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Opinion & Analysis

GolfWRX gets trendy: The Ashworth Style Experience

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By Zak Kozuchowski

GolfWRX Managing Editor

Golf clothes are like swing tips. No matter how many a golfer has, they always seem to need new ones.

But sometimes, new swing tips are no better than old swing tips. Old patterns return, despite a golfer’s best effort to change them. The same is true of golf fashion. Golfers tend become comfortable with their style, even if it’s limiting their look. And for the sake of comfort, they often make similar mistakes when deciding on new apparel from their local golf retailer.

That’s why Ashworth decided to send four GolfWRX contest winners on an all-expenses-paid trip to the United Kingdom that they dubbed the “Ashworth Style Experience.” The premise – receive a golf fashion makeover from golf’s leading fashion authority, “Mr. Style” Marty Hackel. Other perks included three nights at the Pennyhill Park Hotel, a five-star resort and spa, a round of golf, tickets to Tuesday’s practice round of the BMW Championship at Wentworth, a tour of the TaylorMade’s European Tour Van and the best food and drink Surrey, England, had to offer.

Ashworth is best known as the clothing sponsor of Freddy Couples, who brought attention to the brand when he was at his golfing peak in the early 1990s. TaylorMade-Adidas golf purchased Ashworth in 2008, and has since worked to revitalize the brand. Ashworth’s latest line has its sights set on 35-to-55 year olds, but thanks to its revamped cuts, fabrics, patterns and color options, Ashworth should please a wider audience.

The contest winners ranged in age from 34 to 42. Each was from a different part of the United States and had different tastes in fashion. Yet with the help of Mr. Hackel, they all left the UK with a fall wardrobe that suited their lifestyles and body types.

On Monday, the contest winners set out for North Hants Golf Club, the club where Justin Rose honed his world-class game as a teenager. They played 18 holes of golf, which was followed with a party that welcomed Rose as the lead ambassador of the Ashworth brand. The guys had a few pints, English-style fish and chips, and some one-on-one time with Rose himself.

Click here to see the photos.

At the event, Rose said that he was excited with the modern elements of Ashworth’s new line, such as the slimmer fitting shirt he wore at the event, a red dual-front pocket design that is much different that the oversized shirts that Couples popularized years ago.

“I think there’s some really clean looks to [the Ashworth line],” Rose said. “It’s also still very classic … I think it can transfer both on and on the golf course. I’d be very comfortable wearing this shirt with a pair of jeans.”

During the style makeover on Tuesday morning, Hackel echoed the importance of versatility in a golfer’s wardrobe. Darrin, a contest winner from New York who works in the medical field, is forced to play much of his golf after he leaves the office. For him, Hackel recommended self-collar polos, a shirt that employs the same material in the collar as it does in the body of the shirt. Hackel said that self-collar shirts are dressier, and more appropriate in an office or restaurant setting. A knit collar, which uses a different material in the collar than in the body of the shirt, provides a golfer with fewer options, Hackel said.

“With knit collars, you’re pretty much limited to the golf course,” Hackel said. “We want you to spend your money on things that give you more versatility.”

Casey, a banker from Tennessee, had been a fan of Ashworth clothing for years. But his shorter stature was a problem for him when buying shirts. Hackel recommended that Casey pay special attention to where the seams of his golf shirts rested on his shoulder. If the seam rested below hs shoulder, not only would his golf shirts appear too large, but they would also inhibit his shoulder movement during the swing.

“A lot of golfers think they need a fuller garment to be able to swing,” Hackel said.  “But exactly the opposite is true. With bigger armholes, the entire shirt tends to move, which does not make the shirt more comfortable. They higher [and smaller] the armhole, the easier your arm can move without the product moving.”

Chas, the tallest of the contest winners with the broadest shoulders, learned from Hackel that it was not just the cut of a golf shirt that was important. Color plays a role as well. Hackel advised Chas not to go too dark in his shirt color choices, as it has a tendency to throw off the proportion of his upper and lower body. By dressing in light-colored shirts and darker-colored pants, Chas could streamline his physique and better accentuate his long torso.

Hackel had a recommendation for Chas’ pants as well. Because of Chas’ 12.5 shoe size, he was often conscious of how large his feet looked when he wore slimmer-fitting pants. Marty steered Chaz away from pants that he said he would have bought. He told him that he needed at least a 17-inch cuff [European-styled pants often have a cuff as narrow as 15 inches], which would make his feet look proportionate with the rest of his body.

Jim, a Michigander who specializes in graphic design for an advertising agency, was in violation of Hackel’s 34-inch rule, which deals with white belts.

“We think the white belt is gone,” Hackel said. “The 34-inch rule means that if your waist is larger than 34 inches, you can only wear a white belt if it’s attached to a badge or a holster.”

Jim said that because of his larger waist size, he stayed away from brown and black belts with light-colored pants because he said they drew attention to his midsection. He felt that a white belt limited this contrast, and made him look slimmer. Hackel said that a white belt has nearly the same effect as black and brown belts. According to Hackel, the only way to truly draw attention away from Jim’s midsection was to opt for a belt that matched the color of his pants as closely as possible. For Jim, he recommended khacki-colored belts, especially those made of cloth, which would help keep him cool during the hot Michigan summers.

Jim, who studied art as an undergraduate, preferred to wear clothing with louder patterns, which was another habit from which Hackel steered him away. Hackel wanted Jim to dress with as little contrast as possible, a scheme that would provide a silhouetting effect.

It was clear, however, that Jim wanted to have some fun with his outfits, and Hackel embraced that. He urged Jim to show off his personality through accessories, such as bold socks, shoes and watches.

An area of fashion that Hackel has welcomed has been hybrid golf shoes, such as the Ashworth Cardiff model that Justin Rose will wear this weekend at Wentworth. Each shoe has a strong accent color on its rubber outsole, which a golfer can highlight with a matching pair of laces.

“We want golfers to stay in their comfort zone, but we also want them to show off their personality,” Hackel said. “That’s why Rickie Fowler gets a pass with his orange outfits and white belts. That’s his personality. But it’s not for everyone. You can’t worry about what you’re wearing. If you stop by a window or a mirror and look at what you’re wearing for more then 10 seconds, go back and change. You’re not going to feel comfortable in it.”

Click here for more discussion in the “Golf style and fashion” forum.

Click here to see the photos.

You can follow Zak on Twitter @ZakKoz and GolfWRX on Twitter @GolfWRX

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Zak is the Editor-in-Chief of GolfWRX.com. He's been a part of the company since 2011, when he was hired to lead GolfWRX's Editorial Department. Zak developed GolfWRX's Featured Writer Program, which supports aspiring writers and golf industry professionals. He played college golf at the University of Richmond (Go Spiders!) and still likes to compete in tournaments. You can follow Zak on Twitter @ZakKoz, where he's happy to discuss his game and all the cool stuff that's part of his job.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Truther

    Jun 23, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    M Hackel is allowed to offer an opinion. The problem is that many who are unable to think for themselves may end up taking his opinions as gospel, when his ideas are the furthest thing from it.

    If you were to listen to Hackel, then John Daly shouldn’t be allowed to wear anything stylish at all.

    My advice: wear whatever makes you feel comfortable.

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  4. oiler69

    May 30, 2012 at 2:19 am

    I have two things to say about this subject: 1.) Waaaay too much attention is paid to fashion, style in golf apparel. It has been my observation that the more effort and money one spends on the golf wardrobe the worse the player (and the more annoying the individual), and, 2.) Mr. Couples has better taste than Mr. Hackel.

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Gear Dive: Mizuno’s Chris Voshall speaks on Brooks Koepka’s U.S. Open-winning irons

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Mizuno’s Chief Engineer Chris Voshall speaks on how Brooks Koepka was the one that almost got away, and why Mizuno irons are still secretly the most popular on Tour. Also, a couple of Tiger/Rory nuggets that may surprise a few people. It’s an hour geek-out with one of the true gems in the club biz. Enjoy!

Related: Brooks Koepka’s Winning WITB from the 2018 U.S. Open

Listen to the full podcast below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Opinion & Analysis

Hear It, Feel It, Believe It: A Better Bunker Method

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The following is an excerpt from Mike Dowd‘s upcoming novel, “Coming Home.” 

After picking the last of the balls on the driving range, Tyler cornered Mack as he hit a few shots from the old practice bunker to wind down at the end of the day. Mack was hitting one after another, alternating between the three flags on the practice green and tossing them up about as softly as if he was actually lobbing them each up there underhanded.

Tyler just stood there, mesmerized at first by the mindless ease with which Mack executed the shot. Bunker shots, Tyler silently lamented, were likely the biggest hole in his game, and so after Mack had holed his third ball in a couple of dozen, Tyler finally decided he had to ask him a question.

“What are you thinking about on that shot, Mack?” Tyler interrupted him suddenly.

Mack hit one more that just lipped out of the closest hole, paused a few seconds, and then looked up at his protégé in what Tyler could only interpret as a look of confusion.

“What am I thinking about?” he finally replied. “I don’t know, Tyler… I’d hate to think how I’d be hittin’ ‘em if I actually started thinking.”

Tyler gave Mack a slightly exasperated look and put his hands on his hips as he shook his head. “You know what I mean. Your technique. I guess I should have said what exactly are you doing there from a mechanics standpoint? How do you get it to just land so softly and roll out without checking?”

Mack seemed to be genuinely considering Tyler’s more elaborately articulated question, and after a moment began, more slowly this time, as if he was simplifying his response for the benefit of a slightly thick-headed young student who wasn’t getting his point.

“You can’t think about technique, Tyler… at least not while you’re playing,” Mack replied. “There’s no quicker path back to your father’s garage than to start thinking while you’re swinging, especially thinking about technique. That’s my job.”

“Mack,” Tyler insisted, “How am I supposed to learn to hit that shot without understanding the technique? I’ve got to do something different than what I’m doing now. I’m putting too much spin on my shots, and I can’t always tell when it’s going to check and when it’s going to release a little. How do I fix that?”

“Well, not by thinking, certainly,” Mack fired right back as if it was the most ridiculous line of inquiry he’d ever heard. “A good bunker shot can be heard, Tyler, and felt, but you can’t do either of those if you’re focused on your technique. You feel it inside of you before you even think about actually hitting it. Watch, and listen.”

With that Mack swung down at the sand and made a thump sound as his club went through the soft upper layer of sand and bounced on the firmer sand below.

“You hear that?” Mack asked. “That’s what a good bunker shot sounds like. If you can hear it, then you can feel it. If you can feel it, then you can make it, but you can’t make that sound until you hear it first. Your body takes care o’ the rest. You don’t have to actually tell it what to do.”

Tyler still looked puzzled, but, knowing Mack as he did, this was the kind of explanation he knew he should have expected. Coach Pohl would have gone into an eight-part dissertation on grip, stance, club path, release points, weight transfer, and so forth, and Tyler suddenly realized how much he’d come to adopt his college coach’s way of thinking in the past four years. Mack though? He just said you’ve got to hear it.

“Get in here,” Mack said suddenly, gesturing to the bunker and offering the wedge to Tyler. “Now close your eyes.”

“What?!” Tyler almost protested.

“Just do it, will ya’?” Mack insisted.

“Okay, okay,” Tyler replied, humoring his coach.

“Can you hear it?” Mack asked.

“Hear what?” Tyler answered. “All I hear is you.”

“Hear that sound, that thump.” It was Mack’s turn to be exasperated now. “It was only moments ago when I made it for you. Can’t you still hear it?”

“Oh, remember it you mean,” Tyler said. “Okay, I know what you mean now. I remember it.”

“No, you obviously don’t know what I mean,” Mack replied. “I wanted to know if you can hear it, in your mind, hear the actual sound. Not remember that I’d made it. There’s a big difference.”

Tyler suddenly did feel kind of dumb. He wasn’t picking up what Mack was getting at, at least not exactly how he wanted him to get it, and so he sat there with his eyes closed and gripped the club like he was going to hit a shot, waggled it a bit as if he was getting ready, and then opened his eyes again.

“Okay,” he said suddenly. “I think I can hear it now.”

“Don’t open your eyes,” Mack almost hissed. “Now make it, make that sound. Make that thump.”

Tyler swung down sharply and buried the head of the wedge into the sand where it almost stopped before exiting.

“That’s not a thump,” Mack said shaking his head. “That’s a thud. You can’t even get the ball out with that pitiful effort. Give me that!”

He took the wedge back from Tyler and said, “Now watch and listen.”

Mack made a handful of swings at the sand, each one resulting in a soft thump as the club bottomed out and then deposited a handful of sand out of the bunker. Tyler watched each time as the head of the club came up sharply, went down again, hit the sand, and came back up abruptly in a slightly abbreviated elliptical arc. Each time Tyler listened to the sound, embedding it as he studied how the club entered and exited the sand. Mack stopped suddenly and handed the club back to Tyler.

“Now you make that sound,” he said, “and as you do remember how it feels in your hands, your forearms, your chest, and most importantly in your head.”

“What?” Tyler asked, looking back up at Mack, confused at his last comment.

“Just do it,” Mack said. “Hear it, feel it, then do it, but don’t do it before you can hear it and feel it. Now close your eyes.”

Tyler did as he was told, closing his eyes and then settling his feet in as he tried to picture in his mind what Mack had been doing. At first, he just stood there waggling the club until he could see the image in his mind of Mack hitting the sand repeatedly, and then he could hear the soft thump as the club hit the sand. He started to swing but was interrupted by Mack’s voice.

“Can you feel it?” Mack said. “Don’t go until you can feel it.”

“Well, at first I could see the image in my mind of you hitting that shot over and over again,” Tyler said, opening his eyes and looking at Mack, “and then I could hear it. It sort of followed right in behind it.”

“Ah, the image is a good starting point, but you can’t just see it and hear it, you need to feel it,” Mack replied, pointing to his head. “Feel it in here, and then you can feel it here,” he continued, putting his hands together like he was gripping a club. “Now close your eyes again.”

“Okay,” Tyler said, not sure he was getting it, but finally bought in. He settled in again and began waggling the club until he could see Mack swinging and hear the subtle thump of the sand. He let it just loop in his mind, over and over again, until suddenly he could feel it like he was the one doing it, and then he swung.

Thump came the sound as the flange of his wedge hit the sand. It was his swing, but it was different, maybe not to the naked eye, but in the speed, the level of tension, and the release. He opened his eyes again, almost tentatively, and looked at Mack with a combination of curiosity and amazement.

“I felt it that time,” Tyler said in a voice that seemed to resonate within from somewhere in the past. It almost sounded like Jackie’s in its exuberance.

“Yes… good,” Mack replied patiently. “Now close your eyes and do it again, but make sure you can feel it before you pull the trigger.”

Tyler settled in again, waited until, like the last time, he could see it, hear it, and then finally feel it… Thump… Something was slightly different this time, though, and Tyler opened his eyes to notice Mack kneeling down next to him. He had quietly deposited a ball into the place where Tyler had swung. Tyler looked up in the direction of the green and the target flag he had been aiming toward just in time to see a ball slow to a gentle stop about four inches from the flag.

“How’d you do that?” Tyler said, almost in wonder now.

“I didn’t,” Mack replied. “You did. You just had to stop thinking. See it, hear it, and feel it. Once you feel it, you can believe it. Anything more is more than we need. Any questions?”

As Mack turned to walk up out of the bunker, Tyler just stood there shaking his head a moment, looking at the spot in the sand, and then back up at the green as if to confirm the ball he’d seen roll to stop was still there. “I guess I’ve still got a lot to learn.”

“Well… yes and no,” Mack said cryptically as he turned back to look at him. “You pretty much know how to hit all the shots, Tyler. You’ve hit every one of them at one time or another. You’ve just got to learn how to empty your head of all those instructions so you can focus on finding the shot you need when you need it. It’s in there somewhere.”

“It’s hard to explain,” Tyler said, “but a lot of times I walk up and think I somehow just instinctively know what shot to hit without even thinking about it. I just kind of see it and feel it. It’s when I start to analyze things a bit more closely, factoring in all the things I know are important to consider like the wind, keeping away from the short side, where I want to putt from, and the best trajectory or shot shape for the situation, that I often start to second guess that feeling.”

“Ever heard the saying paralysis from analysis?” Mack asked. “It pretty much describes those moments.”

“Yeah, I get it,” Tyler replied, “but all that information is important. You have to consider everything and not just make a rash decision.”

“Sure, information is important, but you can’t get lost in it,” Mack countered. “Whether it’s golf, or just about anything else in life, Tyler, you need to learn to trust your gut. You’ve hit hundreds of thousands of shots in your life, Tyler. All those shots leave a mark. They leave an indelible little mark that gets filed away in your brain subconsciously, getting stacked one on top of the other. And after years of playing the game, those stacks and stacks of shots create an instinctive reaction to each situation. It’s like gravity. It pulls you in a certain direction so much that most of the time you almost know what club you should hit before you even know the yardage. Trust that, Tyler. Go with it, and know that first instinct comes from experience. There’s more wisdom in those gut reactions than just about anything else.”

“Thank you,” Tyler said after considering it a moment. “I think that’ll really help.”

“You’re welcome,” Mack replied. “Now rake that bunker for me and clean the balls off the green. I want to get things closed up before dark.”

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5 things we learned on Saturday at the 2018 U.S. Open

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Whoops, we did it again. While not as dramatic as the 7th hole concern of 2004, the Saturday of 2018 seemed eerily familiar. The commentators were divided on the question of whether the USGA was pleased with the playing conditions. The suggestion was, the grass in the rough was higher than necessary, and the cuts of the fairway and greens were just a bit too close of a shave. No matter, everyone finished and the band played on. The hashtag #KeepShinnyWeird didn’t trend, but Saturday the 16th was certainly not ordinary. Five weird things we learned, on the way.

5) Phil’s breaking point

It wasn’t violent. No outburst or hysteria. We’d seen Phil leap in triumph at Augusta. Now we’ve seen the Mickelson jog, albeit under most different circumstances. Near as we can determine, for a moment Phil forgot that he was playing a U.S. Open. After belting a downhill, sliding bogey putt well past the mark, the left-handed one discerned that the orb would not come to rest for quite some time: a lower tier beckoned. As if dancing a Tarantella, Phil sprang toward the ball and gave it a spank while still it moved. Just like that, his quadruple-bogey 8 become a 10, thanks to the 2 strokes for striking a moving ball penalty. In true warrior fashion, Mickelson accepted the penalty without questions, intimating that it saved him another stroke or two in the end. Yeesh. Phil, we feel you.

4) DJ’s front-nine free fall

Just as unlikely as Phil’s whack-and-walk was Dustin Johnson’s front nine of 41. The cool gunslinger of Thursday-Friday faced the same turmoil as the other 66 golfers remaining, and the outward nine did not go according to his plan. DJ got past the opening hole with par, after making bogey there on Friday. Number two was another story. Double bogey on the long par three was followed by 4 bogeys in 5 holes, beginning with the 4th. The irony once again was, Johnson struggled on holes that the field did not necessarily find difficult. Hole No. 2 was the 10th-ranked hole for difficulty on day 3, while 4 and 7 were 13th and 11th-ranked, respectively. Hole No. 6 and 8 did fall in the more difficult half, but not by much. At day’s end, however, the tall drink of water remained in contention for his second U.S. Open title.

3) The firm of Berger and Finau

Each likely anticipated no more than a top-15 placing after 3 days, despite posting the two low rounds of the day, 4-under 66. Those efforts brought them from +7 to +3 for the tournament, but Johnson and the other leaders had yet to tee off. Every indication was lower and deeper; then the winds picked up, blustery like the 100 acre wood of Winnie The Pooh. Both golfers posted 6 birdies against 2 bogeys, to play themselves into the cauldron of contention. Berger has one top-10 finish in major events, while Finau has 2. None of those three came in a U.S. Open, so a win tomorrow by either golfer would qualify as an absolute shock.

2) Recent winners fared well

In addition to Johnson, the 2016 champion, Justin Rose (2013) and Brooks Koepka (2017) found themselves near or in the lead for most of the afternoon. Since Shinnecock Hills offers much of what characterizes links golf, it should come as no surprise that 2016 British Open champion Henrik Stenson is also within a handful of strokes of the top spot. Rose played the best tee-to-green golf of the leaders on Saturday, but was unable to coax legitimate birdie efforts from his putter. Koepka was the most impressive putter of the day, making up to 60-feet bombs and consistently holing the clutch par saves. On another note, given his victories at Chambers Bay (2015 U.S. Open) and Royal Birkdale (2017 British Open), the missed cut by Jordan Spieth was the week’s biggest surprise.

1) The wind

The most unpredictable of nature’s weapons, the winds of Shinnecock Hills exposed flaws in the course preparation. Areas that would have held off-line putts, were dried out enough to escort those efforts off the shortest grass, into the runoff compartments. The zephyrs pushed tee balls and approach shots just far enough astray to bring all the danger zones into the recipe. Prediction for tomorrow is, any golfer within 5 shots of the lead has a chance at the title. A Miller-esque round of 63 would bring anyone into contention, if the wind continues to blow. No event appreciates drama more than the U.S. Open, and Sunday at Shinnecock promises plenty of it.

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