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Barney Adams: Calling golf “fun” is disingenuous

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The pile on the sport of golf is officially underway. I’ve received at least a dozen links to different stories about troubling times in the golf industry. We all know about Nike, and I received an email today about 800 courses closing over the past few years. Rumor has it that a TaylorMade sale is forthcoming and at a deep discount to annual sales; another one says Golfsmith is headed to a bankruptcy reorganization to clean up the business prior to a sale, and the list goes on. On the golf course side, the very high-end clubs and low-end clubs are OK, but the great majority in the middle are nervous… as in very nervous.

This article, while influenced by all the negative, isn’t about that. It’s about the game and marketing it to attract new players. Not professional golf, however; that’s television entertainment, is very successful, and is a world unto itself. This is about the game we play.

I watch (and read) the golf commercials promoting the game, and the consistent message is, “Play golf, it’s fun.” I think to myself, “Who authorizes these things? Is this someone’s relative who works in an ad agency who doesn’t play the game?”

So let me propose a “white paper” from which the bright advertising folks can come up with effective campaigns.

Golf is not “fun” in the traditional sense of the word. Golf is hard; it starts hard and stays that way. Fun is ice cream, sunny days and symphonies. Golf, on the other hand, says, ”Here I am, you sap. Do you have what it takes?”

And that’s exactly why it’s such a great game. We get to play against ourselves and the course in the company of friends. I mean, I read where Top Golf is fun and a great lead-in to the game. And you know what, Top Golf is a lot of fun. I know because my grandkids and I went, and we hit balls at targets, got points, drank beer (well, I did), had a competition and a lot of laughs. I kept track; I got points for two shanks, three skulls, one near toe-whiff, and on each occasion I was trying to hit a decent shot. Point is, Top Golf isn’t quite golf, in the fact that you’re not penalized for a poor shot, but rather you earn points. In the real world, I carry a ball retriever because I’ve grooved those shanks and skulls, and at no time do I remember associating them with fun on the course. I’ve not played Foot or Frisbee Golf; I’m sure they are fun, and I’m also sure they are not golf.

A great example of my point happened recently. I’m fortunate to play fairly regularly with Frank Beard, a phenomenal player with 14 PGA Tour wins, and at 77-years-old, we’d all kill to have his game. I’m talking to him on the range the other day and he’s showing me this swing thought he’s working on. I stood there thinking, is there some way to tell this story? This is real golf — a game you can play as a kid, adult and as a senior. It’s a game that will drive you nuts, and just when you think you have the “move” down, it turns out to be a quick source of duck hooks. A game where you make friends for life as you go on course and try to beat each other’s brains out. Public, private? Golf doesn’t care. Hungover, healthy? Golf doesn’t care. Back pain, bad mood? Good mood, new vitamins? Golf just sits there and waits for you to give it your best shot. You know going in that you won’t win because regardless of your skill level, you can always improve. For those of us in the less-skilled division, it’s small victories — the shots you remember are the ones that bring you back.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with some great professional athletes in my club-fitting days with hand-eye coordination that I’d kill for. Some got pretty good while others quit in disgust. That’s the thing, though, golf doesn’t care if you’re an ex-jock, cop, fireman, computer designer, movie star; I’ve yet to find a profession where golf rolled over and said, “OK, for you I’ll make an exception.” Golf also has an unimpressed attitude about “could haves” — you know, the “he could have played the Tour” players that never quite made it. It’s a bit like life; nothing is handed to you, you just have to go out there and do it.

And while I’m writing about facts, someone will soon do research and learn that there are literally millions of women who could take up the game and change participation demographics for the better. That hasn’t happened to date. There are lots of reasons, or perhaps speculations, and I have my own; women are smarter than men. We will play, hit balls and take lessons, determined to overcome golf’s challenge. Women, on the other hand, seem to realize there are more fun, worthwhile things to do. And I write this acknowledging some fine women players who do not make my quest any less-frustrating.

And there is both the issue and the answer. Golf isn’t fun — at least as the word is normally used. Golf is difficult, and no matter how long you play you will still be working at it. Ball in your court Mr. Advertising person.

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Barney Adams is the founder of Adams Golf and the inventor of the iconic "Tight Lies" fairway wood. He served as Chairman of the Board for Adams until 2012, when the company was purchased by TaylorMade-Adidas. Adams is one of golf's most distinguished entrepreneurs, receiving honors such as Manufacturing Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young in 1999 and the 2010 Ernie Sabayrac Award for lifetime contribution to the golf industry by the PGA of America. His journey in the golf industry started as as a club fitter, however, and has the epoxy filled shirts as a testimony to his days as an assembler. Have an equipment question? Adams holds seven patents on club design and has conducted research on every club in the bag. He welcomes your equipment questions through email at barneyadams9@gmail.com Adams is now retired from the golf equipment industry, but his passion for the game endures through his writing. He is the author of "The WOW Factor," a book published in 2008 that offers an insider's view of the golf industry and business advice to entrepreneurs, and he continues to contribute articles to outlets like GolfWRX that offer his solutions to grow the game of golf.

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70 Comments

70 Comments

  1. Ude

    Jul 6, 2017 at 1:28 am

    MAGA

  2. Stretch

    Sep 28, 2016 at 10:16 pm

    Fun in golf is the challenge to do better. No matter how good the score there is always better. How to be better is to take the ego out the door and close it. To be the best one can be is to be able to control the ball which is to be able to control the spin. Swing mechanics block the players ability to create the shots that lead to fun outcomes.

  3. Sean

    Sep 6, 2016 at 3:07 pm

    To me it depends on how seriously you take the game. If you are out there to drink some beers with your friends and get away from the home or the office, it’s probably is fun. Some of us work hard at the game and can find moments of satisfaction, disappointment, frustration, and yes fun. But it’s a mixed bag. Is golf fun? Sometimes it is. And, sometimes it isn’t.

  4. Art Pan

    Sep 1, 2016 at 8:29 am

    As one of the few who plays both ball golf, and disc golf (NOT FRISBEE golf), I will have to say that the same frustrations apply. It’s just as easy to release early, or grip lock, and in effect, duck-hook or slice your throw.
    Tree bounces are far more prevalent. “It’s only a 4 inch wide trunk to the side of a 20 foot wide fairway” you think to yourself. Then you hit it, and your disc bounces 30 feet to the left into the woods. Then you’re stuck straddling a bush trying to throw around tree and praying you just make it back to the fairway. But you’ll probably just hit another tree.
    I three putt less is DG, but it still happens. The ‘gimme’ distances are just different. 4 or 5 feet, you’re good. 10 foot, you make consistently if you’re good. outside 10 feet, I’ll probably 2 putt. Unless your putt misses, hits the ground on the edge of the disc, and then rolls. Behind you.

    • KK

      Sep 17, 2016 at 5:53 pm

      What the heck are you babbling about.

    • digitalbroccoli

      Sep 20, 2016 at 9:42 am

      I’ve played disc golf for thirty years, including 2 open qualifiers and I’ve never had an issue with someone calling it frisbee golf. Back it down a notch dude.

  5. golfraven

    Aug 29, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    Golf is always fun if you think that at same time you could sit and look at your email inbox and answer emails. Where would you rather be? Having fun or being a slave to the men. Fun is when you wheck it over 300 yards and when you inbox is empty and you can look at vids from your last visit to the golf range.

  6. mhendon

    Aug 29, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    Sorry Barney I have to disagree with you on this one. Golf is very fun to me. Maybe that’s because I’m able to play closely to the way the game was meant to be played but more importantly I try not to take it to seriously.

  7. Steve C

    Aug 29, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    One last point regarding the demise of golf. Golf is hard, takes time, and today’s generation of everybody getting a trophy (right now) does not appreciate the work necessary to be successful. Add that to short attention spans due to all of todays distractions (social media, music while playing, etc) and real golf does not stand a chance.

    • DaveT

      Aug 29, 2016 at 5:59 pm

      Steve C, that was my reaction as I read the story. There’s a generational difference in attitude, and I’m not sure as many millennials have the attitude that golf — as skillfully described by Barney — requires.

  8. Steve C

    Aug 29, 2016 at 4:09 pm

    My wife always gives me the business about how I get to go out and have fun playing golf. I have always told her I wasn’t having fun (as this story clearly states). Her response is “Well, then why do you go play?” It’s not possible to explain this reasoning, lack of common sense, idiocy , illogical behavior, etc. to someone that does not play the game. That all having been said, there are a few rare occasions that I have had a good time. But it was about the company, not the golf itself. Sadly, I am just as angry at the end of a round whether I shoot a 85 or a 70. I tell all my non-golfing friends to avoid the game as its not worth the frustration!

    • Barney Adams

      Aug 29, 2016 at 5:37 pm

      and my reaction is just the opposite. I tell my friends that at 77 I’m out there beating my head against the same lack of talent wall I’ve always had and I love every minute. Do I have fun Like a video game etc.. and the answer is ” Thankfully ,no” This is golf, it’s so much more.

  9. Deadeye

    Aug 29, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    Hmmmmm. If golf is retreating at the rate you say, and pro golf is doing so great as tv entertainment, who, in a few years, is going to be watching those pro golfers on tv? Surely not those women who have found smarter things to do. Anybody remember when pro bowling was BIG on tv? Those guys were good too. Just saying.

  10. Bob Jones

    Aug 29, 2016 at 2:01 pm

    I get to enjoy the company my friends in a beautifully landscaped environment while doing about the only athletic thing there is that I can do…and that’s not fun?

  11. Bobtrumpet

    Aug 29, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    Frank Beard – a name I haven’t heard for a long time. I loved his one-page columns at the back of Golf Digest years (decades) ago. Seemed to be a straight-shooter (in golf and the written word). Glad to hear he’s still doing well.

  12. Justin

    Aug 29, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    I think the main source of “NO FUN” is when you play golf and your game continues to regress. If you play your home course fairly often and shoot pretty close to the same score, that outlier where you shoot 5 strokes below your handicap becomes fun… no, wait, not fun.. it’s exhilarating. “Fun” is always what you make of it. Fun can turn sour in a heartbeat with the wrong frame of mind. Fun endures if you know how to extract it out of a situation and cultivate it. Now that I have a 1-year old daughter I have plenty of fun in my life. But getting out once a month or so to play golf with good friends has become a different type of fun. Would I like to play more like I have in the past? Who wouldn’t? Golf has transformed into an escape… not from my family or the other things I love, but from reality for those 4+ hours.

    Golf is a game. That sentence could stand alone as a fair description, but it’s really so much more. The game I’ve loved since I could walk is a new chapter in many people’s lives. Stats show that more people are “giving up” the game or playing much less frequently. But to me that doesn’t mean we’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’ to hit the links. We are more consumed than ever with “having something to do” rather than making sure the substance of that thing to do is worth our time. “This will make a great picture for instagram” or “I can finally update my Facebook status because we went on vacation” have become far more important than the value of both self worth and appreciation for what others do for you.

    I love golf because it’s not something you can own. And on the flip side, golf is not something that should own you either. It’s one of the few things you can do poorly and still want to come back and do again. You can be upset with golf, but never truly scorned… in the end it all falls on you the individual. Golf doesn’t need you and you don’t need golf, and that’s exactly why it’s fun.

  13. Mr. Wedge

    Aug 29, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    I hate all this hoopla about making golf easier. The true golfers enjoy a challenge (within reason). And if you are more casual and want golf to be easy, there ARE options out there. I’ve been to a ton of courses that are very wide open and more player friendly. Most also have at least 3 sets of tees to choose from. So teeing it forward is an option too. Don’t have time for a full 18? Most courses have 9 hole rates, so play 9. Golf participation, IMO, is most affected by the cost. Not just for playing, but equipment too. I don’t claim to know what the fix is. But the issue certainly is not because golf is not as “fun” as playing Candyland with my toddler.

  14. Steve

    Aug 29, 2016 at 11:51 am

    Golf is plenty fun under the right circumstances. Such as……when you can play in 3 and 1/2 hours. A five hour round is awful and the definition of no fun. As for the eulogy for golf that we keep reading about, you could’ve fooled me. I don’t play as often as I would like, but I have seen crowded golf courses this summer in North Carolina, Michigan, Ohio and Virginia. I see a billionaire marketing a set of clubs for $ 3000 and new Drivers from the big name manufacturers in the big box stores for nearly $ 400 — with new versions right about the corner. Of course at $ 400 I won’t be making too many impulse purchases. Scotty Cameron putters are kept behind a plexiglass case so they won’t be stolen. Nice. That’s ok….I can 3-putt with something cheaper.

    But what the golf industry lost sight of is this generation’s obsession with time or the lack thereof. Reconfigure golf courses to 12 holes and make twilight rates earlier and more affordable, and people will play. To me, the golden age of golf was back in the 60s when everyone played with wooden woods, irons with a sweet spot the size of a tick and balls that we wouldn’t even hit on a range now. And people loved the game, didn’t complain about it being “too hard” while they adored Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus cuz they looked right at them in the gallery. Those were the days, but give me the chance to play 9 holes with 10 or 11 clubs in a bag I can easily carry without waiting for someone plumb-bobbing a putt in front of me and the game is magic again.

  15. The Truth

    Aug 29, 2016 at 5:04 am

    Women are not smarter than men. Give me a break with this P.C garbage. Women are more emotional and far less logical, they’re very easily influenced by a monkey see, monkey do culture. What sort of lifestyle is hyped up in the MSM to influence them? Oh yes, the degnerate Culrtural Marxist society that is destroying us both socially and financially. And who falls for it the most? Women of course, zero logic. If the traditional values of the West was still considered cool, more Women would be playing.

    • Ru Paul

      Aug 29, 2016 at 8:26 am

      You go girl!

    • Egor

      Aug 30, 2016 at 11:37 am

      @The Truth – many will disagree with you, but you did hit the nail on the head. You’re right.

  16. James

    Aug 28, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    I think you’re wrong Mr. Adams. All sports are difficult and can be “not fun” by your definition. I’m an old baseball guy and if you get a safe hit 30% of the time you’re an amazing player. Quite difficult to hit a round ball with a round stick with a ball thrown fast and with curvature. Still, that one great hit every couple of games is what you chase and the chase if fun. Same with golf. Not every round will be great but parts of it might be. The fun is chasing that better score or hitting a few more good shots in a round. Challenge is fun too. It invigorates the mind. If everything was easy we would all get bored with it. This is why golf is fun, it is the chase and the challenge.

  17. Smitty

    Aug 28, 2016 at 3:56 pm

    Sorry Barney but this was a big ol’ shank of an article. Golf is fun, but it’s not easy. Most things that are fun aren’t easy. Are marketers mis-representing themselves by saying “golf is fun”? Heck no. They get paid to promote and sell stuff and nothing about that tag line is misleading in the least. When you were selling clubs would you have told a potential new golfer that the game really isn’t fun but hey, come buy this club from me for hundreds of dollars?

    I enjoy practicing and working on improving my game and putting practice into play every week on the course. Seeing a long putt drop, hitting a big drive down the fairway, or sticking a wedge close is what fires me up and keeps me coming back for more. That is why the game is fun to me, but those same things don’t define the game of golf for other folks.

    A close friend of mine only gets to golf maybe once a year on his birthday because of family and work conflicts. There are a lot of shanks and lost balls that day, but it’s a blast and he’d never say otherwise.

    Frankly, if I were a marketer or in advertising role in the industry I don’t think there is a single productive thing I could take away from this article. Additionally, one of your final paragraphs about women being smarter than men as the rationale for not taking up the game is utterly ridiculous. It might be time for you to hang up the poor efforts at “writing” and focus on doing some real things to help grow the game.

  18. Dennis Clark

    Aug 28, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    Read Michael Murphy’s classic “Golf in the Kingdom”…
    “Our relationship to paradox is a barometer of our enlightenment”

  19. 8thehardway

    Aug 28, 2016 at 8:55 am

    Ah, the women; exemplars of the worthwhile and conscience to us all. But before they were women they were cart girls… . Somehow they transitioned from flirting to wisdom, while we just kept golfing, Peter Pans locked in eternal battle with Captain Hook and Captain Slice. We never grew up and put aside the things of youth because golf is the opium, the green dragon that clouds our mind even as we chase him from hole to hole; $75 to $150 for a hit that lasts 4 hours and we can’t get enough.

    Should we resist this sticky substance of a sport and, like the women you admire, ascend to a higher plane or should ‘advertising folks’ develop better marketing along the lines you suggest to attract more innocents to this addiction? Your proposition seems at odds with your value system.

    • ?

      Aug 28, 2016 at 11:13 am

      Maybe it’s time to lay off the drugs…

    • KK

      Aug 28, 2016 at 9:15 pm

      Are all women just cart girls of various ages to you? Lame.

      • 8thehardway

        Aug 29, 2016 at 3:56 pm

        I had hoped to pose a developmental dilemma between one-dimensional representations of a cultural bias which reached it’s zenith in the saccharine sitcoms of the early 1960s.

        I guess that boat has sailed, but rest assured I do not regard women as grown up cart girls.

  20. Randy

    Aug 28, 2016 at 1:13 am

    We made it fun, for the last two years we have played two man scrambles for lunch almost every Tuesday, the only time it is not fun is the Tuesday one of the guys cannot make it and we have to play our own ball.

  21. don7936

    Aug 27, 2016 at 7:40 pm

    Barney, what are you smoking? You made your living off of “dumb” men who bought your products?? i understand the point you’re trying to make but belittling the intelligence of 90% of your customer base is preposterous. BY logical extension, if women are too smart to play golf, only dummies will play it. Therefore men are dumb. Dude, that is the lamest thing I’ve seen on this site. Never mind the gratuitous “smart women” comment too prevalent in golf nowadays. If you’re willing to turn golf into a gender issue, publish your remarks at a site geared for women. You totally sold out.

    • kolfpro

      Aug 29, 2016 at 3:59 am

      OK now, keep your shirt on Tonto. Barney is not trying to insult you or golfers in general but it seems you are taking it that way. Remember, never take it personally even tho sometimes it is! 🙂

  22. cwt

    Aug 27, 2016 at 6:32 pm

    “You know going in that you won’t win because regardless of your skill level, you can always improve.”

    Which is why Mr. 58 should have walked away from the game that very day!

    • Jim

      Aug 29, 2016 at 12:08 pm

      Just one put better, and it could have been a 57…….

  23. RI_Redneck

    Aug 27, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    Barney’s description of the game is very spot on IMHO. I don’t play for fun, never have. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the challenge, the comraderie, the exercise and the scenery……. but I don’t have fun. Every time I walk onto a golf course it’s to do battle. It’s always a battle between me and the course itself (and the designer, I guess), even in tournaments. I have won tournaments before and been completely disappointed with my performance because I didn’t play as well as I should have. I get the most fulfillment from playing my best on a really tough track. That’s probably the reason I seek out the courses I do when I’m traveling. I actually don’t think I got my money’s worth if I don’t feel like I’ve worked my a** off to get the score I got. Hey, maybe I’m a bit of a nut and that’s fine if you think so. But that’s just the way it is.

    This game is designed to kick your butt, work you in the ground and reward you only when you try your best. That’s why I love it.

    BT

    • Steve C

      Aug 29, 2016 at 4:20 pm

      Well said, Redneck. And todays generation just does not get it! Nor do they want to.

  24. Double Mocha Man

    Aug 26, 2016 at 10:53 pm

    That must have been a 600 yard par 5 since you hit your drive 410 yards…

  25. Double Mocha Man

    Aug 26, 2016 at 10:48 pm

    Golf is fun for the camaraderie among friends, the anticipation of that round, the fresh air, the 3 incredible “pro-like” shots you hit per round and the gin & tonic afterwards.

    • Double Mocha Man

      Aug 27, 2016 at 12:39 pm

      Actually those are nicknames for Ginger & Tonica… they’re both girls and they’re both legal.

  26. Sometimes a Smizzle

    Aug 26, 2016 at 10:32 pm

    i definetely agree with Barney. I feel like golf is fun in a different kind of way. I often play alone because i like the challenge and i like being alone after being around people all week. I experience satisfaction more then fun.

    • Double Mocha Man

      Aug 26, 2016 at 11:01 pm

      I often play alone because I’m afraid Smizzle will join my threesome. 🙂

  27. JThunder

    Aug 26, 2016 at 10:17 pm

    All sports are challenging and the enjoyment – for those who “get it” – is because it’s a challenge. This is why the push for 15″ holes is idiotic. You could make basketball a lot easier and – apparently – more “fun” by just having a huge waist-high barrel for the ball. I mean, why go through the effort and difficulty of throwing the ball up high to such a small target??

    I’ll take issue with the mention of “symphonies” – to properly understand and appreciate the complexity of the music you’re hearing IS a challenge. This isn’t Barney or Bieber, it’s Bach and Beethoven. *Playing* orchestral music is a challenge of the highest order, and takes a lifetime of dedication and 8 hours practice a day to be professional.

    The real semantic issue at hand is this; have we become so jaded and lazy that something challenging and difficult can’t be called “fun”?

    If everyone is so worried about golf participation, I suggest they look long and hard at the state of the middle class; incomes, time spent at work (including emails at home), increased prices and decreased salaries and benefits, unemployment and underemployment/multiple jobs, plus social media, kids’ activities, etc. More really good 9-hole courses might help. Overcrowding at existing courses is a factor too, certainly in the Chicago area.

    • Nick Stec

      Aug 27, 2016 at 7:25 am

      THIS!!!! AWESOME.

    • Mat

      Aug 27, 2016 at 5:41 pm

      Agreed. As a former musician, I have a draw to golf that is very similar. I had a lot of fun as a musician… same ideas; camaraderie, working but never achieving perfection, and mastering a craft. I was a much better musician than I have ever been a golfer. The irony is that an activity like golf requires determination to get better, but it is a hobby that most of us put in the garage for days or weeks at a time. Those that practice every day, like music, are envied.

      “Fun” might not be the single best word, but how does one describe the drive as an artist for perfection?

      • JThunder

        Aug 27, 2016 at 6:22 pm

        I guess it depends. To some people, “fun” is sitting on a beach doing nothing getting hammered. Some would have to be there surfing or playing volleyball or something. To some, it’s climbing a mountain or hiking a trail, painting a picture or whittling a sofa. It’s a certain kind of person – not necessarily “the very few” though – who enjoy accomplishment rather than idle fun. But if golf weren’t “fun”, why would anyone do it? It’s expensive, it takes time and lots of effort – I guess you can call it “enjoyment” instead of “fun”, but that nitpicks semantics. The same goes for artists – most genuinely enjoy and love what they do, and far less than 1% could claim to be “doing it for the money”.

        So, maybe the disconnect is in the Tiger Factor, and companies like Nike’s expectations. YES, a lot of people “tried” golf because of Tiger, and quit because it was “too hard” or they sucked, or it was too expensive, took too much time, was too hard to Tweet while doing, whatever. It was the Tiger Bubble – and just like the Housing Bubble, the eCommerce Bubble, the occasional tennis or soccer mania, it was BOUND to subside.

        I suppose it could be called “unfortunate” that the Tiger Bubble burst almost simultaneously with the economy. (Wait – what was that crash – the stock market or Tiger’s SUV window? Was that breaking Tiger’s back or the back of the middle class?) Again, anyone who expects “participation” (aka “CASH”) to be UP when the middle class are working 60 hours a week – husband and wife – and barely making ends meet. As for Nike pulling out of golf – I’m sure the cash they paid Tiger didn’t help. As for 800 courses closing – specifics of where and why? I’ve seen a few close here with owners cashing out on the land. NOT lack of golfers.

        • Bag Chatter

          Aug 29, 2016 at 8:36 am

          JT – You shouldn’t be on this site – you make way too much sense!

  28. oldpromoe

    Aug 26, 2016 at 10:12 pm

    I have played golf for 56 years. Golf is fun for me. I play almost every day and always enjoy myself. Great shots still thrill me. Good shots make me happy, Poor shots don’t concern me.
    I play with people I like and one that I love.
    During our long Manitoba winters, I hit balls indoors at the Dome every day. I find that to be fun too.
    Barney, with respect, maybe you need an attitude adjustment.

    • Barney

      Aug 27, 2016 at 12:23 am

      I generally don’t respond but I liked your comment. I’ve been playing for 65+ years and still read the articles on how to improve. I get sick of the “instant gratification ”
      Type ads and am promoting a little ” truth in advertising “

    • Mike W

      Aug 28, 2016 at 1:21 am

      I’m in Winnipeg too. Send me a PM and lets go have fun!

  29. Bernard

    Aug 26, 2016 at 9:57 pm

    Great article. I have always been annoyed by the way the game is sold. It is sold more like a Zumba infomercial than the challenging game that it is. The reward is in the journey to meet it’s challenges. It’s more martial arts or mountain climbing of the soul but it is not “fun”. Fun is only in the fleeting moment everything went correctly. Thank you Barney.

  30. Wayne J Bosley

    Aug 26, 2016 at 9:48 pm

    Exciting and Challenging ,,, like life,,,,,

  31. Steve

    Aug 26, 2016 at 9:32 pm

    Golf is better than work and as memorable as (marital) sex.

  32. Tom Duckworth

    Aug 26, 2016 at 8:55 pm

    Hit a drive about 40 yards along the ground on a par 4 yesterday…..mad and a bit embarrassed I sucked it up and followed that with an arrow straight 5 wood to the left of the green about two yards off the putting surface. Was it fun? No and yes. I’m still a little mad at myself for that crappy drive and proud of the fairway shot. I can’t think of many things I do where the battle is truly against myself. I don’t think golf will die out but it may very well become a game that very few will play in the future with old clubs that they have to keep fixing because they are hard to find. I hope people in the future will be able to understand what a great thing golf is. My granddaughter loves it but my grandson can’t put down his phone long enough to get the beauty of it.

  33. Silverhead

    Aug 26, 2016 at 7:17 pm

    Just had that round today. Started with a par, got on the bogie train, dropped a 25 ft. birdie putt on #7, then made the turn onto the DOUBLE bogie train. Stopped keeping score by #14 and enjoyed the rest of the round.

  34. ooffa

    Aug 26, 2016 at 6:55 pm

    Of course it’s fun. Barney stop griping already it’s getting tiresome.

  35. KK

    Aug 26, 2016 at 6:07 pm

    Ice cream and symphonies are fun? Fail.

    • Double Mocha Man

      Aug 26, 2016 at 10:55 pm

      There is nothing better than Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, final movement. I’ll take a good live production of that over an eagle any day…

      • Fredo

        Aug 27, 2016 at 3:42 pm

        KK, your the clown. You just haven’t realized it yet. Barney gives us thought provoking articles that need to be applauded!

  36. westphi

    Aug 26, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    Fun: “something that provides mirth or amusement”…that’s golf to me, and if Barney Adams is going to say I don’t play golf, I’d invite him to come play a round or reevaluate what he’s been playing all these years…

  37. Scooter McGavin

    Aug 26, 2016 at 5:14 pm

    Also, I’m going to take issue with your logic for why there aren’t as many women golfers as there could be. While you try to put a positive spin on it by making it sound like men are the dumb ones wasting our time and women are the smart ones finding “better things to do”. I’m not starting a debate about which gender is smarter or whatever, but your argument comes across as a veiled sentiment of “men have the drive to tough out the challenges while women don’t want to work hard”. I’m not asking you to take my word for it, but all I ask is you take a moment, step back, and reflect on those remarks and see if they could be construed in a patronizing or condescending way by someone else (namely of the opposite gender). I think the real reason behind the lack of women golfers is the history it has of being a man’s sport, and the boy’s club mentality that gets perpetuated to this day. While it’s not what it used to be, you can still find plenty of men that see golf as their time away from their wives/girlfriends/women/whatever and don’t want women to play. It’s present in everyday pop culture things like TV shows, movies, greeting cards, etc. that show men as the golfers and women as the nagging spouse that gets angry when she has to stay home with the kids on Saturday morning while the husband sneaks out for 18 with his pals. It’s even more apparent in the presence of all-male golf clubs. It’s a cultural issue that is not exclusive to golf, but a number of other sports: baseball, football, etc. I’m sure you’ve heard countless men in your lifetime crack remarks about nobody watching or caring about women’s sports. There’s your problem right there. The culture that men create and that some still perpetuate.

    • Scooter McGavin

      Aug 27, 2016 at 1:05 pm

      Thanks for proving my point with your sexist comment.

    • Gordy

      Aug 28, 2016 at 7:38 pm

      Whew…you’re the preachy person at the party who shows up and kills the laughter. So, let me guess..you majored in gender studies but work at a grocery store as the cashier?

  38. Dj

    Aug 26, 2016 at 5:11 pm

    Uh I find golf fun myself. Just because it’s challenging doesn’t mean it’s not fun. Weird article

  39. Mike

    Aug 26, 2016 at 5:07 pm

    Nicely written piece.

    “Fun” usually implies instant gratification. The reward from golf is greater than that.

    At times, golf can seem like meditation. No one ever called meditation “fun”.

  40. alexdub

    Aug 26, 2016 at 4:58 pm

    Great write-up Barney. Golf is always striving, never arriving.

  41. Scooter McGavin

    Aug 26, 2016 at 4:51 pm

    Symphonies are hard too…

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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 to 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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