the first time.
    13) Fixing my ball mark near the pin.
    14) Developing lifelong friendships.
    15) The 18th hole as tall, majestic trees cast long shadows across the fairway around sunset.
    16) The anticipation of a new golf season on that first warm spring day.
    17) Waiting to go for the green on my 2nd shot on a par 5.
    18) Hitting the sweet spot.

    Finally, this thought has has helped me to keep the proper perspective in life:
    -I am one of the fortunate people in this world that doesn’t have to worry about where my next meal and clean glass of drinking water will come from-
    Perspective can make or break one’s outlook in golf and life. If you make a conscious effort to be grateful for what you have, your life will be better – pure and simple…

  3. mehmet saglam

    Aug 2, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    Thanks for the feedback on the site

  4. Debra Wutke

    Aug 2, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    I couldn’t agree more with your 18 Hints and suspect a foursome on the 19th hole could quickly contribute another 18 to the list. These are just some of the reasons I get on a course every chance I get. Thank you for putting this great game in perspective.

    • David Zinger

      Aug 2, 2013 at 2:44 pm

      Debra:
      Thanks for the feedback on the site. Like the idea of a foursome on the 19th generating their own list. Joy can be par for the course.
      David

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Opinion & Analysis

When the data says line is more important than speed in putting

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In my recent article, Line vs. speed: What’s really more important in putting?, I pointed out that in my 30-plus years of studying putting performance, I’ve learned that there are two important skills to putting:

  1. Direction (line)
  2. Distance control (speed)

There’s no question that golfers need to possess both these skills, but contrary to popular belief, they are not equally important on all putts. Sometimes, speed should be the primary concern. In other situations, golfers should be focused almost entirely on line. To make this determination, we have to consider the distance range of a putt and a golfer’s putting skill.

In the above referenced article, I showed how important speed is in putting, as well as the distances from which golfers of each handicap level should become more focused on speed. As promised, I’m going to provide some tips on direction (LINE) for golfers of different handicap levels based on the data I’ve gathered over the years through my Strokes Gained analysis software, Shot by Shot.

When PGA Tour players focus on line 

On the PGA Tour, line is more critical than speed from distances inside 20 feet. Obviously, the closer a golfer is to the hole, the more important line becomes and the less need there is to focus on speed. Further, I have found that the six-to-10-foot range is a key distance for Tour players. Here are three reasons why:

  1. Six to 10 feet is one of the most frequently faced putt distances on the PGA Tour. It is the first putt distance on approximately one in every five greens.
  2. Smack in the middle of this range is eight feet, which is the distance from which the average PGA Tour player makes 50 percent of his putts.
  3. In my research, I have consistently found that one-putt success in the six-to-10-foot range separates good putters from the rest on the PGA Tour

What we should do

How does this analysis help the rest of us?  To answer that question, we must first know our one-putt distance.  Just as I showed the two-putt distance by handicap level here, I will now show the 50 percent make distance by handicap level. This is the distance from the hole where players at each handicap level make 50 percent of their putts.

My recommendation is for each of us to recognize exactly what our 50 percent distance is. Maybe you’re a 16 or 17 handicap and putting is one of your strengths. Your 50 percent make distance is six feet. Excellent!  From that distance and closer, you should focus on line and always give the ball a chance to go in the hole.  From distances of seven-plus feet, you should consider the circumstances (up or downhill, amount of break, etc.) and factor in the speed as appropriate. The goal is to make as many of these putts as possible, but more importantly, avoid those heart-breaking and costly three-putts.

For added perspective, I am including the percentage of one putts by distance for the PGA Tour and our average amateur 15-19 handicap. I’m able to offer this data from ShotbyShot.com because it provides golfers with their “relative handicap” in the five critical parts of the game: (1) Driving, (2) Approach Shots, (3) Chip/Pitch Shots, (4) Sand Shots, and (5) Putting.

Line control practice: The star drill 

Looking for a way to practice choosing better lines on the putting green?  Here’s a great exercise known as the “star drill.” Start by selecting a part of your practice green with a slight slope.  Place five tees in the shape of a star on the slope with the top of the star on the top side of the slope.  This will provide an equal share of right to left and left to right breaks.

I recommend starting with a distance of three feet – usually about the length of a standard putter.  See how many you can make out of 10 putts, which is two trips around the star.  Here are a few more helpful tips.

  • Place a ball next to each of the five tees.
  • Use your full pre-shot routine for each attempt.
  • Stay at the three-foot distance until you can make nine of 10. Then, move to four feet, five feet, and six feet as you’re able to make eight from four feet, seven from five feet, and six from six feet.

This drill will give you confidence over these very important short putts. I do not recommend using it for any distance beyond six feet. It’s harder than you think to get there!

 

Exclusive for GolfWRX members: For a free, one-round trial of Shot by Shot, visit www.ShotByShot.com.

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Podcasts

TG2: Snell Golf founder Dean Snell talks golf balls and his life in the golf industry

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Snell Golf’s founder, Dean Snell, talks all about golf balls and his adventure through the industry. Dean fills us in on his transition from hockey player, to engineer, to golfer, and now business owner. He even tells you why he probably isn’t welcome back at a country club ever again.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

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Opinion & Analysis

Could Dollar Driver Club change the way we think about owning equipment?

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There’s something about golfers that draws the attention of, for lack of a better word, snake-oil salesmen. Whether it’s an as-seen-on-TV ad for a driver that promises pure distance and also fixes your power slice, or the subscription boxes that supposedly send hundreds of dollars worth of apparel for a fraction of the price, there always seems to be something out there that looks too good to be true.

Discerning golfers, who I would argue are more cynical than anything, understand that you get what you pay for. To get the newest driver that also works for your game, it may take a $150 club fitting, then a $400 head, and a shaft that can run anywhere from $100 up to $300-$400. After the fitting and buying process, you’ve made close to a thousand dollar investment in one golf club, and unless you’re playing money games with friends who have some deep pockets, it’s tough to say what the return on that investment actually is. When it’s all said and done, you have less than a year before that driver is considered old news by the standard of most manufacturers’ release schedules.

What makes a driver ‘good’ to most amateur golfers who take their game seriously is a cross section of performance, price, and hubris. As for that last metric, I think most people would be lying if they say it doesn’t feel good having the latest and greatest club in the bag. Being the envy of your group is fun, even if it only lasts until you snap hook your first drive out of bounds.

As prices of general release equipment have increased to nearly double what it was retailing at only 10 years ago, the ability to play the newest equipment is starting to become out of the question for many amateur golfers.

Enter Tyler Mycoskie, an avid, single digit handicap golfer (and the brother of Tom’s shoes founder, Blake Mycoskie). Tyler’s experience with purchasing golf equipment and his understanding of uniquely successful business models collided, which led him to start the Dollar Driver Club. With a name and logo that is a tongue in cheek allusion to the company that has shaken up the men’s skincare industry, the company seeks to offer a new way of thinking about purchasing golf equipment without completely reinventing the wheel of the model that has seen success in industries such as car leasing and purchasing razors.

The company does exactly what its name says. They offer the newest, top of the line driver and shaft combinations for lease at a cost of about a dollar per day.

The economics of the model seem too good to be true. When you purchase a driver, you are charged $30 plus $11 for shipping and it’s $30 per month from then on. You can upgrade your driver at no extra cost each year and your driver is eligible for upgrade or swap after 90 days of being a member. After a year, the total cost comes to $371 with shipping, which sounds a lot nicer than the $500 that it would cost to purchase, as an example, a Titleist TS3 with a Project X Evenflow T1100 today.

The major complaint most people would have is that you still don’t own the driver after that year, but as someone with a closet full of old golf clubs that diminish in value every day, which I have no realistic plans to sell, that doesn’t sound like a problem to me or my wife, who asks me almost weekly when I plan on thinning out my collection.

The model sounds like an obvious win for customers to me, and quite frankly, if you’re skeptical, then it’s probably just simply not for you. I contacted the team at the Dollar Driver Club to get some questions answered. Primarily, I want to know, what’s the catch?

I spoke with a Kevin Kirakossian, a Division I golfer who graduated from the University of Texas-Pan American in 2013 and has spent virtually his entire young career working on the business side of golf, most recently with Nike Golf’s marketing team prior to joining Tyler at Dollar Driver Club. Here’s what he had to say about his company.

At risk to the detriment of our conversation, I have to find out first and foremost, what’s the catch?

K: There’s no catch. We’re all golfers and we want to offer a service that benefits all of our members. We got tired of the upfront cost of drivers. We’re trying to grow the game. Prior to us, there was no way to buy new golf clubs without paying full price. We take a lot of pride that players of all skill level, not just tour pros or people with the extra budget to drop that kind of money every year, can have access to the latest equipment.

With that question out of the way, I delved into the specifics of the brand and model, but I maintained a skeptical edge, keeping an ear out for anything that I could find that would seem too good to be true.

How closely do you keep an eye on manufacturers and their pricing? It would seem that your service is more enticing as prices increase in equipment.

K: The manufacturers are free to create their own pricing. We work closely with manufacturers and have a great relationship with them. As prices increase, it helps us, even if they decrease, I still think it’s a no-brainer to use our service, purely for the fact that new equipment comes out every year. You don’t have a high upfront cost. You’re not stuck with the same driver for a year. It gives you flexibility and freedom to play the newest driver. If a manufacturer wants to get into the same business, we have the advantage of offering all brands. We’re a premium subscription brand, so we’re willing to offer services that other retailers aren’t. We’ll do shaft swaps, we’ll send heads only, we have fast shipping and delivery times. We’re really a one-stop shop for all brands.

What measures do you take to offer the most up to date equipment?

K: We will always have the newest products on the actual launch date. We take pride in offering the equipment right away. A lot of times, our members will receive their clubs on release day. We order direct from the manufacturers and keep inventory. There’s no drop shipping. We prefer shipping ourselves and being able to add a personal package.

The service is uniquely personal. Their drivers come with a ball marker stamped with your initials as well as a stylish valuables pouch. They also provide a hand signed welcome letter and some stickers.

Who makes up the team at Dollar Driver Club?

K: We’re a small team. We started accepting members to our service in 2018 and it has grown exponentially. We have four or five guys here and it’s all hands on deck. We handle customer inquiries and sending drivers out. It’s a small business nature that we want to grow a lot bigger.

When discussing the company, you have to concede that the model doesn’t appeal to everyone, especially traditionalists. There are golfers who have absolutely no problem spending whatever retailers are charging for their newest wares. There are also golfers who have no problem playing equipment with grips that haven’t been changed in years, much less worrying about buying new equipment. I wanted to know exactly who they’re targeting.

Who is your target demographic?

K: We want all golfers. We want any golfer with any income, any skill level, to be able to play the newest equipment. We want to reshape the way people think about obtaining golf equipment. We’re starting with drivers, but we’re looking into expanding into putters, wedges, and other woods. We’ve heard manufacturers keep an eye on us. There are going to be people who just want to pay that upfront cost so they can own it, but those people may be looking at it on the surface and they don’t see the other benefits. We’re also a service that offers shaft swaps and easily send in your driver after 3 months if you don’t like it.

At this point, it didn’t seem like my quest to find any drawbacks to the service was going well. However, any good business identifies threats to their model and I was really only able to think of one. They do require a photo ID to start your account, but there’s no credit check required like you may see from other ‘buy now, pay later’ programs. That sounds ripe for schemers that we see all the time on websites like eBay and Craigslist.

When you’re sending out a $500 piece of equipment and only taking $41 up front, you’re assuming some risk. How much do you rely on the integrity of golfers who use your service to keep everything running smoothly?

K: We do rely on the integrity of the golf community. When we send out a driver, we believe it’s going into the hands of a golfer. By collecting the ID, we have measures on our end that we can use in the event that the driver goes missing or an account goes delinquent, but we’re always going to side with our members.

The conversation I had with Kevin really opened my eyes to the fact that Dollar Driver Club is exactly what the company says it is. They want to grow and become a staple means of obtaining golf equipment in the current and future market. Kevin was very transparent that the idea is simple, they’re just the ones actually executing it. He acknowledged the importance of social media and how they will harness the power of applications like Instagram to reach new audiences.

Kevin was also adamant that even if you prefer owning your own driver and don’t mind the upfront cost, the flexibility to customize your driver cheaply with a plethora of high-quality shafts is what really makes it worth trying out their service. If for whatever reason, you don’t like their service, you can cancel the subscription and return the driver after 90 days, which means that you can play the newest driver for three months at a cost of $90.

In my personal opinion, I think there’s a huge growth opportunity for a service like this. The idea of playing the newest equipment and being able to tinker with it pretty much at-will really speaks to me. If you’re willing to spend $15 a month on Netflix to re-watch The Office for the 12th time in a row or $35 a month for a Barkbox subscription for your dog, it may be worth doing something nice for your golf bag.

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