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Opinion & Analysis

Rory wipes iPhones, creates more legal questions



Rory’s plan to return to golf at the Master’s with a clear mind is very unlikely.

His legal battle against his former management company Horizon Sports Management is going to take a while with yet another setback in the discovery process. According to an IrishTimes report, Horizon’s attorneys are alleging that Rory McIlroy and his father Gerry violated a court order when they intentionally wiped the memory of a reported eight or more cell phones and electronic devices that may have contained relevant information concerning the case. Believing that they can still access the information, Horizon’s legal team is seeking the court’s permission to “forensically inspect” the phones used by both Rory and his father going back three years.

This case is reportedly scheduled to begin in January, since months of pre-trial negotiations have failed. If it does go to court, a resolution by April before the Masters allowing Rory to sleep easy while he attempts to complete the Grand Slam is just not going to happen. The amount of money at stake is enormous and regardless of what decision is initially made, it will be argued to death in appeals court. Any trial lawyer can tell you that the appeals process takes longer than Kevin Na’s pre-shot routine.

The facts of the case are light but here is what we know so far. Rory was unhappy with the advice he was receiving from his then manager Andrew “Chubby” Chander in 2011. Rory, needing to make a change, reached out to Horizon Sports Management for new representation, since his good friend Graeme McDowell was also represented by them. According to the allegations stated by Rory’s team, Horizon’s founder Conor Ridge apparently told Rory that his deal with Horizon would be the same as their deal with McDowell. Rory signed with Horizon in December of 2011 when he was 22 years old.  Horizon and Rory entered into another deal two years later right around the time he signed a $100+ million deal with Nike. Horizon is undoubtedly  entitled to a piece of that.

Apparently in 2013, Rory somehow learned that his Horizon deal was not the same as McDowell’s and that Rory had paid Horizon close to $7 million more in fees than what McDowell’s contract required. Rory then split with Horizon and almost immediately started his own company, Rory McIlory Inc., before filing this lawsuit.

The purpose of this court battle is to get Rory out of the remainder of his two contracts, claiming that because he was 22, “inexperienced” and did not consult his own lawyer, the contracts with “markedly inferior terms” should be void due to Horizon’s undue influence over Rory.

According to the Irish Times, Horizon’s legal team stated that Rory’s claims are baseless and that Rory was never told that he would get “the same deal” as McDowell. Horizon is countersuing Rory for millions in unpaid fees for off-course endorsements, as well as damages for the continued breach of the two contracts.

Lets take a look at both side’s argument based on what we know. Keep in mind that I have not been able to read the complaints filed in the Dublin court.

Rory’s attempt to get out of his contract with Horizon is based on the legal doctrine of undue influence in contract law. Unfortunately, there is no statutory basis giving us a clear-cut definition of what amounts to undue influence. Also, Rory’s case was filed in a Dublin court, which may have a slightly different process than a U.S. court. However, Ireland follows many of the same legal doctrines as the U.S. and their contract laws appear to be pretty similar.

Undue influence basically states that a contract is voidable because one party took advantage of another party in order to convince that party to sign an unfair contract. Unlike certain circumstances where a contract is automatically deemed void regardless if brought to court (i.e. one party is under the age of 18), a voidable contract means that a contract CAN BE deemed void only where the circumstances require.

There are two types of undue influence. Actual undue influence, or duress, where an agreement is made only after one party actually uses some sort of influence over the other party to make he/she agree against their will. This is typically done by force or threat of force or some type of bullying like badgering the person to sign. It’s pretty unlikely that Rory could be taunted or threatened into signing, and there are no facts leaning to anything of the sort so far, so we can probably rule that out.

The second type is the strongest argument Rory can make because it puts almost all of the burden of proof on the defense. Wrongdoing is assumed based on the relationship between the parties. These relationships are those where one party is in a position of power and is being trusted to act in the other’s best interest, i.e.: parent/child, doctor/patient, attorney/client.

Rory will most likely argued that he believed that Horizon would be representing him the same way they are representing McDowell and because he was only 22 and did not think to get himself a lawyer because he was “inexperienced,” and that Horizon knew that Rory was trusting Horizon to act in his best interest.

The court will first look to see if the relationship creates the presumption that undue influence occurred. It is hard to determine if a judge is likely to find this. Those relationships typically involve a pre-existing relationship where trust has already been established through a long-time, working relationship.  Rory never worked with Horizon before, thus had no history of a trusting relationship to point to. This may lead the court against the presumption, and Rory will be required to show evidence that Horizon acted in bad faith.

If the court does find that such relationship existed, however, Rory’s job is done and it will be presumed that Horizon did use their position over Rory to get him to sign a much more expensive contract. The burden of proof will switch to Horizon to rebut the presumption and show that that it did not use any position over Rory to make him agree to something without his knowledge. Horizon will most likely argue that that it did not pressure him to sign anything, did not lie or mislead him about the terms of the contract and did not prevent Rory from allowing a lawyer to review the terms of the contract.  This can be difficult to show, especially if correspondences between the Horizon and Rory were deleted.

It will essentially be a he said/they said — which will most likely cause issues in determining the credibility of witnesses and cause a judge/jury confusion in making a decision.

Regardless of the law and how a Dublin court decides, a few things do not sit well. Unless more facts come out that show behavior in bad faith by Horizon, Rory is basically saying that he shouldn’t have to pay his management company, who helped him land Nike, because he thought he was only going to have to pay what McDowell was going to have to pay. And he should not have to pay Horizon only because he thought Ridge told him he would get the same contract as McDowell, but did not exercise any type of due diligence to assure that it would be reflected in the contract because he was an inexperienced 22-year-old.

My opinion would change, of course, if facts surface that Rory was actually shown a copy of McDowell’s contract and promised the same thing, if McDowell (a Horizon shareholder) personally played any part in getting Rory to agree to a different arrangement, or if Horizon did deplorable things to try to take advantage of an inexperienced kid. The truth remains to be seen, but with the facts available today it looks as though Rory didn’t do his homework.

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Evan is an attorney licensed to practice law in Michigan. He's also a dedicated golfer with an obsession for the latest golf equipment, and frequently gets caught in public examining his swing in any reflective surface.



  1. marcel

    Dec 16, 2014 at 12:25 am

    Horizon has any money coming from other sources apart of milking Rory since GMac is shareholder. pity they leach on young guy.

  2. Rod

    Dec 13, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    It goes to show that Horizon are all about the $ and you would hope that if they wanted to stay in the golf industry, they would want this to get sorted sooner rather than later.
    They might get their pay day from Rory, but I think they will damage their reputation. You should be able to have an honest relationship with your management team.
    It was interesting to see how Oakley were very verbal about getting compensation from Rory due to him ending the contract but they seemed to calm down. Perhaps they have more to loose re product sales.
    If Horizon just quote the small print, it bypasses what they are all about which is managing relationships.
    I hope Rory can get it sorted out and it’s only money. Rory needs to keep focused on his main skill which is winning golf tournaments and perhaps delegate all the commercial and legal issue to someone he can trust.

  3. Regis

    Dec 12, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    My guess is this is a case in Equity. Kind of like an annulment. Rory is basically asking the court to declare the contract void ab initio, meaning asking the court to declare the contract never was entered into because of the “over reaching”. Tough sell. As to the phones. Keep in mind that Rory bolted Horizon for a management group that he formed with friends and family. Those phones could contain records of non-horizon people, like his dad pertaining to setting up the new group. When did he start the concept of forming his own group and with whom? What were the conversations? Goes to his argument that he was unsophisticated. Finally there is a principle in most US courts called spoliation. Means if you delete or destroy records, the trier of fact may consider it a presumption that those deleted records were detrimental to your position

  4. Steve

    Dec 12, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    Is Rory serious? I was 22 and didn’t know any better, really. 22 old enough to vote, old enough to drink, old enough to die in war, but to dumb to know. Arrogance is no excuse, this why there are contracts. If they pulled the wool over his eyes that is to bad on him for signing. It is common place in the music industry to screw over young talent on the first contract. Talk to Springsteen, billy Joel, or any young and dumb musician that signed on the hood of a car. He is going to have eat it and buy himself out of the contract. Write it off to being stupid

    • luke

      Dec 12, 2014 at 8:31 pm

      too* calling someone stupid and using incorrect grammar

      • Knobbywood

        Dec 14, 2014 at 5:12 am

        Incorrect sir

      • bradford

        Dec 15, 2014 at 7:14 am

        “too* calling someone stupid and using incorrect grammar”

        …um wut?

  5. Justin

    Dec 12, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    Any legal binding document would have been an sent via email and probably still have been available if the phone was wiped. I would bet my next check that Rory wipes his phones like we all do when we get rid of them for a number of reasons, delete personal info, phone numbers, texts, most importantly inappropriate Pictures and Video’s since celebrities and athletes tend to end up on the web nude lately. He is 22yrs old, Rich, Famous and dates models I can only imagine the digital media on his phones and how much people would pay to get it. The question of how many phones he had is irrelevant, if you have that type of money it would be easier to have the provider send you a new phone & # then cancel the old one. Can you see Rory in the parking lot at Augusta talking to AT&T trying to change his number, me either…

  6. tom

    Dec 11, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    Can’t see the “only 22 and did not think to get himself a lawyer because he was inexperienced” stance holding up. He was still an adult. He should have known better.

    • Ben

      Dec 12, 2014 at 9:56 am

      Totally agree. Sounds like a costly mistake… Learn from it and move on.

  7. golfing

    Dec 11, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    Horizon means it will suck you till you can see!

    This company already did destroy 2 years of the kid majors years.

    What a bunch of money sucking people.

    From the signing of the contract at a party, to the Oakley and Nike mess
    and so on, this is not a player needs in is head, good job destroying
    a star!

  8. Mat

    Dec 11, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    Just out of curiosity… can’t he argue that a verbal agreement of equity is as enforceable as the construct of the later written contract? I think this misses the point; you have “undue influence” if you were lied to, correct?

    If someone says, “you’re getting the same deal”, and then you find out it’s not at all the same deal, can’t you then argue that the subsequent signed contract was in fact misleading? One party was “in power”, and it was the one who knew both Rory’s and Graeme’s contract terms. That “power” led them to make a deal that they knew was inequitable.

    Dressing this stuff up through “he was young” or “inexperienced” doesn’t mean that the same conclusion would have come about. They could have held said “power” even if RoryCo had retained counsel. In the end, it’ll be interesting to see how this comes out. But if the narratives have a modicum of truth in that the verbal deal was “the same terms”, and the paper says otherwise, I think RoryCo will end up prevailing. The verbal contract from the agent/agency is going to be enforceable unless something else comes up.

    • Thomas

      Dec 11, 2014 at 1:31 pm

      Disclaimer: this is not legal advice. It will depend on what the law in their jurisdiction says. Here in the US, though, a court will typically look first to the written contract. Contracts often have clauses that say any negotiations or representations leading up this contract are not admissible. In other words, if a term did not make it into the writing, it is neither admissible nor enforceable. That rule is in place to prevent exactly this situation: “they told me something different than what I actually signed.” If that rule does not exist, contracts are not worth the paper they are written on. Everyone could simply make that type of claim to get out of every contract they disliked. (So it is his burden to make sure every term is in there BEFORE he signs.) As far as undue influence, lying does not really enter that picture. (Lying plays more of a role in defrauding someone to enter into a contract, which is a different issue.) Undue influence, by contrast, looks more into the relationship between the parties: in other words, was the person signing of limited capacity to understand, and then the other side “unduly” exerted its position of trust or authority over the other to get them to sign. This to me seems to be the least likely to win: here, it was two knowledgeable business entities (or adults) negotiating or entering into a contract. They appear to have been on equal footing, and would be treated that way.

  9. real talk

    Dec 11, 2014 at 11:35 am

    So much hate for Rory on here. I’m willing to bet that all the vitriol comes from Tiger fans who can’t stand the fact that Rory absolutely owns Tiger and has been humiliating on the course for years.

    • scott

      Dec 11, 2014 at 1:07 pm

      last time I checked tiger had 14 and rory had 4 I wouldn’t say that 4 is beating 14 and that rory might still have some work to do in order to catch tiger

    • Barack

      Dec 11, 2014 at 3:59 pm

      After Rory won a bunch in 2012, Tiger won 5 times in 2013. He’s hardly humiliated the guy. Rory couldn’t win 5 this year, so until Rory wins a a faster clip than 3 year old Tiger, I’m not buying it.

      I know, I know Tiger didn’t win a major. He won the Players though. That’s a tough win. Let’s just agree that both men healthy is good for golf.

      And these sharks who got rich off Rorys back, give em hell kid. If it feels wrong to you, fight em bruh.

      Am I the only golf fan that likes Tiger and Rory?

      • Teaj

        Dec 12, 2014 at 10:02 am

        Nope I to am a Tiger and Rory fan because I am a fan of golf, the other stuff I can care less about. People like to make assumptions on both, like Tiger does not relate to fans because he does not share much in interviews and then when Rory shares to much they flog him too. Both are just humans and have a different way of expressing their views but non of this has anything to do with the way they can dominate the game of golf. I hope both can be healthy at the same time and at the top of their game so we don’t have to guess who would beat who like when Tiger was coming up and people pondered the question who would win Jack or Tiger.

  10. Daniel

    Dec 11, 2014 at 8:24 am

    The guilty party is always the one who runs, or hides things, or in this case wipes their phones clean. And wouldn’t Horizon have all of their communications with Rory saved anyway. Why do they need what’s on the phones. If it’s Rory taking to Nike behind their back, the court can just get all that from Nike right?

    I agree with everyone else on here, just pay the money and move on. Instead of Rory having enough money for 100 lifetimes, he’ll now only have enough for 90.

    • Jack

      Dec 15, 2014 at 3:36 am

      Why would he talk to Nike when they have and are paid to do the work for him? I don’t agree with what he’s claiming, since he should have had a lawyer present, unless he can prove that Horizon persuaded him to not have one in order to have him sign a contract that he did not intend to sign out of total trust.

      I wonder if he’s still friends with McDowell.

  11. Pat

    Dec 11, 2014 at 8:23 am

    Mo money, mo problems. Seriously though, filthy rich people are driver by one thing and that’s greed. Rory is no different. I do agree with you however. He should settle this out of court and move on. I don’t see how he’s going to win his suit based on the stories and the premise on which he is defending his position. Nobody put a gun to his head and forced him to sign the contract. He did it willingly. He needs to man up and take care of his issues or else it will affect his game negatively for the the 2015 season.

  12. Slimeone

    Dec 11, 2014 at 7:51 am

    Why did he have eight iPhones?

    • Marshall Brown

      Dec 11, 2014 at 11:25 am

      Media kept getting his number, so he had to change phoned constantly.

      • Rich

        Dec 11, 2014 at 5:15 pm

        Doesn’t mean he needed a new phone each time. He’d just switch the number if that was the reason

        • Marshall Brown

          Dec 11, 2014 at 6:45 pm

          You are right, I didn’t think about that. I just read that somewhere yesterday and assumed it was the reason.

  13. Bobsyouruncle

    Dec 11, 2014 at 1:19 am

    No matter the outcome, this has to hurt Horizon’s reputation and bottom line. What other athlete and especially a hot upcoming talent is going to want to sign a contract with them now?

    In the meantime, all the lawyers on both sides are getting paid handsomely for battling this out in the courts. Life is good for someone.

  14. Pingback: Rory McIlroy Wipes iPhones, Creates More Legal Questions | Golf Gear Select

  15. sam

    Dec 10, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    i don’t think this will effect him mental much at all.
    its just money he can cover it..

    • real talk

      Dec 11, 2014 at 12:06 pm

      Take this for what it’s worth…

      One of my best friend’s dad is very well connected in the golf world and a close friend with Rory. He thinks the world of Rory BTW. Rory doesn’t care about the money. This is all about respect and principle for him. Rory treats everyone with class but when you cross him he will unleash h***.

  16. Fsubaseball21

    Dec 10, 2014 at 9:38 pm

    I’m sure Rory has been told numerous times that this mess should have been settled long before papers were filed. When you open yourself up to discovery you had better be sure all of your bases are covered. Just my opinion but Horizon wins this case easily. Shame on both of them for not getting into a room and working something out like normal human beings. Horizon was shady but at the end of the day 22 years old makes you an adult.

  17. golfpros1

    Dec 10, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    He dropped his guard because he was use to dealing with Chubby, a person that is unique in this business by not messing over his clients and believing a handshake means as much as a contract. Rory made a mistake leaving chubby and this is what he got for his decision.

  18. Stan

    Dec 10, 2014 at 8:01 pm

    Couldn’t have picked a better picture of Rory for this article. Mr. Shifty Eyes.

  19. mark m

    Dec 10, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    Its a difficult case for Rory to make and its would set a bad precedent. So would every 22 year old that applies for a credit card, loan, mortgage, etc and enters in to a legal financial arrangement argue that they were too stupid to read what they were signing and therefore the contract is void? I think not.
    This and Rory is hard pressed to prove that he was harmed by this deal seeing as they landed him Nike and at the end of the day if he pays what he owes he won’t exactly be broke, only slightly less rich.

  20. dave

    Dec 10, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    why doesnt he take some of the $200+ M from Nike and call it a day? im sure Nike can’t be happy about the timing of all of this. Cut a check and move on! (easier said than done iknow) but why fight this hard !!

  21. Law

    Dec 10, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    Good bye Rory. It was nice seeing you at the top of the game for a while.

  22. Donnie

    Dec 10, 2014 at 6:18 pm

    First, how could he have not consulted with a contract attorney, given what (even a stupid 22 year-old would have to known was millions of dollars) was at stake. He needs to “fire” his dad. Here’s a 100k a month allowance pop, I love you!… Second, if Graeme really is a “shareholder” in the company and he was promised “the same deal as Graeme” then he probably does have some legal ground to stand on, albeit shaky. A smart guy would say, “how many shares does Graeme own?” Oh really? I want three times that number, and boy what a good deal you are getting… If the relationship were successful how many other golfers would he have attracted to this management company??
    Dear Rory, I would like to introduce you to a term called a “flat fee” when you have 100’s of millions coming your way, you should get familiar with the concept.

  23. luke keefner

    Dec 10, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    Make a deal, settle out of court,slap each other on the back, shake hands and move on. Its not like any of these people need the money…

  24. Mike honcho

    Dec 10, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    He probably wiped it to get rid of the pics of Caroline

  25. Golfraven

    Dec 10, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    Of course he was paying more because he was earning far more the GMAC that time. Still a rip off from this management group and hope they loose the case. the claim with the iphone devices is a joke.

    • Rich

      Dec 11, 2014 at 12:12 am

      Ok, based on what? How do you know it’s a joke?

      • Golfraven

        Dec 12, 2014 at 3:04 pm

        Fair question. I think that his personal devices don’t hold an evidence for this particular case. Doubt his contractual conversation went over whatsapp. Nobodies business what he has stored on his iphone. The facts are clear in this case, he signed an agreement which he later didn’t agree with and he is free to cancel it with some additional fees – as for any contact in real life. Although I agree he was rather naive not get legal advise.

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Opinion & Analysis

A new NCAA transfer rule gets passed… and college coaches are NOT happy



New rules just keep on coming from the NCAA; college coaches are not happy about this one.

In a summer of block buster coaching changes, the NCAA has done its best to stay atop the news cycle by making some significant changes, which will impact the recruitment process. In an article two months ago entitled “The effect the NCAA’s new recruiting rules will have on college golf,” I spoke to college coaches about a new rule, which will not allow unofficial or official visits until September 1 of the players Junior Year. To go along with this rule, the NCAA has also put in place a new recruiting calendar which will limit the sum of the days of off campus recruiting between a head and assistant coach to 45 days starting August 1, 2018.

The 45-day rule will have several potential impacts for both recruits and assistant coaches. For recruits, it is likely that after a couple (2-3) evaluations, coaches will make offers and ask for speed responses to ensure they are not missing out on other options. I also think you will see far less assistant coaches recruiting, which ultimately hurts their opportunities to learn the art of recruitment.

The new transfer rule

In the past, players were subject to asking their present institution for either permission to contact other schools regarding transfer, or a full release.

Now, starting October 15, players can simply inform their institution of their intensions to leave and then start contacting other schools to find an opportunity. This is a drastic shift in policy, so I decided to poll college coaches to get their reactions.

The poll was conducted anonymously via Survey Monkey. Participation was optional and included 6 questions:

  1. New NCAA Legislation will allow players to transfer without a release starting October 2018. Do you support this rule change?
  2. Do you believe that this rule will have APR implications?
  3. Who do you think will benefit most from this rule?
  4. What are the benefits of allowing students to transfer without a release? What are the potential harms?
  5. New NCAA Legislation will make December a dead period for recruiting off campus. Do you support this legislation?
  6. What implications do you see for this rule?

In all, 62 Division I golf coaches responded, or about 10 percent of all Division I coaches in Men’s and Women’s Golf. The results show that 81.25 percent of DI coaches said that they do NOT support the rule change for transfers.

Also, 90 percent of coaches polled believe that the rule will have APR implications. APR is Academic Progress Rate which holds institutions accountable for the academic progress of their student-athletes through a team-based metric that accounts for the eligibility and retention of each student-athlete for each academic term.

The APR is calculated as follows:

  • Each student-athlete receiving athletically related financial aid earns one point for staying in school and one point for being academically eligible.
  • A team’s total points are divided by points possible and then multiplied by 1,000 to equal the team’s Academic Progress Rate.
  • In addition to a team’s current-year APR, its rolling four-year APR is also used to determine accountability.

Teams must earn a four-year average APR of 930 to compete in championships.

While the APR is intended as an incentive-based approach, it does come with a progression of penalties for teams that under-perform academically over time.

The first penalty level limits teams to 16 hours of practice per week over five days (as opposed to 20 over six days), with the lost four hours to be replaced with academic activities.

A second level adds additional practice and competition reductions, either in the traditional or non-championship season, to the first-level penalties. The third level, where teams could remain until their rate improves, includes a menu of possible penalties, including coaching suspensions, financial aid reductions and restricted NCAA membership.

Clearly coaches are not happy about the move and feel that the rule unfairly benefits both the student athletes and major conference schools, who may have a swell of calls around middle of October as Student athletes play great fall golf and look to transfer. Although coaches are unhappy about the new rule, it is very difficult to predict what direct impact the rule will have on teams; coaches are extremely smart and understand recruiting and development within the frame work of college better than anyone can imagine. As a result, I think coaches will react in many ways which are impossible to predict.

The survey also asked, “new NCAA Legislation will make December a dead period for recruiting off campus. Do you support this legislation?” For this, coaches were more divided with 45 percent in favor of the rule, and 55 percent not.

Although coaches supported the legislation, many (41/62) suggested that it would potentially hurt international recruiting at tournaments like Doral and the Orange Bowl and they had, in the past, used December as a time to recruit.

As we move forward with these changes, here are some potential things that recruits, and their families should consider, including consequences of the rules:

  1. With a limit of 45 days and these transfer rules, it is likely that coaches will be doing significantly more investigation into a player’s personalities and family situation to make sure they know what they are getting.
  2. Coaches may also start skipping over better players in favor of kids they think will be a good fit and are likely to stay
  3. Rosters may get bigger, as coaches are trying to have larger numbers to potentially offset transfers

Unfortunately, we enter a new era of rules at the worst time; we have never had a more competent and deep group of college coaches, the clear majority of whom are tremendous stewards of the game. Hopefully this rule will have insignificant effect on the continued growth of college golf but only time will tell.

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Opinion & Analysis

Is golf actually a team sport?



Do a little research on the top PGA Tour players, and what you’ll see is that most (if not all of them) employ a team of diverse professionals that support their efforts to perform on the golf course. Take two-time major champion Zach Johnson; he has a team that includes a caddie, a swing instructor, a sports psychologist, a physiotherapist, an agent, a statistician, a spiritual mentor, a financial adviser… and of course his wife.

“I know this seems like a lot, and maybe even too much,” Johnson readily admitted. “But each individual has their place. Each place is different in its role and capacity. In order for me to practice, work out and just play golf, I need these individuals along the way. There is a freedom that comes with having such a great group that allows me to just play.”

My best guess is that Zach Johnson commits hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to this team, and I assume most players on the leading professional tours are making significant investments in their “teams.” There are three questions that jump out at this point. First, is a team necessary? Second, how can anyone compete without one? And third, how to pay for it?

From the club player to the collegiate player to the aspiring/touring professional, everyone can benefit from a team that offers individual instruction, support, guidance, and encouragement. Such a team, however, needs to be credible, timely, beneficial and affordable.

To be affordable, serious golfers should build their team one piece at a time. The obvious first choice is a swing coach. Golf swing coaches charge from $100-$1,500 per hour. The cost explains why players have historically been responsible for their own practice. The next piece, which is a newly developing trend, should be a performance coach who specializes in the supervision of practice, training and tournament preparation. Performance coaching on-site fees range from $200 to $3,000 per day.

So is team support essential for a player to be as good as he/she can be? My research says it is. When a player schedules a practice session, that session is usually based on what the player likes to do or wants to do. “Best Practices” utilized by world-class athletes suggest strongly that great progress in training always occurs when someone other than the player writes, administers and supervises the programs and sessions. The team approach says the player should focus on what needs to be done. Sometimes what the player wants to do and the things needed to be done are the same thing; sometimes they aren’t.

Now for the question of how to pay for it all. Wealthy players, or those with substantial or institutional support, have access to what they need or want… whatever the cost. If you use an on-site coach, teacher or other professional you will be paying for blocks of time. Fees can be hourly, weekly, monthly, yearly or lifetime arrangements based upon several factors. If your coach of choice is not local, you can also incur travel and per diem expenses. The process of paying for someone’s time can really add up. You can review what I charge for various services that require my attendance at

For those of you who don’t have easy access to on-site expertise or don’t want to incur the expense, I want to offer an approach that business, industry, colleges/universities and entrepreneurs are turning to: “Distance Coaching.” Distance learning is made possible through modern technology. In today’s world, expertise can be delivered using FaceTime, Skype, texting, email and (old fashion) phone calls. Textbooks, videos, specific programs and workbooks can be accessed from anywhere at any time by anyone with a desire to do so… and who knows what’s coming in the future. Through Distance Coaching, individuals can employ professional expertise on an as-needed basis without incurring huge costs or expenses.

The primary team expenses that can be avoided are those associated with face-to-face, on-site visits or experiences. Distance Coaching brings whatever any player needs, wants or desires within financial reach. For example, a player in Australia can walk onto the practice ground and have that day’s practice schedule delivered to a personal device by his/her performance coach. The player then forwards the results of that session back to the coach — let’s say in Memphis, Tennessee. The player is then free to move onto other activities knowing that the performance, training and preparation process is engaged and functioning. In the same vein, that same player in Australia may have moved into learning mode and he/she is now recording the golf swing and is sending it to the swing teacher of choice for analysis and comment.

So what is the cost of Distance Coaching? Teachers, trainers and coaches set their own fees based upon their business plan. Some require membership, partnership or some other form of commitment. For example, I offer free performance coaching with the purchase of one of my books or programs, as do others. Where face-to-face, on-site fees for performance coaching is available for $200 a day, the same expertise from the same coach can cost as little as $50 a month using the distance format, tools and technology. I highly recommend that players responsibly research the options available to them and then build the best team that fits their games, desires and goals. I’m happy to forward a guide of what to look for in a performance coach; just ask for it at

Back to Zach Johnson; he recently admitted that his lack of recent success could be traced to his lack of focus and practice discipline. Additional, he concedes that he has been practicing the wrong things. “It goes back to the basics,” he said. “I have to do what I do well. Truth be told, what I’m practicing now is more on my strengths than my weaknesses.”

Zach Johnson has a great team, but as he concedes, he still needs to put in the work.

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Opinion & Analysis

What is “feel” in putting… and how do you get it?



You’re playing a course for the first time, so you arrive an hour early to warm-up. You make your way toward the practice green and you see a sign at the first tee that reads, “GREEN SPEED TODAY 11.”  That brings up two issues:

  1. How did they arrive at that number?
  2. How is that information valuable to me?

How did they arrive at that number?

They used what’s known as a stimpmeter — a device that’s used to measure the speed of a green. With a stimpmeter, the green’s surface is tested by rolling a ball down the 30-inch ramp that is tilted downward at a 20-degree angle. The number of feet the ball rolls after leaving the ramp is an indication of the green’s speed. The green-speed test is conducted on a flat surface. A total of three balls are rolled in three different directions. The three balls must then finish within eight inches of each other for the test to be valid.

For example, if the ball is rolled down the ramp and were to stop at 8 feet, the green would be running at an “8.” Were the ball to roll down the ramp and stop at 12 feet, the green would be running at a “12.”

Stimpmeter history

The stimpmeter was invented by Edward S. Stimpson, Sr., a Massachusetts State Amateur Champion and former Harvard Golf Team Captain. After attending the 1935 U.S. Open at Oakmont, he saw the need for a universal testing device after watching Gene Sarazen, who was at the top of his game, putt a ball off the green. He was of the opinion that the greens were unreasonably fast, but he had no way to prove it — thus the motivation for creating the invention.

The device is now used by superintendents to make sure all of their greens are rolling close to the same speed. This ensures that golfers are not guessing from one putt to another if a green is fast or slow based on the way it is maintained. The device is also used by tournament officials who want to make sure that green speed is not too severe.

Do Stimp readings matter for my game?

Not very much. That piece of abstract knowledge is of little value until you can translate it into your own personal feel for the speed of the putt. There is a method that will allow you to turn green speed into a legitimate feel, however, and you don’t even need a stimpmeter or a stimp reading to do it. I call it “Setting Your Own Stimpmeter.”

Before we get to how to do it, the first step is to determine if the putting green is the same speed as the greens on the course. The best source of information in this regard are the professionals working in the golf shop. They will be happy to share this information with you. You only need to ask. Assuming that the speed of the putting green is close to the speed of the greens on the course, you are ready to begin setting your own stimpmeter. This is done by inputting data into your neuromuscular system by rolling putts and visually observing the outcome.

Contrary to what most golfers believe, a golfer’s feel for distance is based in the eyes — not in the hands, which only records tactile information. It’s just like basketball. On the court, you look at the distance to the hoop and respond accordingly. While you would feel the ball in your hands, it doesn’t play a role in determining the proper distance to the hoop. Based on what you saw with your eyes, you would access the data that had been previously inputted through shooting practice.

Setting your own Stimpmeter

  1. Start by finding a location on the putting green that is flat and roughly 15 feet away from the fringe.
  2. Using five balls, start rolling putts one at a time toward the fringe. The objective is to roll them just hard enough for them to finish against the edge.
  3. You may be short of the fringe or long, but it is important that you do not judge the outcome— just observe, because the feel for distance is visually based.
  4. You should not try and judge the feel of the putt with your hands or any other part of your body. You can only process information in one sensory system at a time — that should be the eyes.
  5. You should continue to roll balls until you’ve reach the point that most of them are consistently finishing against the fringe. Once you can do that, you have successfully set you stimpmeter.

The key to the entire process is allowing yourself to make a subconscious connection between what your eyes have observed and the associated outcome. You must then trust what you have learned at a sub-conscious level. A conscious attempt to produce a given outcome will short-circuit the system. When it comes to judging speed, you must be prepared to surrender your conscious mind to your sub-conscious mind, which is infinitely wiser and more capable of calculating speed. Want proof? Work through the steps I’ve outlined below. .

  1. After having loaded the data as described in the exercise above, pace off a 25-foot putt.
  2. Using the same five balls, putt to the hole as you would normally using your conscious mind to control the outcome.
  3. Mark the location of the five balls with a tee pushing them down until they are level with the surface of the green.
  4. Allow your eyes to work slowly from the ball to the hole while clearing your conscious mind of any thought.
  5. Using the same five balls, putt to the hole allowing your subconscious mind to control the outcome.
  6. Compare the proximity of the five putts that you just hit to those marked with a tee. What do you observe?

Did you have trouble clearing your mind of any conscious thought? Assuming that your conscious mind intruded at any point, the outcome would be negatively affected. You should then repeat the exercise but this time, emptying your mind of any thought. You will have mastered the technique when you are able to quiet your conscious mind and allow your subconscious to take over.

This technique will improve your proximity to the hole on longer putts. And you know what that means? Fewer three-putts!

Editor’s Note: Rod Lindenberg has authored a book entitled “The Three-Putt Solution”  that is now available through Amazon. 

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19th Hole