I was asked by the editorial staff of GolfWRX to write about some of the “names” I’ve played with during my 40 years in the golf industry. Initially, I declined. I was uncomfortable, because it sounded like an excuse to name drop. They told me if I wrote it they would give their review and if it didn’t sound right they wouldn’t run it.
So as I proceed, I don’t know whether this story will publish or not.
Editor’s Note: Who wouldn’t have published this? Read on.
To start, one doesn’t enter the golf equipment industry with dreams of playing a lot. I have known a few salesmen who always found time to play, and they also found jobs outside the industry. Personally speaking, for the better part of 10 years, I averaged less than 5-to-6 rounds a year. At my skill level this meant ceremonial golf, an occasional decent shot and no overall quality.
I have come up with a foursome I played with in a variety of situations over the years and they each left a lasting impression for different reasons. I’ll start with a disclaimer: I did not include Arnold Palmer, who I have played with 5-to-6 times. It’s because he is Arnold Palmer, the King of my era and my personal golf hero. I was so enthralled by the opportunity to play with him that it wasn’t really golf. All I can remember is being in his presence and that was enough.
So in alphabetical order, here it goes.
Prior to the annual PGA Merchandise Show in Florida, my good friend Jim Achenbach of Golfweek would contact me and Bob Cantin from Ping to set up a game with Bolt at Black Diamond, a 36-hole facility in Lecanto, Fla., about 90 minutes northwest of Orlando. My weak memory would place this in the late 90’s when Bolt was older than 80.
When I flash back, I always have the same memory and that was his swing. Bolt didn’t so much as swing the club back as he placed it in a perfect position at the top. There was no unnecessary movement, just this magnificent swing that produced a shot quality I could only dream about. I remember asking him if he minded my standing behind him because I just wanted to watch every detail of that swing. He was a joy to play with, told us stories… I’ll never forget that swing.
Back in the 90’s, there was a club in Titusville, Fla., called Royal Oak Golf Club and it was owned at the time by the Canadian PGA. As such, Moe had access and it became his winter headquarters. My mom lived adjacent to the 13th hole, and with Titusville being about 40 miles from Orlando I made it a point to go to the PGAM Show early (and sometimes stay) so I could hang out with her and two of my brothers who lived nearby. The driving range was a short walk from her house and there was Moe.
Moe has been described as autistic and a savant, but neither is correct. If you’re interested in his life I suggest you secure a copy of “Moe and Me” by the excellent Canadian writer Lorne Rubenstein.
I believe there are two kinds of ball strikers, related but slightly different. The first is the player on the course envisioning and hitting one shot, then moving to a completely different shot. The second is the guy on the range who hits tens, maybe hundreds of shots at a target with the same club. Obviously there is a relationship, as Moe was a great on-course player, but on the range he was otherworldly. We used to play nine holes in the late evening and he would play two balls, worst ball and break par — and he wasn’t a great putter. I say “we” played, but half the time I don’t think he realized I was there. Still, I never missed the chance.
I see his name used on the Internet as exemplifying some kind of mythical golf swing that, if emulated, would be “the answer.”
I made Moe’s clubs. If a standard swing weight is D2, his would have been F-something and the grips were jumbo plus. You see, Moe was strong and I mean freaky strong. It was as if his body was protecting the damage done in his childhood sleighing accident. He could grab you by the upper arm and with seemingly little effort take you to your knees. So for all those Moe Norman aficionados, I suggest starting with clubs four times heavier than normal and being abnormally strong.
There are a million ball-hitting stories, and I’ll give you a few.
Moe was at a different range, Jonathan’s Landing, and I happened to be there. He was hitting drivers off the deck and would announce draw or fade and how high. He always told me he played by height! Now, I’m not saying when he called for a slight draw at 40 feet it went exactly that height, but it drew and it was about twice as high as the one he called at 20 feet and this was off the deck!
When Moe hit drivers off a tee, he would literally hit a bucket and never move the tee. Like all great ball strikers, his shots had a different, quiet sound. Maybe my favorite happened one evening at Royal Oak. It was dusk and he was there alone hitting little pitches at a flag stuck in the ground (the place was not plush). I was the only other person and as he hit shots he talked to me, as he often did while hitting balls.
“I play by height,” he said. “This one 4 feet, this one 8 feet.”
He hit shots from very mediocre lies to this flagstick in the dusk. He hit maybe 30 or 40 balls and 11 hit the flag and I thought another 20 were going to. It was incredible, and I’ll never forget it.
Moe had a few great lines, and one afternoon he said one of the wisest things about practice I’ve ever heard. It was probably the mid 90’s, PGAM Show time, and I’d talked the Haney Ranch gang — all the instructors and Hank — into coming over to Titusville to watch Moe hit balls. I was the club fitter at Haney Ranch at the time.
Moe was hitting 6 irons, just one perfect shot after another, and then hit one a bit fat. He was rapid fire, so when one of the instructors, Tracy Philips, asked him about what he thought about the fat shot, it was two or three balls later. Moe stopped, took a swig of his ever present Coke and said:
“What did I think?” Moe said. “That was a bad shot. I don’t think about bad shots. I only think about good shots.”
He put down the Coke and went on with perfection.
He actually repeated himself, as was his syntax in those days, but I’ll never forget the words. How many of us get tied up analyzing our bad shots and don’t learn from the good ones.
The Wedge Guy: Improving your short iron and wedge impact
One of my most appreciated aspects of this nearly 40 years in the golf equipment industry is the practically endless stream of “ah ha” moments that I have experienced. One that I want to share with you today will–I hope–give you a similar “ah ha moment” and help you improve your ball striking with your high lofted short irons and wedges.
As I was growing up, we always heard the phrase, “thin to win” anytime we hit an iron shot a little on the skinny side (not a complete skull, mind you). When you caught that short iron or wedge shot a bit thin, it seemed you always got added distance, a lower trajectory and plenty of spin. It was in a testing session back in the early 2000s when this observation met with some prior learning, hence the “ah ha moment” for me.
I was in Fredericksburg, Virginia, testing some wedge prototypes with a fitter there who was one of the first to have a TrackMan to measure shot data. I had hit about two dozen full pitching wedges for him to get a base of data for me to work from. The average distance was 114 yards, with my typical higher ball flight than I like, generating an average of about 7,000 rpms of spin. What I noticed, however, was those few shots that I hit thin were launching noticeably lower, flying further and had considerably more spin. Hmmm.
So, I then started to intentionally try to pick the ball off the turf, my swing thought being to actually try to almost “blade” the shot. As I began to somewhat “perfect” this, I saw trajectories come down to where I’d really like them, distance increased to 118-120 and spin rates actually increased to about 8,000 rpms! I was taking no divot, or just brushing the grass after impact, but producing outstanding spin. On my very best couple of swings, distance with my pitching wedge was 120-122 with almost 10,000 rpms of spin! And a great trajectory.
So, I began to put two and two together, drawing on the lessons about gear effect that I had learned back in the 1980s when working with Joe Powell in the marketing of his awesome persimmon drivers. You all know that gear effect is what makes a heel hit curve/fade back toward the centerline, and a heel hit curves/draws back as well. The “ah ha” moment was realizing that this gear effect also worked vertically, so shots hit that low on the face “had no choice” but to fly lower, and take on more spin.
I had always noticed that tour players’ and better amateurs’ face wear pattern was much lower on the face than that of recreational golfers I had observed, so this helped explain the quality of ball flight and spin these elite players get with their wedges and short irons.
I share this with you because I know we all often misinterpret the snippets of advice we get from friends and other instructional content that is out there. To me, one of the most damaging is “hit down on the ball”. That is a relative truth, of course, but in my observation it has too many golfers attacking the ball with their short irons and wedges with a very steep angle of attack and gouging huge divots. The facts are that if the club is moving only slightly downward at impact, you will get the spin you want, and if the clubhead is moving on a rather shallow path, you will get a more direct blow to the back of the ball, better trajectory, more distance and improved spin. Besides, shallow divots are easier on the hands and joints.
If this is interesting to you, I suggest you go to the range and actually try to blade some wedge shots until you somewhat groove this shallower path through impact and a lower impact point on your clubface. As you learn to do this, you will be able to zero in on the proper impact that produces a very shallow divot, and a great looking shot.
[TIP: If you will focus on the front edge of the ball – the side closest to the target – it will help you achieve this kind of impact.]
It will take some time, but I believe this little “experiment” will give the same kind of “ah ha moment” it gave me.
On Spec: Interview with Trevor Immelman, 2008 Masters champion
In this episode, host Ryan speaks with Trevor Immelman about his career, what it was like growing up around the game as a competitive amateur in South Africa, and what it’s like being a Masters champion.
Topics also include his experiences working with the design team at Nike Golf as well as his current “What’s in the Bag” which includes equipment from Titleist and the process he went through to get it dialed in.
Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below.
Golf Movie Madness: GolfWRXers vote “Caddyshack” the greatest golf movie ever
It’s official. “Caddyshack” is the undisputed best golf movie of all time according to GolfWRXers who voted in our Golf Movie Madness Bracket.
“Caddyshack” cruised to the final of our Golf Movie Madness Bracket, easily dismissing both “A Gentleman’s Game” and “Happy Gilmore” before facing off against “Tin Cup” in the championship match.
The saga of Danny Noonan and the goings-on at Bushwood Country Club was handed a stern test in the final in the form “Tin Cup”. But even Roy McAvoy’s dramatic U.S. Open bid couldn’t stop the juggernaut that is “Caddyshack” – with WRXers voting in favor of the 1980 classic by a margin of 62% to 38%.
GolfWRX members choice for greatest golf movie: Caddyshack
Paige Spiranac blasts golf culture: “A big boys club” that is “elitist, stuffy and exclusive”
Looking back on a golf genius: Anthony Kim (with final full bag specs)
Patrick Reed’s winning WITB: 2020 WGC-Mexico Championship
Adam Scott’s winning WITB: 2020 Genesis Invitational
Sergio Garcia WITB 2020
On Spec: Fairway wood fittings | Adam Scott wins with 17-year-old irons
Today from the Forums: “Best 3-wood off the deck?”
Phil Mickelson WITB 2020
Viktor Hovland’s winning WITB 2020 Puerto Rico Open
Sungjae Im’s winning WITB: The Honda Classic
Byeong Hun An WITB 2020
Equipment accurate as of the Farmers Insurance Open Driver: Titleist TS3 (8.5 degrees, B2 SureFit setting) Shaft: Accra TZ5 M5...
Pat Perez WITB 2020
Equipment accurate as of the Farmers Insurance Open. Driver: PXG 0811X Gen 2 (9 degrees) Shaft: Aldila Rogue Black 130...
Adam Long WITB 2020
Equipment accurate as of the 2020 Players Championship. Driver: TaylorMade SIM Max (9 degrees) Shaft: Project X HZRDUS Smoke Green...
WITB Time Machine: Ian Poulter WITB 2014
Equipment accurate as of Franklin Templeton Shootout (12/10/14). Driver: Titleist 915 D2 (9.5 degrees @ 10.25, D3 SureFit setting) Shaft:...
News2 weeks ago
Looking back on a golf genius: Anthony Kim (with final full bag specs)
Whats in the Bag2 weeks ago
Bubba Watson WITB 2020
Equipment2 weeks ago
Today from the Forums: “3-hybrid or 7-wood?”
Equipment4 days ago
Building the perfect half set
Opinion & Analysis5 days ago
Behind the numbers: A road map for an 18 handicap to get down to a 9
Whats in the Bag2 weeks ago
Tommy Fleetwood WITB 2020
Tour Photo Galleries3 weeks ago
10 interesting photos from the 2020 Players Championship
Whats in the Bag1 week ago
Steve Stricker WITB 2020