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Growing the Game: Welcoming Newcomers to Golf

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It’s Saturday morning at 8 a.m. My wife and I have both had a long work week (as is pretty much always the case), the kids have been in school all week, and everyone needs to recharge their batteries. The kids are watching their cartoons, my wife and I are having coffee, and I get a text on my phone. I look at my wife and say “Hey babe, Matt has a tee time today at noon. Mind if I join him?”

Look, maybe your significant other plays golf. Maybe he or she doesn’t. They may be the coolest, most easy-going person in the world. Regardless of what your specific situation is, here’s what he or she just heard, “Hey babe, Matt has a tee time at noon. If I leave at 11 a.m., drive 20 minutes to the course, check in, hit some balls, roll some putts, then play a 4-hour-and-20-minute round of golf (kind of average here in the U.S.), drive 20 minutes back, I can be home by about 4:45 p.m. You’re good with the kids for about 5.5-6 hours, right? Thanks. Bye, honey!”

Look, I’m lucky. Golf was a significant part of my life before I had kids, a wife, or even a job. My wife can’t say I sprung this on her all of a sudden. But I can imagine if I instead said I was going to play cricket or go mountain biking for 6 hours of pretty much every weekend… let’s just say that might receive a puzzling look. And my wife is a very understanding and caring person.

If you’re on this site, you’re probably already hooked just like me. But what about the new blood? How do we get them hooked, or even interested in golf? How do we get them to carve out 6 hours of their Saturday to (frankly) stink at golf? How do we get their families to buy in? In short, while pretty much everyone is buzzing about the top end of the golf market and their new PXG and Epic irons, I’d rather talk about who’s going to take the plunge on that Wilson box set and why.

Depending on who you’re trying to recruit to the game, you’ll wind up with a different sales pitch, but here’s the one thing I’d like us all to agree on. Next time you and your golfing buddy are paired with two dudes with second-hand DCI’s from 1996 who can only hope to break 100, let’s be nice. As long as they’re not chugging Jack Daniel’s and blasting Bob Marley during the round, let’s be encouraging. Play a tee (or two) up with them to speed up play. If solicited, offer up some advice to them in an encouraging way.  The fact that they’re out there beating it with the rest of us is good for the game, even if they may irritate you on that particular day. Maybe they’re annoyingly bad, but they just carved a big chunk of time out of their Saturday to try to invest in a new game. They basically told their significant others they were going hang gliding for 6 hours. Let’s welcome them.

And if they are chugging Jack Daniel’s and blasting Bob Marley, politely decline and think about suggesting that you and Matt play ahead of them. All four of you may enjoy your rounds a little more at that point.

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Peter Schmitt does not profess to be a PGA professional or to be certified at...well...anything much in golf. Just another lifelong golfer with a passion for the game trying to get better every day, the definition of which changes relatively frequently. Peter is a former Marine and a full-time mechanical engineer (outside of the golf industry). He lives in Lexington, KY with his wife and two young kids. Follow Peter on twitter and Instagram using the links below.

19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Peter Schmitt

    Aug 7, 2017 at 9:36 am

    Folks, just wanted to drop in one last time and say thanks for the overwhelmingly positive reactions. This is the first time I’ve ever done anything like this. For those of you that never have, it’s a scary, yet exhilarating feeling and to have it be well-received is huge. I hope to keep generating content that is entertaining and thought provoking. Cheers!

  2. Peter Schmitt

    Aug 7, 2017 at 7:41 am

    Well, I certainly do have biases toward certain manufacturers, but I try to stick with the best tools for the job. The Epic helps me find more fairways plain and simple. I know the 8802 is not something one who struggles with putting “should” be using, but I do putt better with it than a lot of other flat sticks. I guess something about how it’s weighted allows me to swing the putter head more instinctively. I am an engineer, but I play better golf when I DON’T have my analytical engineer half of my brain cooking, as I can really get in my own way.

  3. Ude

    Aug 6, 2017 at 8:28 pm

    Fair Way = Partee = ooffa = feminist failure who only loves golf clubs and herself …. sooo obvious

  4. Matt

    Aug 5, 2017 at 11:19 am

    Great article. As someone who picked the game up a few years ago I especially agree with the last paragraph (especially the part about offering advice if solicited).

  5. Jacked_Loft

    Aug 5, 2017 at 6:05 am

    Nice article Peter! We are the game, and we can grow the game. An old wisdom: “If she don’t play, she won’t stay.”

  6. Matt

    Aug 5, 2017 at 1:38 am

    Maybe golf could have two scorecards, one for casual local rules and one for the official rules of golf. A weekly ‘casual rules’ allowed time of Sat or Sun 9 hole afternoon from 2pm might also make it more fun… Rental gear and quick lessons onsite, cheap fees, no dress code, allowing play from forward or back fees, using a tee on any shot, preferred lie, one mulligan on the first hole and a maximum of triple bogey.

  7. Hardcore Looper

    Aug 4, 2017 at 11:33 pm

    Nice article. But if you want to keep your significant other from.feelimg like they’re stuck with the kids, get them playing. Yes, you won’t play many 18 hole rounds while they’re little, but they’ll get there faster than you’d think. Plus, you’re growing the game, and you’re spending quality time with them.

    Maybe I don’t contend in the club championship as I’d like, but I’ll trade that for our rounds in the Parent-Child any day.

    • Tyler

      Aug 6, 2017 at 4:01 pm

      Here, here! I’ve got three boys ages 5, 3 and 1. I started taking my oldest with me about age 3 and then I recruited grandpa (my dad who wasn’t a golfer, but has recently gotten into the game) to come along when my second oldest turned 3. Now the conversation goes like this, “Hey honey I’m going to take the boys to play 9 holes with grandpa for 2-3 hours this afternoon, you OK with that?” What’s she gonna say to that? Happy wife, happy life. Initially it was a struggle to teach them the rules and etiquette of the game, but it hasn’t taken long for them to get the hang of it. So basically I’m bringing 3 (soon to be 4) new players into the game and it starts with a little patience and understanding from those of us that know the game.

  8. madeinguam81

    Aug 4, 2017 at 8:25 pm

    Great read. My wife and I have two young boys (4 and almost 2) and this hit home. The only part I didn’t agree with is moving “a tee or two up to speed up play” when paired up with newer players. I’m a big proponent of playing what you should be playing and if it’s done right, it shouldn’t slow down play.

  9. MSMI ZZLE

    Aug 4, 2017 at 7:11 pm

    Hey babe, Matt has a tee time today at noon. Mind if I join him?”…..what tf ever

  10. John

    Aug 4, 2017 at 3:08 pm

    I loved this article. A refreshing change from the usual fare.
    Well done, Peter.

    To the editors: I think we could all use more of this and less of “6 hour fittings for a set of Miuras and the grips look nice next to my Porsche” piece that seem to be everpresent on this site.

  11. Peter Schmitt

    Aug 4, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    Thanks for the comment. My WITB just had a full reboot this year. It had been about 4 years since my last. I now carry an Epic Driver and 3 wood, Titleist H2 hybrid, JPX 900 forged irons, and I have a potpourri of wedges and a milled 8802 putter. As for my game, it needs work! Mainly putting. Current goal is to consistently stay under 80. Keep hovering between the 78-82 mark. Trying to get rid of all three putts and double bogeys to achieve that end.

  12. Lauren

    Aug 4, 2017 at 10:12 am

    The wives of the world applaud your awareness of how frustrating the LOOOOONG absence that a golf outing on the weekend can feel to the spouse who is left-behind! However, I encourage wives, as my grandmother once told me, “let your husband play golf!” Men and women both need hobbies and things to help them escape the day-to-day grind of work, and also, let’s face it, parenthood. if golf does that for you, as I assume it does for countless others, go for it!

    My other comment is related to your encouragement of more inclusion in the game of golf–and by inclusion, I mean, patience with those of us who want to play, but are terrible and embarrassed to try. I don’t always feel like a golf course is the most welcoming to folks who fit that description, and I agree that they certainly need to be if the game of golf is going to survive into future generations.

    Good article.

    • BD57

      Aug 5, 2017 at 2:54 pm

      Lauren,

      Thank you for understanding. And for those of us who’ve been playing for years – we absolutely should be encouraging to people coming into the game.

      Part of what we all need to understand- at least, IMO – is, for newcomers, the goal isn’t “put a number on a scorecard,” it’s to start hitting decent shots, to get proficient enough so you feel like “you belong” . . . . no one wants to feel like he or she “shouldn’t be here.”

      That’s not just for newcomers, Lauren. There was a time when I’d play in State Am qualifiers and the like, but I stopped years ago when my game got to the point where I didn’t feel it did justice to my fellow competitors to be out there – I wouldn’t want to distract someone who had a legitimate shot of qualifying when my game isn’t in shape to do so myself.

      For newcomers . . . . Hit a tee shot, play a second shot, but if you’re scuffling – – – – if we’re going down the hole 50 yards at a time – – – – feel free to pick it up and drop your ball up near the green so you can pitch, chip & putt (because that’s good stuff to work on). You’re out there to LEARN to play golf by hitting golf shots . . . . you’re not playing “scorecard golf” yet (there are a lot of people who never do).

      Play “short courses” whenever you can – they’re a great place to become more proficient and work into “the big course.”

      It’s a great game, and it can be FUN if you focus on making it fun.

  13. Richard Steele

    Aug 4, 2017 at 9:37 am

    Really great article Peter. Here in the UK were launching our App MemberMatch to help club golfers who are looking to play more and meet new friends. Our matching algorithm finds like minded players and suggests they play together- This helps build their social network, playing network and helps their club be more social. Look for MemberMatch.co.uk, coming to a club near you soon

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Opinion & Analysis

15 hot takes from Greg Norman on our 19th Hole podcast

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Our Michael Williams spoke with the Great White Shark himself, Greg Norman, for GolfWRX’s 19th Hole podcast. Not surprisingly, the two-time major champion had no shortage of hot takes.

While you’ll want to check out the full ‘cast, here are 15 takes of varying degrees of hotness, from Norman’s feelings about bifurcation to whether he’d pose for ESPN’s Body Issue.

1) He wants bifurcation immediately, rolling back technology for the pros, rolling it forward for amateurs

“I would instigate a bifurcation of the rules. I would roll back the golf ball regulations to pre-1996. I would roll back the technology that’s in the golf equipment for the professionals. And I would open up the technology and give it to the masses because the pros who developed the maximum club head speed of 118, 120 are the ones who maximize what technology is in that piece of equipment. So the person who’s under 100 miles an hour does not hit the ball an extra 30, 35 yards at all. They may pick up a few yards but they don’t get the full benefit of that technology…I would definitely do that because I think we’ve gotta make the game more fun for the masses. “

2) He has no relationship with Tiger Woods and doesn’t plan to watch him play golf

“And this might sound kind of strange. What I’ll say is … I really, in all honesty, I really don’t care what Tiger does with golf. I think Tiger is, golf probably needs him to some degree but golf doesn’t need him, if you know what I mean, because there’s so many other incredibly talented great young players out there, probably a dozen of them, maybe even more, that are equal, if not way better than Tiger, and they can carry the baton of being the number one player in the world. So, I get a little bit perplexed about and disappointed about how some of these guys get pushed into the background by the attention Tiger gets. I hope he does well. If he doesn’t do well, it doesn’t bother me. If he does do well, it doesn’t bother me.”

3) He plays almost no golf these days

“I really don’t play a lot of golf. I played with my son in the father-son at the end of last year, had a blast with him. Played a little bit of golf preparing for that. But since then I have not touched a golf club.”

4) He doesn’t enjoy going to the range anymore

“To be honest with you I’m sick and tired of being on the driving range hitting thousands and thousands of golf balls. That bores me to death now. My body doesn’t like it to tell you the truth. Since I’ve stopped playing golf I wake up without any aches and pains and I can go to the gym on a regular basis without aches and pains. So my lifestyle is totally different now. My expectations, equally, is totally different.”

5) It took him a long time to get used to recreational golf

“But I’ve been in this mode now for quite a few years now so the first couple of years, yes. My body was not giving me what my brain was expecting. So you do have to make those mental adjustments. Look, there’s no difference than when you hit 40, you’re a good player or not a good player. Things start to perform differently. Your proprioception is different. Your body is different. I don’t care how good you are and how great physical shape you are. Your body after just pure wear and tear, it eventually does tend to break down a little bit. And when you’re under the heat of the battle and under the gun, when you have to execute the most precise shot, your body sometimes doesn’t deliver what you want.”

6) He’s a big Tom Brady fan

“I’m a big fan, big admirer of his. He gets out of it what he puts into it obviously…But he’s also a role model and a stimulator for his teammates. No question, when you go to play Brady and the Patriots, you’d better bring your A game because he’s already got his A game ready to go.”

7) He believes we’ll see 50-plus-year-old winners on Tour

“I said this categorically when Tom Watson nearly won at Turnberry in his 50s, when I nearly won at Royal Birkdale in my 50s….if you keep yourself physically in good shape, flexibility in good shape, as well as your swing playing, and your swing. Yeah, maybe the yips come in maybe they don’t, that depends on the individual, right? But at the end of the day, my simple answer is yes. I do believe that’s going to happen.”

8) The Shark logo has been vital to his post-golf success

“But I realized very early on in life too that every athlete, male or female, no matter what sports you play you’re a finite entity. You have a finite period of time to maximize your best performance for X number of years. And with golf, if you look at it historically, it’s almost like a 15 year cycle. I had my 15 year run. Every other player has really has had a 15 year run, plus or minus a few years.”

“So you know you have that definitive piece of time you got to work with and then what you do after that is understanding what you did in that time period. And then how do you take that and parlay it? I was lucky because I had a very recognizable logo. It wasn’t initials. It wasn’t anything like that. It was just a Great Shark logo. And that developed a lot of traction. So I learned marketing and branding very, very quickly and how advantageous it could be as you look into the future about building your businesses.”

9) He’s tried to turn on-course disappointments into positives

“We all … well I shouldn’t say we all. I should say the top players, the top sports men and women work to win. Right? And when we do win that’s what we expected ourselves to do because we push ourselves to that limit. But you look at all the great golfers of the past and especially Jack Nicklaus, it’s how you react to a loss is more important than how you react to a victory. And so, I learned that very, very early on. And I can’t control other people’s destiny. I can’t control what other people do on the golf course. So I can only do what I do. When I screw up, I use that as a very strong study point in understanding my weakness to make sure that I make a weakness a strength.”

10) Jordan Spieth is best suited to be the top player in the world

“I think that Jordan is probably the most balanced, with best equilibrium in the game. He’s probably, from what I’m seeing, completely in touch with the responsibilities of what the game of golf and the success in the game of golf is.”

11) His golf design is built on two pillars

“Two things: Begin with the end in mind and the least disturbance approach. I think we, the industry of golf course design industry, really did the game of golf a major disservice in the 80s and 90s when everybody was leveraged to the hilt, thought they had unlimited capital, and thought they could just go build these big golf courses with big amounts of money invested in with magnificent giant club houses which weren’t necessary. So, we were actually doing a total disservice to the industry because it was not sustainable.”

12) He’s still not happy about having essentially invented the WGC events and not getting credit

“I’ll always be a little bit salty about that because there’s a saying that I keep telling everybody, “slay the dreamer.” I came up with a pretty interesting concept where the players would be the part owners of their own tour or their own destiny and rewarded the riches if they performed on the highest level. And quite honestly, Michael, actually a friend of mine sent me an article, it was a column written, “Shark and Fox Plan to Take a Bite out of the PGA”. And this is written in 11/17/94 and I literally just got it last night. And I’m reading through this article and I’m going, “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, I was ahead of my time!” I really was ahead of my time.

So, it was very, very kind of like a reflective moment for me. I read it again this morning with a cup of coffee and I did sit back and, I’ll be brutally honest with you and your listeners, and did sit back and I did get a little bit angry because of the way I was portrayed, the way I was positioned.”

13) He was muzzled by the producer at Fox

“I’m not going to dig deep into this, I think there was just a disconnect between the producer and myself. I got on really well with the director and everybody else behind the scenes, some of my thought processes about what I wanted to talk about situations during the day, and it just didn’t pan out. And things that I wanted to say, somebody would be yelling in my ear, “Don’t say it, don’t say it!” So it became a very much a controlled environment where I really didn’t feel that comfortable.”

14) Preparation wasn’t the problem during his U.S. Open broadcast

“I was totally prepared so wherever this misleading information comes saying I wasn’t prepared, I still have copious notes and folders about my preparation with the golf course, with the players, with the set-up, with conditioning. I was totally prepared. So that’s an assumption that’s out there that is not true. So there’s a situation where you can please some of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time.

15) He would do ESPN’s Body Issue

“Of course I’d do it. I think I like being fit. I think on my Instagram account I probably slipped a few images out there that created a bit of a stir…And I enjoy having myself feel good. And that’s not an egotistical thing, it’s just none of my, most of my life I’ve been very healthy fit guy and if somebody like ESPN wants to recognize that, yeah of course I would consider doing it.”

Don’t forget to listen to the full podcast here!

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TG2: “If you could only play one brand, what would it be?” (Part 2)

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“If you could only play one brand, what would it be?” Brian Knudson and Andrew Tursky debate their choices in part 2 of this podcast (click here in case you missed Part 1). Also, TG2 welcomes special guest and GolfWRX Forum Member Ed Settle to the show to discuss what clubs he has in the bag.

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

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Greg Norman on why he won’t watch Tiger Woods this week at the Genesis Open

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Greg Norman, Hall of Fame golfer and entrepreneur, tells us why he won’t watch the Genesis Open this week even if Tiger is in contention. He also discusses his ventures and adventures on and off the course, and shares the thing about the PGA Tour that still makes him angry.

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

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