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Not making the college golf cut

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Golf participation for the Millennial demographic (ages 18-to-34), has decreased 30 percent in the past 20 years, and the remedy to bring the game back to us remains largely unsolved.

I relish the hot summer days when I’d bang range balls for a few hours, play nine holes and caddy during the afternoon. Life was good, life was golf. My circle of friends lived a similar lifestyle, played junior tournaments and some of us moved onto the college ranks. And then something funny happened. The game tied to our personal being somehow separated as we started careers in different cities. My golfing buddies and I aren’t alone.

The problem begins in the transition between high school and college. In 2012, 152,725 students played competitively in high school, yet only 12,147 students played varsity college golf that year, according to scholarshipstats.com. If you are part of the lucky 8 percent playing golf for a college team, you play for free and get handed school-logoed Pro V1’s. But what happens to those not on varsity who are forced to pay for their own golf, find transportation and courses that actually welcome their business? Some students attend one of the 100 or so universities that have courses on campus, but for many, the clubs don’t make it to the dorm room and students drop the game temporarily.

On the bright side, there has been a significant uptick in number of collegiate club golf teams from 50 to over 200 in the past year alone.  Many of these club golf teams now compete in student-led weekend tournaments in the National Collegiate Club Golf Association (NCCGA). The organization takes a proactive role—a grassroots effort of sorts—in recruiting and working with students to start school-recognized and funded club golf programs off the ground. While the NCCGA has carved out a niche for competitive non-varsity golfers, it struggles to assist more recreational players or students brand new to the game.

At Michigan State’s club golf fair in the fall of 2011, nearly 500 students signed up with an interest in joining the club, but only a few dozen ultimately remain on the competitive club team roster. The gap could be filled by finding a solution to keep more of these fringe college golfers in the game by getting PGA professionals to teach lessons on campus, helping them improve and stay interested.

CollegeGolf1

The problem—specifically with Millennial golfer participation—begins in college but exacerbates as a young professional.

“Consistently keeping up a golf game has been very difficult since moving to Manhattan,” says Ryan Down, a 26 year-old former Yale varsity golfer. “Transportation is the main issue: most people don’t have cars in the city, which sometimes means two trains and a cab to get to a course. The other difficulty is the lack of availability of decent courses that aren’t constantly packed with weekend golfers. All in all, it can easily be an 8 hour commitment including the ride to and from the course.”

With often 60+ hour workweeks and a lack of transportation options, golf is just not feasible on weekends like it was back in high school. Young professional golfers in cities such as New York, Boston, DC, San Francisco and Chicago face serious barriers in making it out the links on any regular basis.

I live in Boston where I can’t afford to own a parking spot, so I’m left stranded if I haven’t secured one of the few public spaces before 7 p.m., thereby making playing golf after work a serious challenge. Improving or sharpening my game is a thing of the past. For the modern young professional, playing golf requires planning, commitment from friends and some serious dollars if you’re looking to play a decent track with the rest of the masses on summer weekends.

Is golf officially dead for college students and young professionals? Does the industry just need to wait until we turn 40, own a house with a white fence and join the local country club? The answer is no, however, the industry needs to make changes in becoming more relevant to younger consumers. The explosive growth of the NCCGA proves the demand for competitive golf for single-digit handicap players at the non-varsity collegiate level.

So why is nobody extending competitive golf into the young adult space? As a former D3 golfer who plays twice a month, I have zero business spending $125 trying to shoot 74 and qualify for the state amateur. That said, I’d love to compete against other serious golfers around my age in a more relaxed environment.

Theories exist — including foot golf, 15-inch cups and actually using media effectively — to help Millennials keep golf fun and accessible, but it doesn’t seem to be enough. If you have thoughts on ways to engage the next generation of golfers, shoot a note to Mike@nextgengolf.org or better yet, tweet to @MikeBelkin11.

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Mike Belkin is a Co-Founder of Nextgengolf & Director of College Golfer Happiness. Mike played varsity golf at Amherst College, currently resides in Boston, and is passionate about growing the game for millennials. Contact Mike on Twitter @MikeBelkin11 or Mike@nextgengolf.org

25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. Tom

    Jul 7, 2014 at 10:38 pm

    You’ve brought up some good points and as a single digit who didn’t start playing until I was in my late twenties I have to disagree with the premise that another person or organization should be involved in motivating the “latent” 12m+ population. Unfortunately golf is very hard and time consuming. IMHO this is a cultural issue that runs deep in the “millennial” population – I’m not a sociologist but I think there needs to be a more comprehensive study of what is driving this population. I took up golf because of the challenge and because I wanted to play. It was a singular, individual decision. Even if you motivate 10% of that 12m you’re referencing to play you’re only replacing the losses from the older generation. Socially and culturally things have shifted and the CC lifestyle along with 4.5 hr rounds on weekends (assuming you live somewhere close to a golf course) just aren’t feasible for the Millennial populations. Forgive me if I’m coming across in a negative light. I respect your article and the points you raise but this may be a problem that can’t be solved. It may just be part of the natural expansion/contraction life cycle that everything goes through. I think we should question the question – why should we grow golf?

  2. Peter Kratsios

    Jul 7, 2014 at 8:06 am

    First and foremost, I’d like to say that NextGenGolf and NCCGA are the types of initiatives the golf industry needs in their effort to grow participation amongst millennials. I too played collegiate golf at a D3 college, which provided me many benefits that my friends were unable to take advantage of. However, it were those benefits that have made me realize how unrealistic it is to play competitively at age 25 in local tournaments. Events range from $125-200, which is a steep price for someone simply looking to enjoy a competitive round of golf.

    I look forward to seeing how these organizations develop in the future.

  3. Dave

    Jul 6, 2014 at 10:37 pm

    Great picture of South Station in Boston. That picture could have been of me a few weeks ago.

  4. Neil

    Jul 4, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    It’s definitely a time issue with me, having two young kids; I practice way more than I get out.
    Hopefully one or both them are interested in getting out on the course with Dad as that will
    increase my course time ten fold.

  5. Bobby

    Jul 3, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    Great article, Mike. I never thought that I would be playing golf regularly in college, but being on a club golf team allows me to play competitively while still focusing on academics and maintaining a healthy social life. Practices are optional, tournaments are held twice per semester, and no classes are missed. Playing club golf certainly helps student golfers get the most out of their college experience.

  6. Peter Klemperer

    Jul 3, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    Great article. Club sports are a great opportunity for college students to get involved in athletics without the pressure or time commitment of varsity sports. I didn’t own a car in college but the team provided great opportunities for group training and rides races all over the midwest. I’m sure the same thing could be replicated with golf.

    As a younger professional having recently moved to Northern California I find the courses plentiful but generally packed. I tend to play my 18-hole rounds as early as possible to avoid the crowds or seek out par-3/9-hole courses for after work golf.

    • Mike Belkin

      Jul 3, 2014 at 12:43 pm

      Thanks Peter. Going out and playing early is way to do it so long as you can get some friends to join you! I used to play a Newton Commonwealth, a city course in Boston, with may dad on weekends and tee off at 5:15, we’d be off the course by 8am and have the whole day free (with a brief nap, of course).

  7. Allen Freeman

    Jul 3, 2014 at 11:00 am

    Speaking of the costs of playing in tournaments, check out the petition to the USGA to make playing in national championships more affordable: http://chn.ge/1xu0WNX

    • Mike Belkin

      Jul 3, 2014 at 11:10 am

      Very interesting, Allen. As a young professional I personally I struggle more with the time to keep my game sharp and having access to places to practice and play. The median greens fee across courses nationwide is $26 so that $100+ entries fee (albeit at high-end) courses is certainly not cheap.

  8. WarrenPeace

    Jul 3, 2014 at 10:41 am

    Book time at the local Golftech and work on your game- they have simulators and instructors. That’s what I would do if I couldn’t get out to play regularly. Practice more-play less if inconvenient to get to a course. That way when you do play- it’s enjoyable to watch the progress you’ve made.

  9. AJ

    Jul 3, 2014 at 9:45 am

    Again, I think this is a real problem with the USA sports model in general. Looking outside in (from the UK) it would seem that once you cease to play any competitive sport, the general infrastructure isn’t there to enable meaningful amateur play in any field.

    My point here is that there is no established organised amateur sport, and this extends to golf. Basically, once you are out of your high school / university sports team, you don’t play that game competitively, ever again.

    Is that right or have I got that completely wrong?

    In Europe certainly, if you don’t make the cut as a professional in any given sport, you can join a local club and play competitive soccer/rugby/cricket for as long as your body will allow, and there is always a level for you.

    It’s the same with golf. In general clubs are more accessible, more affordable and there is a whole heap more organised competitive golf for amateurs. I play at least one competitive round each week, usually two or more in the summer (mixture of medal play and match play).

    I think we have it pretty sweet over here, and I speak as somebody who lives in central London yet can still afford to be a member of a top 100 course and get there pretty easily by car or public transport. I had the chance to move to NYC a few years ago and the prospect of only playing golf a few times a year really did put me off. There was simply no way I could afford to be a member of a decent private members club over there like I can here.

    • Mike Belkin

      Jul 3, 2014 at 11:15 am

      Great points, AJ. College golfers in the states–be it on varsity of NCCGA club teams–have organized methods to actually play competitive golf. But once they enter the working world, and especially in major cities, it’s nearly impossible to find solid competitive golf outside of USGA & State Am like tournies that are pretty expensive to begin with. I agree with you that NYC is the most difficult for young professionals to play golf competitively, let alone just keeping the game sharp. I am always thinking about ways the industry can become more friendly to young professionals to help keep them in the game. It’s the future and the golf needs to innovate here!

      • AJ

        Jul 4, 2014 at 6:38 am

        Mike, that is very interesting to hear. Example from the UK: this weekend I am playing in a Men’s Open event (typically for handicaps 10 and below) which costs £50, includes 36 holes and all food for the day. It’s on a Saturday so working guys can play. There will be a scratch prize and a handicap prize so it’s fair. UK handicaps are also more tightly regulated because we play so much competition golf and handicaps aren’t adjusted unless in a competition.

        Most golf clubs in the UK will host such an event (be it individual, pairs, mixed golf) once a year at a minimum.

        In August I will play in a further one day 36 hole event and two separate 72 hole events (with a halfway cut), all around the £50 mark to enter and providing great competitive golf.

        I see no reason this model can’t be adopted in the states?

  10. DoWhat

    Jul 3, 2014 at 9:14 am

    How does a 15 inch cup make the game more accessible?

    Oh, wait. Maybe the dude can park his car there.

    • Mike Belkin

      Jul 3, 2014 at 11:19 am

      We actually hosted a big cup tournament at Newton Commonwealth, a local Boston course. We had a nice mix of somewhat competitive to fairly novice golfers attend the event. https://nextgengolf.org/boston/social-and-competitive-events/ The ability to play golf in a new way helped bring folks out the course who ordinarily wouldn’t have played.

      To your point, however, do 15 inch cups make the game more accessible? No. It was actually more expensive to play that day. That said, more people came out at least!

  11. Gibbyfan

    Jul 3, 2014 at 9:07 am

    Sorry for the confusion with your article, but what was the point you were trying to get across? Is it that you are not able to play when living one of the major cities? That you chose to live in a densely populated area after graduating college? What did you expect? Did you think right down the street next to your corporate office was the company funded Donald Ross designed club where everyone would cut out at 5 PM and hit the links? You made the choice to live there. There are trade offs with living in major cities; golf is one of them.
    As for competition, there are plenty of outlets for competition Golf Channel Tour comes to mind, your local/regional golf associations run a number of events, you are part of one of the largest internet GOLF forums. There is golf to be played, YOU are the one that needs to make the choice whether it is important to ignore the bars on Friday, Saturday nights.
    I mean heaven forbid, you drive out to the burbs where you can practice and play. If you are 20 years old and older it is time to grow up and decide what is important to you. I’m a professional that works a lot,a parent, live near a large metro area, and I golf 2x a week from May -August. Maybe the ” Millennials” that are too perplexed with living in the overcrowded city and just can’t figure out how to keep their game in shape hit the net and blog how our system is broken. Or, you could get into a cab, take a train, move out of the city where you can afford to live, park a car, and golf, or, as many of your Millennials have chosen to do, move back in with their parents.

    • Mike Belkin

      Jul 3, 2014 at 11:40 am

      I wish that my friends in Boston enjoyed golf enough to take public transportation after work and play nine at Fresh Pond in Cambridge. The fact of the matter, however, is that playing golf for most young professionals is just top of mind or a high enough priority to be a regular activity. But don’t take my word, let’s look at Project M from the National Golf Foundation: http://ngfdashboard.clubnewsmaker.org/map7zilj8gqvvn6t1exxr4?a=5&p=2341869&t=410871

      The fact that you suggest that young adults should pass up a job in the city to live in the burbs where they can play golf more easily demonstrates that you are completely out of touch with the Millennial generation. Project M looks at the “latent demand” or 12M+ Millennial golfers who are interested in playing but on the fence. If the golf industry projected your attitude toward this generation, you can kiss those 12M golfers goodbye.

      It’s not easy getting good jobs these days, and America’s best and brightest college graduates will continue move to Boston, NYC, SF, DC and dozens of other metropolitan areas. If the industry does not innovate–and I mean take progressive steps to get young adults playing their courses–America’s finest will continue to keep golf on the backburner.

      If anything comes out of this article and conversation, it is to open up the eyes to all in golf–the PGA of America & the Professionals, USGA, the TOUR, course owners and operators–that the industry can’t sit back on our heels and let this generation leave their clubs behind. We need to take proactive measures to get people on the course. Opening up the cash register and expecting people to come out and play won’t cut it forever.

      Let’s innovate together and make golf relevant again for our Millennial Golfers.

      • Gibbyfan

        Jul 3, 2014 at 2:11 pm

        To begin, thank you for the response. I see that this is something that you are passionate about. Seeing that this is your profession and working with Nextgengolf. First, your job takes you to Boston metro area. Could you do your job if you lived in an area where you could commute into Boston? My guess is yes. BUT, you chose to live in the city where costs are high, parking is a premium, and you lack some green areas like golf courses. So, it is a little unfair when you imply it’s not fair or you ( Millennials) are not being catered to by the golf industry.
        Chicago ( which I live near) has a number of park district/ public courses within the city limits. Are they type of course where you want to travel to and spend your money? That is for the individual to decide. But if keeping your game sharp is important to your age group, then the answer is yes. Will getting there be easy? Doubtful. That is the tradeoff of living a metro area. You are going to have to make some concessions.
        In my earlier post, golf is there to be had. If golf is that important, then the Millennials will need to decide how they are going to play. Golf can be economical. I play at the same course and they give me the twilight rate almost anytime I play. Why? Because I am a returning customer. Some golf clubs and courses are hurting for play. Here is a link to the public courses that are around Boston http://www.golflink.com/golf-courses/city.aspx?dest=Boston+MA. I am sure that one will meet your needs as a practice site or place where your group can play on a routine basis. As the song goes ” you can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes well you might find you get what you need.”

  12. Pingback: Not making the college golf cut | Spacetimeandi.com

  13. Straightdriver235

    Jul 2, 2014 at 9:17 pm

    Mr. Belkin is correct here. I played some college golf, but as grades got more important, and law school loomed, it became a more special occasion to play. Because I did public service law, and now teach at the undergraduate level, I never made enough money or needed the contacts to consider club memberships. I’ve always been a public course player since becoming an adult… I resent, however, as does Mr. Down, the idea of moving from something pretty competitive, to struggling around waiting on six around rounds near weekend golfers. I miss the competition, the camaraderie of a few close expert and knowledgeable golfing friends, and more associates from younger days of competing. City clubs need to seek out young professionals and cultivate them, but so many seem caught up with the white picket fence, real estate on the course type of mentality. I lived in a major NE city and for ten years just couldn’t even find a public course where I could store my clubs at safely that I might take public transit to. If you can solve this problem you are a genius. It’s not my baby, but I have reflected the same sort of thoughts… and with great regrets. As I grow near retirement now, I am an excellent golfer who is a complete loner. My game is entirely within myself, my rounds are exercises in self control and meditation. I’m eventually heading to France where my wife is from and all but giving up the game. For now, fortunately my university is one with its own course, and it is often not too crowded, but golf clearly now lacks the social foundations I grew up with. I have not had a “golfing friend” in many years. I have given to golf, but I do not feel it has given back so well… still I love her. I’m a liberal, and see it as a capitalist problem in so many ways, but so many golfers are not neo-Marxists, and it makes no sense to them. Golf put to the excesses of the free markets only stretches so far… to cultivate serious play from lifetime committed players who might happen to be middle class and don’t see golf as a tax write off, a different model is necessary.

    • Mike Belkin

      Jul 3, 2014 at 11:44 am

      Very thoughtful response here. Can you please expand on what you mean by “a capitalist problem in so many ways”?

  14. SW

    Jul 2, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    Boohoo. Move to the South or SouthWest, why dontcha?

    • Mike Belkin

      Jul 3, 2014 at 11:46 am

      I started my career out in Buckhead, GA where it was DEFINITELY easier to get around and play. That said, it was my first year after graduating college in a totally new city so getting acquainted to my job, meeting a totally new friend group, and budgeting all got in the way. That said, I did manage to play once every other week.

  15. Phil C.

    Jul 2, 2014 at 7:19 pm

    Prioritize the player to player competition aspect of the game and let match play format take center stage. Let it be the primary format on TV, that we teach to new players, and that we play with our friends on the weekends.

    Also, Break up the match play of 18 holes into 3 separate 6-hole sets, with the winner decided after a player has won 2 sets.

    • Mike Belkin

      Jul 3, 2014 at 11:48 am

      Competition is a key ingredient to getting folks interested. Look at the explosive growth of PGA Junior Leagues which anticipates having 14,000 kids involved this year, nearly double y/o/y growth. They wear jerseys and play team golf against other clubs.

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On Spec

On Spec: I fell in love at Sweetens Cove | Finding your golf “community”

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In this episode of On Spec, Ryan can’t say enough great things about his first trip to Sweetens Cove for the first Oil Hardened Classic—an event dedicated to persimmon and blade irons. He also talks about a new group of golf buddies in the era of social media.

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

It started with a crazy idea…

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It’s been nearly six years since Bob Parsons decided he wanted to get into the golf club business, and it was five years ago that Ryan Moore was presented with an iron that looked like something out of a Frankenstein movie.

Since then, the name PXG has been growing in stature as quickly as this industry has seen in a long time. In my time with Tour Ops Director Matt Rollins, I discovered once again that there was a point for all of these department heads, where the ability to work in a vacuum with no boundaries peaked enough curiosity to leave great jobs and take a winger on a man’s idea that at inception may have sounded a bit crazy.

Now let’s be clear, Bob Parsons knows golf clubs. Like many on this site, he’s a gear junkie—yes, with unlimited resources to find exactly what he wants. However, being a gear junkie myself, I always wondered what it would look like if I had the resources to go as far down the rabbit hole as I wanted to without risking the roof over my head AND without the mandate of a company to limit my search. This is important to understand because as you may have seen in the last video, the people Mr. Parsons chooses to work with seem to have this unrelenting curiosity as well.

The tour operations started this way: Ryan Moore was the perfect guy to attract early on. He’s a searcher, he has the resume to gain trust, and he’s extremely measured. Ryan doesn’t do anything on a whim, although it may appear so. He considers everything down to the last point before he says yes. I can say this in confidence knowing his story and interacting with him a few times. I have interacted with a good portion of the early PXG staff and to a person they have all said the same thing: “It seemed a bit crazy at the time, but I was curious: I hit the clubs and I wanted in.”

The current staff like the front office is a good mix of all personalities and as a whole they represent the perfect mix to get the PXG message out into the world. Players like Horschel, Perez, Ko, Hahn, Lee, ZJ, Moore, HOF icon Gary Player, and most recently aspiring LPGA player, long drive champion and influencer Troy Mullins.

Now, I won’t get into all of the club junkie tidbits I get from Matt here: ya just gotta watch the video. It was a fun interview and my biggest takeaway personally is that despite all of the opinions and polarizing discussions around PXG, these guys really care about what they are doing and where they want to go.

As you will see in Episode 6 of The Disruptors, Matt Rollins at first had a kind of “yeah right” reaction to the whole thing—then you start to get around Bob, and Mike and Brad and you begin to understand just how serious these guys are about taking PXG to places we have never seen. Are they one of the Big 4? No. They never will be—it’s not designed that way. Are they a company that has the nimbleness, brains, and swagger to continue to shake things up? Oh, yeah. And that’s exactly how Bob likes it.

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PGA Tour players on the rise and on the decline heading into 2020

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At the end of each season, I compile data on every PGA Tour player and then analyze which players are on the rise and the decline for the upcoming season. There are a number of variables that are historically quality indicators of a golfer’s future performance such as age, club speed, adjusted scoring average, etc. I tend to focus on what I call The Cornerstones of the Game, however, and these Cornerstones include:

  • Driving effectiveness
  • Red zone play (approach shots from 175-225 yards)
  • Short game shots (from 10-20 yards)
  • Putting (5-15 feet)
  • Ball speed

All that is needed to execute the Cornerstones of the Game is for the player to be in the top half on the PGA Tour in each metric. That’s the beauty of the concept; a player does not need to be dominant in each metric. He can simply be average at each metric and it increases his likelihood of not only having a great season but recording a PGA Tour victory. I can then use the Cornerstones concept to more accurately project players on the rise for the following season.

This past season, there were 10 players that reached The 5 Cornerstones of the Game and they made an average of $4.7 million on the season. Given their success, I focused my analysis more on players that narrowly missed The 5 Cornerstones and their metrics to determine what players will be “on the rise.”

Players on the rise

*The following rankings are based out of 194 players

Joaquin Niemann

The young Chilean golfer reached every one of The 5 Cornerstones of the Game, but he made the least amount of FedEx points of any of the golfers that executed all of the Cornerstones.

This was due to Niemann’s early struggles with the putter. However, his putting improved significantly as the season went by.

The dotted black line in the chart represents Niemann’s trendline and that shows a strong upward trend in his putting performance.

Niemann ranked 107th in adjusted par-5 scoring average, and given his quality of ballstriking and distance off the tee, that should greatly improve. The projections are for him to win soon. If he can continue to improve his putting, particularly from 3-5 feet (he ranked 160th last season) he could be a multiple winner this upcoming season.

Sung Kang

Kang recorded his first victory at the Byron Nelson Championship but flew under the radar for most of the season. He also executed The 5 Cornerstones of the Game.

Back in 2017, Kang almost executed The 5 Cornerstones, but I was lukewarm to putting him on the list of Players on the Rise as the one cornerstone he failed to reach was red zone play, and that’s too important of a metric to miss out on.

Kang struggled in the 2018 season, but his red zone play greatly improved. In the meantime, his driving greatly suffered. He continued to struggle with his driving early in the 2019 season but made great strides right around the Byron Nelson and ended the season ranked 80th in driving effectiveness. Meanwhile, his red zone play has continued to be strong, and he’s a sound short game performer from 10-20 yards and putter from 5-15 feet.

While I am a little more on the fence with Kang, given his putrid performance from the yellow zone and generally inconsistent play, his putting suffered from ranking 181st on putts from 25-plus feet. That is more likely to move towards the mean and greatly improve his putts gained next season. He’s also 32 years old, which is a prime age for Tour players hit their peak performance of their career.

Sepp Straka

Straka had a good rookie campaign striking the ball and was a competent putter. The only Cornerstone that Straka failed to execute was short game shots from 10-20 yards. However, we can see that as the season went by Straka’s short game improved

That’s also recognizing that short game around the green has a weaker correlation to success on Tour than most of the other Cornerstones like driving, red zone play and putting from 5-15 feet.

Straka should improve greatly on par-5’s (104th last season). He made a lot of birdies last year (25th in adjusted birdie rate), but made a ton of bogeys (155th). These numbers project well at tournaments that are birdie fests like Palm Springs or courses that are relatively easy on shots around the green such as Harbour Town.

Sam Ryder

Ryder only missed The 5 Cornerstones with a poor performance from 10-20 yards. He’s an excellent putter and iron-play performer, and that is usually the parts of the game that the eventual winners perform best from.

Wyndham Clark

 

One of the new metrics I’ve created is called “power-to-putting.” This is a combination of the player’s putts gained ranking and their adjusted driving distance ranking. Earlier this year I wrote an article here about where exactly distance helps with a golfer’s game. In essence, the longer off the tee a golfer is the more likely they will have shorter length birdie putts on average. That’s why long hitters like Bubba Watson can make a lot of money despite putting poorly and why shorter hitters like Brian Gay have to putt well in order to be successful.

The “honey pot” is for a golfer that hits it long and putts well. This means they will sink a ton of birdie putts because they are having easier putts to make and they have the requisite putting skill to make them.

Clark finished first in power-to-putting (Rory McIlroy finished second). On top of that, he was an excellent performer from 10-20 yards which is usually the last step in a long ball hitter becoming an elite performer. Clark’s iron play was very poor and that downgrades his chances of winning on Tour. But, with his length, putting, and short game, he can very well get four days of decent approach shot play and win handily.

Players on the decline

Charley Hoffman

Hoffman ranked 64th in FedEx points but was 139th in adjusted scoring average. Most of Hoffman’s metrics were not very good, but he was a superb performer from the yellow and red zone. The other concerning part of Hoffman is his age: He is at the point of his career that player performance tends to drop-off the most. He only made two of his last seven cuts this past season with the best finish of T51 at The Open Championship.

J.B. Holmes

Holmes finished 166th in adjusted scoring average and was greatly helped by having a favorable schedule as he ranked 21st in purse size per event. The best thing Holmes has going for him is his distance off the tee. He also had a good season around the green that helps long hitters like Holmes when they hit foul balls off the tee.

After that, Holmes did not do much of anything well. He was 179th in adjusted missed fairway–other percentage (aka hitting foul balls off the tee) and his putting was horrendous and doesn’t appear to be bouncing back anytime soon.

Patton Kizzire

Kizzire only made two of his last 11 cuts last season, and it’s easy to see why with his ballstriking struggles. It also doesn’t help that he was poor from 10-20 yards. He’s one of the elite putters on Tour, but elite putting only helps a player so much in the big leagues.

Phil Mickelson

The biggest positive for Mickelson is his newfound power that he exhibited last year. He will also play a favorable schedule as he ranked 16th in purse size per event and has lifetime exempt status on Tour.

For fantasy golf owners, I would be averse to picking Mickelson in the short term. The question with Lefty is if his newfound distance caused him issues with his iron play, short game and putting, or if that is just a temporary slump that once he works thru those issues with his newfound speed, he may be winning tournaments again. But at his age, history is not in his favor.

Francesco Molinari

Molinari turns 37-years-old in November. There’s still plenty of years for good golf, but Molnari’s lack of power and routine struggles with the putter means that he needs to have impeccable driving and iron play in order to be competitive in big tournaments and the majors. Last season he was an average driver of the ball and he was below average from the red zone.

The positive for Molinari is that he has typically been an impeccable ballstriker, so the issues in 2019 may have been a one-time slump. And while he putted poorly, he putted well from 5-15 feet. He ranked 184th on putts from 15-25 feet and 157th on putts from 25-plus feet, and those are more likely to progress towards the mean over time and help his overall putting.

But, Molinari has never been a great putter, and at his age, it will be very difficult to keep up with his impeccable ballstriking to get back to the winner’s circle.

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