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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

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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Opinion & Analysis

Life as a left-handed golfer

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“My bad, forgot you were a lefty,” my cart partner says, driving to the wrong side of the ball for the third straight hole.

“All good. Let me just grab my wedge and putter and you can head over to your ball,” I say, realizing I left that wedge on No. 2.

“Too bad you can’t use one of mine!” my hilarious buddy jokes. And just like that, we’re off. The life as a lefty.

Saturday morning rounds usually start casually enough. Tees are thrown and partners drawn. As I approach the ball, my laser-like focus after a terrible range session is typically interrupted by everyone’s favorite knee-slapper.

“Did anyone ever tell you you stand on the wrong side of the ball?” ZING!

“Actually, I’m standing to the right of the ball if you really look at it,” a younger me once quipped, a joke that would confuse and embarrass all involved. And then, with the confidence of an awkward night at the improv, I dead block one that nestles next to a tree.

As we cruise down the rough, my chauffeur politely asks, “You pulled your drive, correct?”

“Yeah, missed left side,” I mumble, preferring not to get into that brain teaser.

Now, this ball may be perched to the right of the tree, giving me a lucky angle in. “Man, what a time to be left-handed, eh?” Or, to my chagrin, settled just to the left of it forcing me to play it sideways. “Ugh, what a tough break being left-handed, huh?”

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Now, I don’t fault anyone for making these observations; even I think left-handed players look outrageous on the golf course. The most experienced golfer will still see a fellow lefty in the middle of their ensuing fairway and wonder, “Why is this guy hitting it toward us?”

We’ve been conditioned to think this way. I like to call it The Ugly Duckling Syndrome. Maybe someday, we too will turn into swans and have the beautiful swings that all right-handed golfers like to say we have (we don’t). The compliment usually comes in around No. 6 as he’s starting to get the hang of this cart thing and your wedge is still holes behind.

“You have a good swing there. You remind me of Phil Mickelson. I bet you are a big fan of his?”

Sure, why not. I also have a Mark Brunell jersey, Mike Vick fathead, and I exclusively watch James Harden play basketball.

Sarcasm aside, us lefties are a proud bunch and really do love playing with or seeing another lefty on the course. For many of us, it’s the only chance we have to try different equipment. We take full advantage.

Seeing another lefty at the club is like seeing a long-lost friend on Thanksgiving Eve. We might wave, give a head nod or take an air swing, but I promise you we are acknowledging each other. Have you ever been out on the lake and pulled off the friendly wave to a fellow boater? That’s being a lefty on the golf course.

Now, we like you righties; we know your charm. You provide us an endless supply of dad jokes and sometimes you have an original one. And when we finally have a second to go grab that wedge left on No. 2, we know you’ll return it with a smile. “Well, at least you knew I wasn’t going to keep this one, Mickelson!”

Lather, rinse, repeat.

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