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Opinion & Analysis

5 Reasons You Won’t Improve This Golf Season

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This is going to be the year you work hard and accomplish your golfing goals, you tell yourself. Some of you might be right, but my research shows that the vast majority of golfers won’t improve this season.

I don’t meant to be a downer! I want you to meet your goals, whether you’re setting out to break 100 for the first time or win your club championship. There are 5 reasons most golfers don’t reach their goals, however, and if you can overcome them and you’re on your way to a memorable golf season.

1) Bad Information

I recently had a pipe burst in my house. When it happened, I called a plumber. That’s just what you do when you’re not an expert, right? That’s why I’m always shocked by how often golfers rely on their friends — who usually aren’t much better than they are at golf — for feedback or swing advice.

These conversations are generally a curious mix of hilarious and pathetic. For example, I played golf with a couple of guys last week. The one guy hit it left. The other guy showed him a motion to fix the problem. Sure enough, the next one went right. The friend then suggested another fix. Sure enough, the next one went left. He was playing “army golf,” and it continued for the remainder of the round. It should go without saying he didn’t reach any of his landmark goals that day.

The fact is that golf requires one of the most difficult movement patterns in sports. It also requires a diverse group of skills including putting, chipping, pitching, an iron game, driving and course management. In my opinion, these are practically impossible to learn without a professional instructor.

“When players get good information, are inspired to apply it and engage in this process with a purpose, they are not only happier but also more motivated,” says Golf Digest Best Young Teacher Iain Highfield. “In my experience, happy, motivated people are fulfilled, and improved performance is just a by product of this process.”

If you want to get better this year, you must at least try working with someone who has a background in golf instruction.

2) Poor Work Ethic

Getting better requires a time investment; hours upon hours upon hours of following a practice plan that’s preferably created with a swing guru. Showing up for a lesson every two weeks is great, but only doing that won’t get the job done. There’s a huge time investment necessary to change a movement pattern, and it’s a much higher price than most are willing to pay.

Donny Lee, a Golf Digest Best Young Teacher at Southern Dunes near Orlando, Florida, says golfers must be fully engaged when trying to get better. He suggests that they practice like they’re broke, and play like they’re billionaires.

“If you make a commitment to changing the way you practice, you can get better,” Lee says. “You need to bring attention and focus to what you are doing; practice needs to be more difficult than playing. Seems counterintuitive, but without making it hard, you are not learning anything that’s going to help you shot low scores next time you play.”

Too often, golfers take practice for granted. Without diligent attention to what you are doing, it’s unlikely that any learning is happening, thus perpetuating the same tired issues.

3) Poor Time Management

To learn a new skill, you must first engage in something called “blocked practice.” This means isolating one specific motion or skill and working on only that with repeated repetitions over an extended duration. As we build competency in the skill, we must then learn to transfer the skill from the range to the golf course. There is no way around the process; there is no secret, no special club or magical training aid we can buy. If you want to get better, you’re going to need a good process coupled with hard work.

According to Golf Digest Best Young Teacher and Middle Atlantic Teacher of the Year, Trillium Rose, who also has a Masters degree in motor learning, that process includes making time to hone in on your skill.

“We all have busy schedules so finding time can be very difficult,” Rose says. “Take a club to the office and make 15 repetitions of a drill every hour. Focus on the movement that you’re trying to change and find a way to get feedback to tell you if you’re actually making that change.”

4) Unrealistic Goals

Most of us start with a goal that we can never realistically expect to achieve and quickly get discouraged. The fix? Start smaller. The fact is that we are our habits and they are difficult to change. Going from zero range balls a week to hundreds in a day is not likely to happen. Instead of engaging in false hope, golfers need to segment their practice into achievable tasks. For example, lowering your handicap by two strokes throughout the season is a reasonable goal, whereas going from shooting in the 90s to shooting in the 70s over a three-month period is not.

According to Dr. Rob Neal, many golfers struggle to understand the difference between their average play and their very best play. “Part of golf is having a realistic sense of the possibilities,” Neal says. “Too many amateur players make plans based on their very best shots.”

5) You’re Not Actually Playing Golf

I play a lot of golf with people who hit the ball far when they connect. For every bomb they hit, however, they hit a couple foul balls that end up off the planet and out of bounds. They also take a couple mulligans and don’t finish each hole. Along with a few beers, it’s a good day away from work, but it’s not golf. Golf is shooting the lowest score possible over 18 holes.

The reality is most of us don’t take lessons and don’t practice enough. And when we do get to the course, we’re not doing everything we can to play our best. This doesn’t mean we should stop playing the game; it just means that we should not expect to improve. Ever wonder why places like Top Golf are getting more and more popular?

Have a great summer, and I hope you shoot a personal best this year… counting all your strokes and following all the rules, of course. If you don’t, remember that there’s always next year, and there’s nothing wrong with playing golf just to have fun!

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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

16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Ryan

    May 23, 2017 at 1:50 pm

    Let me sum up this article:
    5 Reasons you won’t improve
    1) You haven’t paid me for lessons yet, or
    2) You have paid me for lessons, but YOU don’t work hard enough, or
    3) You have paid me for lessons, but YOU don’t use your time wisely, or
    4) You have paid me for lessons, but YOU shouldn’t expect that I will actually help you improve significantly, or
    5) You actually don’t want to improve, which makes my previous 4 points moot.

  2. artie j

    May 23, 2017 at 7:32 am

    There are bad teachers and good teachers just like bad students and good students. This is a good article for golfers who are looking to get better and stay better, but the ones who truly want to do this and put in the work are so few. Like 10% of golfers.

  3. Nick Chertock

    May 22, 2017 at 12:41 pm

    If your response was “people are playing golf to have fun” then you’re missing the point of the article, it’s not aimed at those people who are just out to enjoy the day with homies getting drunk and perhaps simultaneously dabbling in recreational drugs .

    The introduction clearly indicates the article is aimed at the person who starts the season expecting to make improvements, yet that rarely happens, for the reasons listed, and many others.

    There are plenty of positive articles but I found this negative article refreshingly honest. To the commenters who think golf instruction is a sham, I would respond that you just haven’t found the right instructor, or you found them and were too pig headed to realize they were giving you good instruction, and you expected to be ‘cured’ in a lesson.

    Actually getting better takes time and effort and coaching, there’s no way to bypass it through dicking around with friends on the range, buying better equipment, or reading tips. Because it’s hard, almost no recreational golfer ever makes significant improvements. They plateau and then start getting worse as they age.

    This was a rare attempt to shine a light on this issue of golfers lying to themselves.

  4. Nick Chertock

    May 22, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    What ad?

  5. Steve S

    May 22, 2017 at 10:11 am

    Never found a teacher that could tell me how to swing a golf club to avoid aggravating my lower back issues(arthritis). Between watching videos of older pros and a friend at the range I have a swing that doesn’t hurt and has me playing to an 11 handicap. Which is about the best I’ve ever been.

  6. Bruce

    May 22, 2017 at 9:42 am

    I never met a PGA teacher that works to fine tune my swing: the answer is always start over and swing their way.
    Watch the pros on tv – you see as many swings as players – precisely my point: you don’t have to start over to improve.
    I find useful help reading books.

    • Ed

      May 22, 2017 at 7:14 pm

      You shouldn’t have to start over! you are correct.

  7. Someone

    May 22, 2017 at 6:55 am

    You could’ve easily written this to the positive instead of the negative. “5 ways to make sure you improve this year.” Would’ve been a better sell.

  8. PineStreetGolf

    May 21, 2017 at 9:48 am

    This article is bizarre.

    1. Virtually golfers should define improve as “have more fun” not “shoot a lower score”. Talking to your friends about golf is fun. Buying new equipment is fun. Drinking beer is fun. Improving fun > shooting 78 instead of 82.

    2. You know what a plumber does? He charges money. If the pipe bursts again the next day he comes back and fixes it. He doesn’t charge you a second time. Golf pros don’t work that way. They charge for whatever and, if you still suck, you pay to go back. Its nothing like a plumber. Plumbers are honest. Golf pros are, by and large, nonsense. Plumbers have to stand behind their work and stay on it until the job is done. Golf pros don’t work that way. Comparing golf pros to plumbers is a massive insult to plumbers.

    3. The single thing 99% of golfers could work on to shoot lower scores is to work on playing golf and not playing golf swing. I’m a decent player. I hardly ever think about mechanics while on a golf course. I’m playing golf. My high cap friends almost never think of anything *but* mechanics. A great resolution going into the season is to think about mechanics only on the practice tee. The only thing that has been linked through academic study to golf success is that the better the player the less they think about mechanics during a round. This is indisputable (the study was at Penn State in 2005). This doesn’t mean ignore mechanics during practice, it means ignore them while playing.

    • Dan

      May 22, 2017 at 2:01 pm

      +1 on all the above, although a local pro does do a ‘fix your slice or your money back’ deal, but I’d say he’s more used car salesman than plumber.

      There’s a few generalisations here I disagree with, but I appreciate that’s probably more to do with simplifying your point that trying to be rude.

    • ders

      May 23, 2017 at 1:52 am

      “The single thing 99% of golfers could work on to shoot lower scores is to work on playing golf and not playing golf swing. I’m a decent player. I hardly ever think about mechanics while on a golf course. ”

      This is what people say who don’t have massive issues with their natural swing, started golf as kids or are natural athletes. I started golf in my late thirties after I got too beat up for the sports. If I don’t think about mechanics I push slice it off the planet losing at least a ball per hole and have no chance of ever breaking 100. Good on you that your instinctive move works for golf but it doesn’t for everyone.

    • Ollie 14

      May 29, 2017 at 8:35 am

      Spot on is this comment, I myself earlier this year went for a gapping session and as a 10 Handicap golfer have quite a decent swing. This particular day I did not have a good swing going but the Pro doing the session turned the gapping session into a lesson which I did not require nor ask for. Any professional at any job would not take money for services you did not ask for. I have found most Pro’s over the years as very unhelpful if the money is not in their pockets first.

  9. Kenn

    May 21, 2017 at 1:36 am

    Oooops — just hit a shanking sucker’s nerve, lolol

  10. Dave R

    May 20, 2017 at 11:54 pm

    All his comments should be shanked . That would be a +2.

  11. Bert

    May 20, 2017 at 2:44 pm

    Top Golf getting more popular? It’s the booze, not the golf.

    • Dave C

      May 22, 2017 at 6:17 am

      I think that was the author’s point. People ate not trying to get better at Top Golf, rather fun and drinks with friends.

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Fort Worth Invitational

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Under a new name, but a very familiar setting, the Fort Worth Championship gets underway this week. Colonial Country Club will host, and it’s an event that has attracted some big names to compete in the final stop of the Texas swing. The top two ranked Europeans, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose are in the field, as are Americans Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler.

Colonial is a tricky course with narrow tree-lined fairways that are imperative to hit. Distance off the tee holds no real advantage this week with approach play being pivotal. Approach shots will be made more difficult this week than usual by the greens at Colonial, which are some of the smallest on the PGA Tour. Last year, Kevin Kisner held off Spieth, Rahm, and O’Hair to post 10-under par and take the title by a one-stroke margin.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Jordan Spieth 9/1
  • Jon Rahm 14/1
  • Justin Rose 18/1
  • Webb Simpson 18/1
  • Rickie Fowler 20/1
  • Jimmy Walker 28/1
  • Adam Scott 28/1

Last week, Jordan Spieth (9/1, DK Price $11,700) went off at the Byron Nelson as the prohibitive 5/1 favorite. Every man and his dog seemed to be on him, and after Spieth spoke to the media about how he felt he had a distinct advantage at a course where he is a member, it was really no surprise. Comments like this from Spieth at the Byron Nelson are not new. When the event was held at TPC Four Seasons, Spieth often made similar comments. The result? He flopped, just as he did last week at Trinity Forest. Spieth’s best finish at the Byron Nelson in his career is T-16. The reason for this, I believe, is the expectations he has put on himself at this event for years.

Switch to Colonial, and the difference is considerable. Spieth’s worst finish here is T-14. In his last three visits, he has finished second, first and second. While Spieth may believe that he should win the Byron Nelson whenever he tees it up there, the evidence suggests that his love affair is with Colonial. The statistic that truly emphasizes his prowess at Colonial, though, is his Strokes Gained-Total at the course. Since 2013, Spieth has a ridiculous Strokes Gained-Total of more than +55 on the course, almost double that of Kisner in second place.

Spieth’s long game all year has been consistently good. Over his previous 24 rounds, he ranks first in this field for Strokes Gained-Tee to Green, second for Ball Striking, and first for Strokes Gained-Total. On the other hand, his putting is awful at the moment. He had yet another dreadful performance on the greens at Trinity Forest, but he was also putting nowhere near his best coming into Colonial last year. In 2017, he had dropped strokes on the greens in his previous two events, missing the cut on both occasions, yet he finished seventh in Strokes Gained-Putting at Colonial on his way to a runner-up finish. His record is too good at this course for Spieth to be 9/1, and he can ignite his 2018 season in his home state this week.

Emiliano Grillo’s (50/1, DK Price $8,600) only missed cut in 2018 came at the team event in New Orleans, and he arrives this week at a course ideally suited to the Argentine’s game. Grillo performed well here in 2017, recording a top-25 finish. His form in 2018 leads me to believe he can improve on that this year.

As a second-shot golf course, Colonial sets up beautifully for the strengths of Grillo’s game. Over his previous 12 rounds, Grillo ranks first in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, second in Ball Striking, third in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green and eighth in Strokes Gained-Total. The Argentine also plays short golf courses excellently. Over his last 50 rounds, Grillo is ranked ninth for Strokes Gained-Total on courses measuring 7,200 yards or less. Colonial is right on that number, and Grillo looks undervalued to continue his consistent season on a course that suits him very well.

Another man enjoying a consistent 2018 is Adam Hadwin (66/1, DK Price $7,600), who has yet to miss a cut this season. The Canadian is enjoying an excellent run of form with five top-25 finishes from his last six stroke-play events. Hadwin is another man whose game is tailor made for Colonial. His accurate iron play and solid putting is a recipe for success here, and he has proven that by making the cut in all three of his starts at Colonial, finishing in the top-25 twice.

Hadwin is coming off his worst performance of 2018 at The Players Championship, but it was an anomaly you can chalk up to a rare poor week around the greens (he was seventh-to-last in Strokes Gained-Around the Green for the week). In his previous seven starts, Hadwin had a positive strokes gained total in this category each time. Over his last 24 rounds, Hadwin ranks seventh in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, 15th in Ball Striking, and ninth in Strokes Gained-Putting. He looks to have an excellent opportunity to improve on his solid record at Colonial this week.

Finally, as far as outsiders go, I like the look of Sean O’Hair (175/1, DK Price $7,100) at what is a juicy price. One of last year’s runners-up, his number is far too big this week. He has had some excellent performances so far in 2018. In fact, in his previous six starts, O’Hair has made five cuts and has notched three top-15 finishes, including his runner-up finish at the Valero Texas Open. The Texan has made three of his last four cuts at Colonial, and he looks to be an excellent pick on DraftKings at a low price.

Recommended Plays

  • Jordan Spieth 9/1, DK Price $11,700
  • Emiliano Grillo 50/1, DK Price $8.600
  • Adam Hadwin 66/1, DK Price $7,600
  • Sean O’Hair 175/1, DK Price  $7,100
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Opinion & Analysis

Pick three golfers to build the ultimate scramble team. Who you got?

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It’s officially scramble season. Whether it’s a corporate outing or charity event, surely you’ve either been invited to play in or have already played in a scramble this year.

If you don’t know the rules of the scramble format, here’s how it works: All four golfers hit their drives, then the group elects the best shot. From there, all four golfers hit the shot, and the best of the bunch is chosen once again. The hole continues in this fashion until the golf ball is holed.

The best scramble players are those who hit the ball really far and/or stick it close with the irons and/or hole a lot of putts. The point is to make as many birdies and eagles as possible.

With this in mind, inside GolfWRX Headquarters, we got to discussing who would be on the ultimate scramble team. Obviously, Tiger-Jack-Daly was brought up immediately, so there needed to be a caveat to make it more challenging.

Thus, the following hypothetical was born. We assigned each golfer below a dollar value, and said that we had to build a three player scramble team (plus yourself) for $8 or less.

Here are the answers from the content team here at GolfWRX:

Ben Alberstadt

Tiger Woods ($5): This is obvious. From a scramble standpoint, Tiger gives you everything you want: Long, accurate, and strategic off the tee (in his prime). Woods, sets the team up for optimal approach shots (he was pretty good at those too)…and of course, arguably the greatest pressure putter of all time.

David Duval ($2): I’m thinking of Double D’s machine-like approach play in his prime. Tour-leader in GIR in 1999, and 26th in driving accuracy that year, Duval ought to stick second shots when TW doesn’t and is an asset off the tee.

Corey Pavin ($1): A superb putter and dogged competitor, Pavin’s a great value at $1. Ryder Cup moxy. Plus, he’ll always give you a ball in the fairway off the tee (albeit a short one), much needed in scramble play.

Brian Knudson

Rory McIlroy ($4): I am willing to bet their are only a handful of par 5’s in the world that he can’t hit in in two shots. You need a guy who can flat out overpower a course and put you in short iron situations on every hole. His iron play is a thing of beauty, with a high trajectory that makes going after any sucker pin a possibility.

Jordan Spieth ($3): Was there a guy who putted from mid-range better than him just a couple years ago? If there was, he isn’t on this list. Scrambles need a guy who can drain everything on the green and after watching 3 putts to get the read, he won’t miss. His solid wedge game will also help us get up and down from those short yardages on the Par 4’s.

Corey Pavin ($1): Fear the STACHE!! The former Ryder Cup captain will keep the whole team playing their best and motivated to make birdies and eagles. If we have 228 yards to the flag we know he is pulling that 4 wood out and giving us a short putt for birdie. He will of course be our safety net, hitting the “safe shot,” allowing the rest of us to get aggressive!

Ronald Montesano

Dustin Johnson ($4) – Bombmeister!!!

Lee Trevino ($2) — Funny as hell (and I speak Mexican).

Sergio Garcia ($1) – The greatest iron player (I speak Spanish, too).

Tom Stickney

Dustin Johnson ($4)
Seve Ballesteros ($2)
Lee Trevino ($2)

DJ is longer than I-10, Seve can dig it out of the woods, and Trevino can shape it into any pin.

Andrew Tursky

Dustin Johnson ($4)
Jordan Spieth ($2)
Anthony Kim ($1)

Are all the old timers gonna be mad at me for taking young guys? Doesn’t matter. DJ has to be the best driver ever, as long as he’s hitting that butter cut. With Jordan, it’s hard to tell whether he’s better with his irons or with his putter — remember, we’re talking Jordan in his prime, not the guy who misses putts from 8 inches. Then, Anthony Kim has to be on the team in case the alcohol gets going since, you know, it’s a scramble; remember when he was out all night (allegedly) before the Presidents Cup and still won his match? I need that kind of ability on my squad. Plus AK will get us in the fairway when me, DJ and Spieth each inevitably hit it sideways.

Michael Williams

Tiger Woods ($5)
Seve Ballesteros ($2)
Corey Pavin ($1)

Tiger is a no-brainer. Seve is maybe the most creative player ever and would enjoy playing HORSE with Tiger. Pavin is the only $1 player who wouldn’t be scared stiff to be paired with the first two.

Johnny Wunder

Tiger Woods ($5): His Mind/Overall Game

Seve Ballesteros ($2): His creativity/fire in a team format/inside 100

Anthony Kim ($1): Team swagger/he’s streaky/will hit fairways under the gun.

A scramble requires 3 things: Power, Putting and Momentum. These 3 guys as a team complete the whole package. Tiger is a one man scramble team but will get himself in trouble, which is where Seve comes in. In the case where the momentum is going forward like a freight train, nobody rattles a cage into the zone better than AK. It’s the perfect team and the team I’d want out there if my life was on the line. I’d trust my kids with this team.

Who would you pick on your team, and why? See what GolfWRX Members are saying in the forums.

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Opinion & Analysis

Is equipment really to blame for the distance problem in golf?

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It’s 2018, we’re more than a quarter of the way through Major Season, and there are 58 players on the PGA Tour averaging over 300 yards off the tee. Trey Mullinax is leading the PGA Tour through the Wells Fargo Championship with an average driving distance of 320 yards. Much discussion has been had about the difficulty such averages are placing on the golf courses across the country. Sewn into the fabric of the distance discussion are suggestions by current and past giants of the game to roll back the golf ball.

In a single segment on an episode of Live From The Masters, Brandel Chamblee said, “There’s a correlation from when the ProV1 was introduced and driving distance spiked,” followed a few minutes later by this: “The equipment isn’t the source of the distance, it’s the athletes.”

So which is it? Does it have to be one or the other? Is there a problem at all?

Several things of interest happened on the PGA Tour in the early 2000s, most of which were entirely driven by the single most dominant athlete of the last 30. First, we saw Tiger Woods win four consecutive majors, the first and only person to do that in the modern era of what are now considered the majors. Second, that same athlete drew enough eyeballs so that Tim Finchem could exponentially increase the prize money golfers were playing for each week. Third, but often the most overlooked, Tiger Woods ushered in fitness to the mainstream of golf. Tiger took what Gary Player and Greg Norman had preached their whole careers and amped it up like he did everything else.

In 1980, Dan Pohl was the longest player on the PGA Tour. He averaged 274 yards off the tee with a 5-foot, 11-inch and 175-pound frame. By 2000, the average distance for all players on the PGA Tour was 274 yards. The leader of the pack that year was John Daly, who was the only man to average over 300 yards. Tiger Woods came in right behind him at 298 yards.

Analysis of the driving distance stats on the PGA Tour since 1980 show a few important statistics: Over the last 38 seasons, the average driving distance for all players on the PGA Tour has increased an average of 1.1 yards per year. When depicted on a graph, it looks like this:

The disparity between the shortest and the longest hitter on the PGA Tour has increased 0.53 yards per year, which means the longest hitters are increasing the gap between themselves and the shortest hitters. The disparity chart fluctuates considerably more than the average distance chart, but the increase from 1980 to 2018 is staggering.

In 1980, there was 35.6 yards between Dan Pohl (longest) and Michael Brannan (shortest – driving distance 238.7 yards). In 2018, the difference between Trey Mullinax and Ken Duke is 55.9 yards. Another point to consider is that in 1980, Michael Brannan was 25. Ken Duke is currently 49 years of age.

The question has not been, “Is there a distance problem?” It’s been, “How do we solve the distance problem?” The data is clear that distance has increased — not so much at an exponential rate, but at a consistent clip over the last four decades — and also that equipment is only a fraction of the equation.

Jack Nicklaus was over-the-hill in 1986 when he won the Masters. It came completely out of nowhere. Players in past decades didn’t hit their prime until they were in their early thirties, and then it was gone by their early forties. Today, it’s routine for players to continue playing until they are over 50 on the PGA Tour. In 2017, Steve Stricker joined the PGA Tour Champions. In 2016, he averaged 278 yards off the tee on the PGA Tour. With that number, he’d have topped the charts in 1980 by nearly four yards.

If equipment was the only reason distance had increased, then the disparity between the longest and shortest hitters would have decreased. If it was all equipment, then Ken Duke should be averaging something more like 280 yards instead of 266.

There are several things at play. First and foremost, golfers are simply better athletes these days. That’s not to say that the players of yesteryear weren’t good athletes, but the best athletes on the planet forty years ago didn’t play golf; they played football and basketball and baseball. Equipment definitely helped those super athletes hit the ball straighter, but the power is organic.

The other thing to consider is that the total tournament purse for the 1980 Tour Championship was $440,000 ($1,370,833 in today’s dollars). The winner’s share for an opposite-field event, such as the one played in Puerto Rico this year, is over $1 million. Along with the fitness era, Tiger Woods ushered in the era of huge paydays for golfers. This year, the U.S. Open prize purse will be $12 milion with $2.1 million of that going to the winner. If you’re a super athlete with the skills to be a golfer, it makes good business sense to go into golf these days. That wasn’t the case four decades ago.

Sure, equipment has something to do with the distance boom, but the core of the increase is about the athletes themselves. Let’s start giving credit where credit is due.

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