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Are We Destroying Young Golfers?

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For parents and coaches alike, the logic versus the reality of junior golf development can often be two totally different things. With dropout rates so high in sports, the messages in this article need to be spread if we are to encourage lifelong participation in sport.  Specifically, I will highlight three vital points that I believe all parents and coaches involved in youth golf need to understand.

No. 1: Early Specialization

Logic: “The more he or she plays one sport, the better he or she will get.”

Reality: Research shows that early specialization is one of the most cited reasons for dropouts in sport. Below are some key reasons why.

  • Early Success: If a young child is only playing one sport, and playing it quite a lot, I would expect them to get better quickly and potentially become the best in the class. The reality of this, however, is that they can often then struggle with the psychological pressures that accompany this success, consequently leading to frustration and falling out of love with the game.
  • High Expectations: High expectations are heavily linked with early success, as the expectations of a child, parents, family, and friends become very high. The issue here is that when a child reaches a natural performance plateau and other children catch up, the child then faces pressure. The question becomes, “You were the best two years ago. Why are you not the best now?”Child I love Golf
  • Performance Anxiety: As a child specializes in one sport, the level of competition and also the number of competitions played will inevitably increase. The issue here is that the motivation to play can change. Children often switch from playing sports to have fun with their friends to trying to make Daddy happy by playing well and winning.
  • Injuries: A child has a child’s body, meaning it can be sensitive to overexertion and repeated exercise.
  • Isolation: Being away from friends (as you are always at the golf club) can cause children to pay a huge social price. Children need time for Lego and Pokémon with friends and should not be at the golf course for 10 hours every day.
  • Burnout: Too much of one thing and a child will burn out. There simply becomes a time when enough is enough.

The underlying issue with the above is that the motivations of a child can change from starting the game and loving it (intrinsic motivation). The game becomes more than just fun, and too many things outside of a child’s love become important (extrinsic motivation). Ultimately, maintaining a child’s intrinsic motivation is crucial for long-term participation, so why would we harm this? The tweet below from Dr. Martin Toms at the University of Birmingham sums it up perfectly.

“If your child could only study one subject at school, you’d worry about their development and the missed opportunities for them to learn new skills. So why for some sports/coaches is early specialization perceived as acceptable?”

But Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy played loads when they were kids, right? Yes, I get that, but understand that they are the ultimate outliers. For the one or two children that followed what Rory and Tiger did and made it to the PGA Tour, there are thousands of young golfers who quit the game from the burnout that can be caused by early specialization. There are also hundreds of people who came to golf later in life — Nick Faldo being the best example, not starting the game until 13 years of age — and became highly successful.

Further Reading: Do a quick google search on Oscar Sharpe Golf. Unfortunately, Oscar no longer plays competitive golf and is a great example of how early success may not always result in long-term success.

No. 2: Instruction

Childs Brain (3)

Logic: “I see what’s wrong. If I tell him/her this, I’m sure they will get better.”

Reality: A young child cannot mentally process overloads of information. Also, is golf really fun for children when someone is standing there telling you what to do, shot after shot? And when did a young child ever want to listen to Mom or Dad? What top athlete ever thanked their parents for coaching them?

My thoughts on youth golf instruction are three-fold:

  1. Children do need golf instruction, but it must be carefully delivered at the right times. Leave it to a coach you trust.
  2. Growth spurts can affect coordination in such a way that any previous technical work can become worthless.
  3. Developing psychological tools/traits is more advantageous than technical work, as these skills will stay with a child forever.

No. 3: The Car Ride Home

Logic: “My child needs me to honestly evaluate their play so they will be more motivated to play better next time.”

Reality: Children know full well if they have performed their best, and I would urge parents and coaches to use some of the following phrases instead of criticizing:

  • “I love watching you play.”
  • “How did you feel about today’s game?”
  • “What do think you can improve for next time?”
  • “So, what do you fancy for tea tonight?” (remember, I’m from the UK).

Child under pressureIt can seem logical that being more critical with a child will not do any harm, and instead help them improve… but research has shown that consistent criticism can totally disengage a child. They become less focused on playing and enjoying their sport, and more focused about not being criticized on the car ride home.

The Answer

The truth is that junior sports development is highly complex and we as coaches cannot provide ONE answer to help your child succeed in his or her sport. What we can do, however, is draw upon the research and use this to guide our actions.

Here are three additional tips to pass on to fellow parents. Or better yet, pass on this article!

  • Take Care with Early Specialization: Success too early, injuries, and burnout can cause many long-term problems with children, starting with a loss of passion for a sport or skill they have. If your child has a passion for golf, that’s great. And if they are good, that’s also great. Manage their expectations while helping them strike the correct balance between their passion for golf and other activities.
  • Coaches: Remember that an overload of instruction is not good for a fully grown adult, so it’s certainly not good for a child. Parents need to remember that their primary responsibility is to be a parent, not a coach.
  • Parents: On the car ride home, put yourself in the shoes of your child before offering any criticism or feedback. You may unintentionally pushing your child away from the game they love and put pressure on them that can lead to failure.

References: Understanding dropout and prolonged engagement in adolescent competitive sport (Jessica Fraser Thomas, Jean Cote, Janice Deaking).

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Thomas is an Advanced UKPGA Professional and Director of the Future Elite (FUEL) Junior Golf Programme. Thomas is a big believer in evidence based coaching and has enjoyed numerous worldwide coaching experiences. His main aim to introduce and help more golfers enjoy the game, by creating unique environments that best facilitate improvement.

29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. Rano

    Aug 18, 2017 at 4:14 am

    “What top athlete ever thanked their parents for coaching them?”

    Tiger Woods? The Williams sisters? Andy Murray? Jamie Murray?

  2. www.youtube.com

    Jul 29, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    Along with books, many games use colour in part to
    make them appealing to young children while teaching
    them about colour.

  3. matt_bear

    Jul 29, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    When i was in middle school during the early/mid 90’s golf and tennis were laughed at. Kids who played it got picked on. Big difference from today.

    There’s a ton of money and fame out there right now. Life changing amounts of money. All the high school and college kids today were born right as the Tiger era begin, because the Tiger era brought all the money, fame, and hype. Parents are “investing” in their kids because it’s a lotto ticket for a chance to get pulled out of the low/middle class and into elite status. The reality is that it’s a cut throat world, and you realize that as you get older.

    It’s also “funny” how teens who play high level sports are getting bigger/faster/muscular. They 16-17 year olds out there looking like ripped 28 year old competitive body builders. It happened with football and basketball first (because there was greater amounts of money and fame), but it’s now tricking over to tennis and golf. Just makes you go “hmm”…

  4. CM

    Jul 28, 2017 at 9:57 am

    Thank you for the article. As a former college athlete and the father of four multi-sport athletes, I feel like I have seen some of the best and worst of youth sports. First, I think its really a positive if kids can play at least 1 individual sport and 1 team sport. They learn responsibility to team as well as themselves. Second, no matter how much crazy parents want/need their children to excel at a sport; kids aren’t going to excel unless they are practicing/playing on their own, when no one is watching. In otherwords, are they having fun playing the sport. Personally, we are having a lot of fun as a family playing this great game together.

  5. John

    Jul 28, 2017 at 9:06 am

    I have been a high school golf coach and run a junior golf program in a summer. I’m 55 and have been playing since I was ten. I played a scruffy 9 hole muni from the time we got out of school until school started again (3 months). Our parents would drop 10-12 of us off everyday and we would play 27 a day Monday-Friday. We all became pretty good players (single digits) and three became head professionals at our area clubs. But basically we played 3 months of golf then moved on to the next sport when school started.

    Today the burnout factor is real. One player I watched was bigger than the other kids from the ages of 12-15. So he it the ball farther and was shooting mid 70s because of his length and wining area tournaments. Because he was “the best” he was pushed to hit balls all winter, play numerous tournaments (when he just wanted to play with his friends at his home course), and take lessons. Another boy was not very big and shot a lot of low to mid 80s from 12-15 and became frustrated he could never beat “the best” – but after golf season he went on t play hockey. A funny thing happened on the way to HS graduation. “The best” kept shooting his 73-77s, but the others kept growing and they hit it as far and also shot 73-77 as their distance improved. The “other boy” won the HS championship his senior year and went on to have an excellent college career at a D-3 school and still plays competitively today in his mid 20s. But “the best” didn’t like that he wasn’t the best any more and went to school for one semester to play golf but dropped out and has not played since. This is a true story and I have seen it over and over, again and again.

  6. M S m i z z l e

    Jul 28, 2017 at 8:20 am

    Peds at an early age to hit the ball farther is destroying young golfers…..
    Appears to have taken out a few older ones too

  7. Matt

    Jul 28, 2017 at 5:47 am

    The support for young athletes now seems pretty amazing compared to a couple decades ago when I competed as a young guy. The question I’ve never figured out an answer to, is how big a factor specialisation plays toward kids chances of maintaining interest in the long term.

  8. Patrick

    Jul 27, 2017 at 4:55 pm

    My oldest son played in the NHL and is still playing professionally in Europe. I got him into golf to get him out of rinks and the rat race associated with hockey. This article is spot on and I wanted him to play at least a couple of sports for variety and, a different set of friends. Golf’s community is far more relaxed and ethical. Plus, you get out doors and walk a ton.
    I wanted a sport that we could play together along with his siblings for a long time. Unfortunately, he hardly plays because of travel and time. I’m holding on that when things settle down in his life we’ll be able to get together often in the summer.

  9. Brian

    Jul 27, 2017 at 3:58 pm

    I think specialization hurts athletes in the long run, unless they’re specializing in a sport that already requires almost all levels of athleticism, like basketball (Speed, agility, strength, power, coordination, endurance, etc). There are athletic traits that carry over between sports that are better developed from other sports. Golfers, baseball players…they’ll benefit by playing other sports that help them build skills that golf alone will not.

    • DP

      Jul 28, 2017 at 2:25 am

      You’re so completely wrong about basketball in relation to other athletic activities no wonder people misunderstand golf just as much. Different skill sets mean different results – therefore different sports and different kinds of coordination. The funniest thing is watching a basketball player try to play soccer, and vice versa. So basketball is a very specialist sport, just as golf or soccer is, and therefore your example fails pretty badly. Even baseball……. the best golfers in baseball are pitchers, not batters. Figure that into your equation. Nobody will ever want to get coached by you, that’s for sure.

      • MJ

        Jul 28, 2017 at 7:09 am

        DP you are a spank for the last sentence. Troll.

        • Peddler

          Jul 28, 2017 at 11:46 am

          Is he a spank or troll? Make up your mind. Or did you sign off your name as a Troll? lmao

      • Brian

        Jul 28, 2017 at 1:13 pm

        You completely lost the entire point in my post. Nowhere did I state that in order to be good at golf, you should play basketball. Of course you need to work the most on the sport in which you wish to excel, but you’re going to develop other athletic talents that your chosen sport along might not teach. Pitchers are better golfers because they only play one out of every 5 games and have much more time to play golf than position players. Position players also don’t want to ruin their baseball swing by playing a lot of golf.

        A soccer player WHO ALSO PLAYS BASKETBALL is going to develop skills that he won’t by playing soccer along.

        Reading comprehension…

        • We

          Jul 28, 2017 at 1:37 pm

          Then you need to learn to express yourself and write properly. Don’t put it on others for not understanding what you so miserably fail to explain in the first place. And fix your typos before you hit the Post Comment button. Immature buffoon that youse are

  10. Brad T

    Jul 27, 2017 at 2:37 pm

    As a 30 yr old looking back at my early athletic days i couldnt agree more. I would be thinking of the car ride home during the game. You dont have to overspend and re mortgage the farm, if your kids good enough they’ll find him.

    • GK

      Jul 27, 2017 at 3:18 pm

      Exactly, college scouts are really good at spotting raw potential. Mostly they are looking at raw size, speed, and power over skill level. Superior athletics can be molded into what they want. But undersized kids and kids with overdeveloped skill stands right out as ‘peaked already, pass’.

  11. GK

    Jul 27, 2017 at 1:45 pm

    Save your time and money on this ‘travel ball’ special sports scam. Most of the young ‘prodigies’ are simply kids whose hormones kicked in early making them more mature. When the other kids catch up many find out they weren’t that special and quit. You have ‘coaches’ making a living off of parents whose money would have been better saved for college rather than shooting for an athletic scholarship.

  12. jkumpire

    Jul 27, 2017 at 1:38 pm

    After being involved in sports for over 50 years I have to make a few comments.

    BC is both right and wrong, but sadly his takedown of the article is incorrect. Some kids do quite well concentrating on one sport. On the high school level, especially if they get proper rest, time off from the sport for conditioning and rest, and have other healthy activities they do so they have a balance in life, they can be very successful in their chosen sport.

    However, recent data shows pretty clearly that over-specialization in one sport is not good for almost everyone. There are more injuries from overuse than ever before, especially when kids do not take time off to rest their bodies or do activities/conditioning/other sports that strengthen other parts or even sides of the body than are heavily used in their chosen sport. Maybe not so much in golf, but in many other sports college coaches and recruiters shy away from athletes who specialize in only one sport. They want to see athletes, not just specialists, and that means succeeding in other sports than their chosen one.

    The issue of burnout is becoming a problem , especially in children of middle-school and early high school age. When they play a sport from a very young age, by the time they are in later middle of early high school (i.e. 8-9 grade) many, many kids quit because of burnout. They want to do something else and have more time for other things in their high school years. Part of the problem is that more and more high school sports programs demand more and more time spent on one sport because of the pressure of winning is getting too important, forgetting that the end of HS athletics is not winning, but the physical, mental, and social growth of the participants so they become excellent, well-rounded adults who function well in society.

    The things the author talks about are pretty much not in dispute, unless you are one who is able to handle the sacrifices of concentrating on one sport and has a support group to help you, Specialization, especially at a young age is not a good idea. and parents (or more often than not THE parent) these days need to understand how to treat kids, and coaches, and in some sports officials in such a way as to make the sports experience fun and part of their healthy growth and development.

    Golf is a tough sport to play competitively, we all know that. It is not really a team sport and it takes a lot of time and effort to play well. And like all sports very, very few people even make it to college to play (like 2.3% of all HS athletes in all sports play in college at any level), and the percentage of college athletes who become professionals is microscopically small.

    The author correctly speaks about how to make the sport or sports a kid plays a great experience for the rest their lives, not just until they are 13, 18, and out of Daddy’s house, or 21-22.

  13. Lloyd

    Jul 27, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    Children should learn to run and jump and generally use their bodies before they specialize so they can have an all-round athletic body and participate in many sports. Parents should put a priority on academics, not athletics in today’s world. Earning a living in sports is like winning the big lottery; the odds are stacked against your child. If athletics is all you can offer your child, you are a failure as a parent.

  14. OL

    Jul 27, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    Key word: Outliers. THAT’s the reality, actually. It’s just a matter of percentages. If you had 1 million people who wanted to get into a space of 100,000, you’ll always have 900,000 who can’t get in. That’s life. There’ll always be ones who are successful and those who aren’t. All this explanation in this article is just a load of hogwash and psychobabble. If your kid is one of those 900,000, oh well. That’s just how reality is. That’s why the ones who are successful and stay successful all the way through are seen to be amazing. But it’s not. What this article needs to look at is the same statistical analysis in sports like Gymnastics and what it takes to be on the Olympics teams, and how many get left behind and don’t make it in that career. Where do all the kids go, who don’t make it?

    • Biddles

      Aug 4, 2017 at 2:15 pm

      “All this explanation in this article is just a load of hogwash and psychobabble.”

      You ENTIRELY missed the point of the article. Gosh, may as well have thrown in some snowflake references for good measure.

      “What this article needs to look at is the same statistical analysis in sports like Gymnastics and what it takes to be on the Olympics teams, and how many get left behind and don’t make it in that career.”

      Not once did the article mention making golf a career. It didn’t mention scholarships. It didn’t mention money.

      The point of the article is in the very FIRST paragraph: “to encourage lifelong participation in sport.”

      The article is about not burning out young golfers so they can continue to enjoy the sport throughout their lives.

  15. BC

    Jul 27, 2017 at 7:50 am

    This is your typical modern “guilt” article. You writers are bored and frustrated with the lack of news in the golf world, so you write puff pieces like this to try and stir the pot. All of the “feel” good crybabies talking about equal rights for everything in this world. Makes me sick. Kids that play high school level sports are mostly “average” at best right now. Everything is watered down because everyone is supposed to feel like a big important champion. When my son gets cut from the golf team (which is very likely) I will tell him to not be surprised. This is a solo sport and it’s his own fault. Sounds harsh right? Truth is, he just picked up a club and starting taking it serious this summer. He is not prepared to play at a varsity level. (even a watered down version of varsity) He does not have interest in any other sports. He also started playing to be a companion on the course with me. (Not to “please” daddy… but to learn a sport that will allow him to gain a common ground in business, and pleasure.) I’m so tired of writers that were probably picked on in the past, having the outlet to vent and try to teach others how we are supposed to raise our kids. If parents would pull their kids faces out of the iPhones and social media garbage and take the time to drive them to the sports that are out there… the 3 sport kids would return. Parents are using their lack of time and energy as an excuse to keep the kids in a one sport program. Financially and availability is the biggest burdens. It’s the path of least resistance. DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA how much money is involved if you have three kids that play three sports (travel and high school???) My kids stupid PUBLIC high school makes them pay to play!!!!!!! So let’s multiple the 3 kids and 3 sports times two! How much time and money is left???? Seriously… this article is clearly written by some bleeding heart, Prius driver that thinks the world should just be so equal and fair. Stop putting ideas into peoples heads to make them feel guilty for doing the best they can.

    • Jebaited

      Jul 27, 2017 at 8:29 am

      Are you okay?

    • Judge Smeills

      Jul 27, 2017 at 3:16 pm

      you sounds like your having a heart attack, you don’t have to read the whole article if you don’t like it.

    • PXG PRO

      Jul 27, 2017 at 4:26 pm

      Wow. That is really some harsh stuff you laid out there. I hope you never have to coach a team or are disappointed when your kid isn’t a PGA pro in exactly 18 years from birth.

    • Prime21

      Jul 27, 2017 at 9:11 pm

      Couldn’t agree more, well said! I’m sure many will find your comments harsh & throw some personal attacks your way, but I, for one, never find it wrong to call a spade a spade. For those who are going to throw shade at BC, do we not agree that everyone is entitled to their opinion? Call him an angry hater, call him whatever makes you feel better about standing up for your belief, but realize that you calling him out is NO DIFFERENT than him calling the author of this article out.

      • Biddles

        Aug 4, 2017 at 2:26 pm

        “Call him an angry hater, call him whatever makes you feel better about standing up for your belief, but realize that you calling him out is NO DIFFERENT than him calling the author of this article out.”

        Well, no, not exactly. Not at all.

        He wrote an idiotic missive based purely on his anecdotal experience, attacking an author who made very good points that are borne out by real world data.

        Those two things are very different.

        There’s so many statements that are just plain stupid in his rant, he should be roundly criticized. And that’s ignoring the ridiculous tone he took.

        For example…

        “Kids that play high school level sports are mostly “average” at best right now. Everything is watered down because everyone is supposed to feel like a big important champion.”

        Yeah, most kids are mostly “average.” That’s how AVERAGE works. Gosh, what a genius statement! Most kids 50 years ago were “average” as well.

        Now, back in the real world, youth sports are probably more elite than ever. Sure, some communities cater to losers more with participation trophies and things like that, but that whole phenomenon is way overstated. It just doesn’t happen nearly as much as conservative snowflakes like BC would have you think. It’s just that the mere thought of congratulating kids for trying triggers him, becoming the very snowflake that he no doubt rants and raves about all the time.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Book That Almost Wasn’t a Book: Ben Hogan’s “Five Lessons”

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Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf,” written by Ben Hogan and Herbert Warren Wind, continues to be the largest selling golf instructional book in history. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the book, which was first published in 1957.

Sports Illustrated

The story of how the book was published revolves around Sports Illustrated, which was owned by Time Magazine. The weekly magazine launched in 1954 as an experiment to see if an all-sport publication could survive. In 1956, the publication was on the brink of disaster, having yet to find its audience.

This is the backdrop against which Sydney James, the magazine’s managing editor, received a call from Ben Hogan. Hogan had an idea for an article. Would Sports Illustrated be interested?

James promised to get back to him shortly with an answer. And he did, telling him that the magazine would be very interested in collaborating with him, and that he would begin making the necessary arrangements to get the project off the ground.

Texas Three-Step

James explained his plan to Hogan, which was to arrange for the magazine’s most talented writer, Herbert Warren Wind, and top-rated freelance illustrator, Anthony Ravielle, to visit Hogan in Fort Worth to further discuss his idea.

“Would that be agreeable” he asked?

“Yes,” Hogan replied. He would make himself available as needed.

Writer and Illustrator

Herbert Warren Wind, a graduate of Yale University, was not just a writer, but a literary craftsman. He was without question the finest writer of his time, contributing regularly as a columnist for The New Yorker magazine from 1941-47.

For his part, Ravielle was quickly earning a reputation as one of the most talented illustrators in the country. His expertise was drawing the musculature of the human body in life-like detail. And then having the unique ability to convey a sense of motion with the human form.

A Single Idea

A few weeks later, the two met with Hogan at his office in Fort Worth, Texas. They then made their way to Colonial Country Club. And once there, they walked out to a part of the course where they would not be disturbed. And then Hogan began to explain to the two men what he had in mind.

As they listened to his ideas for the article, they suggested that he consider a five-part series. What they proposed was a sequential pattern of lessons beginning with the grip, the setup, the backswing, and the downswing. The fifth chapter would be a summary and review of what had been presented in the first four chapters.

Hogan liked the idea and agreed immediately.

As Hogan began to explain his thoughts on the swing, Wind began to scribble in his notebook, not wanting to miss a single word. (In later years, when interviewing a subject, modern-day reporters would use a tape recorder, but at that time it had not yet been invented.)

Wind would at times stop Hogan to ask a question or to clarify an important point. And when he reached the point at which he couldn’t possibly absorb another thought, Wind gave way to Ravielle, who armed with a still camera, snapped one photograph after another, capturing the various positions that would ultimately mirror Hogan’s thoughts.

During the next few days, Hogan continued to elaborate on his theories about the golf swing and the logic behind them. As they finished, the three men agreed that they would meet again, either at the end of 1956 or after the first of the year.

Scratch Board

After returning to New York, Wind began writing a rough draft of the five-part series. At the same time, Ravielle started working from the photographs that he had taken earlier. He began by drawing pencil sketches that he would later show to Hogan for his approval before moving on to the final version.

The three gathered together again for a week-long session in January 1957. Hogan was extremely impressed with Ravielle’s sketches, believing that he had managed to capture the very essence of what he was attempting to covey to his would-be readers.

The pencil sketches would be transformed a final time using a “scratch-board” technique that Ravielle had mastered. The scratch-board technique created a uniquely vivid picture, which invited the reader to reach out and touch the seemingly life-like image on the page.

Wind’s spirits were buoyed after meeting with Hogan a second time as he wrote, “Hogan had gone into a much more detailed description of the workings of the golf swing then we had anticipated. Moreover, he had patently enjoyed the challenge and had given it everything he had.”

On returning to New York, Wind and Reveille begin working together, side by side, laying out the text, the illustrations, and captions in page form for each of the five chapters.

Seminole Review

As Wind recounted, “When an installment was completed and had gone through the production department, we airmailed photostats of the pages to Hogan, who was in Palm Beach getting ready for the Masters. I would telephone Ben at his apartment at an appointed time each week, and we would go over each paragraph line by line. A session usually took between 45 minutes to an hour.”

During these sessions, as they reviewed the copy, Hogan was insistent that each word and phrase precisely communicate exactly what he intended to say. Wind recalls one example, when he had written “that at a certain stage of the swing the golfer’s weight had shifted to his left side.” Hogan corrected, “Let’s not say left side,” Adding “That isn’t accurate. In golf, there’s no such thing as a player’s left side. At this point in the swing most of the golfer’s weight is on his left foot and left leg.”

Wind found these discussions exhausting as Hogan worked his way through the copy with a “fine-tooth comb.” As wind wrote, “After these protracted checking sessions with Hogan, I did some deep-breathing exercises to relax myself, but I also had the bracing feeling that even Sherlock Holmes wouldn’t be able to detect a smudged adjective or a mysterious verb in the text.”

As they were nearing completion of their work, Hogan asked Wind if he had any suggestions for the series name. As Wind recalls, “I thought for a long moment and then tossed up ‘The Fundamentals of Modern Golf?’”

Hogan mulled it over for a moment and then asked, “How about ‘The Modern Fundamentals of Golf?’” Wind agreed that the reversal in wording was a definite improvement. The series now, for the first time, had both a name and an identity.

The Magazine and the Book

The series was very successful, of course, boosting not only the sales of the magazine but also its circulation. The content of what would eventually become the book appeared in five installments beginning with the March 11, 1957 issue, which in Wind’s exact words, “sold like hotcakes.“

The book was released some five months later in September as a joint venture between Hogan and the magazine.

A Triple Play

Why has the book endured?

The first reason is because of the public’s fascinated with Hogan, not only as player, but as a man. He was a great ball-striker, maybe the best of all time, but there was more to the man than his ability to play golf. He is one of the more complex sports figures in the pantheon of great players. He was a man of secrets who preferred the shadows to the light.

The second reason is the wonderful prose of Herbert Warren Wind, which flows with ease from one paragraph to another, giving the reader at times the feeling of floating on air from one sentence to another.

The third reason is the illustrations of Anthony Ravielle, which describe in dramatic fashion the essence of what Hogan wanted to convey to the reader.

“Five Lessons” was then the collaboration of three men, each one of them the very best in their fields. They were, through luck and circumstance, thrown together in space and time. And maybe once joined together, they sensed the opportunity to create something very special with one purpose in mind — to write one of the best golf instruction books ever. And they succeed.

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Opinion & Analysis

Bag Chatter: An Interview with Uther Supply

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Bag Chatter is a series of interviews that spotlights brands around the golf industry and the people behind them. We’re looking to make this a regular thing, so please comment and share through your medium of choice. If you have a brand and are interested in participating in these interviews, you can email mailbag@golfwrx.com for consideration. This interview is with Daniel Erdman of Uther Supply.

Tell us about Uther. How do you pronounce that? What are you all about? How did you start?

It’s actually pronounced “other.” We’ve gotten that question a lot and, to be honest, we’re kind of OK with it. We wanted to brand ourselves as unique, so we think it fits well. We want to create products that no one else creates. That could be towels in unique prints or some other golf goods outside of that. We’re targeting the customer that wants to be different as well…people who want to demonstrate their unique personalities.

Forgive me for being a little direct, but golf towels may not strike a lot of people as being something a lot of people would start a business with. Were you seeing a lack of something in the marketplace somehow? What prompted you to start this company selling golf towels?

It may not be conventional and I definitely recognize that. Some of my friends have laughed at me for starting a golf towel business. I guess it hit me when I was working at private clubs (I have worked at The Thornhill Club and Ladies’ Golf Club of Toronto). When you work in the back shop and storage facility, you handle a lot of golf bags. I just noticed rows and rows of bags that all look the same and I thought it made a lot of sense to inject some personality into it. You know, people go crazy for how all the pros personalize their wedges and their bags. They buy towels and bag tags from courses like TPC Sawgrass and Pebble Beach to personalize their stuff, but in the end it all kind of blends together. Billy Horschel’s octopus-print pants at the 2013 US Open was something that always stuck out in my mind and in that moment when I was staring at all those bags, it all kind of came together in a way. I thought we could really add something to the marketplace.

What do you think differentiates your products from others in the marketplace? Why do you think people would buy your products?

We’ve already addressed the fact that we offer different and bold prints, but that’s obviously the first thing that most customers will notice. Beyond that, though, we put a lot of attention to detail into our products. We went through 40 different suppliers to get things right. My grandparents had a really successful flooring mat company when I was growing up. Watching them run the family business gave me the bug at a very young age to start my own business. It also taught me how much quality matters and getting the right suppliers and materials. It was so much more difficult back then without the internet, but now, a quick google search just does so much of the legwork for you.

Uther Supply’s golf towel lineup

Something that I think is very interesting here is you’re very young at only 22 years old. A lot of the people I’ve talked to recently have been in their twenties as well. Tell me a little bit about what it took to start this company. Did you have to secure an investment? A lot of people shy away from starting a company for fear of the hill being too steep to climb, if you will. Since you’re in the process of climbing it, what’s that actually like?

It definitely was difficult. The only outside funding I got were some grants and loans from business accelerator programs. Those helped tremendously. I remember having to place a very large order at my supplier at the same time my one of my funding opportunities was being processed. That particular one only had like a 20 percent acceptance rate, and if I didn’t get it, I honestly wasn’t sure how I was going to fund the order. The way everything happened to be timed, I had to I place my order before I heard back from my funding application to meet a deadline. It turned out I was accepted, so that was a relief, but it was definitely pretty stressful. You know, in the beginning, you’re working for months before you generate any income. You’re doing everything for the first time like sending stuff through customs, dealing with suppliers, collecting transactions, you name it. You’re bound to make mistakes along the way and when you have zero money coming in, the mistakes you make hurt so much more. You have no processes or systems in place. It’s something you need to accept for what it is and grind through it. Social media helped accelerate things quite a bit (including meeting my sales partner Luke through Instagram). Selling on Amazon and going to the PGA show last year gave us a boost as well. It’s hard to say what the hardest part is specifically. It’s just the grind in the beginning trying to get momentum behind it. Once you get over the hump, it’s really exciting and fun, but getting up to that point is definitely not easy.

It should also be mentioned that you’re based out of Canada. A lot of people would assume being in the Great White North would make the game of golf a challenging proposition. How long/short is your golf season in Ontario? How do you stay sharp over the Canadian winters? And what’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to play golf when it’s far too cold for most of us? To what lengths will you go?

It can get interesting for sure. I first started golfing because of my hockey friends. Yes, a lot of us do play hockey up here. It was a natural transition for a lot of us to play hockey in the winter and golf in the summer. However, if you do happen to get a golf itch in the winter, you will have to get creative. It’s pretty easy to go to just an indoor simulator to practice. Sometimes I would go to Golf Town (our version of Golf Galaxy) to pretend to demo clubs in order to practice my swing. That can get you by for a while, but it’s not the same as hitting an actual golf ball and watching it fly through the air, you know? So when you get to that point, there’s a nice indoor/outdoor range near me with covered, heated hitting bays. Our golf season is from like April through October, so that leaves a lot of time in between. Golf vacations become necessary sometimes.

Before starting Uther, you alluded to your experience working at golf courses. First off, you must have some good stories. No need to mention any names, but what’s your favorite story from that stage of life? Also, what was it like to go from working at a club to having to court those golf clubs to become your customer, stock your products, etc? Was that really easy or really difficult?

Well, I have a bunch of stories involving golf carts. Just in case the old golf directors read this, I won’t give too many details. Working at a course is great. You can’t get a better “office” than going to the course every day. There’s nothing like watching the sunrise on a dew-covered golf course, especially when you’re being paid. Some of my best memories were after tournaments where three of us guys would clean like 80 golf carts. We would all have fun and get to know each other. It didn’t really feel like work.

In both instances (working for a course and now selling to them), it doesn’t really feel so much like work. It does take a lot of work, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t feel like drudgery, that’s for sure. The difference is that there’s a lot more behind the scenes work that I’m doing now. We recently did a towel for the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance in collaboration with State Apparel. It took us a lot of back and forth to get that product right, but once we did, we came up with a custom, one-off product that our customers really loved. And watching them react to it was incredible. Stuff like that really keeps you going.

Bo Links, Co-Founder of the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance, holding custom towel developed with Uther Supply

This question is unabashedly inspired by (ahem…lifted from) one of Rick Shiels’ recent posts. (Giving credit where it’s due here). If you had to “Tin Cup” it (i.e. play a round of golf with only one club), what club would it be and how many extra strokes do you think it would take? So, if you were to play your home course, your normal score is what? And what would your “Tin Cup” score be, you think?

If I had to choose one club for a Tin Cup round, I think it would be a five iron. My home course (and the public golf course I worked for) is Richmond Hill Golf Club. It’s only like 6,000 yards, so I feel like I could totally get by with a five iron and get on any green in 3. I typically shoot like an 80-85. I don’t think I would be that far off the number honestly. I trust the five iron, but also, I know my course pretty well and I think that club would suit it nicely. Now that you ask, though, I feel like I’m dying to try it!

What tour pro would you most like to have a beer with? Not necessarily the guy you’d want to play golf with or pick his brain about the game. Who do you think is the most likeable guy on tour? Who would you most like to befriend, if you will?

I would definitely have to go with Rickie Fowler. He’s got a bold style for sure, but he owns it and I really dig that. I love that he congratulates the other guys on tour and is supportive of them when they win tournaments. He seems so humble. He’s also really adventurous. He’s into motocross. I’m not into motocross, but I love the adventurous spirit. He just seems like a really cool guy from what I can tell.

It’s almost hard to believe, but the PGA Merchandise Show is fast approaching (January 23-26, 2018 in Orlando, FL for those who don’t know). Will you be exhibiting? What are you most looking forward to? That question is, of course, about what steps you think Uther will take, but also, are you looking forward to anything specific from other manufacturers? What companies’ booths are you planning on going to?

We will definitely be at the show and we’re really looking forward to it. Come see us at booth 3988! I walked the show last year but wasn’t exhibiting, so I would go up to potential customers and pitch my products to them. That was a lot of work and it was quite stressful being out on a limb like that. We’ve been working on this year’s show since August and I think it’s going to be a ton of fun. We’ve got some really cool stuff planned. You also get to meet so many people there, which is just a blast. As far as other stuff I’m looking forward to, Greyson Clothiers is definitely at the top of the list. Charlie’s story is so interesting and I just love their products.

Uther Supply plaid towel on the course

Lastly, what do you guys have in the works? Are there any product releases forthcoming? Tell people how to find you on website, social media, etc.

So, the big news is that we will be expanding beyond golf towels. We will be launching some gloves and hats that I’m really excited about. We have six different golf gloves as well as bucket and baseball hats we’ll be rolling out in some very fun prints and colors (because that’s what we do). Definitely a good idea to check out our website, which is www.uthersupply.com. The website has a link to sign up for our email list which will send out some discount codes from time to time. There will also be some exclusive and limited-edition products on the website at times too. @Uthersupply is our handle on all social media platforms. Business customers can reach us at contact@uthersupply.com to collaborate with us on custom products. We’d love to have people come see what we’re about!

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Opinion & Analysis

Tara Iti: A Golfer’s Paradise

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This trip couldn’t have started better. Tara Iti Golf Club is magic! No disrespect to the home of golf, but this course might be as special as it gets when it comes to playing links golf.

Catch Up: The Start of My Golf Adventure

Tara Iti is a masterpiece that opened late in 2015. It’s designed by the famous golf architect Tom Doak, and it’s located on a large piece of land on the North Island of New Zealand around 1.5 hours from Auckland. It’s well hidden from houses and traffic, so you can just focus on your game and the stunning property.

The course brings swift fairways and plenty of risk-reward opportunities, offering a bevy of challenging shots that you need to plan carefully in order to get close to the flag. I loved especially the shapes presented by the fairways and waste areas, which make it feel as though the entire course is seamlessly woven together. I also like the idea they’ve got here of playing the ball as it lies. No bunkers, just waste areas.

On a personal note, my match against Johan was halved. He played very well on the first nine while I did well on the back nine.

What’s key to success to Tara Iti is a polished short game in combination with the ability to hit the fairways. I found my favorite hole at No. 17, a strikingly beautiful short par-3 that pops up between the wild sand dunes. There are three iconic trees to the left with the sea and a beautiful island as a backdrop.

Up Next: Kauri Cliffs on the northern peak of New Zealand. It is said to be one of the most scenic courses in the world.

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