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Opinion & Analysis

Robber dressed as golfer hits Baltusrol, other courses



Here’s a news item from the “truth is stranger than fiction ” file: A thief, dressed as a golfer, infiltrated several clubs along the east coast, making off with credit cards and cash pilfered from unlocked lockers.

As was reported by CBS2 New York’s Tracee Carrasco, the polo-clad bandit was seen posing as a member at none other than the prestigious Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey.

The man, identified by police as Oscar Cabrera, clad in golf attire (complete with spikes and a glove) wasn’t filling out a foursome. Rather, he was filling up his pockets with the contents of members’ lockers.

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According to Springfield Police Det. James Mirabile, the suspect in question “Would enter the club and look for the best way to get to the locker room.”

Let’s stop right here.

As someone who has worked in private clubs (bag rooms, locker rooms, pro shops), I can’t help but ask, “At what percentage of private clubs in America would this rouse work?”

Perhaps, it should be the opposite. However, in my experience, the default assumption at a private club is that if an individual is on the premises, he or she is supposed to be there. I can’t count the number of times a dubious looking character has asked for directions to the shop or locker room. And there’s nothing more awkward than asking, “Sir, who are you/what are you doing here?” So, club staff seem to hope/assume that the character in question is someone’s guest.

At clubs with several hundred or more members, people in polos and slacks wander about unquestioned, with the operative assumption being that if the staff doesn’t recognize and individual, he or she must be a social member. What’s the alternative in a situation where it’s impossible to know everyone? Asking for some form of identification? A secret handshake or password?

The frightening thing about this scheme is the number of clubs where it could work.

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The robber made off with credit cards taken from open lockers. Then, with his accomplice, he went to a Target store to buy gift cards with the stolen credit cards. The bandits run came to an end on July 20 when, at Canoe Brook County Club in Short Hills, N.J., Cabrera was identified by employees based on a police sketch.

Predictably, it’s thought that the two are responsible for a string of robberies throughout eastern states.

As I said earlier, it’s not surprising to me that an individual dressed in golf attire was pointed in the direction of the locker room without having to prove that he was a guest — especially when he’s gone so far as to don a golf glove for the robbery. It’s more surprising that he was able to walk around Baltusrol with his shirt untucked and a hat on his head indoors, which is sort of an absurd point: It’s unlikely that a member would say, “Who are you?” to the offending party. However, a gentle reminder to remove one’s hat wouldn’t have been uncommon.

What’s the lesson in this bizarre series of heists?

Well, for club staff, make sure you know why all parties are on the premises. Have a line prepared for such situations (“I’m sorry, I don’t remember your name sir…” type of stuff). It’s better to deal with the awkwardness of the aforementioned encounter than the encounter with your boss when he asks  why you directed a thief to the locker room.

More importantly, though, this final note for members: They’re not called “unlockers.” Keep your lockers locked! If Baltusrol can get looted, so too can your club.

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  1. old school harry

    Aug 20, 2013 at 11:23 pm

    Sorry, Collier County Sheriffs. Good ole auto spell.

  2. steven

    Aug 14, 2013 at 8:31 am

    I played Baltusrol last Thursday and the security was beefed up, I didnt know about this incident until I read about it yesterday, makes sense now, I was thinking to myself, I am in Alcatraz. I am willing to bet, this wont happen, again

  3. KCCO

    Aug 13, 2013 at 7:12 pm

    Maybe a tiny iD tag for our belt? Or hat for those who wear? I dunno….just heard same story one to many times…as for bags stolen, leave ur iPhone in it on “find my phone” like a GPS for your bag……

  4. heardetal

    Aug 11, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    I don’t leave my bag at the drop or unattended at the turn. If I, or my buddies need to go in at the turn, one of us stays behind until one of them returns.

  5. Jon

    Aug 11, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Its easy to get into most private clubs, most of the guards don’t have any idea whats going on at the club. I have used “I have a tournament here or I was looking for a job or have an interview” to get into some clubs. I am not like the guy in the story I do not go into the clubhouse, I just like seeing some really nice, world famous country clubs.

  6. Courtney

    Aug 11, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    Boltusrol isn’t a local muni where you just drive to the parking lot. How did this guy get through the gate and onto the property ? They don’t just wave everybody in. Once these guys were inside, the staff would (and should) have assumed that they were guests and were to be treated as such.

    Similar to Jericho, we had a run of putter thefts at public courses back when Cameron putters were 4 to 10 times what most putters cost. Someone would leave their bag unattended and a thief would just pluck it out of the bag and disappear.

  7. Ty Webb

    Aug 11, 2013 at 9:22 am

    This happened at my club twice here in the SW coast of FL. The club was very exclusive, in line with Balturol for a FL club. The thieves hit several clubs in the area, don’t know if they were ever caught.

    As the economy and society continues to deteriorate crime will continue to rise.

  8. Bob

    Aug 11, 2013 at 7:13 am

    Also, don’t the exclusive clubs suggest/require that you remove your hat indoors?

  9. zack

    Aug 11, 2013 at 3:47 am

    very cunning…

  10. Jericho

    Aug 10, 2013 at 11:30 pm

    if I were a bad guy, golf courses would be my marks..where else do you know where everyone leaves there $2,000 wallets laying around… really all you need is 5 golf hats and some atire.. yes see a nice Titleist bag ..throw on the o’l Titleist hat and go pick out yourself a nice looking back.. I never take my eyes off my bag, I even take mine in the restroom and put it in the corner..ya hear to many stories .. .. at my local range a guy was showing of his $20,000 Honma driver .. then left his bag alone and went and used the restroom.. guess what happened.. your whole life is in that bag ..wallet, phone, clubs, clothing and so forth, why would you ever take your eyes off it

  11. george

    Aug 10, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    gotcha !

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Opinion & Analysis

The differences between good and bad club fitters—and they’re not what you think



Club fitting is still a highly debated topic, with many golfers continuing to believe they’re just not good enough to be fit. That couldn’t be further from the truth, but it’s a topic for another day.

Once you have decided to invest in your game and equipment, however, the next step is figuring out where to get fit, and working with a fitter.  You see, unlike professionals in other industries, club fitting “certification” is still a little like the wild west. While there are certification courses and lesson modules from OEMs on how to fit their specific equipment, from company to company, there is still some slight variance in philosophy.

Then there are agnostic fitting facilities that work with a curated equipment matrix from a number of manufacturers. Some have multiple locations all over the country and others might only have a few smaller centralized locations in a particular city. In some cases, you might even be able to find single-person operations.

So how do you separate the good from the bad? This is the million-dollar question for golfers looking to get fit. Unless you have experience going through a fitting before or have a base knowledge about fitting, it can feel like an intimidating process. This guide is built to help you ask the right questions and pay attention to the right things to make sure you are getting the most out of your fitting.

The signs of a great fitter

  • Launch monitor experience: Having some type of launch monitor certification isn’t a requirement but being able to properly understand the interpret parameters is! A good fitter should be able to explain the parameters they are using to help get the right clubs and understand how to tweak specs to help you get optimized. The exact labeling may vary depending on the type of launch monitor but they all mostly provide the same information….Here is an example of what a fitter should be looking for in an iron fitting: “The most important parameter in an iron fitting” 
  • Communication skills: Being able to explain why and how changes are being made is a telltale sign your fitter is knowledgeable—it should feel like you are learning something along the way. Remember, communication is a two-way street so also being a good listener is another sign your working with a good fitter.
  • Transparency: This involves things like talking about price, budgets, any brand preferences from the start. This prevents getting handed something out of your price range and wasting swings during your fit.
  • A focus on better: Whether it be hitting it further and straighter with your driver or hitting more greens, the fitting should be goal-orientated. This means looking at all kinds of variables to make sure what you are getting is actually better than your current clubs. Having a driver you hit 10 yards farther isn’t helpful if you don’t know where it’s going….A great fitter that knows their stuff should quickly be able to narrow down potential options to 4-5 and then work towards optimizing from there.
  • Honesty and respect: These are so obvious, I shouldn’t even have to put it on the list. I want to see these traits from anybody in a sales position when working with customers that are looking to them for knowledge and information…If you as the golfer is only seeing marginal gains from a new product or an upgrade option, you should be told that and given the proper information to make an informed decision. The great fitters, and I’ve worked with a lot of them, will be quick to tell a golfer, “I don’t think we’re going to beat (X) club today, maybe we should look at another part of your bag where you struggle.” This kind of interaction builds trust and in the end results in happy golfers and respected fitters.

The signs of a bad fitter

  • Pushing an agenda: This can come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Whether it be a particular affinity towards certain brands of clubs or even shafts. If you talk to players that have all been to the same fitter and their swings and skill levels vary yet the clubs or brands of shafts they end up with (from a brand agnostic facility) seem to be eerily similar it might be time to ask questions.
  • Poor communications: As you are going through the fitting process and warming up you should feel like you’re being interviewed as a way to collect data and help solve problems in your game. This process helps create a baseline of information for your fitter. If you are not experiencing that, or your fitter isn’t explaining or answering your questions directly, then there is a serious communication problem, or it could show lack of knowledge depth when it comes to their ability.
  • Lack of transparency: If you feel like you’re not getting answers to straightforward questions or a fitter tells you “not to worry about it” then that is a big no-no from me.
    Side note: It is my opinion that golfers should pay for fittings, and in a way consider it a knowledge-gathering session. Of course, the end goal for the golfer is to find newer better fitting clubs, and for the fitter to sell you them (let’s be real here), but you should never feel the information is not being shared openly.
  • Pressure sales tactics: It exists in every industry, I get it, but if you pay for your fitting you are paying for information, use it to your advantage. You shouldn’t feel pressured to buy, and it’s always OK to seek out a knowledgeable second opinion (knowledgeable being a very key word in that sentence!).  If you are getting the hard sell or any combination of the traits above, there is a good chance you’re not working with the right fitter for you.

Final thoughts

Great fitters with great reputations and proper knowledge have long lists, even waiting lists, of golfers waiting to see them. The biggest sign of a great fitter is a long list of repeat customers.

Golf is a game that can be played for an entire lifetime, and just like with teachers and swing coaches, the good ones are in it for the long haul to help you play better and build a rapport—not just sell you the latest and greatest (although we all like new toys—myself included) because they can make a few bucks.

Trust your gut, and ask questions!


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TG2: TaylorMade P7MB & P7MC Review | Oban CT-115 & CT-125 Steel Shafts



Took the new TaylorMade P-7MB and P-7MC irons out on the course and the range. The new P-7MB and P-7MC are really solid forged irons for the skilled iron players. Great soft feel on both, MB flies really low, and the MC is more mid/low launch. Oban’s CT 115 & 125 steel shafts are some of the most consistent out there. Stout but smooth feel with no harsh vibration at impact.

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

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Improve your transition for better wedge play



In my opinion, one of the most misunderstood areas of the golf swing is the transition from backswing to downswing, but I don’t read much on this in the golf publications. So, here’s my take on the subject.

Whether it’s a short putt, chip or pitch, half wedge, full iron or driver swing, there is a point where the club’s motion in the backswing has to come to a complete stop–even if for just a nano-second–and reverse direction into the forward swing. What makes this even more difficult is that it is not just the club that is stopping and reversing direction, but on all but putts, the entire body from the feet up through the body core, shoulders, arms and hands.

In my observation, most golfers have a transition that is much too quick and jerky, as they are apparently in a hurry to generate clubhead speed into the downswing and through impact. But, just as you (hopefully) begin your backswing with a slow take-away from the ball, a proper start to the downswing is also a slower move, starting from this complete stop and building to maximum clubhead speed just past impact. If you will work on your transition, your ball striking and distance will improve, as will your accuracy on your short shots and putts. Let’s start there.

In your wedge play, your primary objective is to apply just the exact amount of force to propel the ball the desired distance. In order to do that, it makes sense to move the club slower, as that allows more precision. I like to think of the pendulum on a grandfather clock as a great guide to tempo and transition. As the weight goes back and forth, it comes to a complete stop at each end, and achieves maximum speed at the exact bottom of the arc. If you put that picture in your head when you chip and putt, you will develop a tempo that encourages a smooth transition at the end of the backswing.

The idea is to achieve a gradual acceleration from the end of the backswing to the point of impact, but for most golfers, this type of swing is likely much slower than yours is currently. I encourage you to not be in a hurry to force this acceleration, as that causes a quick jab with the hands, because the shoulder rotation and slight body rotation cannot move that quickly from its end-of-backswing rotation.

Here’s a drill to help you picture this kind of swing pace. Drawing on that grandfather clock visual, hold your wedge at the very end of the grip with two fingers, and get it moving like the clock pendulum–back and through. Watch the tempo and transition for a few moments, and then try to mimic that with your short or half swing tempo. No faster, no slower. You can even change how far you pull the club up to start this motion to see what happens to the pendulum tempo on longer swings.

An even better exercise is to have a friend hold a club in this manner right in front of you while you are practicing your chipping or pitching swing and try to “shadow” that motion with your swings. You will likely find that your transition is much too fast and jerky to give you the results you are after.

If you will practice this, I can practically guarantee your short-range transition will become really solid and repeatable. From there, it’s just a matter of extending the length of the swing to mid-range pitches, full short irons, mid-irons, fairway woods, and driver–all while feeling for that gradual transition that makes for great timing, sequencing, and tempo.

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