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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.

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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Gear Dive: USC head golf coach Chris Zambri on the challenges that will come with the new NCAA rules

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In this Special Edition of The Gear Dive, USC Men’s Head Golf Coach Chris Zambri discusses his thoughts on the new NCAA mandates, how to get recruited, and the pros and cons of recruiting can’t-miss superstars.

  • 9:55 — Zambri discusses thoughts on new rule
  • 17:35 — The rule he feels is the toughest navigate
  • 26:05 — Zambri discusses the disadvantages of recruiting a “can’t miss” PGA star
  • 32:50 — Advice to future recruits
  • 44:45 — The disadvantages of being tied to an OEM as a college golf team

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

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A new NCAA transfer rule gets passed… and college coaches are NOT happy

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New rules just keep on coming from the NCAA; college coaches are not happy about this one.

In a summer of block buster coaching changes, the NCAA has done its best to stay atop the news cycle by making some significant changes, which will impact the recruitment process. In an article two months ago entitled “The effect the NCAA’s new recruiting rules will have on college golf,” I spoke to college coaches about a new rule, which will not allow unofficial or official visits until September 1 of the players Junior Year. To go along with this rule, the NCAA has also put in place a new recruiting calendar which will limit the sum of the days of off campus recruiting between a head and assistant coach to 45 days starting August 1, 2018.

The 45-day rule will have several potential impacts for both recruits and assistant coaches. For recruits, it is likely that after a couple (2-3) evaluations, coaches will make offers and ask for speed responses to ensure they are not missing out on other options. I also think you will see far less assistant coaches recruiting, which ultimately hurts their opportunities to learn the art of recruitment.

The new transfer rule

In the past, players were subject to asking their present institution for either permission to contact other schools regarding transfer, or a full release.

Now, starting October 15, players can simply inform their institution of their intensions to leave and then start contacting other schools to find an opportunity. This is a drastic shift in policy, so I decided to poll college coaches to get their reactions.

The poll was conducted anonymously via Survey Monkey. Participation was optional and included 6 questions:

  1. New NCAA Legislation will allow players to transfer without a release starting October 2018. Do you support this rule change?
  2. Do you believe that this rule will have APR implications?
  3. Who do you think will benefit most from this rule?
  4. What are the benefits of allowing students to transfer without a release? What are the potential harms?
  5. New NCAA Legislation will make December a dead period for recruiting off campus. Do you support this legislation?
  6. What implications do you see for this rule?

In all, 62 Division I golf coaches responded, or about 10 percent of all Division I coaches in Men’s and Women’s Golf. The results show that 81.25 percent of DI coaches said that they do NOT support the rule change for transfers.

Also, 90 percent of coaches polled believe that the rule will have APR implications. APR is Academic Progress Rate which holds institutions accountable for the academic progress of their student-athletes through a team-based metric that accounts for the eligibility and retention of each student-athlete for each academic term.

The APR is calculated as follows:

  • Each student-athlete receiving athletically related financial aid earns one point for staying in school and one point for being academically eligible.
  • A team’s total points are divided by points possible and then multiplied by 1,000 to equal the team’s Academic Progress Rate.
  • In addition to a team’s current-year APR, its rolling four-year APR is also used to determine accountability.

Teams must earn a four-year average APR of 930 to compete in championships.

While the APR is intended as an incentive-based approach, it does come with a progression of penalties for teams that under-perform academically over time.

The first penalty level limits teams to 16 hours of practice per week over five days (as opposed to 20 over six days), with the lost four hours to be replaced with academic activities.

A second level adds additional practice and competition reductions, either in the traditional or non-championship season, to the first-level penalties. The third level, where teams could remain until their rate improves, includes a menu of possible penalties, including coaching suspensions, financial aid reductions and restricted NCAA membership.

Clearly coaches are not happy about the move and feel that the rule unfairly benefits both the student athletes and major conference schools, who may have a swell of calls around middle of October as Student athletes play great fall golf and look to transfer. Although coaches are unhappy about the new rule, it is very difficult to predict what direct impact the rule will have on teams; coaches are extremely smart and understand recruiting and development within the frame work of college better than anyone can imagine. As a result, I think coaches will react in many ways which are impossible to predict.

The survey also asked, “new NCAA Legislation will make December a dead period for recruiting off campus. Do you support this legislation?” For this, coaches were more divided with 45 percent in favor of the rule, and 55 percent not.

Although coaches supported the legislation, many (41/62) suggested that it would potentially hurt international recruiting at tournaments like Doral and the Orange Bowl and they had, in the past, used December as a time to recruit.

As we move forward with these changes, here are some potential things that recruits, and their families should consider, including consequences of the rules:

  1. With a limit of 45 days and these transfer rules, it is likely that coaches will be doing significantly more investigation into a player’s personalities and family situation to make sure they know what they are getting.
  2. Coaches may also start skipping over better players in favor of kids they think will be a good fit and are likely to stay
  3. Rosters may get bigger, as coaches are trying to have larger numbers to potentially offset transfers

Unfortunately, we enter a new era of rules at the worst time; we have never had a more competent and deep group of college coaches, the clear majority of whom are tremendous stewards of the game. Hopefully this rule will have insignificant effect on the continued growth of college golf but only time will tell.

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Is golf actually a team sport?

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Do a little research on the top PGA Tour players, and what you’ll see is that most (if not all of them) employ a team of diverse professionals that support their efforts to perform on the golf course. Take two-time major champion Zach Johnson; he has a team that includes a caddie, a swing instructor, a sports psychologist, a physiotherapist, an agent, a statistician, a spiritual mentor, a financial adviser… and of course his wife.

“I know this seems like a lot, and maybe even too much,” Johnson readily admitted. “But each individual has their place. Each place is different in its role and capacity. In order for me to practice, work out and just play golf, I need these individuals along the way. There is a freedom that comes with having such a great group that allows me to just play.”

My best guess is that Zach Johnson commits hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to this team, and I assume most players on the leading professional tours are making significant investments in their “teams.” There are three questions that jump out at this point. First, is a team necessary? Second, how can anyone compete without one? And third, how to pay for it?

From the club player to the collegiate player to the aspiring/touring professional, everyone can benefit from a team that offers individual instruction, support, guidance, and encouragement. Such a team, however, needs to be credible, timely, beneficial and affordable.

To be affordable, serious golfers should build their team one piece at a time. The obvious first choice is a swing coach. Golf swing coaches charge from $100-$1,500 per hour. The cost explains why players have historically been responsible for their own practice. The next piece, which is a newly developing trend, should be a performance coach who specializes in the supervision of practice, training and tournament preparation. Performance coaching on-site fees range from $200 to $3,000 per day.

So is team support essential for a player to be as good as he/she can be? My research says it is. When a player schedules a practice session, that session is usually based on what the player likes to do or wants to do. “Best Practices” utilized by world-class athletes suggest strongly that great progress in training always occurs when someone other than the player writes, administers and supervises the programs and sessions. The team approach says the player should focus on what needs to be done. Sometimes what the player wants to do and the things needed to be done are the same thing; sometimes they aren’t.

Now for the question of how to pay for it all. Wealthy players, or those with substantial or institutional support, have access to what they need or want… whatever the cost. If you use an on-site coach, teacher or other professional you will be paying for blocks of time. Fees can be hourly, weekly, monthly, yearly or lifetime arrangements based upon several factors. If your coach of choice is not local, you can also incur travel and per diem expenses. The process of paying for someone’s time can really add up. You can review what I charge for various services that require my attendance at edmyersgolf.com.

For those of you who don’t have easy access to on-site expertise or don’t want to incur the expense, I want to offer an approach that business, industry, colleges/universities and entrepreneurs are turning to: “Distance Coaching.” Distance learning is made possible through modern technology. In today’s world, expertise can be delivered using FaceTime, Skype, texting, email and (old fashion) phone calls. Textbooks, videos, specific programs and workbooks can be accessed from anywhere at any time by anyone with a desire to do so… and who knows what’s coming in the future. Through Distance Coaching, individuals can employ professional expertise on an as-needed basis without incurring huge costs or expenses.

The primary team expenses that can be avoided are those associated with face-to-face, on-site visits or experiences. Distance Coaching brings whatever any player needs, wants or desires within financial reach. For example, a player in Australia can walk onto the practice ground and have that day’s practice schedule delivered to a personal device by his/her performance coach. The player then forwards the results of that session back to the coach — let’s say in Memphis, Tennessee. The player is then free to move onto other activities knowing that the performance, training and preparation process is engaged and functioning. In the same vein, that same player in Australia may have moved into learning mode and he/she is now recording the golf swing and is sending it to the swing teacher of choice for analysis and comment.

So what is the cost of Distance Coaching? Teachers, trainers and coaches set their own fees based upon their business plan. Some require membership, partnership or some other form of commitment. For example, I offer free performance coaching with the purchase of one of my books or programs, as do others. Where face-to-face, on-site fees for performance coaching is available for $200 a day, the same expertise from the same coach can cost as little as $50 a month using the distance format, tools and technology. I highly recommend that players responsibly research the options available to them and then build the best team that fits their games, desires and goals. I’m happy to forward a guide of what to look for in a performance coach; just ask for it at edmyersgolf@gmail.com.

Back to Zach Johnson; he recently admitted that his lack of recent success could be traced to his lack of focus and practice discipline. Additional, he concedes that he has been practicing the wrong things. “It goes back to the basics,” he said. “I have to do what I do well. Truth be told, what I’m practicing now is more on my strengths than my weaknesses.”

Zach Johnson has a great team, but as he concedes, he still needs to put in the work.

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