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Swanson: The Green Jacket would be Spieth’s if he knew anything about iron design

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Warning: Swanson, the author of this story, does not exist… except in his writing. His character is completely imagined, but that doesn’t mean his opinions aren’t real. 

Recently, I shared with the GolfWRX community my golden nuggets for selecting the 14 clubs in your bag, as to abide by the USGA maximum club rule. Some of you were astoundingly unappreciative. I’ve been getting hate mail and negative comments since it’s been published.

Therefore, I’d like to use the first half of this story to address the responses, which are utterly appalling. The second half of this week’s article will be dedicated to an equipment tip for Jordan Spieth to improve his game and avoid any future meltdowns.

Responding to the Hate

1)Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 2.06.51 PM

Swanson: “Duffer,” you sound like quite the stick. But think about this: If I couldn’t hit a 1-iron better than Hogan (he actually hit it too low), would you care what I had to say? Golfers always complain that the best teachers can’t play a lick or hit it out of their shadow. Consider me your saving grace. How’s this: I’ll play each of the top-100 teachers in match play, and we’ll see who knows more about golf.

2)Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 2.06.18 PM

Swanson: Loser? I remember the last time I needed a 2-iron to reach a par 5. It was around when Bush was in office… Bush Sr. If you want to play for big prize money, you can find me at my country club every week with a locker full of cash and a tee time.

3)Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 2.04.30 PM

Swanson: 17 handicap, yes. When I play the entire round with a putter.

4)Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 1.54.36 PM

Swanson: Stab at Ian Poulter? Uh no, he’s a family friend. My father sold Poults his first Ferrari back in ’92 before my father bought Ferrari (the company).

5)

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 1.54.13 PM

Swanson: Funny story. I’m good buddies with the character on which Spaulding Smails is based. He’s a “good egg,” as they say. And in case you haven’t noticed, I’m named after the driver of the boat in Caddyshack, since my father loves boats and yachts.

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 3.39.23 PM

“Move over Swanson, I’m driving!” Just never gets old!

6)

Screen-Shot-2016-03-30-at-1.53.33-PM

Swanson: They’re handmade by the Dalai Lama’s right-hand man, and I have his cell number if you’re serious. Message me and I’ll get you a price estimate.

7) 

Screen-Shot-2016-03-30-at-1.53.20-PM

Swanson: The last part of the last sentence was spot on.

An equipment tip for Jordan Spieth

I actually feel bad for Jordan. He probably thinks he choked The Masters away. I mean he did, but it wasn’t his fault. I went through literally the same exact thing, so I know what happened.

You see, I’ve also hit a tee shot into the water on No. 12 at Augusta National (I also used the drop zone and got up and down for bogey, but that’s not the point). I got fit for new irons the week before I played Augusta for the first time. Admittedly, I wasn’t the stellar ball striker I am now, so the fitter put me into a set of game-improvement style irons. You know, thick top line, cavity back, thin face… the whole works. They were basically garbage cans, but who was I to question the fitter, right?

So I get to Augusta National with a bag full of shovels, and I struggled a bit on the front nine and made the turn in a few under par. The par 5s are basically par 4s, and the par 4s are basically par-3.5’s, so nothing special. I just wasn’t catching the new irons flush, and didn’t have the precision I had with my forged blades.

Nos. 10 and 11 aren’t nearly as difficult as the pros claim, so I cruise through those with easy pars. But then I get to the 12th.

AugustaSwanson

The pin was all the way on the right, similar to where it is on Sunday for the Masters. The hole was playing 154 yards and the wind was swirling. I decided to try and take the wind out of play, and went with a low-slinging draw with my 9 iron. It’s a shot I’d hit a million times with my forged blades, but the ball floated out to the right and never drew back to the pin.

I knew immediately it was the club’s fault. The forgiveness of the irons kept the ball from drawing back to the pin.

I went onto birdie 5 of the last 6 holes (I missed 3-foot eagle putts on Nos. 13 and 15 because I was flustered), and would have had the course record (which is only 63) if it wasn’t for my irons.

But I learned my lesson. That was the last day I ever played an iron with even an ounce of “technology” in it. In fact, after the round I took a NetJets home to get my forged blade irons, and played the course again the next day. I couldn’t get it going with the putter and shot 66… but I made a hole-in-one on No. 12.

They say there’s only been three holes-in-one on that hole, but there’s actually been four. When I told the committee at Augusta National I made a hole-in-one there with a low-squeezer 9 iron, they didn’t believe me, and no one was there to attest. They no longer allow me on the premises because of the dispute, but if you jump into the pond in front of the green, you’ll find a set of game-improvement irons.

And that’s where Jordan Spieth’s irons should be, too. If he wants to win any more majors, he needs to ditch those irons with all that forgiveness and switch to blades. It’s no wonder he hit the worst tee shot I’ve ever seen there, he had zero ball control.

Please email (longballswanson@gmail.com) or tweet me (@longballswan1) with questions you’d like me to answer for a new segment called “Yo, Swanson!” I’ll answer anything you want since I know pretty much everything about everything golf-related, and I can help you avoid you’re own major meltdown.

Longball Swanson, out.

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Swanson doesn't exist, except in his writing. He doesn't play for score any more, as he's too busy working on his spin rates. For tournament purposes, he has a 2 handicap on file from high school golf, registered at his home club, which is only reachable by private watercraft.

59 Comments

59 Comments

  1. Frank McChrystal

    Aug 29, 2016 at 11:39 pm

    Tongue in cheek, maybe. If you have hands of stone and think the AP2 is a players club then this article is twisted and has your brain shutting down.

  2. Jeff*

    May 11, 2016 at 11:00 pm

    He shoulda been using the AP2 wedge came with his set, but he wanted to look like a gamer. In front of all the press, and it cost him a Masters. Hard lesson. We could a told him.

  3. The loop

    Apr 28, 2016 at 1:28 am

    Hilarious that so many don’t realize this is satire, tongue-in-cheek! I never knew so many live each day with their underwear so tightly knotted!

  4. cody

    Apr 22, 2016 at 11:10 am

    i think these articles are funny

  5. Andrew

    Apr 18, 2016 at 9:56 pm

    please stop doing these stupid articles. he is a terrible fictional character and a waste of space on the site.

    • Tyler

      Apr 20, 2016 at 9:16 am

      Dude lighten up. It’s an entertaining article that makes us laugh because we see pieces of ourselves in it.

  6. RG

    Apr 18, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    I use GI irons….when I play left handed. I’m a natural righty so I often play lefty which gives me a chance to use my putter. The last time I played the ‘Ol Girl (That’s what Arnie, Jack and I call Augusta) I shot 31 going out ( That’s what Arnie, Jack and I call the front 9) playing lefty. I got bored draining putts so I switched righty coming in ( That’s what Arnie, Jack and I call the back 9). I birdied 12( SW to 6’) and as I was walking off the green I decided to take a dip in Rae’s creek.It was really hot that day so I just stripped down and jumped in.You know they have a rule against that?! Ridiculous!! Well whatever, that place is totally overrated anyhow. I mean they don’t even have carts for Christ sake!
    O and Swanson, about that locker full of cash…..

  7. AllBOdoesisgolf

    Apr 18, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    sometimes writers should stick to content instead of comedy.

  8. Bogeypro

    Apr 18, 2016 at 8:53 am

    It might have been better if it was actually funny.

  9. Other Paul

    Apr 18, 2016 at 1:27 am

    I was out playing today and was having the round of my life. And then things went sideways. All i got from people with me was that i had pulled a spieth. And when anyone 3 putt or worse it was an Els.

  10. Dtrain

    Apr 17, 2016 at 11:36 pm

    The last 3 times I played Augusta I took my SGI irons and just hammered a PW over the back bunker and because if the super high traj the wind brought it back to the green. Went birdie/par/bird. If it wasn’t for the fact my caddie called a penalty on me for accidentally anchoring my eagle putt on 18 I would have shot 61 for the course record.

    You live and you learn I guess but if anyone know Jordan’s email address PM it to me I think I could offer him some good advice.

    • RG

      Apr 19, 2016 at 2:16 am

      Yeah, I go long every time I hit PW there to. I’m telling ya the shot there is 3/4 little half thinny punch cut SW.

  11. Tyler

    Apr 17, 2016 at 11:38 am

    Have we even considered his iron shafts? I mean he’s ONLY playing a PX 6.0. How the heck does he control such a wet noodle of a shaft? I mean if the shaft is the engine of the club then Spieth is running a single overhead cam V6 when every other tour pros (and myself of course; gaming PX 9.0 currently) are running fully blown V8s!

    • Dtrain

      Apr 17, 2016 at 11:38 pm

      Actually it’s just the thingy that connects the head to the grip.

  12. Mark

    Apr 17, 2016 at 3:09 am

    Several northern English words can be used to review this article. Cack. Drivel. Tripe. Shyte.

    • Alex T

      Apr 17, 2016 at 4:31 pm

      You forgot twaddle and bollocks. It’s also those, too.

  13. The Real Swanson

    Apr 17, 2016 at 2:39 am

    This isn’t even that funny, so I shanked it 10 times.

  14. DB

    Apr 16, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    Swanson for President! Wouldn’t mind he and “The Trump” having a friendly 9 holes against each other. Love the articles, Please keep them coming!!!!

  15. Roger Daltry

    Apr 16, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    Funny. However, totally agree with the cavity/blades argument. I’m way better with blades, period, and yes, been through the whole change/change back process. Too bad many more don’t realize blades force you to be better as you are more connected with your tool.

  16. Alanp

    Apr 16, 2016 at 7:50 am

    I read this in bed while the wife was sleeping. I woke her up from laughing.

    • :-ppp

      Apr 16, 2016 at 8:30 pm

      Enjoy talking to yourself and laughing at your inner jokes, do ya, Schizo Smizzle?

  17. Nathan

    Apr 16, 2016 at 7:28 am

    Hmm,
    How did you describe the responses to your first article?
    You said utterly appauling, I find them a reflection to the article written, and from this perspective I would have to agree.

  18. michael johnson

    Apr 16, 2016 at 6:09 am

    this is me feeding the troll

  19. NikkoAZ

    Apr 16, 2016 at 1:09 am

    Other than the fact that almost everything you just stated is complete bs????????I do agree all players on Tour should not be gaming in their bag “game improvement” irons. I mean a club is a club it is a certain length, loft and lie and is what it is.But the level that professionals play at you need to have complete control of your shape and trajectory. Jordan Speith did not loose cause he’s playing AP2’s, it was the Indian and not the arrow. Plus if anything his miss would be left due to the offset of a more forgiving iron. But to give you my opinion, play with whatever you are confident with whenever you pull that club out of the bag, for me I do play blades and don’t plan on switching because when I pick what shot and club I’m going to hit I know what it’s going to do. So play with clubs that you know how the ball is going to react and most importantly have fun.

  20. DW

    Apr 15, 2016 at 11:39 pm

    You’re growing on me, Swanson. Not like a fungus but rather more pleasantly. Good stuff.

  21. Johny Thunder

    Apr 15, 2016 at 10:35 pm

    The guy who wrote this is obviously insane.

    By the way, what the h*** happened to Stephen Colbert? He was my hero, but he almost seems a bit liberal these days…

    • DW

      Apr 15, 2016 at 11:34 pm

      He’s always been liberal. Never more than when he did the Colbert Report.

    • Bernie Sanders

      Apr 16, 2016 at 10:18 am

      That was the funniest thing I have read in weeks Jonny.
      If for some strange reason you were serious, then you are living proof of what I’ve thought of conservatives guys all along and may I humbly recommend that next time you vote for a someone for president – try to choose one that has an IQ above room temperature.

  22. Philip

    Apr 15, 2016 at 8:45 pm

    Great! Now where is the satire article from someone of the opposite point of view? Shovels or bust!

  23. Marc

    Apr 15, 2016 at 6:50 pm

    Loved it , went well with my Bacardi and Coke sitting in my lazy boy watching a little heritage classic.

  24. Joe D

    Apr 15, 2016 at 6:24 pm

    Almost peed my shorts. Hilarious stuff. Love it. Its sad that some here actually believe this.

  25. Bob Pegram

    Apr 15, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    This was funny and obviously satire. However, I agree with the comments on extreme game improvement irons though. With blades when you feel you are making a mistake, you can sometimes correct it with a roll of the wrists. Doesn’t work with game improvement irons.
    On par 3s into the wind I purposely hit the ball low on the face with one more club to reduce spin and shot height. Can’t do that with game improvement clubs.

  26. talljohn777

    Apr 15, 2016 at 5:30 pm

    Sorry, but nobody plays Augusta by themselves. They play with a member and a caddie. So, the fictitious hole in one would have been witnessed. Also, the pond in front of the green is a creek.

    • RG

      Apr 19, 2016 at 2:30 am

      Show’s what you know. It’s a pond Mon-Fri. They only turn on the creek sat-sun and during the tournament.

  27. Steve

    Apr 15, 2016 at 2:58 pm

    Crap like this is why I don’t visit the site as often as I used to.

    Painfully dumb.

  28. kingfish

    Apr 15, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    I am just stumbling upon this article… is it meant for any bit of seriousness or is this just a big joke? I am being serious in my question also because I have never read this guys stuff before.

    • Jack Nash

      Apr 15, 2016 at 3:36 pm

      Maybe it’s a late April Fools. Spieths rinsing the balls on 12 had everything to do with his swing and not his irons. He’s already got a Green Jacket with those irons.

      • Zak Kozuchowski

        Apr 15, 2016 at 4:45 pm

        Just to clarify, we added this note to the top of the story:

        “Warning: Swanson, the author of this story, does not exist… except in his writing. His character is completely imagined, but that doesn’t mean his opinions aren’t real.”

  29. Timbleking

    Apr 15, 2016 at 1:37 pm

    Swan, you’re my writing hero. We want more!! Keep it up!

  30. Chadio

    Apr 15, 2016 at 12:56 pm

    Yo, Swanson! I think you were the single playing in front of my group at Augusta when you hit that sweet low draw in to 12 for an Ace. I’ll attest for you if you have any trouble with those old codgers. I’m playing Miura…..what is your favorite blade?

  31. Imanoff

    Apr 15, 2016 at 12:43 pm

    So, Spieth will leave Titleist, because their iron materials is not good enough at his level. And PXG has actually designed a special blade for him, including a -iron, made with damascus and carbon shaft. This time, however, his irons will be single length. And it will be hard-stepped three times, so that he will not floated out the ball to the right again. At the end of the day, he will win another green jacket. Not only that, he will win the blue one, the red one, even the black one as well.

    Well played, Swanson. Well played.

  32. Kevin

    Apr 15, 2016 at 12:37 pm

    You all need to calm down a little bit. This is a joke to poke fun at your typical Golf WRX member. I am one just as much as the next guy, learn how to have a laugh.

  33. Rev G

    Apr 15, 2016 at 12:37 pm

    This article is ridiculous, everyone knows that Jordan Spieth lost the Masters because he’s wearing unproven Under Armour shoes. If he was wearing Foot-Joy or Adidas he’d have won by ten strokes. By five if he was wearing Mark Ecco. Probably could have got into a playoff wearing Sketchers or Nike. But Under Armour, come on, they put him at way too big of a disadvantage. He’s been very lucky to win anything with their proto-type shoes, but now that they’re retail, forget it. I’m going to post to this article again after I figure out how many strokes Spieth lost by playing the new Super Stroke club grips.

    • RG

      Apr 19, 2016 at 2:43 am

      The real problem with UA shoes is the lace tension. They have changed the hole configuration and gone with a new grommet but it is not quite work with the 2mm lace (and as we all know how bad UA’s lace tech lags behind other OEM’s) this in turn can cause slip through the tarsal and meta tarsal and we all know what that can lead to….sod laying. Although UA has been a leader in moisture wicking apparel(and we know how important that is) they are definitely behind in their lace, grommet and grommet patterning.How very insightful of you Rev G. (and no we are not related).

  34. Mike Bond

    Apr 15, 2016 at 12:07 pm

    This is stupid. Jordan was blocking himself ALL day. Everything was going right because his swing was off, nothing do with his clubs

  35. Erock

    Apr 15, 2016 at 12:07 pm

    Was waiting for him to say Spieth needed more upright lies.

  36. Mike Honcho

    Apr 15, 2016 at 11:45 am

    GEEZ-US!, they let this bizzaro world, Herbert Warren Wind Mark Twain rip-off write another article after we Cleveland VAS shanked the last article. Just admitting that you’re friends with the real-life Spaulding Smails sums it up. You may be a good stick, but as a writer you couldn’t break 120 if all the holes were down wind and the greens were running at 7. Al Czervik sez, “Does this article come with a bowl of soup?”.

  37. cgasucks

    Apr 15, 2016 at 11:44 am

    Please tell me that this is a parody article…this article was meant to joke around..

  38. McLovin

    Apr 15, 2016 at 11:44 am

    hemingway has NOTHING on you…..gave it 2 thumbs up

  39. Jason

    Apr 15, 2016 at 11:37 am

    I love the Onion…Greagreat work.

    My blog is better, but I can’t help it…I am a narcissist.

  40. joel

    Apr 15, 2016 at 11:30 am

    The picture made me laugh. My vote is more of this.

  41. Nucj

    Apr 15, 2016 at 11:17 am

    Hilarious. Big fan of these satirical articles and its needed here. Too many people jump at the chance in the comments on this site to make their egos feel big. Too much negativity.

    Keep it up GolfWRX!

  42. BRS

    Apr 15, 2016 at 10:48 am

    Best writer on Golfwrx, period.

  43. Scott

    Apr 15, 2016 at 10:47 am

    Absolutely. Hilarious.

  44. Ferb

    Apr 15, 2016 at 10:25 am

    this is one of the funniest things I’ve ever read.

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Opinion & Analysis

A road trip to St. Andrews

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In 2017, my son Brian and his wife Lauren, proposed a family trip to Scotland. Both of them have traveled a surprising amount for a couple barely 30 years old, but for us it would be a huge trip. We couldn’t get it scheduled for 2018 but everything lined up for October, 2019, a trip that might even include playing the Old Course in St. Andrews, if we got lucky. The amazing Lauren made all the arrangements, beginning with multiple email exchanges with the staff at the Old Course, who were extremely gracious and encouraging in their communications.

Unlike most other courses, in order to play the Old Course, you have three options: One is to book a very expensive trip through a travel broker who will guarantee a tee time. This is the only way to make your arrangements in advance, but you’re paying thousands for the package, which would include at least three other days of golf. Sounds great but above our budget. Secondly, you can take a real gamble and just show up at the starter’s window the day you are hoping to play, and get in line as early as 3 a.m., put your name on the list and then wait, maybe all day, maybe hopelessly. It’s no way to budget an entire day on your vacation. The third way is to use what is called the “ballot system,” submitting your request for a tee time via email to standrews.com, 48 hours ahead and hopefully getting a spot.

Now, it’s not as grim a prospect as it may sound for planning to play golf in St. Andrews. The above only applies to getting onto the Old Course. We were able to make a tee time for the Jubilee Course, one of six other courses (Jubilee, Castle, New Course, Eden, Strathtyrum, and Balgove), all part of the St. Andrews Links complex, “The Home of Golf” as their brochure proclaims. Since we were scheduling our trip for the tail-end of the golf season, the gentleman from St. Andrews wrote that he was cautiously optimistic we would be successful using the ballot system.

This wasn’t just a golfing vacation, the five us had an outstanding time touring the west coast of Scotland, including the Oban Whisky distillery, the Harry Potter train in Glencoe, Ben Nevis—the highest peak in the UK, Fort William, and the spectacular Highlands, the town of St. Andrews, and finally the marvelous city of Edinburgh. We ended up spending one night in St. Andrews, at The Saint, a lovely four-room hotel, a 10-minute walk from the Old Course. That evening, walking down cobblestone streets, with the R&A clubhouse coming into view, was like walking in a dream.

Our day started out by driving directly to the new Links Clubhouse, which has wonderful views of the courses from the restaurant. We had lunch, and I must admit to being a bit nervous over my chicken bacon mayo sandwich. We’d parked our bags in the locker room down below, it’s just what you’d expect in terms of world-class accommodations and feel. I could just imagine the pros suiting up there as they prepare to play in The Open.

Our day of golf at the Jubilee Course was spectacular, although it got off to a rainy start, but the weather cleared by the fourth hole. Mary, Jill, and Lauren formed our gallery as we teed off, then they went for a walk around the lovely town. I parred the first hole and told Brian that made my entire trip to Scotland. I was on fire, shooting 42 on the front nine but hitting only three fairways and two greens in regulation. Brian shot 45. We’d decided on match play, and I was up by three on the 11th hole. Brian then said the fateful words, “You haven’t hit into a pot bunker all day!” Which I promptly did. My game immediately tanked while he proceeded to make a total of nine pars, shooting 42 on the back, and won the match 2 & 1. Our gallery re-appeared on the 17th hole, the sun was shining, and we were in golf heaven! We ended the day with a pint at the famous Dunvegan Pub by the R&A clubhouse.

Earlier in the day, Brian had received an email from St. Andrews, unfortunately stating that we had not been selected for the ballot to play on the Old Course the next day. He resubmitted our request for the following day with fingers crossed. We headed to our next stop, Edinburgh, looking forward to exploring this ancient yet cosmopolitan city. During our walking tour, Brian received the email notification that we’d scored an 11 a.m. tee time on the Old Course for Friday. He and I would be making a road trip back north while the ladies spent the day in Edinburgh.

It was about an hour ride back to St. Andrews but traffic was quite manageable and we arrived at 9:30, plenty of time for breakfast at the Links Clubhouse. I felt that anticipatory excitement I always have right before marshaling at a big event, like a U.S. Open, where the atmosphere of the place is nearly overwhelming. Not really nervousness, but we were about to play the Old Course! Isn’t that every golfer’s dream? To say Brian was wound up tight would be an understatement, he could barely choke down half a scone. The walk over toward the starters shack, where we would meet our caddies, with the R&A clubhouse right there at the first tee was unreal.

The clerk was so gracious, taking our 130 Scottish pounds green fee (about $160), and handing us a very nice valuables pouch complete with an amazingly detailed yardage book, tees, pencils, divot tool, and scorecard. We were then approached by our two caddies, who between them had nearly 30 years of caddying experience. I got John, whose personality was perfect for me, quiet, calm, not too chatty, yet personable. Brian’s guy, Steve was just right for him as well, right from central casting with a thick Scottish brogue. He instantly bonded with Brian to become his playing partner/coach, which was just what he needed to get over the first tee jitters.

The starter, Richard, approached us as we made our way over to the first tee, greeting us much like you see them do at the start of the Open Championship. He made our presence there seem extra special, despite the fact he’d probably done the same routine 10 thousand times. He even took our picture. We were then introduced to our two other playing partners, both former members of the course, so they didn’t need caddies to show them the way. These guys were hilarious, self-deprecating, with brogues so thick I could understand maybe one word in three, not the best golfers by any stretch, which was somehow quite reassuring and certainly less intimidating. Brian proved to be the best golfer in our foursome by far although he had a rough start, hitting his drive into the Swilcan Burn.

I was really calm on the tee, it helped that there were very few spectators as it was drizzling and maybe 50 degrees. John told me where to aim, (“at that gorse bush off in the distance”) and I was able to do exactly that. As we walked off the first tee Steve said “now you can all breathe again!” I found having a caddy to be such a wonderful added dimension to this whole experience—not just as a guide to point out where in the world I should be aiming on this alien golf layout, but also to set an expectation for me on each shot which I then tried my best to fulfill. The greens weren’t too scary as I felt used to the speeds having played Jubilee, but having John read the subtle breaks and provide aiming points was terrific.

I played bogey golf through the first 12 holes but the rain only intensified and despite John’s best effort to keep things dry, the final 6 holes were a mess. Brian was one up on our match at the turn, then went on to win decisively at 5 up, with a total for the day of 5 pars and a birdie, including par on 17, the famous Road Hole. As the day went on, we found ourselves saying over and over to each other, what a wonderful experience this was despite the conditions. Steve took the traditional picture of us on the Swilcan Bridge, on our way to finishing on 18, which Brian almost parred. He later said he had such a tremendous feeling of accomplishment, having conquered the Old Course.

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Podcasts

TG2: Brooks and Peter Kostis rip Patrick Reed

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Brooks Koepka and Peter Kostis both talk about Patrick Reed and his cheating allegations. Brooks was on SiriusXM and Kostis on No Laying Up don’t hold back their feelings on cheating. Kostis also has some PGA Tour beef, saying that they don’t care about the television broadcast.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

Watch for players lofting up at altitude at the WGC-Mexico Championship

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This week, at the PGA Tour’s WGC-Mexico Championship, we are going to watch some of the best and longest players on the planet play what will effectively be one of the shortest courses on tour.

Now, 7,341 yards is by no means a cakewalk, and there are shorter courses from a pure yardage perspective played on tour—Harbour Town, as an example, only plays at 7,099 yards from the very back. The difference is Harbour Town is played at sea level while Club de Golf Chapultepec is at over 7,500 feet of elevation, and when you factor in the altitude difference between the two courses, they play very differently—more on the math in a moment.

The altitude will also factor in how some players will be setting up their equipment and we could see some adjustments. The most obvious is lofting up the driver or fairways woods to increase carry, which is something Tiger Woods specifically mentioned last year.

The biggest misconception when talking about playing golf at altitude is that the ball doesn’t spin the same in thinner air and players “loft up” to maintain spin. Let’s get into the physics to bust this “spinning less” myth and simplify the science behind playing at altitude,

The golf ball is an inanimate object, and it has no idea it’s at altitude; the air will not have an impact on how much the ball will actually spin. Yes, increasing loft should, by almost every imaginable measure, increase spin but the air it travels through will not change the spin rate.

However, playing at altitude has an effect, Let’s break down what happens

  • Thinner air exerts less drag force (resistance/friction) on the ball. The ball moves more easily through this less dense air and won’t decelerate as quickly as it flies. But note that the faster an object moves the more drag force will occur
  • Less resistance also means that it is harder to shape shots. So you when you see Shot Tracer, the pros are going to be hitting it even straighter (this makes Tiger’s fairway bunker shot last year even more unbelievable)
  • Less force = less lift, the ball will fly lower and on a flatter trajectory

Time for some math from Steve Aoyama, a Principal Scientist at Titleist Golf Ball R&D (full piece here: The Effect of Altitude on Golf Ball Performance)

“You can calculate the distance gain you will experience (compared to sea level) by multiplying the elevation (in feet) by .00116. For example, if you’re playing in Reno, at 1 mile elevation (5,280 ft.) the increase is about 6% (5,280 x .00116 = 6.1248). If you normally drive the ball 250 yards at sea level, you will likely drive it 265 yards in Reno.”

Not every player will be making changes to their bag, and some will instead focus on the types of shots they are hitting instead. When speaking to Adam Scott earlier this week, I was able to ask if he planned on making any changes heading into Mexico the week after his win at the Genesis Invitational.

“It’s very rare for me to make club changes week-to-week beyond playing in the Open Championship and adding a longer iron. The one thing I focus on when playing at altitude is avoiding partial shots where I’m trying to reduce the spin because as spin goes down the ball doesn’t want to stay in the air. I’ve experienced partial shots with longer clubs that end up 25 yards short, and because of that I want to hit as many full shots as possible”

With Club de Golf Chapultepec sitting just over 7,800 feet above sea level, we’re looking at 9.048 or an increase of just over 9 percent. That makes this 7,341-yard course play 6,677 yards (+/- where the tees are placed).

 

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