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12 Things You Don’t Know About The Mini Tours

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Many people think playing professional golf at any level is glamorous, but I can tell you after more than four years of professional golf that’s often not the case. Don’t get me wrong. I had a lot of fun and learned a lot on the mini tours, but the life of a mini tour player barely resembles that of a PGA Tour player.

I believe it was Lee Janzen who said, “If you haven’t slept in your car then you’re not a professional golfer.” Lee might have a point, but my back and neck would disagree the next day. Mini tour players have to do what they’ve got to do to make ends meet, but low scores normally allow them to get them a hotel room. Maybe that’s why I don’t play anymore… that score thing kind of matters.

What I do know is that most recreational golfers and even some top-level amateurs don’t know a lot about the life of a mini tour player and what it takes to play golf for a living. Here’s 12 things you should know.

No. 12: Tour Players

Tour Players

The next time you look at a PGA tour leaderboard, remember most of them started their professional golf career on the mini tours. Here is a short list of players who have won on the PGA Tour and played on the NGA Hooters Tour: Keegan Bradley, Zach Johnson, Stewart Cink, Jim Furyk, Ben Curtis, Lee Janzen, Shaun Micheel, John Daly, Tom Lehman, Lucas Glover, Craig Perks, David Toms, Gary Woodland, Camilo Villegas, Mark Wilson and Bubba Watson.

No. 11: Driving

Driving

The mini tour player’s vehicle is their predominant mode of transportation. Driving for 8-to-10 hours between tournaments or Monday qualifiers is nothing new. Your vehicle will even double as your bed on some nights. One time I had to sleep in the back of my two-door Honda Civic in a hotel parking lot in Iowa because all the hotels were sold out. I guess the state fair was going on and there was a big flood in Iowa. It was in July, so it was really humid and hot. I was awakened by some people making out on the hood of my car at 3 a.m.

No. 10: Pro Ams

Pro Ams

Some mini tour events will have a pro-am the day before the tournament starts where players play in the same group with four amateurs. This is a great opportunity to see the course one last time before the tournament starts and have a fun time with your playing partners. The playing ability of your amateur partners might not be extremely high, so always be ready to give some pointers and duck. There was an amateur in my group who shanked the ball off the toe of his driver into the tee marker. If you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did. The next person reverse shanked the ball off his driver between his legs and hit the other tee marker. I don’t know what’s more impressive: the winner shooting 25-under that week or those two shots in a row.

No. 9: The Off-Season

Off Season

Mini tour tournaments are held year-round in Florida, Arizona and Southern California for players to tee it up. A large percentage of players work in the off-season at golf courses in some capacity, either as a caddy or in the bag room or pro shop to make ends meet.

No. 8: Accommodations

Hotel

How cheap can you get the room and how many people can you fit in the room to split the bill? These are two common questions you will hear. Players will use websites like Kayak and Priceline to find the best room rate for the week. The whole goal is to keep costs down so you can play in more tournaments throughout the year. Another option is host housing, which is where a family will host a player for the week in their house for free. These are some of the nicest people you will ever meet and you’ll call them friends for the rest of your life.

No. 7: Sponsors

Sponsor

You don’t see big corporate sponsors on any players’ bags on the mini tours. There are a few options of how players typically afford a season playing professional golf. They fund it themselves, their family helps them or they have a group of investors/backers that put up the money. Former mini tour legend Zach Johnson had help from a group of members from his home course growing up help him play on the Hooters Tour.

No. 6: Cinnamon Rolls

Rolls

I’m talking about the cinnamon rolls at the Holiday Inn continental breakfast and they’re delicious. Here’s the deal, though: mini tour players normally stay at the Motel 8 or Quality Inn across the street for half the price, then casually walk across the street to enjoy a nice warm cinnamon roll. Sorry, Holiday Inn.

No. 5: Big Cities

Big City

Oh yeah, mini tour players tee it up in big cities all the time like Miami, Okla., Morganton, NC and Hawkinsville, Ga. But, you know what? Those small towns and the people who welcome the players with open arms are what make the tournament special. If it weren’t for them there wouldn’t be such a thing as mini tours.

No. 4: Equipment

Equipment

Receiving equipment varies from player to player between each club manufacturer. The majority of players order equipment at a discount price, while others receive it for free. The players who receive free equipment normally have some kind deal where they’re required to carry a certain number of clubs.

No. 3: Caddies

Caddy

Did you say caddy? No thanks, I will carry my clubs so I can eat dinner each night of the week. Around 90 percent of players carry their clubs using a carry bag or use a pushcart if the tournament allows. If a player does have a caddy for the week, it’s normally a relative or friend.

No. 2: Entry Fees

Entry Fees

The entry fees vary based on the tournament and tour you play, but range from $700-to-$1,000 per tournament. Most tours have a membership fee you have to pay at the beginning of the year, which is normally between $1,500 and $2,200.

No. 1: These Guys Are Good

These Guys are Good

You’ve probably seen the commercials from the PGA Tour with players like Bubba Watson and Bill Haas saying, “These guys are good.” Here’s the thing: players on the mini tours could be included in those commercial. Did you know the winning score each week is between 15 and 25-under par? That’s with pin locations three steps from the edge or next to a huge slope of every green.

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Josh is a retired professional golfer who won the Hooters Tour Touchstone Energy Open at age 21. He has played competitive golf all across the U.S. and holds four courses records. He now has his amateur status back, and works at a digital marketing agency in NYC. Josh is also the Co-Founder of My Golf Tutor, an online golf instructional website.

45 Comments

45 Comments

  1. Scott

    Apr 2, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    This is great insight!! Thanks Josh. It’s great to see these players pursuing their dreams. I hope we hear more about life and events on the mini-tours.

  2. joselo

    Apr 2, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    wow! didnt know must of the things here, impressive

  3. Matt

    Apr 2, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    I worked at Echo Farms in Wilmington, NC when a Hooters Tour event came through. Those guys are good. REALLY good. There were a couple of range rats in that group. Get up early and hit balls until they tee up in the afternoon or play in the morning and hit balls till dark. It helped me understand what it was gonna take to make it. That and the one guy that showed up in a 1972 Winnebago that his grandparents had given him. It was nearly worn out but it made life a little easier for the guy and his wife. All they asked us for was a place to plug in and get water. I can’t remember what the winning score was but the winner had won the week before in Myrtle Beach.

  4. FraBreezy

    Apr 2, 2014 at 11:59 am

    “I was awakened by some people making out on the hood of my car at 3 a.m.”

    Well, yeah. All the hotel rooms were sold out.

  5. James

    Apr 2, 2014 at 11:28 am

    There used to be a NGA Hooters Tour event held at my home club but when they lost the sponsor the tournament left too. Mostly it was young guys fresh out of college or even high school with the goal of making the PGA Tour. The course was always set up difficult and these players blistered it. The last year it was held the winner came in at -22. Was a great event and yes those guys are good.

  6. Jeff Pelizzaro

    Apr 1, 2014 at 10:30 pm

    Josh, I work with a few guys that are trying to make it on some of these tours and I would have to say that the general public doesn’t realize how hard some of them are working and how slim the margins are. While the life of a golf pro sounds pretty luxurious, I think you’re article sheds some light on the fact that it’s not all glitz and glamour like we see on the TV on Sundays.

    These guys are grinding it out week after week, shelling out cash hoping to make some of it back. I know a few of the other readers above eluded to the fact that these are all privileged kids floating on their parents bucks, but I think you and I both know that’s not the case for all of them.

    And I don’t know about the rest of the readers, but I don’t know how well I would handle that much stress week after week, not knowing if this gamble of a career path is going to pan out or not as you stand over a 4ft. putt.

    • Nagar

      Apr 9, 2014 at 7:34 am

      Have a friend who played on the Troppo Tour hear in Australia. In the late 80’s. He said it was the best time of his life. Frienships and competition was great. He said though it was extremely cut throat. 2 Missed puts inside feet said would take you from 8th to 33rd in 2 holes. Love hearing his stories.

  7. andy

    Apr 1, 2014 at 8:09 pm

    Spot on article! As a former professional who played for 8 years after college it is difficult. Don’t forget to mention PGA Qschool entry, and travel expenses! 5k entry, then caddie and travel expenses. Took me 3 years to pay off all of the debt I accumulated trying to make it! The check I made with a Web.com win (as a caddie) helped pay it off!

  8. Evan

    Apr 1, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    The only golfers I have known that have tried mini tours are college/ young adults who come from upper/ upper middle class families. Who else has $30000 to risk playing one year of small purse tournaments. That money for most people is needed to get an education or start a business, which has a much higher chance of payoff than a golf career. I think the “sleeping in a car” and “sharing hotel rooms” is somewhat misleading as one would think these individuals are poor or are roughing it. The opportunity for someone to be on the road for weeks at a time without working a “real job” is not available for most. How does working a part-time low-paying job in a pro shop pay for your food, rent, car all year? Many adults with full time jobs only make $30000 a year.

    To have individuals sponsor you is also limited to very few as you have to have relationships and ties with people who have thousands of dollars to risk. The chances of these people sponsoring someone who has a successful enough career to repay is very slim.

    Professional golf and the opportunity to attempt professional golf is reserved for only those who have had a privileged upbringing.

    • RG

      Apr 1, 2014 at 11:25 pm

      Well said. This article expresses the rift. Sleeping in a car and splitting hotel bills is not difficult. He thinks he’s had it tough.

    • GJR

      Apr 2, 2014 at 9:27 am

      Evan..it’s a shame you have such a short sided view of this. I hope you are happy in your life and have the courage to chase a dream every now and then. From the sounds of your post, intended or not, you are making some very blanket statements that make you sound like you’re choking on sour grapes because your struggle or someone else you know, was harder. We all make choices in life. Some guys come from normal middle to low middle class upbringing and say ‘screw it, I’m going for it’, no matter if it’s golf, minor league baseball, or starting a lawn care company. You come across with the attitude that only those with money in the bank can do things like this or get ahead. I hope that’s not what you meant. If it is, please, educate yourself. In more ways that just a degree. Good luck to you Evan. I sincerely mean that.

      • DRHolmes

        Apr 2, 2014 at 11:38 am

        I think you missed Evan’s point completely.

        Guys dont just say “I’m going for it” and then have $30,000 magically appear in their bank account. Golfers from lower class upbringings dont just say “I’m going for it” and the tournaments agree to let them compete for free. Guys find the money somewhere. But to fully pay for all of your life expenses as well as your tournament fees/expenses I cant imagine there are any guys at all that are doing that working the low wages they would in a golf shop in the off season.

        I know a couple of guys who have played mini tours for a season or two that worked at my local range in the winter. Those guys work ridiculously long hours for next to nothing, I’d be surprised if their work-wages covered their car payments and rent. Both of them had to have a group of sponsors footing the bill for their tournament fees. The math just doesnt add up, you cant work for a few months at minimum wage and save enough money to pay $1,500+/week in expenses during the golf season.

        • Daniel V

          Apr 2, 2014 at 12:36 pm

          I had the pleasure of having a “mini-tour” player caddie for me at Rio Secco. Man could he hit the ball. He worked several different golf related jobs so he could pursue his dream. He was as blue collar as golf allows.

        • Evan

          Apr 2, 2014 at 2:04 pm

          Thanks DRHolmes,

          I think my original statement was misunderstood. MOST if not ALL, middle to lower class individuals CANNOT even attempt a full year or two of tournament golf. It is not at all like team sports that make sure you at least have your room, meals and travel covered. If you make a minor league baseball team, you are essentially sponsored. Not making a lot of money, but not doing it on your own. They are apples and oranges…

          Most individuals from a middle to lower class family don’t have the support to use all of their part time money for travel and golf. My parents would have laughed me out of the house if I said I was going to take two year and all of my earnings to play a mini tour. How far behind in life does that put you? Unless of course your family can absorb a couple of fruitless years.

          This reminds me of a economic study on Minor League sports, baseball in particular. Chasing a dream too long and risking too much to become a pro athlete is usually disastrous. For every one who makes it, there are a thousand who have really damaged their adult lives.

      • Evan

        Apr 2, 2014 at 2:21 pm

        Yes, I am making a general statement. Your similarity between starting a local business (lawn company) and joining a mini tour are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Your return and chance of long term success with the lawn company are much greater than a pro golf life.

        Many people who come from middle to lower class families only get a chance or two to make something of themselves. If I took a couple years and $20k to $50k I might not ever fully recover from that sacrifice.

        Considering your response to what I wrote, I think you should educate yourself. Their have been studies on the risks and effects of chasing a dream in minor league sports. This is not only my own experience as someone who comes from a lower middle-class family, but as someone who has studied the risk and reward of playing pro sports.

    • benseattle

      Apr 2, 2014 at 6:31 pm

      This comment is perhaps the most off-base, most ill-informed piece of nonsense I’ve ever read. The stories of professional golfers (both on the PGA Tour level and the mini-tours) who come from humble beginners are legion. For every surgeon-father Charles Howell III, there are a dozen who scrape and work just for the opportunity to play golf. Even Phil Mickelson used to drive the range cart at the old Stardust in San Diego just to be able to hit balls.) What… you’re saying that Tiger Woods came from a “privileged” background? Just what do think the U.S. Army pays, anyway? Why not do a little research next time rather than simply display your ignorance?

      • Evan

        Apr 3, 2014 at 10:33 am

        Once again, you might want to do your homework… Earl Woods was an officer in the Army, a LT Col to be exact… 0-5 pay grade. Which is very good, especially in the era he grew up in. Yes, it’s not trust fund or CEO money… but by military standards, he was white collar. Pro Golf is a full-time sacrifice and career these days. Back in the Jones/ Hogan era, many of these men had jobs and lives away from golf, the tour wasn’t as demanding. I understand that everyone’s definition of “wealthy” or “well off” is different, especially in the golf community. If your household income is under $50000 a year (which much of the population is), you most likely will not have the opportunity to give pro golf a legitimate run, let’s say 2 years on mini tours.

        • Evan

          Apr 3, 2014 at 10:39 am

          Phil grew up in San Diego CA (one of the most expensive places in the country). His father was an airline pilot and naval aviator… I pity that he had to work part time at a golf course. BTW, Earl Woods was also a defense contractor after his Army officer career. I think you need to educate yourself… the examples you gave are completely contrary to the point you’re trying to make.

  9. Sean

    Apr 1, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    All you guys are great ball strikers. What separates the mini-tour players from let’s say the Web.com, or the PGA Tour?

    Thank you,

    Sean

    • Josh Thompson

      Apr 1, 2014 at 5:00 pm

      Hi Sean! I would say the putts gained stat you would see a slight difference. Every year there are a numerous mini tour players that go on to play the PGA and Web.com Tour. Thanks for the question and have a good one 🙂

  10. L

    Apr 1, 2014 at 11:41 am

    You forgot to mention how you could end up being real smelly for not taking a shower for a few days while you slept in the car!

  11. Golfraven

    Apr 1, 2014 at 7:13 am

    assuming you make the cut, how high on the leaderboard do you need to be on Sunday evening to at least cover your expenses for the week – entry, stay, food? Cheers

    • Josh Thompson

      Apr 1, 2014 at 10:14 am

      Hi Golfraven, it all depends on the entry fee, purse and your expenses for the week. Some tournaments you need to finish higher because the purse is small.

  12. Alex

    Apr 1, 2014 at 12:37 am

    Would be really interesting to know how the details work out.

    How do you get host families? Do the tournaments arrange it? Do you get any perks while at the courses, like meals? What about the equipment deals? Do they have tee up money on the mini tours like they do on the bigger ones? What about lessons and coaches? Do people get free lessons? Do they pay a reduced rate, etc?

    Really wondering how people can afford to play golf, afford the fees, the practice, the equipment and travel earning so little prize money.

    How much do you need to have set aside to start out?

    • Josh Thompson

      Apr 1, 2014 at 10:11 am

      Some great suggestions–Thanks Alex!

    • Richard L Cox III

      Apr 1, 2014 at 12:06 pm

      Alex,

      As a former hack pro myself I can answer each of your questions with 90% certainty.

      How do you get host families?
      *They’re only offered at some events.

      Do the tournaments arrange it?
      *They tell you it’s available. You either say, “I want in,” or not.

      Do you get any perks while at the courses, like meals?
      *You’re lucky to get a discounted practice round unless you’re playing a Hooters’ event.

      What about the equipment deals?
      *Josh has a great explanation here, but ‘equipment deals’ on mini-tours basically amount to getting free balls, hats, and gloves mailed to you every couple of months or a set of wedges if you made the cut last week.

      Do they have tee up money on the mini tours like they do on the bigger ones?
      *No. Not even close.

      What about lessons and coaches?
      *It’s player specific, but 90% of the guys have regular instructors, etc.

      Do people get free lessons? Do they pay a reduced rate, etc?
      *No. No. No.- not even Philly Mick gets free lessons.

      Really wondering how people can afford to play golf, afford the fees, the practice, the equipment and travel earning so little prize money.
      *You sir, have just figured out why playing mini-tours can drive a person to drink.

      How much do you need to have set aside to start out?
      *I’d say $30,000 would last you one year.

  13. terry

    Mar 31, 2014 at 11:27 pm

    I always loved the Waterloo Open in Iowa. I didn’t have a caddy one year. Some guy volunteered to carry my bag and refused payment at the end of the round. Had a beer with him and called it a night…not before I hit up Shag Nastys

  14. Kelly

    Mar 31, 2014 at 10:09 pm

    Nice article. I live in Morganton, NC and am a member at Mimosa Hills.

  15. Mat

    Mar 31, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    Great article, Josh. I can’t imagine…

    Maybe your next article can be about how to best interact and become involved… be better advocates. For example, how do you get to play in a pro-am? Should you tip your player?

    I always wondered if it was ethical for guys to sell “shares” of their career winnings for an investment… e.g., I pay $1,000 into a player for 0.2% of his winnings for 6 years, or something like that. I would imagine that there are a lot of guys who would take a chance on a guy if for nothing beyond the same thinking as fantasy football.

  16. Paul Kaster

    Mar 31, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    Nice job Josh! I have lots of great memories of my time playing minis but it’s definitely tough. Well worth trying for anyone who thinks they may have what it takes. Best of luck!

  17. Don

    Mar 31, 2014 at 8:46 pm

    Great article man! I wish the PGA and the big golf companies would pour more money into these mini tours. This is a great way to grow the game. I personally pull for the mini tour turned big time pros like Zach Johnson. Who by the way is one of the top five players on tour right now. “What an incredible Cinderella story”

    • Josh Thompson

      Mar 31, 2014 at 8:51 pm

      Thanks! I know what you mean Don. The tour now runs the Canadian and Latin America Tours – so who knows whats next.

    • Nagar

      Apr 9, 2014 at 7:42 am

      What an incwedable Cindawella Story. Ha Ha. Remember the Super in Caddy Shack had a r lisp!

  18. Gary

    Mar 31, 2014 at 8:22 pm

    That Hooters girl second from the left is gorgeous!

  19. Derrick

    Mar 31, 2014 at 8:14 pm

    Saw you mentioned Morganton, NC. Did you play at Mimosa Hills? One of my all time favs.

  20. Curt

    Mar 31, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    Great insight Josh, thanks for sharing! Good luck to you!

  21. Adam

    Mar 31, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    Great stuff man, cool to hear what those guys go through and prepare myself if i ever get a chance to play pro.

    • Josh Thompson

      Mar 31, 2014 at 7:36 pm

      Thanks Adam! Hope to provide more insights of the tour life to the Golf WRX community. Any thing you want to hear about in particular in future articles? Have a good one.

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Honda Classic

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It’s off to Florida this week for the Honda Classic, as the lead up to the year’s first major continues. PGA National has been the permanent home of this event since 2007, and it has proved to be one of the most demanding courses on Tour since then. The golf course measures just under 7,200 yards, but it is the often blustery conditions combined with the copious amount of water hazards that make this event a challenge. There is also the added factor of “The Bear Trap,” a daunting stretch of holes (Nos. 15-17) that are arguably the most difficult run of holes we will see all year on the PGA Tour.

Ball strikers have excelled here in the past, with Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy all boasting fine records at PGA National. The par-70 golf course contains six long Par 4’s that measure over 450 yards, and players will be hoping that the wind isn’t too strong — when it does blow here, the course can turn into a brute. Last year, Rickie Fowler posted 12-under par to win the event by four strokes over Morgan Hoffmann and Gary Woodland. It was the first time in the last five years that the winning score reached double digits.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Rickie Fowler 8/1
  • Rory McIlroy 10/1
  • Justin Thomas 11/1
  • Sergio Garcia 18/1
  • Tyrrell Hatton 28/1
  • Tommy Fleetwood 30/1
  • Gary Woodland 30/1

Previous champions Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy are sure to be popular picks this week, but it’s Justin Thomas (11/1, DK Price $11,300) who I feel offers slightly more value out of the front runners. Thomas has begun the year well, finishing in the top-25 in all four events he has played. The numbers show that his game is getting better all the time. His iron play has steadily improved, picking up more Strokes for Approaching the Green week by week. Last week he gained six strokes approaching the green at the Genesis Open, which was fourth in the field.

At the ball strikers’ paradise, Thomas fans will be glad to know that he ranks fourth in the field for Ball Striking over his last 12 rounds. He is also ranked fourth for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green and second in Strokes Gained Total. Comparatively, neither Fowler nor McIlroy rank inside the top-50 for ball striking and the top-40 for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green over the same period.

Thomas’ accuracy on his approaches has been sensational lately. He leads the field in Proximity to the Hole for his past 12 rounds, and on a golf course that contains many long par 4’s it should play into Justin’s hands, as he’s been on fire recently with his long irons. He is third in the field for Proximity on Approaches Between 175-200 yards, and second in the field for Approaches Over 200 yards in his last 12 rounds. Thomas has a mixed record at PGA National, with a T3 finish wedged in between two missed cuts, but I like the way his game has been steadily improving as the season has progressed. It feels like it’s time for the current PGA Champion to notch his first win of the year.

On a golf course where ball striking is so important, Chesson Hadley (55/1, DK Price $7,700) caught my eye immediately. The North Carolina native has been in inspired form so far in this wraparound season with four finishes already in the top-5. The way he is currently striking the ball, it wouldn’t be a major surprise to see him get his fifth this week. Hadley is No. 1 in the field for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green, Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green and Ball Striking, while he is No. 2 for Strokes Gained Total over his last 24 rounds.

Having taken last week off, Hadley returns to a golf course where he has finished in the Top-25 twice in his three visits. Yet there is a sense that this year he’ll be aiming even higher than that. Chesson is fifth in this field for Proximity to the Hole from 175-200 yards and fourth overall over the past 24 rounds. With that level of accuracy on such a tricky golf course, Hadley will be confident of putting himself in position to claim win No. 2.

My next pick was a slow sell, but with the number so high I couldn’t leave him out. Adam Scott (55/1, DK Price $7,700) has been struggling for some time now. He has slipped out of the World’s Top-50, changed his putter from the short putter to the long putter and back again over the winter break, and he doesn’t have a top-10 finish on the PGA Tour since the FedEx St. Jude Classic last summer. Despite all of this, I don’t feel Scott should be as high as 66/1 with some bookmakers on a golf course where he has excelled. To put it in perspective, Scott is the same price to win this week in a modest field as he is to win The Masters in April.

There are also signs that Scott blew off some of the rust last week in LA. The Australian was 12th in the field for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green, which indicates that things might slowly be coming around for a man who is known for his prodigious ball striking. Scott’s achilles heel is the flat stick, and I wouldn’t expect that to change this week. He’s been very poor on the greens for some time now, which must be incredibly frustrating for a man who gives himself so many looks at birdie. But average putters have performed well at PGA National in the past, where it seems that excellent ball striking is the key for having a good week. Scott won here in 2016, and on his two other visits to PGA National in the past five years he twice finished in the top-15. If he can continue to improve his iron play the way he has been, I feel he could forge his way into contention.

My long shot this week is Sean O’Hair (200/1, DK Price $6,800). The Texan hasn’t done much so far this year, but he is making cuts and he arrives at a course that seems to bring out the best in him. O’Hair has five top-25 finishes in his last seven appearances at PGA National, which includes a T11 at last year’s edition. At 200/1 and with a DK Price of as little as $6,800, there is little harm in taking a chance on him finding that form once more this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Justin Thomas 11/1, DK Price $11,300
  • Chesson Hadley 55/1, DK Price $7,700
  • Adam Scott 55/1, DK Price $7,700
  • Sean O’Hair 200/1, DK Price $6,800
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Opinion & Analysis

Don’t Leave Your Common Sense in Escrow Outside the Golf Course Parking Lot

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Disclaimer: Much of what follows is going to come off as elitist, harsh and downright mean spirited — a pro looking down from his ivory tower at all the worthless hacks and judging them. It is the opposite. The intent is to show how foolish WE golfers are, chasing around a white ball with a crooked stick and suspending all of the common sense we use in our every day lives.

Much of what follows is not just the bane of average golfers, but also low handicappers, tour players and even a former long-drive champion during his quest for the PGA Tour… and now, the Champions Tour. In other words, if WE take ourselves a bit less seriously and use a bit more common sense, we are going to have more fun and actually hit better golf shots. We will shoot lower scores.

FYI: All of the examples of nutbaggery to come are things I have actually witnessed. They’re not exaggerated for the sake of laughs.

It’s winter time and most of you poor souls are not enjoying the 70-degree temperatures I am in Southern California right now (see, you all hate me already… and it’s going to get worse). That gives us all time to assess our approach to golf. I am not talking course management or better focus; I am talking how WE golfers approach our successes and failures, which for many is more important than the aforementioned issues or the quality of our technique.

Why is it that golf turns normal, intelligent, successful and SANE people into deviant, ignorant failures that exhibit all of the tell-tale signs of insanity? I also forgot profane, whiny, hostile, weak-minded, weak-willed and childish. Not to mention stupid. Why do we seem to leave our common sense and sanity in escrow in a cloud outside the golf course parking lot… only to have it magically return the moment our car leaves the property after imposing extreme mental anguish on ourselves that Gunnery Sergeant Hartman (don’t feel bad if you have to google this) would find extreme?

Smarter people than I have written books on this, but I think they missed a key factor. Clubs, balls, shoes, bags, gloves, tees, the grasses, especially the sand in the bunkers, the Gatorade they sell at the snack bar, hats, visors, over-logoed clothing, golf carts, etc., are all made with human kryptonite. Not enough to kill us, but just enough to make us act like children who didn’t get the latest fad toy for Christmas and react by throwing a hissy fit.

Bob Rotella has said golf is not a game of perfect, and although religious texts say man was made in God’s image, thinking we are perfect is blasphemous. We all play golf like we think there is an equivalent of a bowling 300. We expect to hit every drive 300 yards (the bowling perfect) with a three-yard draw… in the middle of the face… in the dead center of the fairway. All iron shots must be worked from the middle of the green toward the pin and compressed properly with shaft lean, ball-first contact and the perfect dollar-bill sized divot (and not too deep). Shots within 100 yards from any lie should be hit within gimme range, and all putts inside 20 feet must be holed.

We get these ideas from watching the best players in the world late on Sunday, where all of the above seem commonplace. We pay no attention to the fact that we are significantly worse than the guys who shot 76-76 and missed the cut. We still hold ourselves to that ridiculous standard.

  • Group 1: “Monte, you’re exaggerating. No one has those expectations.”
  • Group 2: ”Monte, I’m a type-A personality. I’m very competitive and hard on myself.”

To the first group, the following examples say different. And to the second group, I am one of you. It’s OK for me to want to shoot over 80 percent from the free throw line, but at 50 years old and 40 pounds over weight, what would you say to me if I said, “I’m type-A and competitive and I want to dunk like Lebron James!” Oh yeah, and I want to copy Michael Jordan’s dunking style, Steph Curry’s shooting stroke and Pistol Pete’s passing and dribbling style.” That seems ridiculous, but switch those names to all-time greats in golf and WE have all been guilty of those aspirations.

I don’t know how to answer 18-handicaps who ask me if they should switch to blades so they can work the ball better and in both directions. The blunt a-hole in me wants to tell them, “Dude, just learn to hit the ball on the face somewhere,” but that’s what they read in the golf magazines. You’re supposed to work the ball from the middle of the green toward the pin, like Nicklaus. Well, the ball doesn’t curve as much now as it did in Nicklaus’ prime and most tour players only work the ball one way unless the circumstances don’t allow it. “And you’re not Jack Nicklaus.” Some joke about Jesus and Moses playing golf has that punch line.

Wouldn’t it be easier to get as proficient as possible at one shot when you have limited practice time, versus being less than mediocre on several different shots? This also applies to hitting shots around the greens 27 different ways, but don’t get me started…just buy my short game video. Hyperbole and shameless plug aside, this is a huge mistake average golfers make. They never settle on one way of doing things.

The day the first white TaylorMade adjustable driver was released, I played 9 holes behind a very nice elderly couple. He went to Harvard and she went to Stanford. He gets on the first tee and hits a big push. He walks to the cart, grabs his wrench and closes the club face. She tops her tee shot, gets the wrench and adds some loft. Out of morbid curiosity, I stayed behind them the entire front 9 and watched them adjust their clubs for every mishit shot. It took over 3 hours for a two-some. These are extremely nice, smart and successful people and look what golf did to them. Anyone calling this a rules violation, have a cocktail; you’re talking yourself even more seriously than they were. Old married couple out fooling around, big deal if they broke a rule. No tournament, not playing for money, they’re having fun. They had gimmies, mulligans and winter rules. Good for them.

This is an extreme example of a huge mistake that nearly 100 percent of golfers make; they believe the need for an adjustment after every bad shot… or worse, after every non-perfect shot. How many of you have done this both on the range and on the course?

”(Expletive), pushed that one, need to close the face. (Expletive), hit that one thin, need to hit down more on this one. (Expletive), hooked that one, need to hold off the release.”

I’ll ask people why they do this and the answer is often, “I’m trying to build a repeatable swing.”

Nice. Building repeatable swing by making 40 different swings during a range session or round of golf. That is insane and stupid, but WE have all done it. The lesson learned here is to just try and do better on the next one. You don’t want to make adjustments until you have the same miss several times in a row. As a secondary issue, what are the odds that you do all of the following?

  1.  Diagnose the exact swing fault that caused the bad shot
  2.  Come up with the proper fix
  3.  Implement that fix correctly in the middle of a round of golf with OB, two lakes, eight bunkers and three elephants buried in the green staring you in the face.

Another factor in this same vein, and again, WE have all been guilty of this: “I just had my worst round in three weeks. What I was doing to shoot my career low three times in row isn’t working any more. Where is my Golf Digest? I need a new tip.”

Don’t lie… everyone reading this article has done that. EVERYONE! Improvement in golf is as far from linear as is mathematically possible. I have never heard a golfer chalk a high score up to a “bad day.” It’s always a technique problem, so there is a visceral need to try something different. “It’s not working anymore. I think I need to do the Dustin Johnson left wrist, the Sergio pull-down lag, the Justin Thomas downswing hip turn, the Brooks Koepka restricted-backswing hip turn and the Jordan Spieth and Jamie Sadllowski bent left elbow… with a little Tiger Woods 2000 left-knee snap when I need some extra power.” OK, maybe it’s a small bit of exaggeration that someone would try all of these, but I have heard multiple people regale of putting 2-3 of those moves in after a bad round that didn’t mesh with their downtrending index.

An 8-handicap comes to me for his first lesson. He had shot in the 70’s four of his last five rounds and shot a career best in the last of the five. All of the sudden, those friendly slight mishits that rhyme with the place where we keep our money show up. First a few here and there and then literally every shot. He shows up and shanks 10 wedges in a row and is literally ready to cry. I said, “Go home, take this week off and come back… and what’s your favorite beer?”

He comes back the next week, pulls a club and goes to hit one. I tell him to have a seat. I hand him a beer and we talk football for 15 minutes. Then I pull out my iPad and show him exactly why he is hitting shanks. I tell him one setup issue and one intent change and ask him to go hit one. It was slightly on the heel, but not a shank and very thin. I said to do both changes a bit more. The second one — perfect divot, small draw and on target. I walk over, put my hand up for a high five and say, “Awesome job! Great shot!”

He leaves me hanging and says, ”Yeah, but I hit it in the toe.”

Don’t judge him. Every day I have people with 50-yard slices toned down to 15-20 yards saying the ball is still slicing. These are people who won’t accept a fade, but slam their club when it over draws 15 feet left of the target… and so on. I can’t judge or be angry; I used to be these guys, too. During a one-hour lesson, I often hear people get frustrated with themselves for thin and fat, left and right, heel and toe. Apparently, anything not hunting flags or hit out of a dime-sized area is an epic fail. I also get emails the next day saying the fault and miss is still there.

GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK!

My big miss has always been a big block, often in the heel. Instead, I now often hit a pull in the left fairway bunker out of the toe. I celebrate like I’m Kool & the Gang and it’s 1999… and I get strange looks from everyone. I can manage a 10-15 yard low, slightly drawn pull. I cannot not manage a 40-50 yard in the atmosphere block… that cuts.

So, now that I have described all of US as pathetic, let’s see what we can do.

  1. Be hard on yourself, be competitive and set lofty goals all you want… but you need to accept at least a one-side miss. If you hate hitting thin, weak fades, you need to allow yourself a slightly heavy over draw. Not allowing yourself any miss will make you miss every shot.
  2. Generally, the better the player, the larger the pool of results that are used to judge success. Pros judge themselves over months and years. High-handicappers judge themselves on their previous shot. Do you think pros make a swing change after 10 good shots and one minor miss? We all seem to think that course of action is astute. Bad shot, must have done something wrong… HULK MUST FIX!
  3. Don’t judge your shots on a pass/fail grade. Grade yourself A-F. Are you going to feel better after 10 A’s, 25 B’s, 15 C’s, 4 D’s and 1 F… or 10 passes and 40 fails? If every non-perfect shot is seen as a failure, your subconscious will do something different in order to please you. Again, 40 different swings.
  4. Improving your swing and scores is a lot like losing weight. No one expects to make changes in a diet and exercise routine and lose 20 pounds in one day, yet golfers expect a complete overhaul in a small bucket. Give yourself realistic time frames for improvement. “I’m a 12. By the end of next year, I want to be an 8.”  That’s your goal, not whether or not your last range session was the worst in a month. It’s a bad day; that is allowed. Major champions miss cuts and all of them not named Tiger Woods don’t change their swings. They try and do better next week… and they nearly always do.
  5. DO NOT measure yourself either on the mechanics of your swing or your scoring results according to some arbitrary standard of perfection… and especially not against tour players. Measure yourself against yourself. Think Ty Webb. Is your swing better than it was 6 months ago? Do you hit it better than 6 months ago? Are you scoring better than 6 months ago? If you can say yes to at least two of those questions, your swing looking like Adam Scott is less relevant than the color of golf tee you use.

That is a winning formula, and just like bad habits in your swing, you can’t wake up one morning and tell yourself you’re no longer into self flagellation. It takes effort and practice to improve your approach and get out of your own way… but more importantly, have some fun.

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15 hot takes from Greg Norman on our 19th Hole podcast

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Our Michael Williams spoke with the Great White Shark himself, Greg Norman, for GolfWRX’s 19th Hole podcast. Not surprisingly, the two-time major champion had no shortage of hot takes.

While you’ll want to check out the full ‘cast, here are 15 takes of varying degrees of hotness, from Norman’s feelings about bifurcation to whether he’d pose for ESPN’s Body Issue.

1) He wants bifurcation immediately, rolling back technology for the pros, rolling it forward for amateurs

“I would instigate a bifurcation of the rules. I would roll back the golf ball regulations to pre-1996. I would roll back the technology that’s in the golf equipment for the professionals. And I would open up the technology and give it to the masses because the pros who developed the maximum club head speed of 118, 120 are the ones who maximize what technology is in that piece of equipment. So the person who’s under 100 miles an hour does not hit the ball an extra 30, 35 yards at all. They may pick up a few yards but they don’t get the full benefit of that technology…I would definitely do that because I think we’ve gotta make the game more fun for the masses. “

2) He has no relationship with Tiger Woods and doesn’t plan to watch him play golf

“And this might sound kind of strange. What I’ll say is … I really, in all honesty, I really don’t care what Tiger does with golf. I think Tiger is, golf probably needs him to some degree but golf doesn’t need him, if you know what I mean, because there’s so many other incredibly talented great young players out there, probably a dozen of them, maybe even more, that are equal, if not way better than Tiger, and they can carry the baton of being the number one player in the world. So, I get a little bit perplexed about and disappointed about how some of these guys get pushed into the background by the attention Tiger gets. I hope he does well. If he doesn’t do well, it doesn’t bother me. If he does do well, it doesn’t bother me.”

3) He plays almost no golf these days

“I really don’t play a lot of golf. I played with my son in the father-son at the end of last year, had a blast with him. Played a little bit of golf preparing for that. But since then I have not touched a golf club.”

4) He doesn’t enjoy going to the range anymore

“To be honest with you I’m sick and tired of being on the driving range hitting thousands and thousands of golf balls. That bores me to death now. My body doesn’t like it to tell you the truth. Since I’ve stopped playing golf I wake up without any aches and pains and I can go to the gym on a regular basis without aches and pains. So my lifestyle is totally different now. My expectations, equally, is totally different.”

5) It took him a long time to get used to recreational golf

“But I’ve been in this mode now for quite a few years now so the first couple of years, yes. My body was not giving me what my brain was expecting. So you do have to make those mental adjustments. Look, there’s no difference than when you hit 40, you’re a good player or not a good player. Things start to perform differently. Your proprioception is different. Your body is different. I don’t care how good you are and how great physical shape you are. Your body after just pure wear and tear, it eventually does tend to break down a little bit. And when you’re under the heat of the battle and under the gun, when you have to execute the most precise shot, your body sometimes doesn’t deliver what you want.”

6) He’s a big Tom Brady fan

“I’m a big fan, big admirer of his. He gets out of it what he puts into it obviously…But he’s also a role model and a stimulator for his teammates. No question, when you go to play Brady and the Patriots, you’d better bring your A game because he’s already got his A game ready to go.”

7) He believes we’ll see 50-plus-year-old winners on Tour

“I said this categorically when Tom Watson nearly won at Turnberry in his 50s, when I nearly won at Royal Birkdale in my 50s….if you keep yourself physically in good shape, flexibility in good shape, as well as your swing playing, and your swing. Yeah, maybe the yips come in maybe they don’t, that depends on the individual, right? But at the end of the day, my simple answer is yes. I do believe that’s going to happen.”

8) The Shark logo has been vital to his post-golf success

“But I realized very early on in life too that every athlete, male or female, no matter what sports you play you’re a finite entity. You have a finite period of time to maximize your best performance for X number of years. And with golf, if you look at it historically, it’s almost like a 15 year cycle. I had my 15 year run. Every other player has really has had a 15 year run, plus or minus a few years.”

“So you know you have that definitive piece of time you got to work with and then what you do after that is understanding what you did in that time period. And then how do you take that and parlay it? I was lucky because I had a very recognizable logo. It wasn’t initials. It wasn’t anything like that. It was just a Great Shark logo. And that developed a lot of traction. So I learned marketing and branding very, very quickly and how advantageous it could be as you look into the future about building your businesses.”

9) He’s tried to turn on-course disappointments into positives

“We all … well I shouldn’t say we all. I should say the top players, the top sports men and women work to win. Right? And when we do win that’s what we expected ourselves to do because we push ourselves to that limit. But you look at all the great golfers of the past and especially Jack Nicklaus, it’s how you react to a loss is more important than how you react to a victory. And so, I learned that very, very early on. And I can’t control other people’s destiny. I can’t control what other people do on the golf course. So I can only do what I do. When I screw up, I use that as a very strong study point in understanding my weakness to make sure that I make a weakness a strength.”

10) Jordan Spieth is best suited to be the top player in the world

“I think that Jordan is probably the most balanced, with best equilibrium in the game. He’s probably, from what I’m seeing, completely in touch with the responsibilities of what the game of golf and the success in the game of golf is.”

11) His golf design is built on two pillars

“Two things: Begin with the end in mind and the least disturbance approach. I think we, the industry of golf course design industry, really did the game of golf a major disservice in the 80s and 90s when everybody was leveraged to the hilt, thought they had unlimited capital, and thought they could just go build these big golf courses with big amounts of money invested in with magnificent giant club houses which weren’t necessary. So, we were actually doing a total disservice to the industry because it was not sustainable.”

12) He’s still not happy about having essentially invented the WGC events and not getting credit

“I’ll always be a little bit salty about that because there’s a saying that I keep telling everybody, “slay the dreamer.” I came up with a pretty interesting concept where the players would be the part owners of their own tour or their own destiny and rewarded the riches if they performed on the highest level. And quite honestly, Michael, actually a friend of mine sent me an article, it was a column written, “Shark and Fox Plan to Take a Bite out of the PGA”. And this is written in 11/17/94 and I literally just got it last night. And I’m reading through this article and I’m going, “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, I was ahead of my time!” I really was ahead of my time.

So, it was very, very kind of like a reflective moment for me. I read it again this morning with a cup of coffee and I did sit back and, I’ll be brutally honest with you and your listeners, and did sit back and I did get a little bit angry because of the way I was portrayed, the way I was positioned.”

13) He was muzzled by the producer at Fox

“I’m not going to dig deep into this, I think there was just a disconnect between the producer and myself. I got on really well with the director and everybody else behind the scenes, some of my thought processes about what I wanted to talk about situations during the day, and it just didn’t pan out. And things that I wanted to say, somebody would be yelling in my ear, “Don’t say it, don’t say it!” So it became a very much a controlled environment where I really didn’t feel that comfortable.”

14) Preparation wasn’t the problem during his U.S. Open broadcast

“I was totally prepared so wherever this misleading information comes saying I wasn’t prepared, I still have copious notes and folders about my preparation with the golf course, with the players, with the set-up, with conditioning. I was totally prepared. So that’s an assumption that’s out there that is not true. So there’s a situation where you can please some of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time.

15) He would do ESPN’s Body Issue

“Of course I’d do it. I think I like being fit. I think on my Instagram account I probably slipped a few images out there that created a bit of a stir…And I enjoy having myself feel good. And that’s not an egotistical thing, it’s just none of my, most of my life I’ve been very healthy fit guy and if somebody like ESPN wants to recognize that, yeah of course I would consider doing it.”

Don’t forget to listen to the full podcast here!

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