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Opinion & Analysis

The 15 Best GolfWRX Stories of 2015

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At GolfWRX, our goal is to satisfy all of our your golfing needs, whether it’s the latest equipment, instruction, reviews or news from around the tours. We cover it all and more on our front page and in our forums, and we’re proud of the job we did in 2015.

Below is the final list of our absolute favorite stories from 2015. We thought many of our GolfWRX readers would have some downtime this holiday season, and in case you do we decided to create this list for your reading pleasure.

Related: GolfWRX’s Top-10 stories from 2014

Congratulations to the writers who were chosen to appear on this list, and a big THANK YOU to all of the Forum Members and Featured Writers who’ve helped GolfWRX become the awesome golf community that it is.

Hole 1: The day I met Ben Hogan

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Tom Stites has spent more than 30 years in the golf industry, a career that began at the Ben Hogan Company where he worked for the man himself. Stites plans on writing 18 holes, a full round of first-hand stories, about his interactions with Hogan — the man who has had such a tremendous impact on golf equipment, golf history, the golf swing and the way golfers play the game — and other encounters in the industry.

This particular story made this list, because well, what’s more interesting than a tale about meeting Ben Hogan in a restroom?

Video: Hudson Swafford’s drill to hit more fairways

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Hudson Swafford’s swing instructor Scott Hamilton gave us an insider’s look into how one of the best players in the world practices his tee shots. This kind of access and instruction is what GolfWRX is all about.

The reality of aim and alignment, and why golfers get them wrong

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PGA Master Professional Dennis Clark is an expert at making the complicated seem simple, and addressing common misconceptions among golfers. This story about alignment is one that may change the way golfers look at setting up to a golf ball.

5 things I learned traveling with a Tour player

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Nick Randall, the fitness specialist from down under, takes us behind the scenes of a PGA Tour event as he travels, works out and walks the course with PGA Tour player Cameron Smith. In terms of behind-the-scenes access into the life of a Tour player, it doesn’t get much better than this.

An added tidbit: Smith isn’t well-known in the States, but he finished T4 in the 2015 U.S. Open and T25 in the 2015 PGA Championship. He earned his 2015-2016 PGA Tour card as a non-member who finished in the top-125 on the Tour’s 2014-2015 money list. He will also tee it up in the 2016 Masters. 

Kinsler putter: Will the Raptor roar like Kinsler’s engine parts?

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This story embodies GolfWRX; it takes a deep dive into a unique golf product, but you don’t have to be a gearhead to enjoy reading it. The putter feature comes from GolfWRX Editor Zak Kozuchowski, who has been leading our Editorial Department since 2012.

Hit it like a girl for more distance

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The general population of male golfers look to imitate PGA Tour players. Justin Padjen’s story explains why that’s not the best plan of action for the average male golfer. Instead, hit it #LikeAGirl

The science of adding spin to your wedge shots

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If you’ve ever wondered how PGA Tour pros hit wedge shots that take a few hops and stop dead, this story is for you. Stickney takes explores the science of creating spin, and offers four ways to create more spin in your own game.

10 things not to do at a PGA Tour event

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If you’re planning to attend a PGA Tour event in 2016, make sure to read this story. Most people know not to yell “baba booey,” especially during a player’s backswing, but Alberstadt examines nine other things you shouldn’t do at a Tour event. It could save you some awkward encounters and death stares.

Inside the World of counterfeit golf clubs

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Barney Adams is a legend in the golf equipment industry, and in this story he takes readers into the underground world of counterfeit golf clubs. And if you haven’t read Barney Adams before, make sure to catch up.

The absolute facts about swing weight

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When Tom Wishon talks about golf clubs, golfers listen — it’s like Phil Jackson talking about the triangle offense. This story is like a handbook on swing weight, one of the most misunderstood concepts in golf equipment.

What really determines feel in an iron

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Paul Wood, Senior Vice President of Engineering for Ping Golf, explains what makes an iron “feel” better, as well as the differences between forged and cast irons.

A statistical analysis of what makes Jordan Spieth great

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Rich Hunt is a PGA Tour statistician, so when it comes to statistical breakdowns on GolfWRX, his are the most thorough and comprehensive that you’ll find. Here’s his explanation, backed by the facts, about what makes Jordan Spieth great.

Rickie Fowler’s golf clubs are like no one else’s

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Rickie Fowler is one of golf’s unique characters, but he also has golf clubs like no other player on Tour. His Cobra irons and wedges are created through an extensive process that GolfWRX Senior Editor Andrew Tursky explains in great detail. If you enjoy one-off golf clubs, you’ll love this look at Fowler’s clubs.

How far you can actually hit your driver

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This story may single-handedly bring golfers with big egos down to earth.

“When I ask students how far they carry the ball and what their average total distance is, the answer is usually grossly inaccurate and overstated 99 percent of the time,” Stickney says.

Charts in this story show how far you should be hitting the golf ball based on your swing speed, which means arguments begin and end with this article.

How I hit drives 56 yards farther with one adjustment

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The headline of this story makes a claim that seems like it’s straight out of an informercial until you read the instructional gold. If you’re looking for more distance, you need to read this story from Adam Young, a golf coach at the Leadbetter Academy in La Manga Resort in Spain.

Weekly stories

A special thanks to the recurring stories on GolfWRX, including Tour PhotosRevealing Photos, Tour Mash, From the Forums and Fantasy Previews.

Tour photos

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What would WRX be without our Tour photographer Greg Moore, who takes the best and most timely equipment photos in the industry.

Revealing photos

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This new feature in 2015 is written by Tursky and provides entertaining and informative commentary about select Tour photos from Moore.

Tour Mash

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Every Monday, Ronald Montesano recaps the biggest news, results and goings-on from across the globe in the sport of golf, from both men’s and women’s tours, with his “Tour Mash” series. Golf news has never been so enthralling.

Check out all of the weekly recaps, and more from Montesano here.

From the Forums

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This series brings you the best of the best from our forums each week. It’s no easy task since our forums are so vast, but Alberstadt always seems to find the best topics, equipment and Tour news.

Fantasy Previews

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Ben Auten has the difficult job of predicting what players will succeed, or underperform, each week on the PGA Tour. In the unpredictable world of golf, this is far from a cake walk, but his thorough analysis and Tour trends are usually spot on (And nice call on Smylie Kaufman!).

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Jean

    Dec 25, 2015 at 5:21 pm

    why isn’t the Dustin Johnson Jean Van De Velde article in this list

  2. Billy

    Dec 25, 2015 at 5:53 am

    All 15 should be Tom Wishon articles/posts.

  3. Ronald Montesano

    Dec 24, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    My one, living goal is to one day make the “Top 15” list at GolfWRX. It’s my daily alarm clock.

    • Double Mocha Man

      Dec 24, 2015 at 12:43 pm

      Hey Ronald, you make my Top 15. Please request my physical address where you can send money.

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Courses

Coming Up: A Big Golf Adventure

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My name is Jacob Sjöman, and I’m a 35-year-old golf photographer who also enjoys the game we all love. I will be sharing some experiences here on a big golf trip that we are doing. With me I’ve got my friend Johan. I will introduce him properly later, but he is quite a funny character. According to Johan, he is the best golf photo assistant in the world, and we will see about that since this is probably his biggest test yet doing this trip. Previously on our trips, Johan almost got us killed in Dubai with a lack of driving skills. He also missed a recent evening photo shoot in Bulgaria while having a few beers too many… and that’s not all.

Anyway, the last couple of days I’ve been packing my bags over and over. I came home from the Canary Islands this Sunday and I’ve been constantly checking and rechecking that we’ve got all the required equipment, batteries, and that the cameras are 100 percent functional and good to go for this golf trip. I’m still not sure, but in a couple of minutes I will be sitting in a taxi to the airport and there will be no turning back.

Where are we going then? We are going to visit some of the very best golf courses in New Zealand and Australia. There will be breathtaking golf on cliffsides, jaw-dropping scenic courses, and some hidden gems. And probably a big amount of lost balls with a lot of material produced in the end.

I couldn’t be more excited for a golf journey like this one. Flying around the globe to these special golf courses I’ve only dreamed about visiting before gives me a big kick and I feel almost feel like a Indiana Jones. The only thing we’ve got in common, though, is that we don’t like snakes. Australia seems to be one of the worst destinations to visit in that purpose, but all the upsides are massive in this.

First, we will take off from a cold Stockholm (it’s raining heavily outside at the moment) and then we will do our first stop at Doha in Quatar. Then after two more hours, we are finally heading off to Auckland on the north island of New Zealand, a mega-flight of 16 hours. I believe that could very well be one of the longest flights available for a ordinary airplane. I need to check that.

Flights for me usually mean work, editing photos from different golf courses I’ve visited, writing some texts, editing some films, and planning for the future. Last time, though, I finally managed to sleep a little, which is a welcome progress for a guy that was deadly scared of flying until 2008.

Now, I am perfectly fine with flying. A few rocky flights over the Atlantic Sea to Detroit helped me a lot, and my motto is now, “If those flights got me down on the ground safely, it takes a lot of failures to bring down a plane.”

Anyway, I hope you will join me on this golf trip. Stay tuned!

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Opinion & Analysis

Be Curious, Not Critical, of Tour Player Swings

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After a foul ball by a tour player, the talking heads on TV are often quick to analyze the “problem” with that swing. Fair enough, I suppose. Even the best players are human and our game has more failure than success. But I’d like to offer a different take on swings of the best players in the world.

First, let’s remember how good these guys and gals really are. If you met up with the lowest ranked player on any professional tour at a public course one day, I’ll bet that golfer would be the best golfer most of you have ever played with. You’d be telling your buddies in the 19th hole about him or her for a very long time. These players have reached a level of ball striking most people only dream about. That’s why I’m more curious than critical when it comes to a tour player’s swing. I’m not thinking about what he/she needs to do better; I’m thinking, “How do they do it so well?” In other words, I want to know how they put their successful move together. What part goes with the other parts? How did their pattern evolve? What are the compatible components of their swing?

Let’s use Jim Furyk as an example. Furyk has what we might call an “unconventional” move. It’s also a swing that has won nearly $70 million and shot 58 one day. But I’ll offer him as an example because his swing illustrates the point I’m making. From a double-overlapping grip, Furyk picks the golf club up to what might be the most vertical position one would ever see from a professional. Then in transition, he flattens the club and drops it well behind him. Now the club is so flat and inside, he has to open his body as quickly as he can to keep the club from getting “stuck.” Let’s call it an “up-and-under loop.”

Let’s take Matt Kuchar as a counter example. Kuchar’s signature hands-in, flat and very deep takeaway is pretty much the total opposite of Furyk. But he comes over that takeaway and gets the club back into a great position into impact. We’ll call that an “in-and-over” loop.

Both are two of the best and most consistent golfers in the world. Is one right and the other wrong? Of course not. They do have one thing in common, however, and it’s that they both balanced their golf swing equation.

What would happen if Kuchar did what Furyk does coming down? Well, he wouldn’t be on TV on the weekend. If he did, he’d be hitting drop kicks several inches behind. That doesn’t win The Players Championship. The point is that the Furyk downswing is incompatible with the Kuchar backswing, and vice versa, but I’m guessing they both know that.

How can this help you? My own personal belief and the basis of my teaching is this: your backswing is an option, but your downswing is a requirement. I had one student today dropping the arms and club well inside and another coming over the top, and they both felt better impact at the end of the lesson. I showed them how to balance their equation.

My job is solving swing puzzles, a new one very hour, and I’m glad it is. It would be mind-numbing boredom if I asked every golfer to do the same thing. It’s the teaching professional’s job to solve your puzzle, and I assure you that with the right guidance you can make your golf swing parts match. Are there universal truths, things that every golfer MUST do?  Yes, they are the following:

  1. Square the club face
  2. Come into the ball at a good angle
  3. Swing in the intended direction
  4. Hit the ball in the center of the face (method be damned!)

But here’s the funny part: Let Kuchar or Furyk get off base and watch every swing critic in the world blame some part of the quirkiness of their move that has led to their greatness. When players at their level get off their game, it’s generally due to poor timing or that they lost the sync/rhythm that connected their individual parts. The same holds true for all of us. We have to find the matching parts and the timing to connect them. You might not need new parts.

After all, weren’t those same parts doing the job when you shot your career low round?

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Opinion & Analysis

The numbers behind “full scholarships” in NCAA men’s college golf

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If you are in the world of junior golf, you’ve probably heard about a young man you know who’s getting that coveted full ride to college, maybe even to a Power-5 school. With all the talk in junior golf about full scholarships, and a lot of rumors about how many are available, we decided to poll coaches and gather some real data about “full scholarships.”

So, what did we find out? In total, we got responses to a voluntary online survey from 61 men’s D1 coaches, 19 men’s D2 coaches and 3 NAIA coaches (83 total). On average, the coaches in the survey had 11.8 years of coaching experience. Of the coaches that responded, 58 of the 83 coaches reported having zero players on full ride. Another 15 coaches surveyed reported having one player on full ride. This means that 69 percent of the coaches surveyed reported zero players on full scholarship and 18 percent reported one player on full scholarship, while another four coaches reported that 20 percent of their team was on full ride and six coaches reported between 2-3 players on full ride.

We then asked coaches, “what percent of golfers in Division 1 do you think have full scholarships based on your best guess?” Here’s what the responses looked like: 25 coaches said 5 percent and 36 coaches said 10 percent. This means that 73 percent of respondents suggested that, in their opinion, in men’s Division 1, Division 2 and NAIA, there are less than 10 percent of players on full ride.

Next, we asked coaches, “what was a fair scholarship percentage to offer a player likely to play in your top 5?” The average of the 83 responses was 62.5 percent scholarship with 38 coaches (46 percent) suggesting they would give 30-50 percent and 43 coaches (52 percent) suggesting 50-75 percent. Only two coaches mentioned full scholarship.

The last question we asked coaches, was “what would you need to do to earn a full scholarship?”

  • Top-100 in NJGS/Top-250 in WAGR – 41 coaches (49 percent)
  • 250-700 in WAGR – 19 coaches (23 percent)
  • Most interesting, 17 coaches (20 percent) noted that they either did not give full rides or did not have the funding to give full rides.

The findings demonstrate that full rides among players at the men’s Division 1, Division 2 and NAIA levels are rare, likely making up less than 10 percent of total players. It also suggests that if you are a junior player looking for a full ride, you need to be exceptional; among the very best in your class.

Please note that the survey has limitations because it does not differentiate between athletic and academic money. The fact is several institutions have a distinct advantage of being able to “stack” academic and athletic aid to create the best financial packages. My intuition suggests that the coaches who responded suggesting they have several players on “full rides” are likely at places where they are easily able to package money. For example, a private institution like Mercer might give a student $12,000 for a certain GPA and SAT. This might amount to approximately 25 percent, but under the NCAA rules it does not count toward the coach’s 4.5 scholarships. Now for 75 percent athletic, the coach can give a player a full ride.

Maybe the most interesting finding of the data collection is the idea that many programs are not funded enough to offer full rides. The NCAA allows fully funded men’s Division 1 programs to have 4.5 scholarships, while Division 2 programs are allowed 3.6. My best guess suggests that a little more than 60 percent of men’s Division 1 programs have this full allotment of scholarship. In Division 2, my guess is that this number is a lot closer to 30 percent.

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