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GolfWRX Interview – Tom Wishon Part 1



GolfWRX is proud to present an interview with Tom Wishon

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GolfWRX: It is my great pleasure to introduce Tom Wishon with us here today. Tom we appreciate you taking time out of your busy day to talk to us.

Tom Wishon: Thank you, I appreciate the opportunity to be able to discuss some of these points because there is a whole lot of confusion out there in the industry with regard to equipment and what is right and what is wrong for various golfers.

GolfWRX: Definitely, I think that’s a mild understatement as a lot of people are very confused these days so we are looking forward to your answers about it. Before we get started can you give us a little background about yourself and your time in the golf industry?

Tom Wishon: Yeah, I’m getting to be a little bit long in the tooth these days seeing as how I’m 57 now. I started out right after I got out of college. I joined the PGA program and became a member of the PGA while working as an Assistant Pro because basically in those days back in the early 70’s I made the grand salary of $300 as an Assistant Pro and the golf course I first worked at didn’t have a full driving range. So to supplement my income I got really hooked into club repair and that’s what really got me going and back in those days it was all reshafting and refinishing wooden woods and all that. From there I really got fascinated about making my own clubs so I built and made all my own routers and boring machines and on a very limited basis made a small line of woods I sold. Just really from that it spring boarded into being fascinated why some things work for some golfers and why some didn’t. Whenever I tried calling people from shaft companies and golf club companies and no one would answer my questions. So it got really frustrating so that started what’s become a life long quest to figure out how golf clubs work and then how they work for different people from that standpoint. From going on from starting as an Assistant Pro, I went to work as Vice President for The GolfWorks from 1980-1986 and got the opportunity to take over as President of Dynacraft Golf Products from 1986-1993. Then the guys at Golfsmith wanted to upgrade everything so I was Vice President at Golfsmith and in charge of the component division for the from 1993 to late 2001. Then I decided finally, probably a little too late, I decided to do my own thing. So Mary Ellen and I decided to start Wishon Golf. We opened the doors in February 2003 here in Durango, Colorado and that’s what we’re trying to do now. To really take custom clubfitting and increase its awareness among as many golfers as we can.

GolfWRX: Now throughout all the things you’ve done, what’s been the most rewarding part of your career?

Tom Wishon: When I look back on it I really enjoyed writing as a form of educating. All the writing I would do when I primarily started working at GolfWorks through my years at Dynacraft and my years at Golfsmith, most of that was books which were done to educate the clubmakers – make them a lot more aware of what goes on when clubhead meets ball and make them more aware about clubfitting. As a result of all the research I’ve done on an ongoing basis throughout the years to try to figure out what works for some golfers and why. That’s been a lot of fun, but I would say most recently here in 2005 when I finally got the opportunity to write a book for regular golfers. That was a big thing for me. I had tried to push that and get permission for that when I was with Golfsmith and they didn’t want that done. So I had to wait until I got to do it with my own company. The reaction of golfers that have read one of the two “Search” books, or the “12 Myths” or the one that just came out last week, “The Right Sticks” book. Getting e-mails and phone calls from golfers who are thrilled to learn this information. And have their eyes opened finally to realize what they had been looking at through the years was nothing more than a standard size, one size fits all to be bought off the rack. To learn about how custom fitting could help them and in a lot of cases to hear from many of the after they went through the custom fitting process and how thrilled they were and glad I put the book out and how it opened their eyes. That’s been very, very rewarding to me to be able to reflect on that because in a very small we we’ve had a little bit of an impact on the industry there. No one had ever come along and done anything to create any demand for custom fitting. Although what’s come from the “Search” books is a trickle, it does make me realize, if there’s some way we could get this information to a million golfers we could really change the industry. Because the information in the books is good, it’s not self-promoting in any way it is just this is what works, this is what you need if you’re this type of golfer. People are ready for this type of information. I know the reaction from the readers has been really fantastic because a little more than a month after the first “Search” book came out we got a steady stream of calls from regular golfers who bought the book, read it, the light bulb went off over their heads and they were calling in to see if we could help them find a good clubmaker in their area. Then we started to hear from clubmakers who would call up to order products and they would happen to say, hey by the way I’m ordering these for a fitting for a guy who just walked in from out of nowhere with your book in his hand. So granted it’s just a trickle, but if there was some way we could really get this message out and get more and more golfers to read some of this information, they’re ready for it. They want to find a little bit different way to do things from the standpoint of their equipment so they have more confidence their money was well spent.

GolfWRX: Definitely, I know I’m one of the many readers of your book and it was without a doubt one of the most eye-opening experiences about golf equipment and I’d like to give you a little plug for the new book which is called, “The Right Sticks: Equipment Myths That Could Wreck Your Golf Game.”

Tom Wishon: It’s funny how quickly things change in the industry and since 2005 when I did the first “Search” book to now there have been a few things which have changed. So there’s a little bit of new information but by and large the publisher likes what I do, the bookstores like what I do because it sells. So for them it’s all about money. For me it’s more about the chance to educate. The books are basically like a broken record. They keep talking about why custom fitting is better than standard off the rack and they give examples in specific parts of each person’s bag with that. But it’s important because this is the only way I have to get this message out. This is a good opportunity with the “Right Sticks” book because the buyers of Barnes and Noble and Borders contacted our publisher and they asked me to write a specific book in a specific format. The internet is huge today and the bookstores are scared of it because people get a lot of their instant information today from the web. Not as many people are sitting down to read 300 or 400 page books as there used to be. So they wanted me to do a book that would be short, covering different topics, no topic covered in more than 3-5 pages so people could get this kind of instant information that they’re getting off the internet. I agreed to do the book and supposedly book stores are going to be promoting this book a little more. So for me it’s all about how many golfers can I get this message to because if I get this message into the minds of the majority of golfers are going to listen to it and say, “Hey that makes sense, that makes total sense. This is what I need to do next time I go look for golf clubs.”

GolfWRX: What about your career has been the most frustrating part?

Tom Wishon: No question, the roadblocks that have been put up to the “Search” books. I have been on the Golf Digest technical panel since 1994. I have a really close relationship with all the technical writers for all the Golf Digest magazines. When the first “Search” book came out they put it in there and the whole thing. From that I had an opportunity, we did a little booklet called, “12 Myths That Could Wreck Your Golf Game.” The reason we did that was so clubmakers could have something that was very cheap and inexpensive to give away to golfers. The “Search” book was 300 pages and was too expensive for clubmakers to give away at $20 a pop. We created this “12 Myths” booklet which had key excerpts from the “Search” book and we were selling it to the clubmakers at 75 cents a tour cost so they could give it away. The more “12 Myths” booklets they would give away the more fittings they could potentially see. The guy who was the head of the Golf Digest website at the time, this was back in 2006. He was a guy I had known, he had been a journeyman writer for them. I gave him a copy of “12 Myths” and he got back to me and said this is great stuff, can you put this on audio, read these, and we’ll put them on our website. I said sure thing and did. I sent them our files, and kept looking on their website and didn’t see it. Then sent him an e-mail and never heard back. Many weeks later I got an e-mail from the guy form his home e-mail address not his Golf Digest e-mail address. Long story short, the audio files had gone up on their website for part of one day. Two phone calls came in from two of the very large companies which said if you keep these up you won’t see any more advertising money form us. This guy got reprimanded big time for putting the “12 Myths” up on the website by the high-ups of the magazine. Long story short, it caused him to get really frustrated and seven or eight months later he quit after 15 years with the magazine because he was so disappointed that good information like this got shut down from going to the golfers simply because two companies who buy millions and millions of dollars of ads from GolfDigest and GolfWorld said get rid of this or you can kiss our ad dollars goodbye. So, it told me that some people out in the industry don’t want this information to be known. Since that time in bringing out the other books I’ve maybe had one or two other blurbs in the major magazines about my books. The other ones just ignore it because they’re afraid. Off the record they tell me, “We can’t put your stuff up Tom because it’s going to upset too many people who control too much revenue for our magazine.” I’ve got to say that’s the number one most frustrating thing we’ve experienced – here’s some really good information to help golfers make better buying decisions and there are a whole bunch of people who don’t want that information to be heard.
GolfWRX: That’s really unfortunate, but part of what we can do here is get you a little more exposure about it so we’re excited to hear what you have to say. Can you talk a little about some of the influences you’ve had in your career and some of the people who have influenced you?

Tom Wishon: Most definitely one of the things that got me switched on about digging into learning how things work is when I got my first copy of “Search for the Perfect Swing” by A.J. Cochran and John Stobbs who wrote the book in 1968. That really began the – I’ve got to say “Search for the Perfect Swing” was the trigger that made the golf industry look at engineering their designs instead of just putting out another club that had a different color face insert, or different shaped sole plate, or different color stain on the head. I lived, ate, and breathed with that book, that was something that really triggered that. It was definitely a giant influence in that. The other thing was that I didn’t come out of college with a formal degree in engineering, science, or physics background. Everything I learned about that I learned on the way. So I’ve always learned there are a lot of people out there who have knowledge who if I can turn it in the right direction they can help me learn a lot more too. So there have been a lot of people in my career who I have been able to consult with and who have mentored me. It wasn’t that they knew everything about golf per say but they knew the science and between me and them being able to adapt the science in the right direction, that opened a lot of the doors for really looking at a lot of the stuff we now know and bringing it up and verifying it through a very scientific means. That has been a huge help to me over my life because I realized I don’t know everything and I need to go out and get some help to be able to dig in the right area to be able to come up with the right answers.

GolfWRX: How has golf equipment changed in the last ten years? Are clubs really becoming that much more forgiving? Because even though we’re seeing new changes to clubs and radical designs, we’re not seeing the average handicap drop by much.

Tom Wishon: The biggest reason – and let me put it this way, science really began in golf clubs in the late 60’s and early 70’s. It basically started when Karsten Solheim and a handful of other people recognized that investment casting was a good way to make clubheads. That opened the door for being able to change centers of gravity in clubheads, it opened the door for being able to make cavity backs to get more perimeter weighting for more off-center hit forgiveness and that really triggered the advent of real engineering science in the golf industry. If you say over the past 10 years, 10 years happens to be 1998 which is the year the USGA enacted the rule which put a limit on coefficient of restitution on clubfaces. That began this whole thing of, and I’m sorry if people don’t agree with me, is the USGA’s paranoia. It has really had an effect. First came the COR rule, then came the rule limiting the size of heads to 460cc’s and various dimensional requirements, then you had the limit on the length of the club, then you had the limit on moment of inertia and now you’re looking on various rules that potentially could change the score line configuration. Really and truly, when you look at these five different rule changes as they’ve come about there was no scientific testing done by the USGA to find out what the effects of higher COR were. They got paranoid, they looked at all the drivers that were submitted, they said here is the highest one we’ve seen so far, and we’re sticking the limit right there. They never tested to find out what the effect is if we let the limit go up to .86 or .88. Not one scientific test done to determine what would be the effect of a 500 or 600cc driver head on the game. There wasn’t a test done to determine the effect of a 50-inch driver when they set the limit at 48 inches. There was no test done to determine what would a higher and higher and higher moment of inertia do. Then finally in doing this proposal for the rule change they’re looking at for score lines then they finally decided to go do a major, major test to determine the effects. Then they found that the score line configuration system only affects the really good ball striker with really good swing fundamentals and has no effect on the average guy. Yet they’re pushing these rules through because they’re paranoid about what’s going on at the elite level of the game with Tour players. So that’s been a big one, that really has put some limits on the industry. It changed the landscape a bit over the past ten years. I think the other thing that has changed is we’re at a point where there are five golf club companies who control nearly 80% of the premium golf club business out there. So that means that these five companies if you add their total sales up comprise $4 billion worth of golf sales every year. So when you get to the point where you have five companies averaging $700 million a year in sales, that means in order to make their numbers, every single year they’ve got to sell 300 -400,000 drivers, 300 -400,000 fairway woods, 200-250,00 sets of irons. So that means when these companies come out and they market on the basis of a new technology they saturate the market with that technology in one year. So one year goes by, they can’t get two full years of their required forecast sales out of one new technology any more. You go back to the 80’s and 90’s even and companies could get two or three years out of a brand new technology. So here you have a situation with all the marketing that crows about a brand new technology coming out each year, it changes the next year. I think what it does do at least some golfers out there, it puts the golfers in a situation where they say, “Wait a minute you’re changing your mind already? You’re telling me there’s something out there that’s better than the year before and it’s only one year later?” The golfers go out and buy these things and the majority don’t improve to the level they think they should based on the ads or marketing they read about it. So I think you’re getting into a situation now where a lot of golfers are beginning to adopt a little bit of a mindset where a lot of golfers say fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice, shame on you. I think that’s starting to affect the frequency of buying new equipment among new golfers. That began four or five years ago. Certainly this year we’re in a little bit different situation because of the recession, price of gas, daily expenses are going up for all of us, price of real estate is going down. Certainly, there is no question that is slowing down sales in the golf industry. But this whole thing of things beginning to flatten out a little bit, companies not growing quite as fast as they have before, that began four or five years ago when the product life cycle began to get shorter and shorter and companies began bringing out things every year and touting them as being great. Those are big things that have happened over the last ten years that have had a real impact on the golf equipment industry.

GolfWRX: Now you touched on writing the book, "The Search for the Perfect Golf Club" and like you said it has been a big change in terms of how stuff is marketed and how people look at custom clubfitting.

Tom Wishon: Of course I go way back and I have been reading golf magazines all my life. But as I got to be more and more involved in the golf industry and as I became more and more knowledgeable about golf clubs, reading some of the ads or statements about golf clubs really got to be frustrating to me. I said, "Gee man I know a lot about golf clubs and I know this is not completely true, what I am hearing." But what about all those millions of golfers who don’t know quite as much as I do who aren’t being influenced by this. I said someday I’ve got to be given the chance to write about golf clubs for consumer golfers so they can learn more of the truth of what’s going on. As I said, I was at Golfsmith I begged them to let me do that book and they wouldn’t allow me to do that because they were building a giant retail division that was making most of its money selling OEM clubs. I knew the information I would want to write about to educate golfers probably would fly in the face of that business model. But the impetus was strictly the fact that I knew people who really don’t know or have the opportunity to know as much about golf clubs as I do from my work, I really felt they needed to know some of these truths so they could make a lot better informed buying decision about their golf clubs and from that potentially be able to play a little bit better and enjoy the game a little bit more.

GolfWRX: I know your book has potentially helped a lot of people do that. Another book you mentioned was your "12 Myths." Is there one mistake you see most golfers making with their equipment?

Tom Wishon: The biggest mistake, and it’s not fault of their own, please I’m not faulting golfers for this because they can only ask about the things they know about and there has been no marketing on the basis of how professional clubfitting could potentially benefit a wide range of golfers, the biggest thing is the fact that we still sit here and fight a lot – the myth that perpetuates that custom fitting is only for good players. I just noticed Frank Thomas, who was the Technical Director for the USGA for 26 years or so and now he has been on his own for the last several years doing consulting. He has just written a book and in that book he states, "Standard clubs are fine for all golfers until you get to a point where you shoot in the mid-70’s." Well that’s garbage. Frank doesn’t know fitting. He’s never worked in it. He’s never done the research to see what the effects are of a shorter length, higher loft, proper face angle, proper total weight, proper shaft can do for an 18 handicap golfer compared to what he can buy off the rack standard as advised by some nine dollar an hour guy who doesn’t really know more about golf clubs than he does. So that is probably the biggest one most people still cling to the myth that I’m not good enough to be custom fit and that’s only for good players. It’s the exact opposite. I’ve almost coined a new phrase over the last few years here as I’ve watched all this, "A golfers level of improvement and score improvement is inversely proportional to their handicap when they get custom fit." IN other words if we go out and fit a 2, 3, 4, or 5 handicapper and it’s pretty rare that from the fitting they actually lower their score. It can happen if we include wedge and putter fitting because those clubs affect the score more directly than any other clubs in the bag. But when you look at 14, 18, 23 handicappers, these are golfers who regularly get the ball airborne most of the time, they generally make the same mistakes in their swing most of the time. Sure a lot of people still hook and slice with this, but if you look at shot patterns, you do one more than the other. All of these people have been playing with clubs that are standard off the rack. Woods are too long, most of the irons are too low lofted, they’ve got the wrong set makeup, they definitely don’t have their total weight and swing weight matched for their size, strength, athletic ability, and swing. You can just go down the list with all the different ways to change things to help offset some of the mistakes average players make. It happens all the day long. For years since I’ve worked in this side of the industry, I wish I had kept track. It would be a gigantic number of e-mails, letters and phone calls from clubmakers who would relay their experience of taking some average golfer, completely refitting him, out he goes, and he’s about five or shots better. He only loses one ball a day instead of three. Things like that which are forms of measurable improvement for golfers. So it does happen. That’s been the biggest myth we fight, is just the sheer education of who can benefit and by how much from professional custom fitting.

GolfWRX: Another hot button issue is the Tour versus retail debate. We were wondering if we could get your take on exactly what the differences are?

Tom Wishon: Having had a little bit of experience in my past creating original club head design or original custom fit designs for a handful of tour players, there are some that can play with the stock head that’s made to be shafted up in standard form and sold off the rack. In my experience Bruce Lietzke was one of those. We could take a head I had created, that was a low offset players shape profile moderate cavity back. He didn’t need any variations on the heads. He just needed his shaft, his length, his total weight, his swing weight, etc. that sort of thing. Then you run into people like Scott Verplank and Payne Stewart who had to have something made from scratch. Different grind here, different swoop from the toe, different topline, different look for the bottom of the hosel, different leading edge look, on and on and on where each one had to be hand ground and custom made until they would look at it and say, "Okay, now put it together with my specs, my shaft, and everything like that." I also remember back when I was at Golfsmith back in 1998 when we bought Lynx out of bankruptcy and then the trucks came in and unloaded all the junk and all the assets and stuff from having bought Lynx. When I was going through all the boxes and boxes of stuff from the R&D side I would see molds specially made for the Lynx players, heads that had been specially made for players that had been on the Lynx staff over the years. Outside, they looked like what was being sold that particular year off the rack, but when you looked at it, you said, "No, that’s a different type of clubhead that this guy insisted they make just for him." There are some cases out there where the Tour players insist on something that is very different form what the head would be that is built to the standard form to be sold off the rack. Probably more of that I would say in my experience than players who would just take the standard head and have it built with their shaft and to their specs out there. So those differences do exist but they only exist for that particular player. It’s not like saying, gee I love this suit Bono was wearing at a charity event. I’ve got to go buy that exact suit in Bono’s size. Well it doesn’t fit you like that. It’s the same thing to go out there and buy something that is a Tour issue, maybe it isn’t what you need and it won’t do you any favors in that. But if it makes your ego feel good, I guess maybe you spent your money and got some pleasure from it. It’s really the only reason Tour players ever have special models made for them – it is because they and only they wanted these changes on something they and only they would play in competition. That doesn’t mean it’s right for a guy who wants to wave it in front of his playing partners and say, "I’ve got the same head Ernie Els played with in competition."

GolfWRX: Another thing I remember reading is your advocacy of shorter than stock lengths. Why is it we are seeing more OEMs go to longer driver lengths which are approaching 46 inches stock and stronger lofts which are based off 44 degree pitching wedges?

Tom Wishon: Most of my focus on the length thing falls in the driver and wood area a little bit more than it does in the iron area although there is a definite history for this. If you go back to the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s era, going into that era or the 50’s and 60’s and before, if you wanted to be a golf company you had to make everything yourself. There were no subcontract factories out there to make your heads for you. You had to make your heads. You could buy the shafts from True Temper and the grips from Golf Pride, but you had to make your own stuff. Now when investment casting hit the industry, that all changed. A couple of the big golf club companies tried to open up their own foundries and they found it wasn’t very cost effective unless they could do a whole lot more than just make their own heads. So what evolved then was a series of subcontract factories, investment casting factories. Once that happened, you didn’t have to really be all that knowledgeable manufacturing wise to get into the golf club business. When you went in this era when investment casting took over, the number of golf club companies between the mid-60’s and mid-70’s, almost tripled. So now all of a sudden you have this intense competition so to try and get themselves above the rest of the competition two things happened, some companies started making their lofts lower because they knew people would go out and if they hit this year’s five iron ten yards further than last year’s five iron they would think, hey that’s a better golf club. People didn’t know what the loft numbers were on the five iron or six iron or any of their club heads. So lower lofts, shrinking loft disease as I call it in my book began from the move to investment casting and the sheer competition that came because of it. Longer lengths was the other one because most of these companies whenever they go out and create a brand new model. In the old days, a lot of testing was simply gather around a whole bunch of good golfers, give them a golf club, and get their feedback. Good golfers with good swing fundamentals will get a higher club head speed from a longer length shaft. So somebody got the bright idea, hey drivers have been 43 inches long forever. Let’s make our driver 44 inches, people will hit it farther and they’ll love us. That began this whole thing with length also. So once the first companies began to increase length and decrease loft, every company had to do it. You could not get away with it because at least in the area of loft that was a definite. If you start making a five iron at 28 degrees instead of 33, virtually every golfer is going to hit that further when they make solid contact. The other side of the coin, the longer length driver, that was something most companies didn’t understand because they weren’t doing any kind of research into fitting. It’s really only the golfer with the inside-out path or the square path and late wrist cock release who are going to get a higher clubhead speed from a longer length shaft. I’ve done this test twice in my career where take different length drivers with golfers of all different levels of abilities and that’s what we learned from it – those golfers who swing a little over to top to a lot over the top and those golfers who release their wrist cock a little early to a lot early – they don’t see higher clubhead speeds with longer length shafts. How many are there like that? A whole lot more with poor swing fundamentals than there are good swing fundamentals out there. So that’s why I camp on driver length and wood length. All those standard lengths being 45-46 inches for a man’s driver with every single company out there, it’s really hurting the majority of golfers who buy those things off the rack. That’s why we get so many positive reports from clubmakers when they take these over the top, outside-in, or early(ish) release players, get them into something that’s 43-44 inches and see that they actually hit the center more often and they hit it straighter with that. Yet nobody questions this because it’s a big, big company, they make tons of money, they’ve got tons of players on Tour playing this stuff, how can they be wrong? Well, 46 inch drivers don’t work for the majority of golfers and that’s why I camp on that as a big one because if you do get that change and you are a golfer who is a little over the top to a lot over the top or a little early to a lot early release, you will definitely hit the tee ball better with a shorter length driver.

GolfWRX: Now kind of on a side note to that, what would happen if all the irons in a set had the same length of shaft?

Tom Wishon: That’s an interesting  one. I’ve followed that and there have been discussions on forums about that sort of thing. It’s possible, most definitely because when you look at your set of irons and ask what is it that makes that 10 or 12 yard difference between each of my irons? 80-85% of it is the loft change. Only 10-15% of it comes from the length difference. Actually with an awful lot of golfers, let me give you an example you can pick any two irons in the set, say a 7 and 8 iron. Keep those at those actual loft differences but make both clubs the same length. You’ll pretty much hit those clubs the same length within a yard or two when they were a half inch difference from them. Now change those lengths by an inch or more and then that length comes in with an awful lot of golfers out there with that. So in theory it’s possible to go out and build a set of irons so they’re all the same length. But you get your distance difference strictly between the lofts. Now you might have to some cases tweak the loft increments than the typical 3-4 degrees to ensure that but it can be done. There is an example in the history of equipment for a company having done that. We got back to the mid-90’s or 96, or 97 I think it was when Tommy Armour Golf brought out a model called the EQL. That model sold standard off the rack, all the woods were the same length as a five wood. All the irons were the same length as the six iron. In addition to talking about consistency there, we now know later that by making all the clubs the same length you’re also making the moment of inertia the same, but they didn’t tout that back in those days. Long story short, six months later, Armour basically was out of business. The reasons were two fold. Number one there were enough golfers who noticed they couldn’t hit the five wood as far as they used to hit their old driver and that hurt them because nobody wants to lose that much distance off the tee or at least those who do lose the distance and don’t like it are very vocal about it. Then you have this situation where golfers who were playing a set of irons that were all the same length as a six iron were starting to have problems with their 9, PW, those clubs down there – they hit them too far. Or they felt they didn’t have the finesse feel to be able to knock it down into a half shot or three quarter shot so they were losing shots around the greens and they were not patient enough to work with that long length on the short irons and get used to it. Armour went bankrupt as a result of that one product line introduction. So I can say single length irons – sure. If a golfer is very inconsistent with the irons that might be worth an experiment there. But along with that you might have to be very patient with the situations that can come along with the 8, 9, PW to be able to control those shots when you need to hit a less than full swing shot.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Jack Demyan

    Jan 17, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Interesting article and makes much sense. I’m 68 yrs old with a 4 index. I’ve had the same thoughts about the value (or lack thereof) of purchasing clubs at a “rack store” for some time and have been doing alot of research on Tom Wishon since talking with Rick @ TnT Golf here in Augusta. I met Rick while contemplating changing shafts in a set of irons and he got me hooked on doing the “right thing” with custome clubs. I am currently set-up for a fitting with Rick next Monday and feel confident in the results I will receive. Hopefully, I can find this web stie again and let you know how everything worked out and also let you know how much I am enjoying my new custom fit. I’m looking forward to seeing some improvement but realize that the results may not be world changing. At the very least I am hoping to enjoy the game more with clubs built just for me.

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5 questions with Justin Kinney of Virtual Golf Caddy



We chatted with Justin Kinney, founder and CEO of startup Virtual Golf Caddy about his product, which serves both courses and players, by offering drone arial photography of golf courses (with graphics overlayed).

While drone photography and videography of golf courses is an established phenomenon, using the photos and video for better course management and preparation is a relatively new approach.

We wanted to learn more about what VGC is doing, and Kinney was kind enough to answer a handful of questions and include an example of the company’s work.

1. Tell us a bit about your background

I am 38 years old, born and raised in Connecticut. Lifelong golfer. Just finishing up my career as a middle school math teacher to focus on VGC full-time. I also have five years of business experience managing people’s retirement accounts. I played as many sports as I could growing up, and love the thrill of competition.

2. What’s the opportunity you saw?

I agreed to caddie for one of my students two summers ago. When researching the courses he was going to play, there was NO info on the courses. I thought there was a huge opportunity to provide course management strategies for players and give players a view of the entire courses with drones. No one was really doing anything like that, so I spent the past two years working on and building my business plan. Two months ago I secured funding to work on this full-time.

3. What is Virtual Golf Caddy, exactly?

VGC is a golf preparation and mental conditioning program designed to help give golfers a game plan to attack courses with. We provide drone views of each hole as well as course management strategies on how to best play each hole. Shot suggestions are given based on how far and confident players hit their clubs. We include mental conditioning tips and exercises to help players “zone in” more often and consistently. We are considering getting into golf fitness and nutrition as well to help build the whole golfer. Players purchase access to each course’s videos and info for either $15 or $25 per course, depending on how much info they want. They get unlimited access to the videos and can watch them wherever (home, airport, hotel, course).

4. What stage is the business in, and can you show us an example of VCG in action? 

We are still in the start-up phase. We are making agreements with and filming at courses. The website is being redesigned and will be up in June. It appears like things may take off quickly so stay tuned!

For an example, check out the video below.

6. What else should GolfWRX members know?

We are looking for courses to partner with. We will give courses free publicity on our site, a promotional video from the footage to use on their site, and share 15 percent of their courses profits with them. A win-win for everyone involved! If readers know of any courses, please email us.

One other thing to add: the mental prep/conditioning program is being built by renowned sports psychologist Bill Cole, MS, MA. It is legit and comes from over 40 years of research and experience! We’re also pursuing options in fitness and nutrition.

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Morning 9: U.S. Open ratings soar | ….and still, calls for Joe Buck’s head | Woodland’s big betting buddies trip



By Ben Alberstadt (

June 18, 2019

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans.
1. U.S. Open ratings up 44 percent
AP report on the big uptick in viewership…”This year’s U.S. Open was the most watched since Fox started televising the event in 2015.”
  • “Nielsen ratings show Sunday’s final round averaged 7.31 million viewers and peaked at 10.17 viewers from 9:15 to 9:30 p.m. EDT, when Gary Woodland clinched his first major.”
  • “Sunday’s final round saw an increase of 44% over last year, when an average of 5.09 million watched. It is the first time since 2013 that the final round has averaged over seven million. The 2013 U.S. Open on NBC averaged 8.4 million for the final 18 holes.”
2. When the U.S. Open returns to Pebble…
Good stuff from Geoff Shackelford with some modest (in a Swiftian sense) suggestions regarding what we could see when the U.S. Open returns to Pebble Beach in 2027
Here’s one thing he sees when looking into his crystal ball…”This year’s pre-tournament buzz centered around how many holes would require driver. But as a new wave of 5-9, 150-pound super jocks continue to overtake pro golf and the governing bodies cave to their marketing departments instead of regulating distance, players in the 2027 U.S. Open ponder whether to add a sixth wedge to their bag over carrying the big stick. Just days before the event and citing pressure on their business model, equipment manufacturers successfully lobby the USGA for a local rule mandating players carry at least one of their drivers, now priced at $750. But 58-year-old Phil Mickelson, playing on a special exemption, bucks the trend and carries three drivers.”
3. Woodland’s debt to basketball
The New York Times’ Karen Crouse…
  • “Gary Woodland grew up a serial monogamist, in love, depending on the season, with basketball, baseball and golf. He bonded with his father on the golf course, aspired to be like the Hall of Fame third baseman George Brett and had shooting-guard dreams of glory until they were crushed in college by a future first-round pick of the Chicago Bulls, Kirk Hinrich.”
  • “Woodland, 35, was tasked with guarding Hinrich in his first game for Division II Washburn University against Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse. It did not go well. He can remember thinking, “O.K., I need to find something else, because this ain’t going to work.”
  • “The next year, at roughly the same age that the three-time major champion Jordan Spieth won for the first time on the PGA Tour, Woodland transferred to Kansas and fully committed himself to golf. Sixteen years later, Woodland became the first Kansas alumnus to win one of the four major golf championships.”
4. On Gary Woodland’s equipment…
Golf Digest’s E. Michael Johnson…
  • “It’s in the woods where Woodland gets particularly lumberjack-like. His Ping G410 Plus driver is a 9-degree head that actually measures out at 7 degrees. Only Bubba Watson on Ping’s staff plays with less loft. Woodland’s driver shaft is an Accra RPG 472 with the company’s M5 rating, which equates to extra-stiff, and it weighs 76 grams, again probably 25 percent or more heavier than your driver shaft. But that’s not enough for Woodland. The shaft is “tipped” approximately two inches, which makes it play at a stiffness like a triple-X shaft.”
  • “Woodland was fit for the Accra shaft almost three years ago at the RBC Canadian Open, and he’s used the same specs through multiple heads ever since. According to Accra’s Gawain Robertson, on the range Woodland “hits it farther probably than anyone in the world,” but in a tournament he wants to play a controlled fade. Like most pros, he hates the hook, so by choosing to play a fade, Woodland’s also bringing more spin into the equation. So he is doing everything equipment-wise to drop that spin. Hence the stoutness of the stiffness of the shaft on his driver and the extra-low loft.”
5. Family pleads guilty to Masters badge scheme
Golf Digest’s Joel Beall…
  • “On Monday a Texas family pleaded guilty to federal charges to a scheme involving stolen identities to obtain Masters badges.”
  • “In the tournament’s hometown of Augusta, Ga., Stephen Freeman appeared before a U.S. District Court to admit to a charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. As part of a plea deal, Freeman agreed to three years in a federal prison.”
  • “Freeman’s sister and parents pleaded guilty to the same crime. However, their pleas called for no jail time. The four will have to pay more than $275,000 in restitution, according to a release from the office of U.S. Attorney Bobby Christine.”
6. Opinion: Joe Buck has to go
West Valentine at Pro Golf Now has had enough…
  • “On Monday a Texas family pleaded guilty to federal charges to a scheme involving stolen identities to obtain Masters badges.”
  • “In the tournament’s hometown of Augusta, Ga., Stephen Freeman appeared before a U.S. District Court to admit to a charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. As part of a plea deal, Freeman agreed to three years in a federal prison.”
  • Freeman’s sister and parents pleaded guilty to the same crime. However, their pleas called for no jail time. The four will have to pay more than $275,000 in restitution, according to a release from the office of U.S. Attorney Bobby Christine.”
7. Suh sticks to his sticks
Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…”When Suh turned pro after last month’s NCAA Championship and teed it up in the Memorial Tournament, the flatstick remained in the bag. So did Suh’s other 13 clubs.”
  • “While Suh signed a head-to-toe apparel and bag deal with Puma and a contract with Titleist to continue playing the Pro V1x ball, he decided to hold off on an equipment agreement and continue using his all-Ping setup that he’s used for three years.”
  • “It’s a rare move during a time where the top amateurs are chasing six-figure paydays from equipment companies.”
  • “What I have in the bag is something that I’ve had success with for years, and when I tee it up at a tournament, that’s something that I want in my hands,” Suh said. “I don’t want to look down and look at something completely new. I’m a big believer that the success on the golf course is ultimately going to determine the success you have off the golf course.”
8. Gary’s big betting buddies trip AKA “a little much for some of the guys” 
As told to Jason Sobel at the Action Network…”I went out to Pebble Beach with some buddies. Me and another guy were playing a shamble against two guys scrambling. Each team got three presses. The money got up to where it got to be a little uncomfortable.
  • “Fortunately, though, we were winning.
  • “It’s coming down to the 18th at Pebble and we give them a half-shot on the last hole, just because it got a little out of hand for guys who didn’t have it.
  • “There were a couple of us who could afford it, but we were playing the last hole for $32,000 each. That was a little much for some of the guys.
9. Why Was it Great?
I love this video series from our resident equipment expert Ryan Barath. If you haven’t caught it yet, take five minutes of your life and stroll memory lane…or green as RB discusses the iconic Bullseye putter.


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Morning 9: Woodland triumphant | “Cockroach” Koepka | Brooke = Canadian GOAT | No Tiger til Portrush



By Ben Alberstadt (

June 17, 2019

Good Monday morning, golf fans.
AP report…”Gary Woodland denied Brooks Koepka’s bold bid at history with two clutch shots and made U.S. Open memories of his own, starting with that silver trophy in his hands at Pebble Beach.”
  • “Woodland finished in style Sunday. He holed a 30-foot birdie putt for a 2-under 69, giving him the lowest 72-hole score in six U.S. Opens at Pebble Beach and a three-shot victory over Koepka, who was going for a third straight U.S. Open.”
  • “Koepka had to settle for a footnote in history as the first player with all four rounds in the 60s at the U.S Open without winning. But he made Woodland earn every bit of his first major championship.”
2. A quick detour to the LPGA Tour…
Brook Henderson now winningest Canadian pro golfer, man or woman, ever.
  • BBC report…”The 21-year-old, who won the Lotte Championship in April, hit a two-under 70 to finish on 21 under, one stroke ahead of a four-way tie for second.”
  • “Henderson has now won nine LPGA titles, giving her the most wins for a Canadian golfer on either the PGA or LPGA Tour.”
  • “Earlier this year, to get my eighth win and to tie that record was a huge deal for me,” said Henderson. “To now breakthrough that is awesome. I’m just really excited for the rest of the summer and hopefully many more wins in the future. It’s really special.”

Full piece.

3. Koepka the “cockroach”
Golf Digest’s Brian Wacker…
  • “He’s like a cockroach,” Xander Schauffele said. “He just won’t go away.”
  • “Koepka did not win on Sunday at Pebble Beach to join Willie Anderson as the only other player ever to claim three straight U.S. Open titles.”
  • “So what? He doesn’t know much about Anderson, or Google, anyway. And he doesn’t even like golf, remember?”
  • “Koepka, who finished second three strokes behind winner Gary Woodland, is the best player in the world and that much he does know. He just wasn’t the best for four days along the Monterey Peninsula, though he was close.”

Full piece.

4. Hovland sets amateur scoring record
Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols…”On Sunday, Hovland birdied the 18th hole to finish with a final round 67, giving him a four-day total of 280 (-4) and setting the 72-hole scoring record for an amateur in U.S. Open history.”
“Hovland broke the mark held by Jack Nicklaus…Hovland opened his week with a 69 on Thursday, then posted 73-71 before his Sunday 67.”
5. See you at Royal Portrush, Tiger
ESPN’s Bob Harig…”Don’t expect to see Tiger Woods again until The Open next month in Northern Ireland.”
  • “The 2019 Masters champion shot his best final round at the U.S. Open in 10 years on Sunday — despite a horrific start to the round — to finish tied for 21st and take a bit of satisfaction out of what had mostly been a disappointing week.”
  • “Woods’ 2-under-par 69 came after he bogeyed four of his first six holes. He played the final 12 holes in 6 under par. He previously broke 70 in the final round of a U.S. Open in 2009 at Bethpage Black.”
  • “Now he’s looking at skipping four weeks of tournament golf leading up to The Open at Royal Portrush, a plan that didn’t work so well heading into the PGA Championship but one that is likely part of a new reality for the 15-time major champion.”
6. Phil
Harig again on Phil Mickelson’s forgettable Open effort.
  • “You couldn’t help but know it was Phil Mickelson’s birthday on Sunday, as much as it was noted among the gallery as he played the final round of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links.”
  • “Mickelson managed to birdie the final hole and shoot 72 to complete a disappointing U.S. Open that saw him finish before the leaders teed off, never much of a factor in the championship he finished at 4 over par. And that 49th birthday he celebrated Sunday was yet another reminder that the opportunities to win the U.S. Open after six runner-up finishes are coming close to an end.”
  • “Well, I don’t know what else to say. It’s not like I’m going to stop trying,” said Mickelson, who has played in 28 U.S. Opens. “I enjoy the challenge. But I thought this was a really good chance for me.”
7. What we learned
From our Ron Montesano’s post-mortem on the 2019 U.S. Open
  • “Gary Woodland, the private man, and Gary Woodland, the public man, unite to form the man who captured the world’s attention this week. In 2017, Woodland and his wife quietly revealed that one of their expected twins had passed in the womb. Their son, Jaxson, was born early and light of weight, but improved in health with great and tender care. Now two years old, Jaxson and the Woodlands await the arrival of twin sisters later this summer.”
  • “In 2019, the golf world watched as Gary teamed with Amy Bockerstette during a practice round at the Phoenix Open. Bockerstette executed a series of unexpected shots on the par-3 16th to make par, supported all the while by Woodland. It was apparent that Woodland was invested in the entirety of the moment. Three simple words went back and forth between the pair: You’ve got this. On Sunday, at Pebble Beach, a tweet from Amy’s account arrived: You’ve got this, Gary Woodland.”
8. Pete Cowen
A good time to revisit this Pete Cowen Golf Digest “My Shot” (Cowen has recently worked with Gary Woodland on much-improved short game)
One of his best bon mots…“IMPROVING AT GOLF is not that big a deal. I can guarantee dramatic improvement from 15 minutes a day, without even using a club. But that commitment is way out of the range of most people. I spoke recently at a seminar attended by 500 Australian club pros. I said, “We’ve long known that exercising 15 minutes per day will add several years to our lives. Those of you who have spent 15 minutes daily over the last 10 years, raise your hands.” Not a hand went up. I said, “If you won’t commit 15 minutes to lengthening your very life, what makes you think you’ll devote 15 minutes to golf?” The problem comes down to actually doing it. It’s a very tough sell.”
9. The original 0311
I’d like to call your attention to GolfWRX’s new video series with PXG. It breaks new ground for the site, and biasedly, I think the results so far are excellent. Whatever your perception of Bob Parsons is, you’ll want to watch Johnny Wunder’s 25-minute interview with the PXG founder.

Watch it here.


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19th Hole