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Barney Adams introduces himself as a GolfWRX Contributor

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Hello GolfWRX readers. Let me introduce myself, as I’m about to write a series of columns for the site. The initial effort will be a six-part series on the drop in participation and what can be done. After that columns will reflect comments directed by you, the readers.

My name is Barney Adams and as I understand it many of you are younger, avid golfers. So why would you be interested in reading anything from a relic like me who doesn’t use any of today’s social media?

Well, to start, I used to be you. Only now I have a lot more experience, so you can ask me whatever you want about the game or equipment and you’ll get a straight answer. Back in the persimmon and balata days I was a decent player; a 2-to-3 handicap for many years. I was never considered professional material (not because of a lack of time, but because of a lack of talent), however, I did get on the occasional streak, have broken 70 dozens of times and have a tournament registered low of 64 (with a double bogey, I might add, which I remember vividly some 40 years later).

Later when I got into the club business, I worked as a club fitter down range from Hank Haney and his teaching staff. This was when I was trying to develop my own line of clubs and the hands-on experience was invaluable. In those days prudent observation would have me going broke any day, so as a back-up plan I studied teaching methods. Fortunately, I got lucky with a club I designed called the Tight Lies and it provided a platform for Adams Golf to become a real company. Along the way I have repaired clubs, picked up eight patents on designs and came up with some good ideas: some that I’d rather forget. I still have a shirt with embedded epoxy as a keepsake from my assembly days.

I provide all this personal data not to try and impress anyone or reflect upon days gone by, but because I hope it opens the door so you will ask questions that I’ll attempt to answer publicly. I’m not affiliated with any golf company, and you can be assured you’ll get straight answers. That’s the type of dialogue that’s important to me.

My first six columns will be a series on declining amateur participation in golf. For those of us who love the game and want to see it flourish, this is a serious issue. I first started writing about this three years ago and it wasn’t a subject some in the industry wanted openly discussed. There is an old saying that I first heard when I was working in the Silicon Valley decades ago:

“You can always tell the pioneers. They are the ones with arrows in their backs.”

Now that I’m 75, I’m far more concerned about the status of my aching back than some golf twit who doesn’t think it’s proper to discuss the players leaving the game. The erosion has continued and today it’s become a popular issue for discussion. So what I’ve done is trace the pattern, offer insight as to why its happening and propose a definitive solution.

You may notice the occasional attempt at humor and that I’m an equal opportunity offender.

So here my email: barneyadams9@gmail.com. You might want to table any questions until the series has run its course, but if you’d rather send them now I’ll hold onto them and respond as soon as I can.

I’m very interested to see where this goes, and am looking forward to your feedback and questions. Thank you in advance for reading and your support of this game I love so much.

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Barney Adams is the founder of Adams Golf and the inventor of the iconic "Tight Lies" fairway wood. He served as Chairman of the Board for Adams until 2012, when the company was purchased by TaylorMade-Adidas. Adams is one of golf's most distinguished entrepreneurs, receiving honors such as Manufacturing Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young in 1999 and the 2010 Ernie Sabayrac Award for lifetime contribution to the golf industry by the PGA of America. His journey in the golf industry started as as a club fitter, however, and has the epoxy filled shirts as a testimony to his days as an assembler. Have an equipment question? Adams holds seven patents on club design and has conducted research on every club in the bag. He welcomes your equipment questions through email at barneyadams9@gmail.com Adams is now retired from the golf equipment industry, but his passion for the game endures through his writing. He is the author of "The WOW Factor," a book published in 2008 that offers an insider's view of the golf industry and business advice to entrepreneurs, and he continues to contribute articles to outlets like GolfWRX that offer his solutions to grow the game of golf.

29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. tbowles411

    Jun 23, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    Well, this is just cool. Think I can stop in on my next trip to Dallas in a month? 🙂

  2. Ken

    Jun 17, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    Welcome to the Golfwrx site!!! I have always respected your insight and look forward to all of your future columns.

    I’ve been a long-time Adams user. Started as most with the Tight Lies FW’s, but I’ve always loved Adams irons. Over the years I’ve played the GT Performance, GT Tour, GT Ultimate, and now the Adams CMB. Really looking forward to your input.

  3. Clarkson Golf Alumni

    Jun 16, 2014 at 8:20 pm

    I played golf at your alma mater, Clarkson University. The one thing I’ve always wanted to ask is why Adams Golf was not involved at all with our golf program. We used Ogio bags and later Ping. No players on the team used any Adams clubs. It wasn’t that we didn’t like your equipment, it was the fact that Adams was one of the manufacturers that we didn’t get a discount from. My teammates and I presumed you would have wanted us to have Adams/Clarkson golf shirts and Adams/Clarkson bags rather than other manufacturers. Like all our golf equipment, we didn’t expect it for free, but the fact we didn’t even receive a discount was puzzling. I frequent the golfwrx forums and now that you are posting, I had to ask.

    Thanks.

    • Barney adama

      Jun 17, 2014 at 5:06 pm

      Years ago there was a problem with my old Fraternity. I called the office of the then President to see if I could get any details. A spokesman told me to go away. I asked again saying I was just curious and was told to go away that the school wasn’t interested in anything I had to say. I then asked them to mark my file ” deceased ” that was President Brown. Now the school has Tony Collins a great guy. Of course now I can’t do anything because I have no affiliation.

  4. RG

    Jun 16, 2014 at 4:00 am

    Mr. Adams,
    Thank you! Your clubs have given me joy and confidence in abundance through the years. I can’t wait for your articles and insights. Swing away!!

  5. LB

    Jun 14, 2014 at 11:27 pm

    This is fantastic, can’t wait to read what you have to say. And congrats on a stellar career. Your company was churning out remarkably performing clubs in every category which is a credit to your leadership.

    Tee it forward I agree is a misnomer. If you are left with long irons into every approach shot you need to move up, plain and simple. My biggest issue with slow play is those that don’t recognize it or don’t care, when every group is backed up and they make no effort to get going.

    Outside of that, the game is what it always has been. There’s simply less time to get away in 2014.

  6. Greg Hunter

    Jun 14, 2014 at 12:54 am

    That’s awesome to have someone with the background and street knowledge. It will be cool to ask questions!

  7. makaveli

    Jun 13, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    Welcome to the best golf site ever Barney.

  8. paul

    Jun 13, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    Welcome Mr. Adams. I loved my first set of golf clubs, a set of Adams I picked up on a garage sale. In regards to growing the game, I think it is not going to happen for a while. The bubble burst, now things are going back to normal. Where I live in Canada golf is still thriving. The reason is because our local economy is strong, and even trades people make enough money to go play. We also have time because courses around here were built a long time ago and only one or two are crazy long. The big problem is our culture doesn’t share the values that are built into the core of golf, and that’s why more people don’t play.

  9. John Wunder

    Jun 13, 2014 at 8:43 am

    Simply Amazing. This site never ceases to surprise me!

    Welcome Mr. Adams!

  10. Dave Davis

    Jun 13, 2014 at 7:40 am

    As a fitness contributing writer I Welcome you Barney, looking forward to your additions. I know i will have questions as an aspiring golfer trying to improve my game.

  11. 4pillars

    Jun 13, 2014 at 6:05 am

    Barney

    As a very successful designer of Hybrids how do you feel they should be hit off the deck

    hit down like an iron, or a sweeping action like a wood.

    I see advice from different coaches on this and wondered how you designed them to be hit.

    Thanks

  12. Jim Gilbreath

    Jun 13, 2014 at 12:29 am

    I am very pleased that Barney Adams will be a regular contributor, especially with the topic of the first six. I have read a lot of his writing in the past 2 years. I am a big fan of Tee It Forward, and have promoted that as much as possible at my home club, and with some success. We are also participating in the PGA of America’s Family Tee program, but it’s hard to get people to move up that far.

  13. Tommy

    Jun 12, 2014 at 11:58 pm

    Welcome to the WRX community Mr. Adams. When I was 11 years old I had a go-to club, an Adams Tight Lies 5 wood, it was my favorite club and used it for everything. I cannot wait to hear your knowledge about the future of golf.

  14. EF

    Jun 12, 2014 at 11:26 pm

    I’m going to try to say this nicely because you seem like a nice guy. But if your first article has anything to do with teeing it forward, 15″ cups, only playing 9 holes at a time, slowing the greens down to 3 on the stimp meter or generally not following any of the rules of golf, I won’t be reading any further in the series. Those topics have been absolutely brutalized to death at this point. Regardless of which side of the fence you sit on on those issues, they are at minimum completely belabored at this point. But I’m just getting a feeling that article 1 will be something about teeing it forward. And if that’s the case, there’s already about a hundred such articles already on this site.

    You know a really good idea for an article on declining participation? How about peeling back the layers from the items I noted above and taking a real look at it. Want an even better idea? How about an article on whether it really matters to the future of the game whether it grows.

    • John

      Jun 13, 2014 at 1:56 pm

      How can they be “brutalized to death” when it still takes five hours to play 18?
      I’d hold your fire a little bit until the man has an opportunity to actually write something. There may be more layer peeling than you think.

    • Barney adama

      Jun 14, 2014 at 10:11 pm

      Hit like a 5 iron

    • Barney adama

      Jun 14, 2014 at 10:14 pm

      A) I’m not really a nice guy I’m much too blunt. b) teeing it forward is a misnomer which I will explain , I don’t favor anything that breaks the rules. As to taking a hard look and whether it matters ; read on.

  15. Reid

    Jun 12, 2014 at 10:36 pm

    It’s so awesome to see you here Mr Adams. I’ve been a fan of yours since day one with the Tight Lies. I think your innovation to the game is something that many of the newer/younger golfers don’t realize when they pick up a hybrid and fairway wood. Although the brand may not be Adams, the innovations you developed so long ago are shared so many times over throughout the equipment lines. Welcome and Aloha!

  16. Ken

    Jun 12, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    Welcome, sir. This is the kind of thing that truly adds value to WRX. I find this preferable to some guy asking whether I play better in black or khaki. Looking forward to your columns.

    Ken
    Adams in the bag

  17. Sean

    Jun 12, 2014 at 8:02 pm

    Welcome! I’m a big proponent of teeing it forward Barney, and have talked about it extensively, unfortunately not many agree. I think if more people did tee it forward they would enjoy the game more. Perhaps one of the reasons people do leave the game is frustration? If so, teeing it forward may be one way to keep them around. 🙂

  18. Tom Stickney

    Jun 12, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    Awesome guy; met him in palm desert several times…always friendly! Welcome.

  19. Clem

    Jun 12, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    Barney I’m looking forward to your comments and insights into the game of golf. As well as what can be done to increase the participation of young and older players to this great game.

  20. John Muir

    Jun 12, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    Excited to hear this news, Barney. You were a subscriber to my golf equipment newsletter some time ago and I always appreciated your input/notes to me.

    John Muir

  21. Jason Hat

    Jun 12, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    Looking forward to reading your articles. Thanks for your time here.

  22. Chuck

    Jun 12, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    Barney thank you for taking the time to write and for sharing your invaluable knowledge.

    I hope you’ll answer this question at some point in the series: Why not rollback the USGA’s testing specs on golf balls?

    It doesn’t seem to me to be much of a threat to the golf CLUB business. We’re all great lovers of golf clubs and technology on this site. Some of us are great lovers of classic golf course architecture. I know of virtually nobody, apart from Wally Uihlein and the people he pays, who are particular fans of golf BALLS.

    Is it not conceivable, that if golf ball specs were significantly altered, that the change might well result in a boost to equipment sales, as players adjusted their club choices to better match new balls?

    As for general distance gains for recreational players, the data seems inconclusive. Some experts claim that technology (that has unquestionably revolutionized elite-level golf) has done little to change recreational golf. Other experts claim that technology (THEIR technology, most often) is significant and essential to growing the game. Do you take a side? If so, what’s your evidence?

    • John

      Jun 13, 2014 at 1:56 am

      Great question, and great idea. I am not looking forward to 8,000 yard courses, and neither is the water table. Too much land, resources etc. When Bubba hit a gap wedge into 13 at Augusta, I just thought something has to be done. I also agree that the club manufacturers wouldn’t lose anything with a ball rollback, they might even gain as the original poster pointed out as people adjusted their set ups for playing golf instead of bombing golf.
      The ball is ruining the game.

    • Barney adama

      Jun 15, 2014 at 1:31 pm

      Will address golf balls in a future column.

  23. Steve Barry

    Jun 12, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    Welcome to the site Barney, I’m sure you’ll have a ton of great info to add with coming from such experience. Looking forward to your additions!

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Podcasts

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Task to target

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In this week’s episode: How having a target will improve your direction and contact you have with the ball.

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On Spec: Blades vs cavity backs | Classic gear vs. modern equipment

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In this episode, host Ryan talks about a recent experience of playing poor golf and what it took from an equipment perspective to get his game back on track.

The talk is wide-ranging and offers an inside look at what equipment tweaks or experiments might help you play better golf—or get you out of a rut.

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From the GolfWRX Vault: How far should you hit your golf clubs?

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Editor’s note: Jaacob Bowden‘s 2013 piece on how far a club “ought” to carry based on clubhead speed—i.e. how far you should hit your golf clubs–remains one of our most widely read pieces (thanks, Google search). And while seven years have passed since its publication, the data remains the same, and thus the piece remains just as relevant today. 

We’re happy to crack open the GolfWRX Vault for this excellent bit of writing. 


One of the nice things about having all this new fancy technological equipment like Trackman, Flightscope, ShotLink, etc., at various PGA Tour events is that distance data can be gathered for each of the players.

In case you haven’t come across it already, here are the approximate Trackman carry distance averages for men at the professional level.

Average PGA Tour Carry Distances (yards)

Club Carry
Driver (Total) 289
Driver (Carry) 269
3-Wood 243
5-Wood 230
Hybrid 225
3-Iron 212
4-Iron 203
5-Iron 194
6-Iron 183
7-Iron 172
8-Iron 160
9-Iron 148
PW 136

Pretty cool info. Perhaps they hit it farther than you might have thought…or maybe they hit less than you may have been lead to believe based on what you’ve seen on TV, read on the internet, etc.

Since I deal a lot with swing speed training and helping people in general hit the ball farther, a relatively common question I get is, “How far should I hit my clubs for my swing speed?”

Well, since we also know that the average driver swing speed on Tour typically runs around 112 to 113 mph, using a bit of algebra and the above distances we can approximate a guide for how far you could expect to hit the ball (assuming fairly consistent and solid contact) given your personal driver swing speed.

Here are those carry distances.

Approximate Carry Distances by Driver Swing Speed (mph)

 Approximate Carry Distances by Driver Swing Speed (mph)

I took the ranges down to 60 and 70 mph because those are swing speeds I’ll encounter when working with some amateur women and seniors. I also went up to 140 mph because numerous long drivers I’ve trained can get their drivers up that high (RE/MAX World Long Drive champions like Joe Miller, Jamie Sadlowski and Ryan Winther can actually reach over 150 mph).

Aside from using the chart as a general reference point, here are a few other things that I think are worth pointing out:

First, these numbers are based off how the average Tour player strikes the ball. Although Tour players are overall good ball strikers with all their clubs, most of them are actually not as efficient (the Tour average is about 2.58 yards/mph of swing speed) as they can be when it comes to distance with their drivers because on average they hit drives that launch too low and with too much spin.

LGPA Tour players (2.65 yards/mph of swing speed) and Professional Long Drivers are actually more distance efficient with their drivers…but that’s a topic for another article. The good news for you is that greater carry and total-driving distances can be achieved at all the range of swing speeds shown above if you are a more efficient driver than the average male tour player at 2.58 yards/mph of swing speed.

With a 2-degree change in driver loft and some minor adjustments made to his swing path, angle of attack, etc, one of my amateur students went from being an already above-average efficient driver at 2.61 yards/mph to an extremely efficient one at 2.75 yards/mph. So with no change to his 102 mph swing speed, he increased his driving distance average from 266 to 280. Then after some swing speed training, he got up to 112 mph and can now hit drives around 307 yards with that same efficiency of 2.75 yards/mph. That’s 41 more yards!

Second, the club distances are based on the driver swing speeds that you would get from a system like FlightScope and Trackman. So if at all possible, get yourself checked on one of those. Otherwise, if you measure with something like a Speed Stik (which measure higher in my experience), you could get a false sense of how far you might expect to hit the ball.

As another example, Sports Sensors Swing Speed Radars (SSR) also read faster. It should be pointed out that SSRs are still a great personal training aid, and because of their accuracy and relative affordability and portability, they are actually the radar I recommend in my swing speed training programs.

However, the Doppler radar in an SSR measures the fastest moving part of the club head (typically the toe) versus a Trackman or FlightScope, which each have proprietary algorithms to calculate the speed at the center of the club face. For this reason, SSRs will read about 5 to 12 percent faster, depending on how you as an individual move the driver through impact. If you have an SSR, just hit 5 to 10 balls with it and a Trackman or FlightScope at the same time and you’ll find out your personal difference for sake of comparison.

Third, the above numbers can be useful for a good general reference, but like I mentioned in my article about understand distance variance, recognize that carry distances can vary a lot depending on conditions. Slopes, wind, temperature, altitude, etc., are all things that can affect how far the ball flies, so remember to factor that in.

Fourth, keep in mind potential loft differences between your clubs and the ones here. As a general rule of thumb, club manufacturers have made their club lofts (especially in the irons) continually stronger over the years as a way of marketing and selling consumers the new clubs.

Many top Tour players are being paid to play the latest clubs, which could mean they might also be playing irons with stronger lofts than the set you are playing. This isn’t always the case, however, but it’s another thing to be aware of.

Last, once you start approaching less than 80 mph with the driver, notice how the distances start bunching up between clubs.  At this point, you start getting to an area where you really don’t need a full set of 14 clubs. If this is you, perhaps you might also find that you hit a 3-wood or 5-wood further than a normal driver.

My wife is very strong and athletic, however, as a beginner who doesn’t play or practice very much, she hasn’t developed much swing speed. For that reason, we got her fitted for a 9-club set of Wishon 730CLs, a set that is designed specifically for men and women with less than 80 mph of club head speed.

The shafts are very light, the driver is 16 degrees and only 42 inches, the fairway woods are 20 and 26 degrees (versus the commonly used 15- and 19-degree fairway woods), and the remaining hybrids/irons are gapped out in 6-degree loft increments (compared to the normal 3- or 4-degree). Also, since many beginners, lesser skilled players and those with slower swing speeds can struggle with really high lofted wedges, the highest lofted wedge in the set is 54 degrees.

All of these things combine to provide a driver that can actually be hit in the air for distance, clubs that have substantial distance gapping, plus it’s just less clubs in general to lug around and choose from.

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