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Golf gets its first Czar (Part 5)

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I must admit that I was surprised and humbled when told I’ve been named Czar over all of golf. I asked about the process and was told that upon investigation the computer drives failed but the appointment stands. I was afraid it would eat into my gin rummy time, but given the lack of focus involving participation I have decided to accept.

I do not plan to dismantle any of the current organizations and those of you who openly questioned my election process will be forgiven over the next several decades. There will also be a new event starting at the regional level, “The (Mandatory) Czar Homage Invitational,” featuring a huge field and colossal entry fee: details forthcoming except for distribution of the entry fee.

As promised before being elected, I will devote my time and energies to setting up a format where golf courses can combat the “too slow, no fun” malaise that is effecting the game. I will also drop any pretense of formality and go forward in a conversational tone. As Czar, my legacy will be seeing participation increase to a comfortable level. This does not mean I’m ignoring cost, good management and associated issues. It means my first goal is to improve the game as a value proposition.

Some facilities have attempted a leadership position by moving players up to shorter tees under the “Tee It Forward” influence. With a few exceptions, the effort is C-worthy and emblematic of the lack of thought which resulted in the original problem.

A short course with bland, uninteresting holes is only slightly better than one with spectacular holes that are too long for 90 percent of players. There’s no question that moving up benefits the majority of players, but I want the assembled minds in the industry to take that objective and do so with the combined goal of a shorter and still challenging layout.

As Czar, I don’t really have to do this, but to show my humanitarian side, let me start by apologizing to women golfers. I will write about men’s lengths and layouts because it’s easier for me and I’m lazy. I can provide specifics for women and if anyone is serious in that area I suggest they contact Carol Mann of the LPGA’s Hall of Fame. She did the best job of altering a course to be “woman friendly” that I have encountered (email address available upon request).

I realize golf courses are not easily adjusted. What follows is a statistic-based analysis of what it should be. I say “statistic-based” because the guidelines emanate from data on more than 1 million handicaps. If you really want to improve, you will look at the concepts and change what you can.

First we establish the back tees. Every course, public or private, has some number of long-hitting, good players and they deserve the challenge. The difference is that these tees will be identified as being for a small percentage of the players and the “real courses” are shorter but very challenging.

Since there is a historical association with the color of tees and who is supposed to play there, my first suggestion is new tee names and colors. The name “Czar Tees” is available with rental terms to be negotiated.

Wind and terrain are major factors and must be considered. It’s not how long a hole measures, it’s how it plays. Obviously, unless you live in West Texas or Oklahoma, the wind won’t be predictable (it never stops, and yes, I have lived in both places).

Look at the great links courses of Europe where they design holes around prevailing winds. Trust me, they have great layouts. So as I lay out ground rules, understand that theoretically each hole has been factored for the conditions. The other premise is that the average golfer gets to hit something in the neighborhood of an 8 iron into par-4 holes.

For the record, 8 iron is the average club tour players hit into par-4’s on the Tour. This is a key factor. It really isn’t about where the tees are or how long the hole measures; it’s about where you play from into the green so you can hit the ball into the air and have it land and stop on the green.

Par 5’s

The unthinking rush to front tees has produced a lot of 450-to-480 yard par-5 holes. The majority are dumb holes, still three shots for most everyone, but you can hit almost anything off the tee, anything for a second shot and still have a relatively short third shot. The great unwashed can whip something around 210 yards with a decent tee shot and have 180-to-190 yards for a second shot.

Assuming that a player can hit a 7 or 8 iron about 140 yards, we should have par 5 holes of 530 yards or more, not 475 yards. A downhill par-5 with a fast fairway should play longer than 530 yards, while an uphill par-5 or one that plays into the wind should player shorter. Let me repeat that I’m talking distances for the majority. Challenges for long-hitting, good players are handled very well by today’s architects.

Par 3’s

I’ve seen a lot of par 3’s that play something like 180 yards over a 30-foot deep water hazard replete with man-eating creatures. Let’s move those up to about 150 yards. If it’s a fairly open fairway where golfers can roll the ball onto the green, 190 yards is not out of the picture. If the green is protected by 18-foot deep traps where you can break an ankle getting in and out, let’s shallow them out.

The bottom line is that par-3 holes should range from 120 yards with small, protected greens to 190 yards with a helpful fairway.

Par 4’s

Par 4 holes now become more obvious from our experiences with the par-3’s and par-5’s. Drivable par 4’s are a great addition to some tour courses. Good for them, but they’re not applicable for us. Longer par 4’s (up to 400 yards) should feature straighter, faster fairways that encourage a ball to roll onto the green. Shorter par-4’s can obviously be more nefarious with curves and rough, and my personal reaction is that these types of holes are where great architecture can truly emerge.

I have a personal favorite par-4 that measures 340 yards and plays uphill. I swear it plays closer to 400 yards and the very memory of hitting a decent drive and needing a hybrid to have a chance just bugs me. But I CAN play it, unlike many others at 430-yard holes. Those leave me thinking about fishing more.

For those of you obsessed with numbers, I can provide a playable course between 6000-and-6600 yards under normal conditions. Remember, the back tees will still be in the 7000-yard range. For the golf architects bemoaning the low level of current business, I suggest that applying their skills to this concept creates more business opportunities. Let them be known for designing fun, playable courses and altering current ones accordingly.

Who pays for all these makeovers? That will be covered in the next and final issue.

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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.

44 Comments

44 Comments

  1. Stretch

    Jul 22, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    I learned to play on a 9 hole course with two sets of tees. About 2800 yds from the longer tees. Quick domed greens and also very small. Firm fairways let players roll the ball a long ways. The course held the longest running amateur tournament in the state and it was rare if a scratch or plus handicap player shot better than two under.

    The second point is I worked at a championship course that had a lot of mini Tour pros and hot shot amateurs working in the tourist season. I had a running bet that they could not break par from the ladies tees. Never lost the bet. The really good players could not figure out that scoring on a short course meant controlling shot placement and that trying to overpower the course only led to penalties and chip outs from behind trees that normally aren’t in play.

    • Barney adama

      Jul 22, 2014 at 11:26 pm

      Exactly what I mean when I talk about educating the golfing public

  2. Jim

    Jul 22, 2014 at 9:06 am

    Barney – Love the articles. Please keep writing and writing. Most amateurs don’t even look at the yardage on a score card they either go to the back tees or they go one up from there. They never factor in wind, weather, temp, etc. That is a big problem and the stock response you get is “it doesn’t matter what tees I play, I still shoot the same”. I laugh at that because an 8 iron is easier to hit than a six iron. I even have friend you used to be elite college players who are no longer elite but still good and we have to play long courses. Well on our last trip, we got rain and wind and the course was too long for all of us and our scores skyrocketed. And the worst part was when we came in, everyone said they just didn’t play well not that the course was too long or tough in those conditions. Moving up helps, it speeds play, is more fun and changes course strategy. I don’t remember the last time I saw a starter on a tee “helping” a foursome play the correct tees.

  3. myron miller

    Jul 21, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    Personally I think Barney has hit it on the head. I play a ton of rounds each year with “average” golfers (those with zero handicap or even interest in one) and lots of beginners. And they can’t carry it 200 yards with the driver (not straight). Of course, there are also those that carry it 250 but only do it in the fairway 1 time in 4. But then they think they should play the next to back tees because they carry the ball so far.

    And I can’t count the number of courses where the “white” tee par-3 requires a carry from 180-220 yards over some major hazard. Average yardage for driver is about 200 with roll of 25 yards as measured by many many groups. So these par-3s become unplayable by many.

    I played one course in Seattle where the carry to the fairway was 225. Needless to say, lots of people didn’t carry it and ended up in the grunge (and the course has lots of 5-6 hours rounds and says that’s just because of the course difficulty – true, lousy design and artificial difficulty).

    And then there’s the PGA “Play it forward” program that the course pro’s don’t entirely follow. They put their membership at 6600-6800 yard events even though a number of the membership can’t handle more than 6200-6300 yards at best. And of course, the seniors are totally out because they can’t handle more than 5800 but unless they want to give strokes to the field they have to play at the long yardage.

    And of course, when all the events are at the long yardage, all the players play during regular play at these yardages (even though the Pro “encourages” players to “play it forward”.

    Seems contradictory to me. Why have the play it forward when all the events are too long for the players involved except for the longer better players.

    So since everyone is “practicing” for the next event, they’ll playing at too long yardages which makes play even slower.

    • cliff

      Jul 21, 2014 at 4:58 pm

      I assume your are talking about club championships and other tournaments. Our club championship is played from the back tees the first day (6800+) and flighted for the next day. Championship flight stays on the back tees and the rest of the flights move forward (6400+). Tournaments should be played from longer yardages, it separates the men from the boys.

      I work hard to be good at this game and people that don’t should be punished when the THINK they are ready to play tournaments.

      • Rich

        Jul 23, 2014 at 1:26 pm

        That’s the typical type thinking that has put golf in the position it’s in…Completely stupid thinking! You want to separate men from boys? What a crock of crap that comment is! Come put on the gloves…or no gloves…that will satisfy your “separation” …Meanwhile. your thinking is the very problem golf is facing! Sad!

        • cliff

          Jul 24, 2014 at 9:40 am

          So in your mind we should just have one set of tees at 5800 yards? Sounds comical to me! If you can play golf it really doesn’t matter what tees you play. If you can’t play golf it really doesn’t matter what tees you play. Point is, good golfers typically play fast and bad golfers typically play slow.

          Idiot golfer who think the are better than what they really are is the problem!

  4. Tommy

    Jul 20, 2014 at 11:42 pm

    All hail my 7100 yard private golf club that doesn’t allow women

  5. Chuck

    Jul 20, 2014 at 11:36 am

    Barney since you picked on unnamed “architects,” I thought I might offer a countering view…

    You wrote: “For the golf architects bemoaning the low level of current business, I suggest that applying their skills to this concept creates more business opportunities. Let them be known for designing fun, playable courses and altering current ones accordingly.”

    I’ve met Tom Doak and Geoff Shackelford and have read just about all of the books by both of them. There are few things I can imagine either one of them doing, than building a natural-looking, low-water, fine playable links on good ground for golf at about 6700 yards, with a number of forward tees up to 5800 or even 5500 yards. We’d need to ask their clients why they don’t want such designs.

    And I know — because he has put it in writing — that Tom Doak professes no interest in re-configuring classic golf course architecture to suit modern elite/tour golf. And mostly, when somebody forces (because that’s what it would usually take) Tom to comment on such courses, he thinks it is mostly rotten.

    We live in a golfing world where the gap between elite players and recreational players is wider than ever, and the elite players are threatening much of the architecture at golf’s most hallowed venues. Paraphrasing Shackelford, in no other sport are the venues where the game is conducted as central and critical to the enterprise, and in no other sport are the venues as delicately designed. The enduring beauty of golf, clearly (and, I’d say, unarguably) is in the courses and not the implements of play.

    We now have no less a triumvirate than Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player all agreeing that the golf ball needs to be rolled back:

    http://www.geoffshackelford.com/homepage/2012/4/5/jack-arnold-gary-vital-to-slow-down-the-ball.html

    Barney, you might well say that a ball rollback has nothing to do with getting recreational players out to play more golf. I think I’d agree. But there’s also no reason to think that clever new ball regulations would hurt recreational golf. With all of your access to data, you must know that a relatively small number of recreational players even bother with urethane balls much less depend upon them the way that tour players do. The only people in golf who would miss the current status quo are the executives at Acushnet.

    I still think the big falloff in getting new devotees to golf is the death of caddy programs across the country with the rise of golf carts. Just more unintended consequences of golf technology.

    • Chuck

      Jul 20, 2014 at 11:38 am

      Correcting a typo above:

      “There are few things I can imagine either one of them RATHER BE doing MORE, than building a natural-looking, low-water, fine playable links…”

    • Barney adama

      Jul 20, 2014 at 9:34 pm

      I guess I’m just missing something. Lets design courses applicable to 4% of the market ? What business model does that follow. I will address the golf ball in my equipment column.

      • LB

        Jul 20, 2014 at 9:55 pm

        But what percent of US courses are designed with the issues you mention? It can’t be THAT much, can it? Sounds like a relatively recent problem…

      • Chuck

        Jul 21, 2014 at 10:57 am

        No, Barney. The question — paraphrasing you — is why build EQUIPMENT that benefits 4% of the golfing world? It’s a gross paraphrasing, of course. But who, really, has been aided most by the Pro V-1 era?

        I will look forward to your comments on the ball when we get there.

        But back to architects. Again, if what you are suggesting for the betterment of golf is more courses that are simple, playable, challenging from shorter overall distances, using less water to save costs (and therefore “firm and fast”) and walkable without need of golf carts… I say as I did above, that the architects in whom I believe would LOVE to build more of those. And the real question is why the people who hire those architects don’t ask for such designs.

      • AW

        Jul 24, 2014 at 4:31 pm

        Our neighborhood Doak course is: a) public, b) cheap, c) eminently fair and d) owned by the Colorado Golf Association. So at least for that one example, there’s no “4% of the maket” discrimination at all by one of the big name architects.

        http://www.commongroundgc.com

  6. Jeff Daschel

    Jul 19, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    I wholly appreciate what you’re trying to do from the saving golf angle. I believe in my heart its the wrong thing to do. First let me tell you why I play golf. I started playing at 24 when I got a job at a Country Club. In that time, 6 years, I have spent thousands upon thousands of hours practicing.(I don’t have any more free time than anyone else) I just became addicted to the challenge. Yes, golf is really hard. Its taken me 6 years of intense practice to SOMETIMES play to a single digit handicap. To SOMETIMES reach a par 5 in two. From the time I started it probably took me 4 years to stand on the first tee and know I had a good chance at hitting a solid approach to give myself a look at birdie.
    Now, respectfully, I earned every damn 8 iron I hit into a par 4. My playing partners may not hit 8 iron into the green all the time because my playing partners may not have spent hours that week hitting driver into an open field. They can’t get up and down because I spent 3 hours chipping into a kiddie pool and they didn’t. If you make golf easier for those who aren’t willing to try as hard, you risk cheapening the genuine admiration most have for the guys who put in enough work to be brilliant.
    I have a box that I used to keep every ball I’ve ever made birdie with in. I can’t imagine placing such a value and meaning to a birdie or the game if they suddenly became easy to come by.
    My argument is basically that there are plenty of people who love golf, as the game Hogan played. That’s good by me

    • Barney adama

      Jul 19, 2014 at 6:01 pm

      The problem, Jeff is the vast majority cannot reach the holes and they are out of gym time and practice. Congratulations on your time and effort and the back tees will always be there for you. I still want to see more people playing that will help keep the game healthy financially.

      • Jeff Daschel

        Jul 20, 2014 at 5:56 pm

        I guess I don’t. I think there’s nothing in the world better than an empty golf course, almost nothing worse in the world of golf than a crowded course. When any problem is addressed with the question, how do we make more money? the answers are problems in themselves. What are your thoughts on caddy programs?

        • Peter

          Jul 21, 2014 at 1:05 am

          Jeff, an empty course is great for a quick, enjoyable round. But it’s also the fastest ticket to a bankrupt golf course, since you’d be the only one playing! Wishing for markedly fewer golfers is cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face.

  7. Ryan K

    Jul 19, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    Great take on how holes should be set up to par. Wholly agree on that! One thing that bothers me most on courses is having 4 Par 3’s, all within 15-20 yards of each other. Too many around my home will play something like 175, 190, 181, 188. That’s no fun! And again, too many Par 4’s at 410, 423, 427, etc. I am on the longer side of the average golfer but not by much. The repetition just gets old. Let’s see some variety, some of the 380 but tough Par 4’s and, again, 140 but tough Par 3’s make the round feel more complete! Make it happen!

  8. Chuck

    Jul 18, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    Barney, if you are the new Czar of All of Golf, who is going to break the news to Walter Driver?

  9. LB

    Jul 18, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    Great ideas to address design issues, but not much more of an idea or solution than just playing the white tees.

  10. ca1879

    Jul 18, 2014 at 11:00 am

    Hail Czar! We who are about to duff, salute you! Nice tongue in cheek article. Your description doesn’t seem all that far off the middle tees at most clubs I play. In fact it’s pretty close to dead on for my home club (7717 from the champ tees, 6532/5987 from the tees most male members play). Are there really that many clubs that need to change to offer reasonable length and challenge? I don’t see the average golfer behaving the way he’s presented by others here, even on munis. The vast majority seem to play one of the two middle sets of tees. You can argue that they should move up even further, but I don’t think the situation is as extreme as you would think from reading the golf forums. Are there any actual statistics available on the tees or length we choose to play?

    • Barney adama

      Jul 18, 2014 at 9:54 pm

      To coin a phrase on statistics. PLENTY in fact a majority. It’s getting better with Tee It Forward but the resistance is significant

  11. IH8

    Jul 18, 2014 at 10:03 am

    While Mr. Adams is very well written and is presenting some interesting ideas, I have to admit that I’m not really sure where this is going. I will say this however, this sure does come off very similar to all those other ‘grow the game’ things, i.e. written from a very golf centric perspective. Many of the premises here are taken from the view of the avid golfer. Too slow? Yeah, for all of us. But for an average golfer (you know, the type that plays 2-4 times a year, in a cart, drunk, can’t break 120 and is most interested in where the beer cart girl is so they can harass her), they don’t care that much as golf is usually an all day type event for them anyway (usually part of an all day outing, hence the heavy drinking). And to non-golfers, too slow? Not for them. They don’t know how long it takes to play and further more, they don’t care. Telling them the pace is quicker is like telling me that cricket is cheaper. I didn’t know it was expensive before and I don’t care if it’s free, I’m not interested (i.e. the majority’s attitude to golf). An 8 iron 140? Carry? You’re kidding right? Again, for us, sure. But the average golfer? I’d be amazed if they hit hybrid 150, with roll. I’m a former green fee golfer who’s in his first year private and with that knowledge I can honestly say that I don’t think Mr. Adams knows much about the average golfer. He knows us (golfwrx/avid golfer types) quite well. Most of us can break 100 or 90 fairly easily, play tees that are too long, hit an 8 iron 140 carry (or so) and understand the issues he’s talking about. But to the average golfer and the non-golfer, I don’t think any of this matters. I like his point about value for dollar but I don’t think he’s touching upon much other than to preach to the choir.

    And while I have your attention, why is every par 5 in this article designed to be a 3 shot hole? By his logic, anything over 400 yards or so should be a par 5, which might not necessarily be a bad thing. At least the punters could have a go. Basically, the par 5s being proposed by the czar here is basically a driving range for your driver and fw metal followed by an 8-iron par 3. If I’m playing it the same all the time, who cares? Might as well hit the range for some practice.

    • melrosegod

      Jul 18, 2014 at 5:23 pm

      We get it, you’re a hater. I don’t think anyone is trying to persuade drunk scramble golfers to get out more than twice a year. I think the average golfer loves the game but does work for a living. Hence, the average golfer would enjoy shooting trying to break 80 instead of avoid the 90s.

      • ih8

        Jul 20, 2014 at 2:46 pm

        I’m not hating, my point is Mr. Adams points are geared towards a golf obsessed culture with good players and nice courses. The reality for the average golfer doesn’t match up to the culture Mr. Adams comments are aimed at. He’s doing the equivalent of “let them eat cake.”

    • Barney adama

      Jul 18, 2014 at 6:14 pm

      Sorry cant pass that one up. Mr Adams has access to a data bank of 1.7m handicaps, has been in the equipment business as a club fitter then designer for 30 + years. Yes actually I do understand the average golfer.

      • Philip

        Jul 19, 2014 at 11:55 pm

        Note – I agree with Tee if Forward – I see many golfers playing off the whites/blues that cannot carry their driver 200 yards, and if you include their misses than the average is a lot lower. So this is not negative, just looking for additional info.

        So you mention 1.7m handicaps, compared to how many golfers? I’m assuming this information is USA – doesn’t the USA have over 25m golfers?

        The USGA GHIN system only has 2.3 million golfers from 79 golf associations that represent more than 14,000 golf clubs (as of January 2014).

        This tells me that the average golfer does not have a handicap, in fact the majority don’t and most likely do not pay for a custom fitting or purchase new clubs every year like many maintaining handicaps (USGA or not).

      • ih8

        Jul 20, 2014 at 2:44 pm

        Totally agree with Philip. 1.7 million handicaps when there are supposedly 25 million golfers in the US alone, so you’re data doesn’t even cover 10% of golfers. How can you make the claim you know the average golfer with such a teeny tiny amount of data? How often do you play a public course (where roughly 3/4 of rounds are played)? How many green fees do you pay a year? How often do you play with individuals without a handicap (i.e. 90+% of golfers)? If the answer to those questions are high numbers, I think you have a handle on the average golfer…or for that matter, the average golf course.

  12. John

    Jul 17, 2014 at 9:34 pm

    Look at Mr. Tom Watson, who at 64 is still competitive in The Open Championship (a 73 today that bettered many younger players). Why? Because the balls ROLLS over there in England, even with the course being greener than usual. Let’s get rid of the over watered, lush, environmentally irresponsible golf agronomy here in the US and Barney “Czar” Adams won’t have to build any courses. The ones we have, properly set up, will do just fine. Oh, and by the way, for the clueless posters out there, he’s kidding about the Czar thing. It’s humor.
    Thanks Mr. A, good articles, looking forward to the final edition and thank you for your efforts to improve the game.

    • Barney adama

      Jul 18, 2014 at 6:15 pm

      Exactly what Mr Watson told me the last time we were fishing. The roll out allows him to be competitive

  13. Jason

    Jul 17, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    Those are all nice ideas. Most courses already have several tee boxes set up for varied skill levels, the problem is that almost every group thinks their PGA ready.

    • paul

      Jul 18, 2014 at 2:35 pm

      Oh crap, we aren’t ready for the pro leagues?!

  14. Charlie

    Jul 17, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    Are you going to start designing courses? This article just seems like a farce to me.

  15. Tom

    Jul 17, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    Who called you Czar of anything? Is this a bad joke?

    • Barney adama

      Jul 17, 2014 at 7:28 pm

      Bad ? I guess up to the individual. Humor ? You bet. Just so we all don’t get too serious.

  16. Don

    Jul 17, 2014 at 4:54 pm

    I disagree about the par 5’s. Tour players get to eat up par 5’s, why shouldn’t the rest of us? Sub-500 yarders are the way to go for the average 200-225 yard drive golfer, IMO.

    • Barney adama

      Jul 17, 2014 at 5:17 pm

      But they are still 3 shot holes even at sub 500 unless slope and prevailing winds help The tour eats them up when they get home in two.

      • Jeremy

        Jul 17, 2014 at 7:02 pm

        Don is right though, mostly when they put a shot in the fairway they have the opportunity to go for it. I don’t see too many holes these days where it’s only Bubba who can make it in 2 with a helping wind. If you’re talking about making the game more fun, there’s few things in the game more fun than making eagle.

        Also, I love me some drivable par 4s and I think every course should have at least one.

      • paul

        Jul 18, 2014 at 2:39 pm

        My local course has two par 5s that are 500 yards. One has water around the green, so you need a high shot to hold it. The other has a big green and dog leg, make up the stroke you lost on last par 5 when you were going for it. Also has one drive able par 4 if its windy. I have flown it twice in to bunkers. The course plays 5900 white and 6400 blue tees. Just about shot par from the white, so I am graduating to the blues.

  17. James

    Jul 17, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    The Czar has spoken well. I can remember the old courses I grew up on where you could run a ball up on the green and modern courses today seem to take that away from us all. I prefer firm and fast fairways and greens to the overly watered down soft courses that most are these days. My home course has about half the holes designed into the prevailing winds be them out of the south or north. Just those into the wind change depending on wind direction. You make some great points Czar Barney!

    • Christian

      Jul 19, 2014 at 12:00 am

      Czar Barney doesn’t work, comes off too soft. We’re gonna need a name that can instill a little fear if there’s any hope of getting some of these changes into effect. If Czar Barney called you onto the carpet would you sweat or giggle? I vote for Czar RipsYourHeadOff. Czar RipsYourHeadOff gets sh*t done!

      Btw the tee’s are an issue that do need some attention. Speed of play, enjoyment and attracting new players are all affected by it.

      • Christian

        Jul 19, 2014 at 12:02 am

        @IH8

        Next time you have a thought, wait 15 minutes, if you still have it let it go.

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Opinion & Analysis

Clark: A teacher’s take on Brandel Chamblee’s comments

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Because I’m writing to a knowledgeable audience who follows the game closely, I’m sure the current Brandel Chamblee interview and ensuing controversy needs no introduction, so let’s get right to it.

Brandel Chamblee, a former PGA Tour player, now plays a role as a TV personality. He has built a “brand” around that role. The Golf Channel seems to relish the idea of Brandel as the “loose cannon” of the crew (not unlike Johnny Miller on NBC) saying exactly what he thinks with seeming impunity from his superiors.

I do not know the gentleman personally, but on-air, he seems like an intelligent, articulate golf professional, very much on top of his subject matter, which is mostly the PGA Tour. He was also a very capable player (anyone who played and won on the PGA Tour is/was a great player). But remember, nowadays he is not being judged by what scores he shoots, but by how many viewers/readers his show and his book have (ratings). Bold statements sell, humdrum ones do not.

For example, saying that a teacher’s idiocy was exposed is a bold controversial statement that will sell, but is at best only partly true and entirely craven. If the accuser is not willing to name the accused, he is being unfair and self-serving. However, I think it’s dangerous to throw the baby out with the bathwater here; Brandel is a student of the game and I like a lot of what he says and thinks.

His overriding message in that interview is that golf over the last “30-40 years” has been poorly taught. He says the teachers have been too concerned with aesthetics, not paying enough attention to function. There is some truth in that, but Brandel is painting with a very broad brush here. Many, myself included, eschewed method teaching years ago for just that reason. Method teachers are bound to help some and not others. Maybe the “X swing” one player finds very useful, another cannot use it all.

Brandel was asked specifically about Matthew Wolff’s unique swing: Lifting the left heel, crossing the line at the top, etc. He answered, “of course he can play because that’s how he plays.” The problem would be if someone tried to change that because it “looked odd.” Any teacher worth his weight in salt would not change a swing simply because it looked odd if it was repeating good impact. I learned from the great John Jacobs that it matters not what the swing looks like if it is producing great impact.

Now, if he is objecting exclusively to those method teachers who felt a certain pattern of motions was the one true way to get to solid impact, I agree with him 100 percent. Buy many teach on an individual, ball flight and impact basis and did not generalize a method. So to say “golf instruction over the last 30-40 years” has been this or that is far too broad a description and unfair.

He goes on to say that the “Top Teacher” lists are “ridiculous.” I agree, mostly. While I have been honored by the PGA and a few golf publications as a “top teacher,” I have never understood how or why. NOT ONE person who awarded me those honors ever saw me give one lesson! Nor have they have ever tracked one player I coached.  I once had a 19 handicap come to me and two seasons later he won the club championship-championship flight! By that I mean with that student I had great success. But no one knew of that progress who gave me an award.

On the award form, I was asked about the best, or most well-known students I had taught. In the golf journals, a “this-is-the-teacher-who-can-help-you” message is the epitome of misdirection. Writing articles, appearing on TV, giving YouTube video tips, etc. is not the measure of a teacher. On the list of recognized names, I’m sure there are great teachers, but wouldn’t you like to see them teach as opposed to hearing them speak? I’m assuming the “ridiculous” ones Brandel refers to are those teaching a philosophy or theory of movement and trying to get everyone to do just that.

When it comes to his criticism of TrackMan, I disagree. TrackMan does much more than help “dial in yardage.” Video cannot measure impact, true path, face-to-path relationship, centeredness of contact, club speed, ball speed, plane etc. Comparing video with radar is unfair because the two systems serve different functions. And if real help is better ball flight, which of course only results from better impact, then we need both a video of the overall motion and a measure of impact.

Now the specific example he cites of Jordan Spieth’s struggles being something that can be corrected in “two seconds” is hyperbolic at least! Nothing can be corrected that quickly simply because the player has likely fallen into that swing flaw over time, and it will take time to correct it. My take on Jordan’s struggles is a bit different, but he is a GREAT player who will find his way back.

Brandel accuses Cameron McCormick (his teacher) of telling him to change his swing.  Do we know that to be true, or did Jordan just fall into a habit and Cameron is not seeing the change? I agree there is a problem; his stats prove that, but before we pick a culprit, let’s get the whole story. Again back to the sensationalism which sells! (Briefly, I believe Jordan’s grip is and has always been a problem but his putter and confidence overcame it. An active body and “quiet” hands is the motion one might expect of a player with a strong grip-for obvious reason…but again just my two teacher cents)

Anyway, “bitch-slapped” got him in hot water for other reasons obviously, and he did apologize over his choice of words, and to be clear he did not condemn the PGA as a whole. But because I have disagreements with his reasoning here does not mean Brandel is not a bright articulate golf professional, I just hope he looks before he leaps the next time, and realizes none of us are always right.

Some of my regular readers will recall I “laid down my pen” a few years ago, but it occurred to me, I would be doing many teachers a disservice if I did not offer these thoughts on this particular topic!

 

 

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Opinion & Analysis

A trip down Magnolia Memory Lane: Patron fashion at the 1991 Masters

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Like a lot of golfers out there, I’ve been getting my fix thanks to the final round Masters broadcasts on YouTube via the Masters channel. Considering these broadcasts go back as far as 1968, there is a lot we could discuss—we could break down shots, equipment, how the course has changed, but instead I thought we could have a little fun taking a different direction—fashion.

However, I’m not talking players fashion, that’s fairly straight forward. Instead, I wanted to follow the action behind the action and see what we could find along the way – here are the 1991 Highlights.

I love the “Die Hard” series as much as anyone else but one fan took it to a new level of fandom by wearing a Die Hard 2 – Die Harder T-shirt to Sunday at the Masters. This patron was spotted during Ian Woosnam fourth shot into 13. Honorable mention goes to Woosie’s gold chain.

There is a lot going on here as Ben Crenshaw lines up his put on 17. First, we have the yellow-shirted man just left of center with perfectly paired Masters green pants to go along with his hat (he also bears a striking resemblance to Ping founder Karsten Solheim). Secondly, we have what I would imagine is his friend in the solid red pants—both these outfits are 10 out of 10. Last but not least, we have the man seen just to the right of Ben with sunglasses so big and tinted, I would expect to be receiving a ticket from him on the I20 on my way out of town.

If you don’t know the name Jack Hamm, consider yourself lucky you missed a lot of early 2000s late-night golf infomercials. OK so maybe it’s not the guy known for selling “The Hammer” driver but if you look under the peak of the cabin behind Woosie as he tees off on ten you can be forgiven for taking a double-take… This guy might show up later too. Honorable mention to the pastel-pink-shorted man with the binoculars and Hogan cap in the right of the frame.

Big proportions were still very much in style as the 80s transitioned into the early 90s. We get a peek into some serious style aficionados wardrobes behind the 15th green with a wide striped, stiff collared lilac polo, along with a full-length bright blue sweater and a head of hair that has no intention of being covered by a Masters hat.

Considering the modern tales of patrons (and Rickie Folwer) being requested to turn backward hats forward while on the grounds of Augusta National, it was a pretty big shock to see Gerry Pate’s caddy with his hat being worn in such an ungentlemanly manner during the final round.

Before going any further, I would like us all to take a moment to reflect on how far graphics during the Masters coverage has come in the last 30 years. In 2019 we had the ability to see every shot from every player on every hole…in 1991 we had this!

At first glance, early in the broadcast, these yellow hardhats threw me for a loop. I honestly thought that a spectator had chosen to wear one to take in the action. When Ian Woosnam smashed his driver left on 18 over the bunkers it became very apparent that anyone wearing a hard hat was not there for fun, they were part of the staff. If you look closely you can see hole numbers on the side of the helmets to easily identify what holes they were assigned to. Although they have less to do with fashion, I must admit I’m curious where these helmets are now, and what one might be worth as a piece of memorabilia.

Speaking of the 18th hole, full credit to the man in the yellow hat (golf clap to anyone that got the Curious George reference) who perfectly matched the Pantone of his hat to his shirt and also looked directly into the TV camera.

It could be said the following photo exemplifies early ’90s fashion. We have pleated Bermuda shorts, horizontal stripes all over the place and some pretty amazing hairstyles. Honorable mention to the young guys in the right of the frame that look like every ’80s movie antagonist “rich preppy boy.”

What else can I say except, khaki and oversized long sleeve polos certainly had their day in 1991? We have a bit of everything here as Tom Watson lines up his persimmon 3-wood on the 18th. The guy next to Ian Woosnam’s sleeves hit his mid-forearm, there are too many pleats to count, and somehow our Jack Hamm look-alike managed to find another tee box front row seat.

You can check out the full final-round broadcast of the 1991 Masters below.

 

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Podcasts

The 19th Hole Episode 119: Gary Player joins the 19th Hole!

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Hall of Famer Gary Player gives an exclusive one-on-one interview with Host Michael Williams about his life in golf, his thoughts on the current game and his tips for thriving even in difficult times.

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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