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Opinion & Analysis

The Great Opportunity in the Golf Industry

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Amateur golf, not the professional golf on TV, has been the subject of many articles in recent years, and there have been few, if any positives when the subject is participation. Course closings, dramatic drops in play, retail chains selling golf equipment going out of business… and the list goes on. 

There is a melody in the wind, distant, but if you listen closely it’s growing. Reduced to numbers, it’s this: By The Year 2020, The Number of Americans Over 65 Will Increase by 55 percent.

Think of it this way. You own an Italian restaurant and you hear that Italy is closing and moving down the block. I don’t think the entire country will be dropping in, but you can bet I’m expanding the menu and sprucing the place up.

I realize that reaching 65 doesn’t mean automatically retiring and taking up golf and that some in this category already play, but if you just look at hard numbers the message is irrefutable. There are a whole bunch of folks that, starting in 2020, could have a positive impact on a game that has suffered participation losses. One could even conclude that now is a good time to formulate plans and programs to capture a chunk of this significant market.

What kinds of plans, you might ask. Well, to start, the industry has several organizations with well paid, skilled people who are more than capable of tackling such potential. Since I brought it up, I’ll throw out some thoughts, but I’m simply another amateur voice.

To start my big picture objective, I would engage the Golf Channel and get them actively on board. Why so much emphasis? Go back to the participation statistic. If we can’t get them on the bandwagon (they’re a for-profit business, and their business is golf) it’s time to head to the 19th hole and a cold one.

What is on the bandwagon? Again, I’ll repeat, they’re the golf marketing experts. I prefer to be regaled by the quality and depth of their insight. Should they ask me, if it were “my restaurant,” I’d say we need a definitive culture on speed of play. Bringing in new players to “enjoy” slow play invokes the response “too slow, no fun” as they leave the premises.

Slow Play

I’m a very strong advocate of 3.5-3.75 hour rounds. I play with other old people and we have no problem with those times. We could run around and crowd the folks in front, but that’s just as objectionable as a 4.5-hour round.

“No Fun”

If we approach this (or any) group and say that golf is fun, we are being disingenuous. Golf is fun only if you are clear that the definition is the joy of overcoming a very difficult challenge. No one will defeat the game; the fun comes with small victories. Now Top Golf is fun, but it isn’t golf unless swinging one-handed while holding a cell phone in the other is the long lost magic move we’ve all missed. I still take the grandkids, though. It has beer and excellent viewing. 

Senior Lessons

I watch young, supple instructors showing swings that if I attempted I’d need a lifetime pass to the Chiropractic Institute. The market here is a 65-year-old group. They aren’t flexible, and many have scars and lesions from surgeries. I see the Golf Channel running a series on lessons specifically oriented to the physicality of the majority. My restaurant customers don’t like really spicy food, and I don’t try and teach them how to enjoy it.

Course Setups

Courses are set up with range flags tuned into tee markers. If you comfortably hit the ball to the green flag, play the green tees. Why? Go back to the paragraph on “too slow, no fun.” In this instance, the green tees allow the occasional chance to hit shots into a green that provides an “occasional victory.”

This issue isn’t about perfect ideas that guarantee success. It’s understanding that the amateur game is facing an opportunity that’s unique and significant to long-term stability.

Now, being honest, this story doesn’t really apply to GolfWRX readers. They already play, in fact; some may play on courses that have plenty of customers, thank you very much. It really applies to those in industry leadership positions and it would be nice to see some positive programs emerge. It would also be nice to pick up 20 yards. Call me negative, but I think the odds are about the same. 

It’s a positive opportunity; gotta keep pushing!

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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.

34 Comments

34 Comments

  1. Scudder Graybeal

    Sep 1, 2017 at 10:31 am

    Barney-Come visit us in The Villages. Twelve regulation courses (10 are 27 hole layouts) and 36 executive courses which can be harder than the regulation courses. The largest golf complex in the world and more courses to be built. 55+ mostly retirement community with some real world beaters from all over. Always looking for ways to increase golf participation and speed up play. We like “out of the box” thinking. Would love to play with you again and swap war stories.

  2. Charlie

    May 21, 2017 at 2:35 pm

    “Senior Lessons
    I watch young, supple instructors showing swings that if I attempted I’d need a lifetime pass to the Chiropractic Institute. The market here is a 65-year-old group. They aren’t flexible, ”

    Boy, I’m 70+ and as a Starter for my local GC I watch hundreds of seniors play hole #1 and hole #18. Seniors are not flexible and they hit the ball fat or thin almost every time. Divots, if they get a divot, are on the wrong side of the ball. Good senior instruction would help us get that divot moved to the target side of the ball. Getting that swing-bottom on the target side of the ball when we have a short backswing is no easy task and we need good senior instruction to help us. I know – I’ve been working on that divot problem for 3 years and I still am VERY inconsistant.

    • setter02

      May 22, 2017 at 7:17 am

      Depending on the changes needed, a good number of Sr’s don’t want to regress in their current ability for any length of time (you have to put in the work for changes to take place) given they are on the wrong side of the expectancy equation. Also hard to tighten things up with all the moving parts added to their swings in hopes of generating more power/longer back swing.

  3. Dave R

    May 20, 2017 at 11:44 pm

    I’ll bet you are the grouch that complaines your milk is to warm

  4. Dave R

    May 20, 2017 at 11:42 pm

    Bogey golf mabey for you buddy. Ever read what you write ? Not likely eh!

  5. Dave R

    May 20, 2017 at 7:48 pm

    Mike finally someone who makes sense on this form good for you ,couldn’t agree more .

  6. DaveT

    May 19, 2017 at 5:55 pm

    Hooray, Barney! Somebody needed to say this.

  7. Kromulous

    May 19, 2017 at 9:18 am

    You need to redefine Golf in general, for older golfers. The scoring system is actually absurd, to say you get a par (most people think that means average, i know…) when you get a ball in the cup on a 400 yard par 4. Most Seniors, older ones, cant hit a Driver a 160 yards or better. He couldn’t make par if his life depended on it.

    Green tees will help, but getting older golfers to understand that you should play to the slope number of a golf course to start out is your target. If your playing a 125 slope course, and your a 1st or 2nd year Senior Golfer you should consider that PAR, not 72 on a course that you stand a better chance at getting struck by lightning than to actually shoot a 72. Hell most couldn’t do it from the 150 yard makers on any course.

    I have personally seen many guys quit because Golf is to hard, you got to make it easier at least starting out, so people have time to improve and engage the game properly. After all the par / birdie etc system was just made up for TV.

  8. JLG

    May 19, 2017 at 2:20 am

    At 35 I feel nothing but optimism for the game of golf. The fundamentals of the sport are too strong for it to do anything but grow. Such a pure feeling is the well-struck golf shot *Costner voice*. Golf also has tremendous physical benefits. GolfWRX plus teaching pros sharing information all over the internet combinated with video on your cell phone and launch monitors for $500 (and dropping) will have a profound effect over the next 5 years.

    • setter02

      May 19, 2017 at 2:55 pm

      Think about how small a percentage of ‘golfers’ are on wrx and are even 2% as informed as most on here, its basically non existent. I with with all the online golf forums worldwide (some will have overlapping members) you might total up 1% of the total golfers. As anyone who has worked within the industry can tell you, marketing works on the lemmings and they also have pretty steep delusions of their actual ability.

      I actually see things differently in that the fundamentals are too hard (it’s not an easy game, physically or mentally) and that is what hinders it. Its only a select few who crave that challenge, not even close to sustainable numbers to grow the game. It’s a niche sport, always has been, always will be.

  9. ROY

    May 18, 2017 at 5:35 pm

    Think BA is being a little too optimistic with his 55% growth in the 65+ age bucket over the next 3 years – not gonna happen

  10. setter02

    May 18, 2017 at 3:28 pm

    So what you’re saying is that you just couldn’t hold out long enough to cash in and help all these Boomers with Adams gear! I’ll be my typical self and be the naysayer, but your forecasting leaves little to be desired based on your previous position and the eventual outcome. Golf is expensive (relative to location, rural is much cheaper), takes too long (5+ hrs isn’t acceptable, never has been) and is competing with a host of other entertainment offerings to spend your money and time on that are cheaper and can take less (or longer if you so choose) time to partake in.

    Private will have to continue to get creative on pricing and payment structures (initiations will have to disappear as who at 65+ will want to join a place and being paying for 10 years for something), low to mid level public will be fine as people will gravitate towards that level if they still want to get more bang for the buck vs. quality (conditions, amenities) course.

    Another thing missed is how Boomers are now doing more with family as their kids are pressed for time and take on more of a parenting roll to help as their kids are all working, not many single income families anymore. Of the 6 ‘golfers’ on my street (3 retired, 3 under 40), 1 places once a week for 3 months, I play 8-12 times a month, the rest might play 5 rounds a season.

    But the #1 reason, it’s very hard to get good at or play to an acceptable level, people don’t want to bother with the frustration, more so if they were good golfers with a declining ability that they can’t accept. But what do I know.

    • FH

      May 19, 2017 at 1:10 am

      ….. but your handicap is you don’t know jack sh_t

      • Jebaited

        May 19, 2017 at 8:43 am

        I can see the reason as to why you have “no women, to handicap your performance” you can barely form a functional sentence, even while disregarding your disgusting overuse of elipses. Something tells me in 2020 you will be in the same bucket this article is describing, either that or you need to do some reading other than the 120 you read on your scorecard every weekend.

    • Steve S

      May 19, 2017 at 8:42 am

      “the brutal reality that most “seniors” are sedentary, decrepit, obese, weak, uncoordinated, clumsy, bitter, depressed, delusional and outright physical and mental failures”

      A generalization that bares examination. Seniors are usually defined as 55 and up. You comment may be applicable to many of those over 80 or 85 because their bodies and brains are worn out due to LIFE. Those who are 55-70 are probably in better health than any generation of that age previously. It’s also the generation Adams is talking about. If you go to rec centers around my area you’ll see that the overwhelming population during the day is gray hairs even tho they are a relatively small percentage of the total population here. A large portion of boomers did not work grueling jobs like their parents which means they aren’t physically worn out. Also, a much smaller percentage smoked than the previous (Greatest) generation.

      If your outlook is that negative about ageing then you probably should take yourself out before you hit 65 and save the rest of us the cost of taking care of you as you age.

  11. AceW7Iron

    May 18, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    “Senior”

    As in…I just had a SENIOR moment

  12. AceW7Iron

    May 18, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    I only invest in senor A flex shafts now…this is why…
    Resale will be so easy by 2020

  13. Matt

    May 18, 2017 at 1:23 pm

    Cheers Barney, great insight. In my demographic, among non-golfer mates (a mix of easy going mid-40’s gen x creatives and sportspeople), golfs garish ‘corporatizated’ appearance/marketing as well as the loud, ignorant guys you hear on the sidelines at PGA tour events, seems to sum up the game for them. I hope more retirees do start playing.

  14. Bishop

    May 18, 2017 at 1:18 pm

    I too, love the idea of using flags on the range as the tee markers (not that some of the young 30+ handicappers will heed the advice of an indication that they shouldn’t be playing from the tips). I feel like someone who is interested in actually playing from the correct tees, rather than swinging out of their shoes from the tips, then losing 2-3 balls per hole, will have much more fun, and it will definitely increase speed of play, as they’re not spending 75% of their time looking for their ball in the right rough.

  15. God Shamgod

    May 18, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    Athough I understand how the author, a man I greatly respect for founding Adams Golf, I believe he is missing the real reason why golf is in the position it is in and in fact this demographic shift is the problem.

    Golf participation grew greatly from the mid 90s to the 10s. Why did this happen? Some cite Tiger Woods but I think that is silly. Sure, some non-golfers picked up clubs for the first time after watching Tiger but the real reason for the participation bump was the baby boomer generation hitting prime golf spending age.

    The prime golf spending age is between 40 and 60 years of age. That is a time in someones life when they are likely earning the largest amount of money they will ever earn. They also have more time than they had when their children were young. They generally still have the physical health and stamina to play consistently.

    The people under 40 have tighter budgets and have more family commitments. The people over 60 begin to live on fixed incomes and many don’t have room in their budgets for golf. Of course this is contrary to the financial planning ads you see during golf tournaments, but most people didn’t plan that well for retirement (hmmm..$500 drivers?).

    The Great Recession hit the retirement accounts of many of these people now turning 65. Even if their accounts recovered, I believe it has altered their outlook on risk and spending going forward.

    I also notice that older folks tend to not spend as much on equipment. Maybe they don’t have the budget or maybe they aren’t as wowed by the latest stuff like they were when they were younger.

    The fact is that the boom the golf industry saw for 25 years until recently was due almost entirely to these soon to be 65 year olds. Now if those 65 year olds could somehow live like they are 40 again, maybe the boom would happen again. Of course, that isn’t possible.

  16. xjohnx

    May 18, 2017 at 9:34 am

    That’s the first time I’ve heard this idea of range flags that coordinate with tee markers. I think that’s absolutely brilliant. I would really like to see more people play from the appropriate tees.

  17. Huh?

    May 18, 2017 at 9:22 am

    I am curious to know why that man in the feature photo is wearing two wrist watches.

    • guessing

      May 18, 2017 at 11:16 am

      one is an actual watch the other is GPS unit.

    • talljohn777

      May 20, 2017 at 1:21 am

      One is to monitor his heart. The other is to monitor his insulin levels.

  18. Stewart Graham

    May 18, 2017 at 7:09 am

    Dear Mr Adams,
    I could not agree more ,often I have senior golfers 70/80 years old come to me after a series of lessons from a a young pro who has told them they do not have enough pivot not only in the backswing but in the follow through position as well .When will golfers and hotshot pros understand that there are two swings one for the tour pros and one for the ordinary mortals .At the moment in the current crop of tour players I can’t see many making making the senior tour.Swing the club head not your body.Stewart Graham PGA GB A A Golf de Bondues.France.

  19. Ian

    May 18, 2017 at 7:08 am

    Hi Barney. Valid points, but as a 30 year old, your solution doesn’t excite me. It seems like you want “The Old Boys” club with stuffy dress codes and select membership. Regress is the word that comes to mind.

    • Dat

      May 18, 2017 at 8:40 am

      Precisely why golf is still a rich old man’s game even though we keep thinking it has changed. It really hasn’t changed. Unless you actually enjoy playing the $15 9 hole muni down the road from the 18 hole private GC/CC.

      • George

        May 18, 2017 at 10:14 am

        Well the thing is the times are changing. I dont know almost anyone who wants to/will join a private club at any point in his life. Sure it is a rich mans sport. In about 20-30 years you will see that keeping it this way as a rich old man’s game will be a bad idea. I am also 30 and only know a very few people I can actually play with. Everyone I know thinks golf is a terrible sport. You have to realize that many people in my generation do not want to live in the burbs. Everyone is moving to the city.

    • mike

      May 18, 2017 at 9:02 am

      Im 31, i would love if there were more 65 yr olds out playing, they tend to play from 7-12 in the morning when us “younger” people are working anyway, and alot I know actually dont play weekends as they feel this is the time non-retired people can play. they pay membership fees like everyone else and allow courses to stay open and keep rates reasonable for the rest of us. TLDR more people playing lower cost and more courses stay open

      • Ian

        May 18, 2017 at 9:19 am

        Where is this utopia you speak of?

      • Jack

        May 19, 2017 at 12:05 am

        yes, exactly the point of the story. There are synergies to be had. 65 plus are retired and can play whenever they want and more often.

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Opinion & Analysis

Nutrition: The lowdown for fueling golf performance

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Fitness and nutrition go hand in hand. In reality, nutrition is the foundation for health, fitness, and performance.

What you eat every day is going to affect how you feel, how you operate and how you perform.

And what about during a round of golf? Four hours(-ish) of walking, swinging, raking, laughing, shouting, etc. all take a lot of energy, and if you’re consuming a Mars bar and a Coke, you’re in a bad place.

The typical pro shop rations are more or less the worst choice you could possibly make. Such a high glycemic load (lots of sugar) will leave you on a constant rollercoaster of highs and lows throughout the round. This isn’t good. It makes it very difficult for the body to function accurately and optimally, it’s going to cloud your mind, impair your performance and generally be negative for your health.

If you’ve rushed out of bed, had two cups of coffee and no breakfast on top of this, then I’m not even sure you should be making it through 18 holes never mind posting a good number!

So, what should you do? Well, as stated, everyone is individual, but a great guideline for gameday would be the following.

A filling breakfast of quality protein & fats with a smaller amount of quality carbohydrates – eggs, meat, fish, veggies, avocado, fruits (berries are best) and oats. My go-to would always be eggs, smoked salmon, avocado. A modified ‘cooked breakfast’ is also a good idea; bacon/sausage (not too much) with eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes other veggies and no beans, toast or worse gets you off to a great start.

Caffeine is also a good way to get cognitively fired up and combined with a quality breakfast it will be released more gradually, therefore assisting performance in many cases.

During the round, the requirements remain similar, but timing is critical. Over such a long period of time, the body is burning fat for energy, so a consistent supply of it makes sense! Nuts and seeds are the best options due to nutrient density and the satiety (feeling full) they create. They also contain enough protein for the body to continue to function and repair during the round. For optimal performance and speed, I would combine those nuts with some fruit, berries, apple, banana, etc. and spread it out over the course of the round. Swapping this out for a performance bar is cool, just check the label! So many of the bars out there are so jacked up with sugar they’re really no different to other sugary options!

Eating a reasonably small amount every three or four holes will ensure your body has the necessary fuel to perform at its best and also mean that it will focus on the task at hand as opposed to digesting a huge hit of food or calories!

And before you say it, you do not need sugar for energy. That’s a terrible scenario on the course and in everyday life. Ditch the chocolate, poor quality protein bars, sugary drinks, and Gatorade to see your performance improve!

Some people work better with more carbs, some better with more fats—but having an overall understanding of your needs during a round can make or break your performance!

After the round its all about recovery. A good meal predominantly of quality protein, matched with some quality carbs (eg. sweet potato) and plenty of vegetables and some fats will get you back to your best in no time!

Hydration is so important yet its very simple—you must be hydrated! If you allow yourself to get dehydrated, muscular performance will suffer, cognitive performance will suffer, and basically, you will feel terrible—not good for playing your best golf!

Water is the most important aspect and you should be drinking some basically every hole! A coffee at the turn or throughout the round can also help you be at your sharpest, but that depends how you react to caffeine and how you rehydrate following that coffee.

Whether you drink a ‘sports drink’ is up to you, again there are so many variations you have to do your research and test them out. But as with the food, the greater the variation in blood sugar and insulin response, the more difficult it will be to maintain optimal performance throughout the round.

There are many, many aspects to consider but if you are training in the gym, have a hectic lifestyle and playing golf you are likely to be burning a bunch of calories! This is where it gets really fun, matching your nutrition to your training is going to guarantee the best results and leave you as a ripped up golfing machine!

Look out for the GOLFWOD Nutritional challenge, and also our online nutritional coaching designed to make you a beast on and off the course!

This change can and will absolutely change your game and your health!

Don’t overlook your fuel in 2019!

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Mondays Off

Mondays Off: The Open Championship drama and Knudson’s golf trip

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The Open Championship is over and we talk some drama with Brooks and JB Holmes. Knudson talks about his golf trip and if his back held up. We finally talk about Xander Schauffele’s illegal driver.

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

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

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Scoring Series Part 4: Chipping fundamentals

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Editor’s Note: Pictured above, Bud Cauley is the PGA Tour leader in strokes gained: around the green this season, picking up an average of .684 strokes on the field. 

In this fourth part of my series on short range performance, I am going to dive into what I consider the basics of chipping. Understand that I know some of you are already superb chippers of the ball, while others struggle with this part of the game. It is this latter group that I hope to help with my thoughts today.

One of the odd things about chipping is that you can see golfers with their own “home-made” technique that do just fine, possibly even much better than average. We all know some of those guys. This treatise, however, is to try to break down some of the basic fundamentals that will help you become better on those short shots around the greens.

When the ball is off the putting surface, and you face a basic chip, think of it as a mini-swing or a long putt. You are trying to execute a rather relaxed back-and-through with only a little movement in the wrists…but there will always be some if you are relaxed. The essence of the chipping stroke, however, is a rotation of the shoulders. With that as our foundation, here is my take on the basics

  1. Your basic chipping posture is somewhere between your putting set up and that for a half-wedge. Knees should be flexed, and your upper body should be bent over from the hips so that your free-hanging left arm puts your left hand clear of your thigh. Your front foot should be pulled back from the line a little so that your hips and shoulders are slightly open to square to the intended line. Notice where your naturally hanging left-hand position is in relation to your body—I’m a believer that in the shorter golf shots you want the left hand to “cover” its address position as it comes back through the impact zone.
  2. Set up with the ball at or just back of the center of your stance. Pay attention to this, as you will find that the open stance might visually throw you off here. Use your naturally hanging left hand as your guide. Gripping the club there, the shaft should have a slight backward angle so that your hands are just forward of the ball. The most common error I see in chipping setups is that golfers have a severe backward angle of the shaft, which de-lofts the club too much for good chipping. But having the ball too far forward will cause you to “flip” the clubhead at the ball, usually resulting in very thin contact, or chunking the club behind the ball.
  3. Use a very light grip on the club. This is a feel shot, and a tight grip destroys all sensation of touch, and ruins tempo. I like to feel like my left arm and hand are holding the club with control, and my right hand is taking it back and through with precision and touch. If you are right-handed, your eye-hand coordination is firmly established between your eyes and right fingers and thumb. Use this natural “touch” in your putting and chipping as much as you can.
  4. The back stroke is almost lazy. —A very simple backward rotation of the body core, allowing the right hand to “feel” the shot all the way. A slight break of the wrists can be allowed at the end of the backstroke, and you should feel the club stop and reverse direction—pause if you have to. But a hurried downstroke is the killer.
  5. On the through stroke, the body core and shoulders lead, with the left arm and hand guiding the path and the right hand determining the touch required to generate the proper force. Do not make an awkward attempt to “accelerate” but just emulate a pendulum stroke—back and through, keeping the hands ahead of the clubhead. Your goal is for the impact position to exactly duplicate your set up position.
  6. Finally, I’m a proponent of chipping with different clubs, while others believe you should always chip with your sand wedge or even lob wedge. My philosophy is that you should choose a club that will just loft the ball safely over the fringe, so that it lands on the green where bounce and roll-out are predictable. For consistency, figure out where the ball needs to land on the green, and then how much roll to allow for after that, to get it all the way to the hole. If you want to carry it only 10-20 percent of the way, a 6- 8-iron is usually good. At the other end, if you want to carry it more than half-way to the hole, you might opt for a pitching or gap wedge or even more loft. Of course, green speed and firmness have to be taken into account. It only takes a little experimenting learn this basic piece of the puzzle.

To give yourself the best chance at giving the shot the right touch and speed control, pick out the exact spot you want the ball to land…and then forget the hole! Focus intently on this landing spot. Your natural eye-hand coordination will always register on where you are looking, and if you are looking at the hole, you will usually fly the ball too far and hit your chips long more often than not.

So, that is my guide to a good chipping technique. I hope many of you can put at least one or two of these fundamentals to work right away.
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