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Grading Fox Sports’ golf debut

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Inherently, tournament golf is a sport better viewed from a television screen. When you’re a spectator at a live golf event, you’re there to see the course, the players, the shots and take in the experience of world class golf — you’re not there to see winners and losers. It’s the only sport where you could attend the event, watch live action all day and really have no idea who’s winning the tournament or what’s going on.

That’s because when you watch golf on TV, you can view multiple golfers playing different holes at opposite ends of the course with a leaderboard that’s never more than a commercial break away. In person, seeing all that action is physically impossible.

That’s why it’s especially important that golf television broadcasts are on point — without a proper production, it’s easy for the viewer to lose sight of what’s happening. A team of producers needs to be aware of various storylines, who’s in contention and the precise moment at which to reveal to the audience pivotal moments on the golf course.

Fast forward to this past Saturday, December 13, when Fox made its professional golf debut in broadcasting the Franklin Templeton Shootout from Naples, Fla. Let’s analyze the broadcast on (1) Initial Impressions (2) Commentary and (3) Appearance.

Initial Impressions

Buck (1)

I must say, initial impressions are a bit weak. The coverage starts with an overly cheesy montage of various Fox Sports personalities and golfers feigning surprise (“We have golf on Fox?!?”) about Fox now covering golf. This is immediately followed by their Fox Sports/Football theme — Ba da da da da DA! Oh no you didn’t, Fox! I need something else here. I mean, if you are you responsible for replacing arguably the greatest sports theme of all time — Yanni’s “In Celebration of Man” — you better be replacing it with iconic brilliance of your own. I was personally hoping they’d introduce a golf song.

Buck, to his credit, starts off the broadcast on a humble and cautious note; acknowledging the difficulty in furnishing a coherent golf broadcast while also setting the bar low out of the gate:

“Right now, we’re not worthy.  Someday maybe we will be.”

Hey, Joe, a few slipups are fine for the Shootout, but get your act together for the U.S. Open please? No one’s going to care that this is Fox’s maiden voyage into golf if Tiger and Rory are in contention at Chambers Bay in June.

Initial Impressions grade: B-

Commentary

Here, Fox has big shoes to fill. Dan Hicks and Johnny Miller have been mainstays for many golf tournaments throughout the years, especially the U.S. Open. Losing them for our national championship will be a sentimental blow to fans everywhere (myself included).

And Joe Buck, for whatever reason, certainly seems to have his legions of haters out there. I admit there is something not too likeable about his delivery, but I’ve always found him to be a very good play-by-play guy. He has a great voice and doesn’t over-complicate big moments with useless chatter. He’s done his homework with golf, and in his first few minutes is already light years ahead of other non-golf broadcasters, like, say, Chris Berman, who badgers his companions and the audience, with clueless, rambling comments. That being said, referring to Brad Faxon as “Fax” seems a bit forward.

Flop

The Shark steadily improved throughout the broadcast, showing his (stubborn) personality, which I mistook for blandness early in the broadcast. Norman is not scared to gleefully engage in on-air spats with the other golf personalities on the team — there was a playfully testy exchange between Norman and Faxon on the proper way to play a flop shot from a tight lie — and he subtly establishes himself as the alpha-male of the group throughout the day. Much will rest on Norman’s shoulders going forward, particularly in filling the sharp-tongued vacancy left by Johnny Miller.

The on-course guys — Steve Flesch, Scotty McCarron and Brad Faxon — are very knowledgeable. Having Faxon, one of the greatest putters to ever live, talk about green breaks and speeds is a downright pleasure to listen to. The trio already seems to have established a familiar rapport will each other, with some good-natured needling taking place throughout the broadcast.

There will be a learning curve, however, for the audience identifying the voices and personalities of these otherwise accomplished golf minds. They’re not only new, but it’s sometimes difficult to tell them apart. They don’t have the distinct sounds or viewpoints like you’d hear from David Feherty, Gary McCord, Roger Maltbie, Paul Azinger and, of course, Johnny Miller. David Fay lurks quietly in the background in the event of any rules questions. At times, the collective delivery from the entire group is a bit dry (I do realize this is a weekend scramble in December and not a Major).

KennyPerry

Fox has E.A. Tischler — a full time golf teacher — exclusively doing golf analysis. This is a bit different than how the other networks do it, with the commentators also moonlighting as swing gurus like with Kostis (an accomplished teacher in his own right) or Chamblee. Tischler’s first review of Stricker, Kuchar and Kenny Perry’s swing was great information but suffered a bit from strange context; it sort of appears out of nowhere and perhaps Fox was a bit too eager to show off its swing mechanics chops. E.A. nonetheless does a fine (albeit pre-recorded and somewhat bland) job narrating the nuances in each golfers takeaway, although the arrow graphic featured on both the face-on or down-the-line view is not necessarily explained.

Commentary grade: B

Appearance

Fox’s appearance package, a bit needlessly tech-y at time, is actually pretty good. One thing that stood out was the sound quality. It’s entertainingly sensitive, picking up lots of golfer-caddy strategy chatter. A few times, the cameraman seemed a bit wobbly behind the tee however.

NeonHole

You could have predicted that Fox, whose mascot is Cleatus the Robot, would get hi-tech in some way shape or form during the broadcast. Behold the neon hole surrounder brought to you by “FoxLabs,” which I don’t have anything against necessarily, but seems pretty pointless. I can’t really recall a time where I mystified as to where a guy is rolling his ball to. Still, it left me curious as to what other techy tricks Fox will have up its sleeve going forward.

One thing I do need, however, is a shot tracer. I think that is one of the coolest advancements in golf TV in recent memory. Do yourself a favor and google “Tiger Woods Protracer,” then sit back and watch the glory.

Appearance grade: B-

Final Thoughts

Overall, I think Fox did a decent job during their TV debut. Will Buck and Norman be the next Nantz/Venturi or Hicks/Miller combination? Early indications would seem to make meeting those standards unlikely, but give them time. They had a promising, capable start.

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Lawyer, Bachelor and Golf Nut. John also writes for his and his sister's Italian culinary and lifestyle blog at www.johnandelana.com, maintains an honest GHIN handicap, and is from New Jersey; all of which he is proud of.

65 Comments

65 Comments

  1. Rob

    Dec 19, 2014 at 8:58 am

    Never liked Miller, talks about himself too much and is sometimes too opinionated however, every once in a while he says something incredibly insightful. Can’t imagine listening to Norman and wondering if he will ever realize he is not the only person on earth. The stupid exchange between Norman & Faxon was inexcusable but pure Norman. Good thing the remote has a mute button.

  2. cmasty

    Dec 18, 2014 at 8:39 pm

    Awesome

  3. Trubo

    Dec 18, 2014 at 12:41 am

    Never heard Buck commentate before this event, so didn’t find him too hard to listen to. If Greg said ‘absolutely’ once, he said it twenty times. And, as usual, tried to hard to sound incisive. Just speak to us as you would one of your mates.
    Didn’t like the ‘tron’ sound effects of EA’s analysis.
    The rest of the team were okay, but not outstanding. Here’s hoping they improve with time.
    I too like pro tracer and would like to hear more about the equipment the pros are playing.
    Can do better B-.

  4. Beacher50

    Dec 17, 2014 at 11:03 pm

    I don’t mind Joe Buck and find him better than most at Baseball and Football. Clearly his golf announcing is a bit rough, but over time it will improve.

  5. Regis

    Dec 17, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    I started watching golf on TV with Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf. Nothing will ever compare to CBS doing the Masters. I like Johnny Miller. Getting more tired by the day of Feherty’s schtick, but I like him as a person. I like Buck on Baseball-he’s perfect but worst fit for broadcasting golf ever-worse than those corporate spokesman who come on tournaments to talk about their company, their dedicated employees and the charities they support. I really liked the Fox graphics. Their three color swing plane graphics are the best since Hogan’s Five Lessons.

  6. ken

    Dec 17, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    What little I viewed was OK….I found myself immediately comparing Fox’s crew to that of CBS. IMO CBS golf coverage is in first place. Everyone else is last.
    Now, after I let FOX stand alone and critiqued it from there, I found myself cringing at the commentary of Joe Buck. Buck is either a work in progress or he is simply not suited to golf.
    Because I’m not a fan of Joe Buck who to me is enamored by the sound of his own voice and presents his play by play in a manner in which he thinks his opinion of the action is important and interesting to the viewers. newsflash, it isn’t. I do not watch sports on TV so that the play by play guy can lecture me on what I should think about the action. Moreover, I am not in the least bit interested in “personal interest” points of view. Buck seems incapable of steering clear of these and other ‘issues’….
    Note to FOX….We can SEE what it taking place on screen. There are times when the announcers should just keep quiet and let the action stand on it’s own

  7. Jeff

    Dec 17, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    Watching the replay right now. Look, it’s the only golf on. Right now, it’s the best golf on.

  8. JEFF

    Dec 17, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    The need to put a muzzle on the announcers…… news flash,,,, taylor made had a new line of clubs!

  9. jgolf

    Dec 17, 2014 at 12:10 pm

    Honestly I didn’t see all of the broadcast, but from what I did see, I thought it was terrible. I really like Fox for the NFL. In spite of Joe Buck. But I’m a golf geek and would usually watch golf and flip to the NFL just to get the scores. I like ABC at “The Open” but glad they don’t cover a lot of golf. NBC is decent,but ever since Miller got the reputation of being “truthful”, I now think he’s gone too far with some of his critiques just to be controversial. CBS is the best of the major networks, but McCord who was funny at one time, has now become a caracature of himself. But Fox…Joe Buck?? Come on. And the NFL theme music they use for the NFL going to commercial break? Did anyone at Fox know they had a golf event to televise before last week? I have to give them a D overall. IMO of course.

    • jgolf

      Dec 17, 2014 at 12:13 pm

      Oh….and without a doubt, the pro tracer is the best thing to happen to golf on TV since HD.

  10. SkierGolferNewHampshire

    Dec 17, 2014 at 11:39 am

    Joe Buck is an excellent football guy, but an awful golf guy. His staccato delivery drives me bonkers. The greatness of the CBS and NBC teams is that they are very conversational. Buck and Norman are anything but. Buck needs to go and be replaced by someone with a more golf-like presences on air.

    I was waiting for something really new. How about using the pro-tracer on EVERY tee shot? That’s one of the great inventions in golf coverage and it’s used so sparingly. It’s a shame.

    • billm311

      Dec 17, 2014 at 4:37 pm

      Joe Buck ruined playoff baseball for me. Now I guess he will be ruining golf for me as well.

  11. Fran

    Dec 17, 2014 at 11:29 am

    Just one question. WHERE IS HOLLY SONDERS????

  12. tom

    Dec 17, 2014 at 9:47 am

    That was a very good write up John. I didn’t see any of the coverage, nor did I care to. Not because of Fox, but because the “shootout” is boring… Frankly, I had no idea it was on until watching some football coverage on Sunday and seeing the box scores. What did that mean? That Fox has not done a good job of marketing that it will be carrying golf, and its native voyage was this past weekend.

    That being said, here I’ll go… I’m particularly qualified to comment on this because a) I was a professional golfer b) I’ve watched a lot of just about every golf tournament over the past seven years.

    Miller/Maltbie/McCord – stale – just stale. They cater to the much older generation(s) and that’s the only chord they strike. I think golf is losing its appeal because of the tired old banter between these “TV Analysts.” I don’t think Norman is going to change any of this. Who cares about his travails on the tour in the 80s. He’s not going to grow the game or get my kids interested in watching golf on TV.

    McCarron/Flesch/Faxon – yawn… There’s not anything different here. Faxon is a bore. Someone wrote he’s one of the best putters to live… Was that you John? Come on… Tiger is one of the best putters to live. Palmer, Nicklaus, Player – guys who’ve won tournaments – lots of tournaments – and oh yeah, majors. Faxon? What has he won? I’m not going to listen to his yukety yuk anymore than I’d listen to McCord’s as he describes the upcoming putt.

    Flesch? No one has heard of him. McCarron? Same…

    Fox is new to golf? yes Check!
    Golf is new to fox? yes Check!

    Get some new announcers. Joe Buck – not new – known for world series – that’s the only place I’ve seen him… Norman – not new.

    How about getting some young hip dudes that have a low handicap. How about Kelly Slater? I bet my kids would watch golf (for at least a few minutes) if an ultra cool surfer dude was calling some holes. What about a call down from the booth like they do for NFL broadcasts? Slater calls down to someone like Laurie Dhue – remember her? She’s the ultra beautiful ex-Fox news woman? That would be ultra fun to watch and would attract a new audience.

    Face it – no one who’s CURRENTLY interested (all of us) in the US Open would turn away from watching it on Fox if a band of super models was walking the course with headphones and microphones calling shots. And if they were led by a hipster like a “Slater” that would be cool too.

    Fox has big pockets – they could afford anyone they’d like to help kickstart this wonderful game.

    How about Charles Barkley in the booth? I could go for that…

    With much love…
    Tom

    • John

      Dec 17, 2014 at 10:37 am

      Check out Faxon’s putting stats – putts per round – from ’93-2000. Pretty insane.

  13. Shelbs

    Dec 16, 2014 at 9:35 pm

    I thought it was ok.

    CBS is miles better then any other broadcast.
    ABC is very good for the British Open too.

    I thought Fox was better then NBC/Golf Channel. Unfortunately Miller and Hicks ruin every broadcast.

    I’ll be looking forward to watching the US Open by Fox…..

  14. Jon

    Dec 16, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    Get rid of Joe Buck his commentary on golf is terrible. He’s rude, boring to listen to and has a lame personality. Put Holly Sonders in the booth at least she’s nice to look at and has a personality!

    • ken

      Dec 17, 2014 at 5:12 pm

      Please….No eye candy.
      I watch golf for the golf.
      Saunders can work in studio…..Away from the course…

  15. Jadon

    Dec 16, 2014 at 11:01 am

    I was looking for the final round of this tournament and couldn’t find it. No wonder. What the heck Fox? Let someone know you’re broadcasting final rounds. Geez.

    • John

      Dec 16, 2014 at 12:30 pm

      last round was on Saturday

      • Jack Nash

        Dec 17, 2014 at 1:41 pm

        Because he was doing NFL Broadcast. Fox will try with all the fancy gadgets like they tried in the NHL but people don’t need flashing lights and do dads. They just like to watch great golf.

  16. Adam

    Dec 16, 2014 at 9:04 am

    The statement at the beginning about attending a live event and not knowing what’s going on is going away. I was at the President’s Cup at Muirfield Village and for $10 they gave us a portable device to watch the NBC broadcast. Best of both worlds. It will be common place to do this on your smartphone very soon.

  17. Travis

    Dec 16, 2014 at 7:05 am

    I have not watched a World Series for 10 years or so now because of McCarver/Buck. Fox sports must be into torture as well as ‘sports’ broadcasting.

    • ken

      Dec 17, 2014 at 5:14 pm

      Mc Carver is long gone.
      Funny thing is, when Mc Carver started his broadcast career with the Mets, he was a credible and knowledgeable no nonsense analyst.
      Once he went national, he grew an enormous go and became unwatchable

      • Kirby

        Dec 18, 2014 at 12:11 am

        I honestly hate mccarver. Im a cards baseball fan and found out he was going to be doing a decent amount of our local games.I listen to the radio with the volume turned off I hate that guy so much.He is so fake, hates the cardinals because they traded his ass, and regurgitates the same crap every game.His best moment ever for me is when Deon Sanders shot that alcohol all over his smug face.

  18. Mizzy

    Dec 16, 2014 at 12:17 am

    First Non-“A” review i have seen on here.

    • John

      Dec 16, 2014 at 10:04 am

      I try to be as objective as possible, Mizzy

  19. Waqar

    Dec 16, 2014 at 12:03 am

    The right wing takeover of golf is finally complete. I used to like norman but now I hate him for being in bed with fox and its ideology. Johnny miller is and will be the most objective and intelligent commentator in golf. I will never buy anything again which is associated with norman, and never play on a course he designed.

    He is seriously overrated as a golfer. He is a known choker, alpha males DO NOT choke.

    • Spinball

      Dec 16, 2014 at 9:19 am

      Brilliant injecting your personal politics into a discussion of a golf telecast. This would be like someone saying “I saw Obama eating an apple. I will never eat apples again.” That sounds pretty stupid; doesn’t it? Being closed minded, as you obviously are, doesn’t add to intelligent debate.

    • ken

      Dec 17, 2014 at 5:15 pm

      right wing takeover…..Oy vay….Leave it to a flaming lib to politicize anything and everything.
      Tut tut….No one asked you to respond.

  20. Taylor

    Dec 15, 2014 at 9:10 pm

    I cannot stand Joe Buck. Please golf, no more Buck. Protracer every shot

    • marcel

      Dec 16, 2014 at 12:02 am

      David Feherty is the best – all the way half dressed half whatever – DAVID is the man and then Shark

    • Double Mocha Man

      Dec 16, 2014 at 11:03 am

      At least there is some golf history in the Buck family. As a kid I remember caddying for his Dad, Jack Buck, at Norwood Hills Country Club in St. Louis.

  21. Pat

    Dec 15, 2014 at 8:52 pm

    No more Joe Buck. Dude doesn’t know anything about golf and has the personality of a door knob. Monotone voice which puts me to sleep. I’m glad Miller isn’t commentating anymore. Way too cocky and self-righteous. McCord isn’t funny and needs to retire. Norman’s alpha male “testosterone overdrive” attitude is way too abrasive for TV. Don’t get me started on Costas, he says some of the stupidest things and my brain cells die whenever he talks about politics. I think Faxon, Feherty and Maltby are great for the sport.

  22. 1putt23

    Dec 15, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    Holly Sonders please!!!;-)

    • Pat

      Dec 15, 2014 at 8:54 pm

      No way. Holly is the definition of fake and plastic. More Win McMurry please.

      • 1putt23

        Dec 15, 2014 at 9:20 pm

        I don’t watch Morning Drive anymore….I’ll take Win too….but she’s not on anywhere ;-(

      • Kirby

        Dec 18, 2014 at 12:16 am

        No kidding,that chick wears so much freakin makeup, her voice sounds like she has smoked for 50 years, her fake breasts are ridiculously too large for her frame,and she looks 20 years older than she actually is. These guys wanting her on t.v. need to get some better standards.Good lord.

  23. Ritch

    Dec 15, 2014 at 7:38 pm

    I think Fox needs to bring back “Loves Theme” that ABC used for many years during their broadcast of majors.

  24. slider

    Dec 15, 2014 at 5:55 pm

    any Canadians on here this is just like sportsnet taking over CBC not good for the game of golf firing miller and maltby for norman buck and others

  25. james

    Dec 15, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    did not like fox joe buck knows less about the game than roger maltby and I am a huge miller fan so I don’t like to see him go and maybe fox could get their cameras out of fairway bunkers right in the line of poulters shot. Also for greg this is not a time to promote your wine and other businesses just stick to calling the action. Overall grade is an F and Fox is going to ruin the game unless they get some smarter broadcasters

    • Pat

      Dec 15, 2014 at 8:43 pm

      I agree that Joe Buck is horrible and doesn’t know squat about golf. We see enough of him when he does football games. He has the personality of a door knob. Snore fest.

  26. tiptin

    Dec 15, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    The coverage offered nothing new to bring in new golf viewers
    I agree with RobG’s comments above. So much new technology is available to make golf look interesting on TV. Just showing 80% coverage on putting doesn’t cut it like all other channels do. Show different shots via pro-tracer, show proper player shot alignments instead of same straight camera angles, over head camera shots, good slow motions of swings, even aimpoint break lines for putting..need something new and interesting to spruce up the 3-4 hrs of golf. Otherwise it gets less interesting to even watch it on DVR

  27. Steve

    Dec 15, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    I’d be very happy if they could get the protracer on every shot. I love that

    • JOSH

      Dec 15, 2014 at 4:53 pm

      Yes!!!! Completely agree. Love the protracer.

      • John

        Dec 15, 2014 at 5:01 pm

        Protracer is just pure glory. Youtube has a bunch of amazing compilations if you ever want to wonderfully kill time.

    • jonno

      Dec 16, 2014 at 2:05 am

      they have protracer on every shot for japanese golf which when i watched a tournament recently amazed me – i thought they needed to setup a static camera behind the tee to make it work, they had it going off their normal cameras if stationed behind the player.
      makes me think it’s just software so there’s no excuse for it not to be on every shot possible.

  28. RobG

    Dec 15, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    I personally don’t care about the commentary on a golf broadcast, I just want to see more golf. NBC and CBS have become almost un-watchable. They only show shots of the leaders and a few guys close to lead and fill the rest of the gaps with 8 replays of shots that we have already seen from different angles, commercials, useless banter or “features.” I tune in to watch golf, the more shots they can show in real time, the better.

    • rgb

      Dec 15, 2014 at 7:17 pm

      Oh God, the ‘features’ waste of time at the Masters is intolerable. And the low funeral-home tone voices. Its a golf course, for heaven’s sake, not the manger of Christ.

  29. Scooter McGavin

    Dec 15, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    No offense to Yanni, as he has made a lot of money selling albums to middle aged folks, but how can you call “In Celebration of Man” the “greatest sports theme of all time”, when I don’t even know that there’s ever even been a performance by real musicians (and not just the MIDI computer rendering that’s played on the broadcasts). Have you never heard Williams’s “Olympic Fanfare and Theme”? I’m pretty sure that qualifies as a sports theme.

    • John

      Dec 15, 2014 at 5:13 pm

      Scooter – great point and great song. I probably got a bit dramatic in handing Yanni that crown. But, come on, “In Celebration of Man” is just fantastic.

  30. FTWPhil

    Dec 15, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    Didn’t watch.
    Hate Miller!
    Tech reminds me of their ill fated attempt at NHL.
    Need protracer!

  31. James

    Dec 15, 2014 at 2:48 pm

    At least Fox was trying some new things. I liked the highlighted hole. I would like to see a putt tracer and fill shot tracer too. I wonder if they thought about a GO-NO GO zone for attempting to hit a par 5 in two?

  32. Nathan Sargent

    Dec 15, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    Johnny Miller stinks on TV. However, he is the GOAT. Just ask him. He’ll tell you. Literally every broadcast he brings up shooting 63 at Oakmont. “You could hit a small bucket and not do any better than that”

    • sgniwder99

      Dec 15, 2014 at 8:10 pm

      Dude, forget about every broadcast. If I shot a Sunday 63 to win the US Open I’d mention it every SENTENCE.

  33. Brad

    Dec 15, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    Fox broadcasted more live swings in one hour than Golf Channel/NBC does in two. Bonus: no Johnny Miller.

    • bradford

      Dec 15, 2014 at 1:27 pm

      I’ll agree with the lack of Johnny Miller. Can’t go anywhere but up from there

      • John

        Dec 15, 2014 at 1:39 pm

        can understand the sentiments on Miller. Still, I somehow will miss his grouchy tone for the Open.

    • jill

      Dec 15, 2014 at 5:53 pm

      miller is a stud tells it like it is my favorite announcer

  34. mtn1414

    Dec 15, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    They must have mentioned ten times that Kuchar ran a 5k Saturday morning before the round, and acted like it was some amazing feat. It’s not like he ran a marathon before playing the final round at the Masters.

  35. west

    Dec 15, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    The more golf coverage/access/exposure…the better! Good for the game! Love it! Kudos Fox!

    • Regis

      Dec 18, 2014 at 5:12 pm

      Only Fox is replacing NBC. To me its a step down

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The Gear Dive: Episode 100

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In this 100th episode of The Gear dive, Johnny looks back at his top 5 favorite moments and discusses what’s to come in the equipment industry as we come out of the lockdown haze.

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The Wedge Guy: 3 keys to handling pressure

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Whether you play competitively or not, “pressure” is a big part of this game. Even if we are out for an evening practice nine, when we get over any shot, from drive to putt, we are putting “pressure” on ourselves to perform to our best capability.

So just what is pressure? My dad used to tell us the story about a guy who wanted to learn how to walk the tightrope. He strung a rope across his yard about a foot off the ground and started practicing—first just balancing, then walking, skipping—he got where he “owned” that tightrope. So, he decided he was ready for the big top, to join the circus. The circus manager says, “Well, climb up there and show me what you’ve got.” When he got to the top and looked down about thirty feet, he couldn’t even get off the platform.

Pressure!

Pressure affects all of differently, but it does affect all of us. How can we totally jack a two-foot putt sometimes? How can we chunk a chip shot? We don’t do that on the practice tee! But then, how can tour pros hit some of the gosh-awful shots we see them hit coming down the stretch? No one is immune.

So, I want to share my three keys to handling pressure. I’d like for all of you to chime in with your own personal keys that you use with success.

Here are mine:

  1. Recall success! The first thing that happens in pressure situations is that fear sets in. You may find yourself thinking of that last short putt you missed, or that chip you chunked, or bunker shot you skulled. In Dr. David Cook’s book/movie “Seven Days In Utopia”, the mentor tells his student, “See it. Feel it. Trust it.” See the shot you have and recall the dozens or hundreds of ways you’ve successfully executed it before. Take a few practice swings and feel the swing that will produce that vision. Then trust your skill that you KNOW you have and just execute.
  2. Get S-L-O-W. It’s a natural tendency to get quick when we are under pressure. As you begin to approach the shot, slow down a bit. If you are riding in a cart and approaching the green, pause for a count before you jump out of the cart. Take a breath before you pull the clubs from the bag. Walk a little more slowly over to your ball, which gives you time to think those successful thoughts we just talked about. Make your practice swings or strokes a little slower, more deliberately. And feel the end of your backswing. The quickness killer is not finishing the swing, whether it’s a full iron shot, a short chip or pitch, or even a putt. FEEL the end of the backswing to neutralize quickness.
  3. Lighten up! A nice relaxed grip is essential to a good golf shot of any kind, but pressure affects that first, most of the time. When you are feeling a little “amped up”, focus on your grip pressure and R-E-L-A-X. Your body will not let you hold a club too softly, but pressure sure can make you put the death grip on the club. And it is hard to swing too quickly when you have a nice soft grip on the club.

So, those are my “three keys” to handling pressure. Try them the next time you find yourself a little nervous, whether it’s for the club championship, or just beating your buddies out of a few bucks.

And let us know your keys to handling pressure, too!

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Coming out of the haze: What to expect from the OEMs in the second half of 2020

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As we slowly come out of the lockdown haze, it’s going to be interesting to see which OEMs are primed to come out swinging. From where I sit, there are a few companies that either kept the foot on the pedal or found new ways to interact with the masses. I have been tracking the major companies for different reasons, and I am optimistic on most fronts. Now, it needs to be said that everyone has been keeping the respective momentum going in their own ways—this has been a challenge for everyone, so this analysis is simply a commentary on what may come in the second half of the year.

Many good folks were either furloughed or laid off during this lockdown—that’s where we all lost. It needs to be acknowledged that we are talking about golf here, but the underlying reality of this is still devastating. I so look forward to getting into the trenches with these folks again either back where they were or at new companies.

TaylorMade became educators…and kicked off live golf again

Big giant club company or big giant marketing machine…it doesn’t matter what you label them as. TaylorMade Golf, in my opinion, turned the heartbreak of stalling one of the biggest first quarters in company history into an opportunity to start talking…and teaching. With the help of the tour team and TM athletes, TaylorMade focused hard on talking to us all during the lockdown. With multiple initiatives through social media, the Driving Relief event, and the tour staff engaging way more than usual. I believe TM created a runway to start moving quickly once stores and pro shops open up again.

Let’s face it, with the social media presence, the most robust tour staff maybe ever, and the driver everyone seems to have reserved for the top big stick of 2020, what’s not to be confident about? On the flip side, a company that big could have really taken it on the chin hard, but how they handled the lockdown—from my chair—was fun to watch and will ultimately ensure a quick restart. There is something to be said about having guys like Trottie, Adrian, and Hause in the fold informing and keeping things fun.

Rumor has it new irons are dropping in the fall/winter, which could spell two awesome bookends to a bittersweet 2020.

PXG leaned in

Why online sales for all OEMs spiked is no mystery. Boredom, desire, and a credit card are keys to any great online buying experience, but PXG made certain that if you were not a buyer previously, you may be now.

The price tag has always been a key topic with Bob Parsons’ Scottsdale-based company. It’s no secret that the clubs aren’t cheap, but during this lockdown, they did multiple strategic initiatives to not only crank up direct-to-consumer buying but also expand the PXG conversation into different areas, namely fashion.

Price cuts across the board started early and, rumor has it, enabled PXG to achieve sales numbers unlike any other period in the company’s short history. Yes, cutting prices helps unit sales, but in the case of PXG, it brought in the club customer that ordinarily shied away from PXG for financial reasons and ultimately made them buyers. That’s where PXG seems to shine, once they finally get you in, they are very effective at keeping you in the family. Mercedes-Benz AMG is like that: once you have had a taste of the Kool-Aid, it’s hard to go back to Hawaiian Punch.

In addition to the aggressive price-cutting, PXG fashion, spearheaded by President Renee Parsons, launched a new collection that is designed and manufactured by PXG. Fashion in times like these is always a risk from a financial standpoint, but this launch has been on the calendar since the BOY and the current lockdown did not disrupt that. It speaks to the confidence that Bob and Renee have in what they are doing. Now, is it a guarantee that PXG garments will fly off the shelves? No. but that’s not the point, it’s the fact that this current climate didn’t scare them into pivoting or holding off.

Point to this pick is PXG looks healthy coming out of this and it was possible to believe that perhaps this would have taken a toll on the custom fit brand. There is even a commercial produced during lockdown to attract even more club builders to the fold. Not normal behavior in times like these, but is anything that PXG does normal? No, and that’s what makes them fun to talk about.

The company also released its Essential Facemask with 50 percent of proceeds going to Team Rubicon.

Ping was quiet…but don’t be fooled

Yes, they did some rare social media engagements with Kenton Oates and the tour staff, which were fantastic. But the real magic here was the quiet way in which Ping slipped into 2020 and the mystery they have in hand and what’s to come next.

There hasn’t been really any new Ping product in a good while, and I anticipate a big winter for the Solheim crew. Sometimes, silence is golden and from what I can gather, what Ping has coming in irons and woods will be yet again a launch that gets people talking.

Ping from a business standpoint is a company that gets one percent better every year. Never any dramatic shifts in strategy or product. It’s always good, it’s always high-performance, and it’s always in the “best of” category across the board.

Watch out for them over the next six to nine months…a storm is brewing. A good one.

Cobra introduced the “Rickie iron”

Cobra Rev 33 Irons

Compared to 2019 and the runaway success that was the F9 driver, Cobra Golf seemed to cruise along in the first quarter of 2020. The SpeedZone metal wood line was an improvement tech-wise from the F9 but seemed to get lost in the driver launch shuffle with an earlier release—and frankly everyone in the industry took a back seat to TaylorMade’s SIM.

It’s not placing one stick over the other actually, I have been very vocal about my affections for both, it’s just some years, the story around a club can generate excitement, and if the club is exceptional, boom. Cobra was that cool kid in 2019.

What Cobra decided to do in the downtime is slowly tease and taunt with a “Rickie Fowler” iron. Players blades aren’t typically the driving element of any business model, but what Cobra did was introduce to a beautiful yet completely authentic forging that will not only get the gear heads going nuts but also entice the better players to start looking at Cobra as a serious better players iron company. No small feat.

Point is, Cobra has generated buzz. It helped that Rickie’s performance at Seminole was just short of a precision clinic. Beyond the Rev 33, its rumored Cobra has a new players CB coming and some MIM wedges.

It should be an exciting last half for the Cobra crew.

The Titleist train chugged on

I mean, what else is there to say about Titleist? They are as American as apple pie, have a stranglehold on multiple tour and retail categories, and one of the best front offices in golf. The company is a well-oiled machine.

So what do I expect from them in the last half? Well pretty much what I would expect on any other year, solid player-driven equipment. A metal wood launch is coming, the SM8 was a huge hit in stores and on tour, and the ball portion is the biggest 800-pound gorilla in golf.

It was also nice to see a little more social media interaction beyond the traditional. Aaron Dill has been very active on the social media front and a good portion of the tour staff, namely Poulter, JT, and Homa were proactive in engagement. Might seem trivial to some, but specifically, Titleist and Ping are not super active in the organic interaction game, so it was nice to see both companies dive into the fold.

Cleveland/Srixon should have a lot to look forward to

Let’s be honest here, 2019 was a quiet year overall for Srixon. Shane Lowry won The Open, but in the golf mainstream it was a leap year for them in regards to any launches. The anticipation from me personally of what is to come is quite strong. I adore the irons. I have yet to meet one I didn’t love, and fitters across the country will speak to that in sales. The Srixon iron line has become a popular yet-sort-of-cult-classic among fitters and gearheads and rightly so. They are phenomenal.

The recently teased picture of the new driver on the USGA site more or less teased us of what is to come for the overall line. New Cleveland wedges are coming shortly and the golf ball has always been a solid component to the Huntington Beach company.

As much as anyone in the market, I believe Srixon could finish the year with some serious momentum going into 2021. The irons and ball have always been firestarters. My only wish for them, selfishly, is a more aggressive tour strategy in regards to landing one of the perennial top 10. It seems like a dumb thought, but I have always felt Cleveland/Srixon was always a serious hitter that at times seems to get lost in the conversation. Having a big gun on staff or a couple of them will remedy that quickly.

Callaway has an eye on big things for the golf ball

Callaway, a company that seems to do it all well, was actually a bit quiet since the lockdown started. After a solid release of the Mavrik line and some momentum in the golf ball area, I’m sure this lockdown probably felt like a kick to the shin.

However, this company is shifting in a good way. The idea that they were a golf club company that happened to make golf balls is slowly turning into a company with multiple major components that stand alone. TaylorMade is on a similar shift, and honestly it’s very interesting to watch. Do I think that anyone will ever catch Titleist in the ball category? No, I don’t. All of these mentioned golf balls are ridiculously good, but 75 years of trust and loyalty are hard to compete with. But that’s not the point, Callaway is a monster company that takes the golf ball conversation very seriously, and I believe this will serve them very well coming out of this craziness and help the momentum going into 2021.

 

 

 

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