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An Open Letter to Gear Heads

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Back when Tiger Woods was golf, I played a round with a very nice man who hit the ball about 160 yards with his driver, lost half a dozen golf balls and whose greatest pride in the game of golf was that he played the exact same clubs as Tiger Woods.

Because of my playing companion’s spending behavior, and many other golfers like him, club manufacturers invest millions of dollars on endorsement contracts and advertisements that feature famous golfers. By showing that that these professionals use their products, companies are trying to convince us to use them, too. But is this the best way to sell clubs… or the best way to buy them?

In 1996, looking to reproduce the business model it pioneered with Michael Jordan, Nike signed Tiger Woods to a $40 million endorsement contract and entered the golf market. Capitalizing on Tiger’s success, the company launched a golf ball in 2000 and golf clubs in 2002. Tiger went on to win eight major championships, 14 World Golf Championships and 50 PGA Tour events with Nike Golf clubs, and Nike Golf became synonymous with Tiger Woods.

Between 2002 and 2013, to further support its brand in golf, Nike signed dozens of other talented professional golfers to endorsement contracts. Its biggest signing came in 2013; the company pulled off what many saw as a coup in the golf equipment world by signing Rory McIlroy. Nike Golf now had the two best golfers on the planet under contract, and it seemed primed to become the leader in golf equipment sales. Not even four years later, however, Nike announced that it was exiting the golf club business.

What, if anything, can my playing companion and the rest of us learn from Nike’s history in the golf club business? Is it possible that selling and buying clubs based on celebrity endorsements is not the best way to do business? Based on the behavior of the other golf equipment manufacturers, the answer seems to be a resounding “no.” Club companies still sign golfers to endorsement contracts, of course, but they are marketing their clubs more and more on technological improvements and using launch monitor data to support their claims.

But what technological details should we care about? Does it matter that pros hit the ball farther with a new club or that it was designed in the same wind tunnel as a jet?

The only thing that really matters for golfers is to compare the shots they hit with their current clubs to the shots they hit with new clubs, and the best way to do that is by testing clubs on launch monitor. So the next time you’re interested in new gear, make sure to put the endorsement contracts and advertising aside. Go do some launch monitor testing with your current clubs to see if new ones offer a tangible benefit.

Lyndon Wilson, a club fitting expert and owner of Studio360, is a 14-year veteran of club fitting. He now works with everyone from average golfers to elite players, including the No. 2-ranked golfer in the Rolex Rankings Ariya Jutanugran and dozens of other PGA and LPGA tour players. He calls fitting “crucial” to the process of buying new equipment.

“A proper fit can increase both accuracy and distance, which is only going to make golf more fun,” he says.

There are currently a lot of buzzwords when it comes to golf equipment fitting, and they have a lot of golfers confused. That’s why it’s important to resist the urge to try and fit yourself; it’s really hard for average golfers to know exactly what they need to play their best.

Bill Holbrook, a representative of Cobra-Puma Golf and a 2015 National Sales Associate of the year, says many golfers focus too much on lowering the spin rate of their shots. He says it stems from the strides golf equipment manufactures have made in creating lower-spinning clubs in recent years and their intensity in marketing them.

“For people with speed, [lowering spin] has been a huge help,” Holbrook says. “But for a lot of players, it’s not. These players need to be fit to ensure they have the right variables to maximize distance, which often means more loft and a softer-tip shaft.”

A good starting point in a fitting is looking at the three major keys to ball flight: ball speed, launch angle and spin rate. It’s also a good idea to look at the axis tilt of the golf ball, as straighter-flying shots tend lead to more birdies than crooked ones. And of course, you’ll want to keep an eye on the balance of carry distance and roll out.

To make sure your launch monitor data is accurate, you’ll also want to do your testing on a top-notch launch monitor (the best fitters almost always use either FlightScope, Foresight or Trackman). If the data demonstrates that one club performs significantly better than another, that’s a compelling argument to purchase a new club. This goes for your wedges and putter, too!

For quite a long time on the PGA Tour, a top-10 money winner used game improvement irons designed for higher-handicap golfers. His friends may have looked at him funny, but those were the clubs that work best for him. Most golfers won’t ever make a living playing the game, but we all enjoy golf more when we play better. That likely means you’re not going to be playing same clubs as Tiger, Rory or any other Tour player.

Happy Testing!

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Brendan is the owner of Golf Placement Services, a boutique business which aims to apply his background in golf and higher education to help educate players, their families and coaches about the process! Website - www.golfplacementservices.com Insta - golf.placement.sevices Twitter @BMRGolf

32 Comments

32 Comments

  1. Barry Evans

    Mar 18, 2017 at 10:06 am

    What is more important:
    The clubfitter or the clubfitter company?

  2. Kourt

    Mar 10, 2017 at 8:42 pm

    I’d have to agree completely. I take money every week from guys playing blades even when my game is off because my minor misses are still close. And I know I could play blades and still win, but the off center hit performance of game improvement irons is just too good to play without. Now I agree that no iron looks at sweet as a classic blade and if u want the looks more than performance then more power to ya. But The people claiming that blades are better to play are absolutely nuts. If a blade truly offered more “precision” than a cavity back club then why are those same people playing blades also playing drivers at 460 cc? If “precision” came from a harder to hit club they should be hitting old persimmon wood clubs that aren’t as forgiving, yet they choose to use a maximum game improvement club in a 460cc driver and probably use a spider high moi putter too Haha.

  3. JThunder

    Mar 10, 2017 at 8:02 pm

    Yes, fitting is extremely important to get the most out of your game.

    It’s extremely unlikely a high percentage of less-than-avid golfers will ever get properly fit for their clubs.

    It’s extremely unlikely that anyone who frequents Golfwrx is unaware of the importance of fitting, or of the unimportance of playing the same clubs as your hero.

    In the US, and many other parts of the world, our hero worship of and obsession with celebrities and athletes is far out of control. I would ever-so-humbly suggest that buying Tiger-spec clubs is among the utmost benign symptoms of this disease. (I take greater issue with their funneling hundreds of millions to millionaire players while their worldwide employees work in sweatshops and their first-world employees get laid off, for example).

    Telling also that here again we see celebrity worship held so high over the value of educators.

  4. JThunder

    Mar 10, 2017 at 7:56 pm

    “whose greatest pride in the game of golf was that he played the exact same clubs as Tiger Woods” –

    so, the author clearly states this was the man’s “greatest pride”, and then he explains how wrong and misguided the guy is.

    Is he playing golf? Is he having fun? Will he come back?

    And you’re suggesting “growing the game” by taking that away from him?

    No wonder things are in the state they’re in.

  5. Murdock

    Mar 10, 2017 at 7:22 pm

    What I don’t get, is that the pro’s always say “get fit” for your clubs. But, if you’re whole heartedly working on your game to improve, your “fit” might change in the matter of days or weeks, depending on swing changes. Of course, your body characteristics (i.e. height and arm length) won’t change, but your swing plane, impact position and club path among other factors certainly will! So, then at what point do you Mr. Golf Fitter, recommend we get fit? When we have the money, or when we’ve ironed out the issues with our swings?

  6. ahw74

    Mar 10, 2017 at 12:45 pm

    I was a huge Nike Golf guy, it suited my eye and worked for me, that being said I really feel like the difference between the major brands in the GI area is like the difference between a Camry and an Accord. I also think if you can’t break 100 you shouldn’t be in blades.

    • JThunder

      Mar 10, 2017 at 7:53 pm

      People played “blades” (or musclebacks) for the first 500 years of the game, and apparently enjoyed it enough for the game to survive. If a 30 hdcp wants to play MBs, then they should – it’s their money and their leisure activity. The mistake so many people make in their judgement of other peoples’ decisions (apart from their need to judge other peoples’ decisions) is to judge others’ behaviors based on their own value systems. Not everyone determines their enjoyment of golf based primarily or only on their score. If they did, it seems likely that far fewer people would play the game, given the average golfer’s score and the fractional percent who are scratch or better.

      Playing MBs might drive some percentage of people away from the game, if they had no other option. Likewise, playing offset shovels would drive some people away too. Options exist for a reason, and others’ reasons may differ from your own.

  7. golfraven

    Mar 9, 2017 at 4:56 pm

    I went to a golf show recently and was looking around. Went to Ping stand and asked the dude to show me the i200s and iblade – told him I game older i-series and was looking to uprade. He pulled 2 clubs out of the bag and I started hitting without any warm up. He called the numbers and balls were flying 15-20 yards short what I am used to with my clubs. Looked at the shaft and those were stiffer what I usually game. Anyway once I was warmed up he handed me a G model with a graphite shaft in regular and told me to hit. Of course those shots were going much further and within a meter dispersion. Was not bothered to give me the right shaft with the other models. That was my worst experience when “testing” clubs and little to say I will not buy Pings again. I have a judgement level of my abilities and when a rep is a d… and treats me like a beginner I take offense.

  8. Nath

    Mar 8, 2017 at 4:00 pm

    Your like the guy at a retail store that tried to fit me into srixon z355 irons with nippon 950 reg shafts std length and lie, said i should never to look at what the pros have, its not for me, blah blah. He even said i have the 120s and they are not for you. Lol he knew me for all of 5 mins. i went ahead with my own plan trusting my own instinct z745 nippon modus 103 x 2*flat + 1/2, these things are dangerous. and have shave half a dozen strokes. Never hit more greens. Good job at helping people out bud

  9. Skip

    Mar 8, 2017 at 1:40 pm

    LOL getting fit on a “FlightScope, Foresight or Trackman” hardly ensures accuracy.

  10. Sam

    Mar 8, 2017 at 1:31 pm

    IMO i think fitting is just a money grab from the PGA pro side. I got fit into Project X from a fitting session based on outdoor Trackman numbers, but i liked golf less and less after playing with those. Went back to my S300s, nothing is optimal anymore but love the feel.

    Also most of the high cappers would see the same results using “GI” or “players” clubs, a scoop or fat shot is still a scoop or fat shot with either.

  11. TR1PTIK

    Mar 8, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    The #1 reason Nike’s advertising model didn’t equate to a larger share of the marketplace is simple. To be like “Mike” I only had to spend a couple hundred bucks (if that) for a pair of shoes – maybe more if I wanted the jersey. To be like Tiger, I’d have to pay at least 10 times that amount. To top it off, I still wouldn’t have his one off clubs – glued hosel driver and fairway woods, specialized putters and irons. If I’m going to spend that much on golf clubs they had better be the best available for my game or I’m not buying.

  12. helloooo

    Mar 8, 2017 at 1:12 pm

    Mr Ryan,
    Regarding the man with TW clubs.. It’s like you are saying a guy shouldn’t buy a pair of Jordan sneakers because he’s not even good at dribbling..
    For Nike’s effort to sell more clubs by signing huge endorsement deals with TW and RM, your view seems to neglect the fact that that effort is what brings money into the sport and grows it.
    Without support of freely buying whatever you want to buy, (be it for improving your game or making a weekend golfer feel a bit more tied to the “now-ness” of the game by purchasing the latest.) the industry will get even smaller.
    It’ll turn in the direction towards something like the sport, Curling. Expensive to play, expensive equipments, with no market.

    • HUH?

      Mar 9, 2017 at 10:13 am

      Hello helloooo,

      I didn’t read anywhere where the man said you couldn’t buy whatever equipment you want unless you were capable of actually playing the game well. I think the only point he was trying to make was that matching equipment to fit the way we swing the club is a good idea. The “golf industry” is a lot of things ranging from stuffed animals and pointless trinkets to playing lessons, lawn mowers and sprinkler heads. Just because you buy golf clubs that fit your swing doesn’t mean that the entire golf industry is going to suffer – just like wearing a hundred percent polyester polo with an unfortunately large logo emblazoned on it is going to help enrich it.

    • Brian

      Mar 9, 2017 at 6:04 pm

      Sneakers and golf clubs are a lousy analogy. A pair of Jordan’s or a pair of Adidas won’t make a lick of difference to your hoops game. Trying to play Mizuno MP4s vs. Ping G-Max? Huuuge difference.

  13. Sam

    Mar 8, 2017 at 11:01 am

    I would agree that having your clubs fit properly to your swing to help you play your best, but I would think that a lot of average golfers do not want to spend that money (fee) on the fitting, as they would rather put that money towards new equipment.

    Also, getting out and playing a round of golf is supposed to be fun and who are we to judge what a person plays (with) or buys? To your opening paragraph about the “very nice man who hit the ball about 160 yards with his driver, lost half a dozen golf balls and whose greatest pride in the game of golf was that he played the exact same clubs as Tiger Woods”, if this made him happy to have spent his hard earned money on those exact clubs that Tiger Woods played, then that’s up to him. He’s not only helping the golf industry by making these purchases, but also getting out there and playing. Losing all of those golf balls, also helps the golf industry because he would have to constantly keep buying new golf balls.

    I would understand if he’s holding up the pace of play and something should be said, but again, with his equipment purchase, we are all free to buy and use what we feel is best for us. Since 90% (or more) of the average shouldn’t play MBs, why do retailers still carry them? They should be special order only. But they are there to entice us to strive to be that better player or just be dumb and buy them, yet to trade them in a couple of weeks later. The golf industry is a business and they want the consumer to buy the newest and greatest thing, that’s their goal and they don’t really care about if we actually enjoy the game or are improving…..they want our money!!

  14. Tim Metcalf

    Mar 8, 2017 at 10:55 am

    Odd that the article was displayed under a banner that included WITB. WRX like most most golf centric outlets promote the the what’s in the bag.

  15. Progolfer

    Mar 8, 2017 at 10:23 am

    EXCELLENT ARTICLE!! Skill– not equipment– is what matters! Chalk it up to society… Most people would rather look good than be good.

  16. Nick

    Mar 8, 2017 at 9:34 am

    Do you guys even proof read your articles?

    • Chopper

      Mar 8, 2017 at 1:37 pm

      I was wondering the same thing. “The only way thing that really matters for golfers…So the next you’re interested in new gear…” And talk about comma overload!

  17. Tourgrinder

    Mar 8, 2017 at 9:24 am

    I’d like to add one thing Mr. Ryan forgot, but a suggestion Mr. Ryan would probably agree is worthwhile. In addition to testing on a top-quality launch monitor, a session of equal or even greater value to the everyday golfer would be to go out on a grass range — (you know, similar to conditions where you actually play golf!) — and hit a variety of shots with both your new or prospective clubs as well as your current clubs. Compare the trajectories, the distances, the relative ability of hitting fades and hooks (if that’s part of your game). Maybe I have too much gray hair, but no matter what the technology is and what it says inside, hitting off a turf mat indoors only provides so much feel and so much feedback. Good golfers also rely on non-technical feedback that ends up translating to confidence. Go outside…on grass…in some winds…and hit all kinds of shots, including knock-downs, tight lies, deep rough, etc. If your retailer doesn’t allow it or won’t allow it, find merchants and pro clubfitters that work just that way. I realize it’s mostly a dying art due to the conveniences of the indoor technologies, but ask yourself — just what is the game we’re trying to address here?

  18. Greg V

    Mar 8, 2017 at 9:19 am

    I assume that it is OK for me, with my 93 mph driver swing, to play what the ladies on the LPGA tour play. And I am not ashamed of that.

  19. Tom54

    Mar 8, 2017 at 9:11 am

    In the club I play at I notice that the better players gravitate towards the better clubs. I used to be a scratch golfer in my younger days days and always appreciated how good pro models of clubs looked and performed. Now that I’m 40 years older and have a higher hdcp I’m still going to always play nice stuff. I’m always joking with my friends that my game isn’t as good as it once was but I sure have nice clubs

  20. PineStreetGolf

    Mar 8, 2017 at 9:10 am

    I like telling other people to have fun too.

    Fitting is important, and the last half of the article was good I guess. The first half was condescending and arrogant. If I have fun using a pros clubs I’ll use a pros clubs. There was no need for the bashing of people who do that as somehow being dupes. He probably liked his clubs and who are you to tell him what to do?

  21. Uhit

    Mar 8, 2017 at 8:21 am

    A few thoughts:

    1. you need a really good fitter
    2. you need a swing during the fitting, that is really representative
    3. whilst trying different things, your swing can change / improve
    4. tinkering on your own, may be a substantial part of your hobby
    5. a good fitting to bad habits may not be the best idea…
    6. never underestimate the psychological effect of new gear
    7. sometimes a new grip on your clubs may cause wonders!
    8. don´t forget that the fitting has to fit to the balls you use…
    9. a pleasant look and a good feel contribute to a joyful golfing experience

  22. Mark

    Mar 8, 2017 at 7:42 am

    “testing clubs on launch monitor. So the next you’re interested” and “either FlightScope, Foresight or Trackman”. Poor editing has spoiled a good read. Editor, hang your head in shame.

    • ooffa

      Mar 8, 2017 at 8:58 am

      As long as you knew what the author was trying to say then the writing was fine. Take the grammar police show elsewhere and CTFD.

      • DrRob1963

        Mar 8, 2017 at 9:38 am

        CTFD? Is that the new Controlled Trajectory Forged Driver from PXG??? Giggle!

        • LD

          Mar 8, 2017 at 12:16 pm

          I’ve already pre-ordered one with a TXXXX Blueboard. Can’t wait to hit it!

      • loofa

        Mar 8, 2017 at 10:57 am

        So I guess professional publications should fire their editors and just let writers go crazy since we’ll simply figure out what the author is trying to say? Solid response bro.

      • Mark

        Mar 9, 2017 at 11:59 pm

        The intelligent amongst us like to read what has been well written. Further, my comment was not about grammar.

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Geoff Shackelford and Louis Oosthuizen join our 19th Hole podcast

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Louis Oosthuizen and Geoff Shackelford join our 19th Hole this week. Oosthuizen talks about his prospects for the 2018 season, and Shackelford discusses Tiger’s setback at the 2018 Genesis Open. Also, host Michael Williams talks about the PGA Tour’s charitable efforts in the wake of tragic events in Parkland, Florida.

Listen to the podcast below on SoundCloud, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Fantasy Preview: 2018 Honda Classic

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It’s off to Florida this week for the Honda Classic, as the lead up to the year’s first major continues. PGA National has been the permanent home of this event since 2007, and it has proved to be one of the most demanding courses on Tour since then. The golf course measures just under 7,200 yards, but it is the often blustery conditions combined with the copious amount of water hazards that make this event a challenge. There is also the added factor of “The Bear Trap,” a daunting stretch of holes (Nos. 15-17) that are arguably the most difficult run of holes we will see all year on the PGA Tour.

Ball strikers have excelled here in the past, with Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy all boasting fine records at PGA National. The par-70 golf course contains six long Par 4’s that measure over 450 yards, and players will be hoping that the wind isn’t too strong — when it does blow here, the course can turn into a brute. Last year, Rickie Fowler posted 12-under par to win the event by four strokes over Morgan Hoffmann and Gary Woodland. It was the first time in the last five years that the winning score reached double digits.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Rickie Fowler 8/1
  • Rory McIlroy 10/1
  • Justin Thomas 11/1
  • Sergio Garcia 18/1
  • Tyrrell Hatton 28/1
  • Tommy Fleetwood 30/1
  • Gary Woodland 30/1

Previous champions Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy are sure to be popular picks this week, but it’s Justin Thomas (11/1, DK Price $11,300) who I feel offers slightly more value out of the front runners. Thomas has begun the year well, finishing in the top-25 in all four events he has played. The numbers show that his game is getting better all the time. His iron play has steadily improved, picking up more Strokes for Approaching the Green week by week. Last week he gained six strokes approaching the green at the Genesis Open, which was fourth in the field.

At the ball strikers’ paradise, Thomas fans will be glad to know that he ranks fourth in the field for Ball Striking over his last 12 rounds. He is also ranked fourth for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green and second in Strokes Gained Total. Comparatively, neither Fowler nor McIlroy rank inside the top-50 for ball striking and the top-40 for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green over the same period.

Thomas’ accuracy on his approaches has been sensational lately. He leads the field in Proximity to the Hole for his past 12 rounds, and on a golf course that contains many long par 4’s it should play into Justin’s hands, as he’s been on fire recently with his long irons. He is third in the field for Proximity on Approaches Between 175-200 yards, and second in the field for Approaches Over 200 yards in his last 12 rounds. Thomas has a mixed record at PGA National, with a T3 finish wedged in between two missed cuts, but I like the way his game has been steadily improving as the season has progressed. It feels like it’s time for the current PGA Champion to notch his first win of the year.

On a golf course where ball striking is so important, Chesson Hadley (55/1, DK Price $7,700) caught my eye immediately. The North Carolina native has been in inspired form so far in this wraparound season with four finishes already in the top-5. The way he is currently striking the ball, it wouldn’t be a major surprise to see him get his fifth this week. Hadley is No. 1 in the field for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green, Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green and Ball Striking, while he is No. 2 for Strokes Gained Total over his last 24 rounds.

Having taken last week off, Hadley returns to a golf course where he has finished in the Top-25 twice in his three visits. Yet there is a sense that this year he’ll be aiming even higher than that. Chesson is fifth in this field for Proximity to the Hole from 175-200 yards and fourth overall over the past 24 rounds. With that level of accuracy on such a tricky golf course, Hadley will be confident of putting himself in position to claim win No. 2.

My next pick was a slow sell, but with the number so high I couldn’t leave him out. Adam Scott (55/1, DK Price $7,700) has been struggling for some time now. He has slipped out of the World’s Top-50, changed his putter from the short putter to the long putter and back again over the winter break, and he doesn’t have a top-10 finish on the PGA Tour since the FedEx St. Jude Classic last summer. Despite all of this, I don’t feel Scott should be as high as 66/1 with some bookmakers on a golf course where he has excelled. To put it in perspective, Scott is the same price to win this week in a modest field as he is to win The Masters in April.

There are also signs that Scott blew off some of the rust last week in LA. The Australian was 12th in the field for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green, which indicates that things might slowly be coming around for a man who is known for his prodigious ball striking. Scott’s achilles heel is the flat stick, and I wouldn’t expect that to change this week. He’s been very poor on the greens for some time now, which must be incredibly frustrating for a man who gives himself so many looks at birdie. But average putters have performed well at PGA National in the past, where it seems that excellent ball striking is the key for having a good week. Scott won here in 2016, and on his two other visits to PGA National in the past five years he twice finished in the top-15. If he can continue to improve his iron play the way he has been, I feel he could forge his way into contention.

My long shot this week is Sean O’Hair (200/1, DK Price $6,800). The Texan hasn’t done much so far this year, but he is making cuts and he arrives at a course that seems to bring out the best in him. O’Hair has five top-25 finishes in his last seven appearances at PGA National, which includes a T11 at last year’s edition. At 200/1 and with a DK Price of as little as $6,800, there is little harm in taking a chance on him finding that form once more this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Justin Thomas 11/1, DK Price $11,300
  • Chesson Hadley 55/1, DK Price $7,700
  • Adam Scott 55/1, DK Price $7,700
  • Sean O’Hair 200/1, DK Price $6,800
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Don’t Leave Your Common Sense in Escrow Outside the Golf Course Parking Lot

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Disclaimer: Much of what follows is going to come off as elitist, harsh and downright mean spirited — a pro looking down from his ivory tower at all the worthless hacks and judging them. It is the opposite. The intent is to show how foolish WE golfers are, chasing around a white ball with a crooked stick and suspending all of the common sense we use in our every day lives.

Much of what follows is not just the bane of average golfers, but also low handicappers, tour players and even a former long-drive champion during his quest for the PGA Tour… and now, the Champions Tour. In other words, if WE take ourselves a bit less seriously and use a bit more common sense, we are going to have more fun and actually hit better golf shots. We will shoot lower scores.

FYI: All of the examples of nutbaggery to come are things I have actually witnessed. They’re not exaggerated for the sake of laughs.

It’s winter time and most of you poor souls are not enjoying the 70-degree temperatures I am in Southern California right now (see, you all hate me already… and it’s going to get worse). That gives us all time to assess our approach to golf. I am not talking course management or better focus; I am talking how WE golfers approach our successes and failures, which for many is more important than the aforementioned issues or the quality of our technique.

Why is it that golf turns normal, intelligent, successful and SANE people into deviant, ignorant failures that exhibit all of the tell-tale signs of insanity? I also forgot profane, whiny, hostile, weak-minded, weak-willed and childish. Not to mention stupid. Why do we seem to leave our common sense and sanity in escrow in a cloud outside the golf course parking lot… only to have it magically return the moment our car leaves the property after imposing extreme mental anguish on ourselves that Gunnery Sergeant Hartman (don’t feel bad if you have to google this) would find extreme?

Smarter people than I have written books on this, but I think they missed a key factor. Clubs, balls, shoes, bags, gloves, tees, the grasses, especially the sand in the bunkers, the Gatorade they sell at the snack bar, hats, visors, over-logoed clothing, golf carts, etc., are all made with human kryptonite. Not enough to kill us, but just enough to make us act like children who didn’t get the latest fad toy for Christmas and react by throwing a hissy fit.

Bob Rotella has said golf is not a game of perfect, and although religious texts say man was made in God’s image, thinking we are perfect is blasphemous. We all play golf like we think there is an equivalent of a bowling 300. We expect to hit every drive 300 yards (the bowling perfect) with a three-yard draw… in the middle of the face… in the dead center of the fairway. All iron shots must be worked from the middle of the green toward the pin and compressed properly with shaft lean, ball-first contact and the perfect dollar-bill sized divot (and not too deep). Shots within 100 yards from any lie should be hit within gimme range, and all putts inside 20 feet must be holed.

We get these ideas from watching the best players in the world late on Sunday, where all of the above seem commonplace. We pay no attention to the fact that we are significantly worse than the guys who shot 76-76 and missed the cut. We still hold ourselves to that ridiculous standard.

  • Group 1: “Monte, you’re exaggerating. No one has those expectations.”
  • Group 2: ”Monte, I’m a type-A personality. I’m very competitive and hard on myself.”

To the first group, the following examples say different. And to the second group, I am one of you. It’s OK for me to want to shoot over 80 percent from the free throw line, but at 50 years old and 40 pounds over weight, what would you say to me if I said, “I’m type-A and competitive and I want to dunk like Lebron James!” Oh yeah, and I want to copy Michael Jordan’s dunking style, Steph Curry’s shooting stroke and Pistol Pete’s passing and dribbling style.” That seems ridiculous, but switch those names to all-time greats in golf and WE have all been guilty of those aspirations.

I don’t know how to answer 18-handicaps who ask me if they should switch to blades so they can work the ball better and in both directions. The blunt a-hole in me wants to tell them, “Dude, just learn to hit the ball on the face somewhere,” but that’s what they read in the golf magazines. You’re supposed to work the ball from the middle of the green toward the pin, like Nicklaus. Well, the ball doesn’t curve as much now as it did in Nicklaus’ prime and most tour players only work the ball one way unless the circumstances don’t allow it. “And you’re not Jack Nicklaus.” Some joke about Jesus and Moses playing golf has that punch line.

Wouldn’t it be easier to get as proficient as possible at one shot when you have limited practice time, versus being less than mediocre on several different shots? This also applies to hitting shots around the greens 27 different ways, but don’t get me started…just buy my short game video. Hyperbole and shameless plug aside, this is a huge mistake average golfers make. They never settle on one way of doing things.

The day the first white TaylorMade adjustable driver was released, I played 9 holes behind a very nice elderly couple. He went to Harvard and she went to Stanford. He gets on the first tee and hits a big push. He walks to the cart, grabs his wrench and closes the club face. She tops her tee shot, gets the wrench and adds some loft. Out of morbid curiosity, I stayed behind them the entire front 9 and watched them adjust their clubs for every mishit shot. It took over 3 hours for a two-some. These are extremely nice, smart and successful people and look what golf did to them. Anyone calling this a rules violation, have a cocktail; you’re talking yourself even more seriously than they were. Old married couple out fooling around, big deal if they broke a rule. No tournament, not playing for money, they’re having fun. They had gimmies, mulligans and winter rules. Good for them.

This is an extreme example of a huge mistake that nearly 100 percent of golfers make; they believe the need for an adjustment after every bad shot… or worse, after every non-perfect shot. How many of you have done this both on the range and on the course?

”(Expletive), pushed that one, need to close the face. (Expletive), hit that one thin, need to hit down more on this one. (Expletive), hooked that one, need to hold off the release.”

I’ll ask people why they do this and the answer is often, “I’m trying to build a repeatable swing.”

Nice. Building repeatable swing by making 40 different swings during a range session or round of golf. That is insane and stupid, but WE have all done it. The lesson learned here is to just try and do better on the next one. You don’t want to make adjustments until you have the same miss several times in a row. As a secondary issue, what are the odds that you do all of the following?

  1.  Diagnose the exact swing fault that caused the bad shot
  2.  Come up with the proper fix
  3.  Implement that fix correctly in the middle of a round of golf with OB, two lakes, eight bunkers and three elephants buried in the green staring you in the face.

Another factor in this same vein, and again, WE have all been guilty of this: “I just had my worst round in three weeks. What I was doing to shoot my career low three times in row isn’t working any more. Where is my Golf Digest? I need a new tip.”

Don’t lie… everyone reading this article has done that. EVERYONE! Improvement in golf is as far from linear as is mathematically possible. I have never heard a golfer chalk a high score up to a “bad day.” It’s always a technique problem, so there is a visceral need to try something different. “It’s not working anymore. I think I need to do the Dustin Johnson left wrist, the Sergio pull-down lag, the Justin Thomas downswing hip turn, the Brooks Koepka restricted-backswing hip turn and the Jordan Spieth and Jamie Sadllowski bent left elbow… with a little Tiger Woods 2000 left-knee snap when I need some extra power.” OK, maybe it’s a small bit of exaggeration that someone would try all of these, but I have heard multiple people regale of putting 2-3 of those moves in after a bad round that didn’t mesh with their downtrending index.

An 8-handicap comes to me for his first lesson. He had shot in the 70’s four of his last five rounds and shot a career best in the last of the five. All of the sudden, those friendly slight mishits that rhyme with the place where we keep our money show up. First a few here and there and then literally every shot. He shows up and shanks 10 wedges in a row and is literally ready to cry. I said, “Go home, take this week off and come back… and what’s your favorite beer?”

He comes back the next week, pulls a club and goes to hit one. I tell him to have a seat. I hand him a beer and we talk football for 15 minutes. Then I pull out my iPad and show him exactly why he is hitting shanks. I tell him one setup issue and one intent change and ask him to go hit one. It was slightly on the heel, but not a shank and very thin. I said to do both changes a bit more. The second one — perfect divot, small draw and on target. I walk over, put my hand up for a high five and say, “Awesome job! Great shot!”

He leaves me hanging and says, ”Yeah, but I hit it in the toe.”

Don’t judge him. Every day I have people with 50-yard slices toned down to 15-20 yards saying the ball is still slicing. These are people who won’t accept a fade, but slam their club when it over draws 15 feet left of the target… and so on. I can’t judge or be angry; I used to be these guys, too. During a one-hour lesson, I often hear people get frustrated with themselves for thin and fat, left and right, heel and toe. Apparently, anything not hunting flags or hit out of a dime-sized area is an epic fail. I also get emails the next day saying the fault and miss is still there.

GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK!

My big miss has always been a big block, often in the heel. Instead, I now often hit a pull in the left fairway bunker out of the toe. I celebrate like I’m Kool & the Gang and it’s 1999… and I get strange looks from everyone. I can manage a 10-15 yard low, slightly drawn pull. I cannot not manage a 40-50 yard in the atmosphere block… that cuts.

So, now that I have described all of US as pathetic, let’s see what we can do.

  1. Be hard on yourself, be competitive and set lofty goals all you want… but you need to accept at least a one-side miss. If you hate hitting thin, weak fades, you need to allow yourself a slightly heavy over draw. Not allowing yourself any miss will make you miss every shot.
  2. Generally, the better the player, the larger the pool of results that are used to judge success. Pros judge themselves over months and years. High-handicappers judge themselves on their previous shot. Do you think pros make a swing change after 10 good shots and one minor miss? We all seem to think that course of action is astute. Bad shot, must have done something wrong… HULK MUST FIX!
  3. Don’t judge your shots on a pass/fail grade. Grade yourself A-F. Are you going to feel better after 10 A’s, 25 B’s, 15 C’s, 4 D’s and 1 F… or 10 passes and 40 fails? If every non-perfect shot is seen as a failure, your subconscious will do something different in order to please you. Again, 40 different swings.
  4. Improving your swing and scores is a lot like losing weight. No one expects to make changes in a diet and exercise routine and lose 20 pounds in one day, yet golfers expect a complete overhaul in a small bucket. Give yourself realistic time frames for improvement. “I’m a 12. By the end of next year, I want to be an 8.”  That’s your goal, not whether or not your last range session was the worst in a month. It’s a bad day; that is allowed. Major champions miss cuts and all of them not named Tiger Woods don’t change their swings. They try and do better next week… and they nearly always do.
  5. DO NOT measure yourself either on the mechanics of your swing or your scoring results according to some arbitrary standard of perfection… and especially not against tour players. Measure yourself against yourself. Think Ty Webb. Is your swing better than it was 6 months ago? Do you hit it better than 6 months ago? Are you scoring better than 6 months ago? If you can say yes to at least two of those questions, your swing looking like Adam Scott is less relevant than the color of golf tee you use.

That is a winning formula, and just like bad habits in your swing, you can’t wake up one morning and tell yourself you’re no longer into self flagellation. It takes effort and practice to improve your approach and get out of your own way… but more importantly, have some fun.

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