By Eric Beaupre
Now that the Ryder Cup and most of the PGA Tour’s Fall Series has come and gone a familiar sentiment is crossing the golf fan community: “Well, that’s the golf year. Time to shut it down until the Masters.”
My question is why?
The Fall Series has brought plenty of high quality tour golf where lesser-seen players are competing for their livelihoods. Not only has it been compelling, it has given golf fans an opportunity to see, learn about and become a fan of lesser known players that get overshadowed by mainstream media coverage of Tiger, Phil and Rory. And there’s plenty of entertaining golf to watch between now and April.
First, there’s the conclusion to the European Tour’s Race to Dubai where the top names from the European Tour compete for big dog honours. Then there’s the Asian/Australian swing where big name players compete in a World Golf Championship in China and in big draw tournaments in Australia. Lastly, there are the silly season events that draw all the fan favourites. And this is all before Christmas!
The New Year brings the Hyundai Tournament of Champions with plenty of pre-tournament fun, great views of Hawaii and even better play. The WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship always brings fireworks, which can only be matched by the noise of TPC Scottsdale during the Waste Management Phoenix Open. And let’s not forget the majesty of Torrey Pines, Pebble Beach and Doral that bring not only bring great golf but great golf courses that I would do just about anything to play, but I digress. I asked a question and I know that there are answers out there. It’s just that none of them make any sense to me.
Answer No. 1: “I want to watch the big names. I’m not interested in Joe Journeyman.”
If this is your argument, I’d argue that you’re not much of a golf fan. If you’re just watching the big names, how interested in golf are you? If you’re that interested in stars, I suggest TMZ. In addition, see my paragraphs above. There are loads of opportunities to see the big names play between during the fall, winter and early spring.
Answer No. 2: “It’s just a silly season where the big names make a ton of money for showing up.”
If this bothers you, pro golf should as well. These guys compete for millions of dollars week in and week out. Why is it that when money is assured you’re suddenly bothered? If you are bothered, are you also boycotting no-cut events (the WGCs, and the last two legs of the playoffs). In addition, most pro golfers make a solid chunk of change from endorsements. Does this offend you as well?
Now I know what some might say: it’s just for money and not for competition. First of all, there’s no way you get to tour level golf without being highly competitive. One needs to only look at Tiger’s win at The Chevron World Challenge last year or the Ryder Cup to see that it doesn’t take much to get a competition going.
Answer No. 3: “It’s all about the Majors, so I’m not watching golf until the Masters.”
Sigh. I can’t even begin to describe how annoying this has become to me. Bobby Jones won the “Impregnable Quadrilateral” in 1930. Then Arnold Palmer said something to the affect of “wouldn’t it be cool if we had our own version of a Grand Slam” to some dude on a plane in the 1960s and bam! You got major championships.
My point is that the majors are what they are because we say they are. Granted, they are generally great tournaments because they have good fields and are usually played on great courses, but there’s nothing that makes them intrinsically special or better than any other tournament. This is glaringly apparent in the loads of tournaments that also have good fields and are played on great courses. I could go on about this for days, but the fact is that the majors are just four great golf tournaments among many, some of which take place before the Masters. The Honda Classic has been a strong tournament of late and the Match Play is always great. Torrey Pines is no slouch, either.
Before I leave this point, and for those of you that say that it’s the tradition behind the majors that makes them special, not only is that illogical based on the fact that the tradition is based on something that occurred before Augusta National even existed, let’s remember what a tradition actually is, namely something you do on a regular basis and don’t know why.
Long story longer — there’s no good reason to shut it down until April. There are tons of good golf, great players, big names and big tournaments. Heck, there’s even the Big Break if you’re interested. Don’t shut it down for clichéd reasons. You’re a fan, so there’s plenty for you.
Paige Spiranac explains her decision to pose for the 2018 SI Swimsuit
During the PXG 0311 Gen2 iron launch event, I caught up with Paige Spiranac to talk about a variety of topics including her advice to young girls in the golf world, how her life has changed since becoming a golfing celebrity, her relationship with PXG, her decision to stop playing professional golf, and she explains why she wanted to pose for the SI Swimsuit issue.
Enjoy my interview above!
Bag Chatter: An Interview With 36 Golf Co.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration. This interview is with Jay Vogler of 36 Golf Co (Pictured above caddying for business partner Chevy Mayne).
Talk to me about 36 Golf Co. What are you guys all about?
We’re all about getting people out to the course, having fun and not taking golf too seriously. We’re trying to create a brand for people who love the game, but aren’t necessarily trying to turn pro. The whole idea started when I was walking through a hockey shop and saw all these hockey lifestyle brands and I was like, “Why doesn’t this exist in golf?” We’re mainly targeting the 18-35 crowd; folks that kind of have a laid-back approach. We think it doesn’t matter if you wear cargo shorts and a T-shirt as long as you’re respecting the game and taking care of the course. It’s more important to replace your divots, repair your ball marks and keep up with the pace of play than it is to wear a collared shirt.
There are a lot of people launching brands in the soft goods world these days (clothing, towels, head covers, etc.). As a result, that world can be a little crowded. What makes 36 Golf Co. different from everyone else out there?
Our corner of the market, if you will, is trying to create a community of people who see the game the same way we do. We want to see the game grow, especially among the millennial age group. We think participation is lacking in that demographic, and we want to play a part in making the game a little more accessible for them. We want people to connect over our attitude toward golf. If you see a guy walking down the street wearing a 36 hat, we want you to think he’s approachable and he’s down to hang out and talk about golf and life without being pretentious. We’re out there to lower some of the barriers to entering the game.
Since I know you’re all about growing the game, what do you think it needs? What do you think is the biggest “problem” with golf that’s keeping people away from playing it or trying it?
I think perception is probably the biggest thing honestly. I picked up the game five years ago when I was 22 and I came from skateboarding and snowboarding. When I got into the game, a lot of people make a weird face and were like, “You play golf?!” It’s totally a perception thing, but once you get past that, it’s just such a fun game. From the first time I flushed a 7-iron at a driving range, I was hooked, but a lot of people don’t even get that far. We’re just trying to lower the barriers to the game and put a community out there.
If you could change one thing about the game of golf, what would you change? It doesn’t have to be something in the USGA rule book necessarily.
Obviously, I would get rid of dress codes. That’s my big bugaboo with the game. If I was just going about my daily life, I wouldn’t be wearing pants and a collared shirt and I think a lot of people would be in that same boat. If we let people come as they are, I bet participation would go way up. Appearance, respectfully, only matters so much. You can wear a collared shirt and still be a jerk and not repair your ball marks.
When you got the idea to start this company, how did you actually go about making that happen? Did you just google shirt suppliers or something? What was that process like?
Yeah, I pretty much spent the first month on Google looking for suppliers. I have a design background, so we did the design and the website ourselves, so that was good. Finding the right suppliers who were willing to work with us and had quality stuff was difficult.
What’s the biggest road block you’ve experienced with 36 Golf Co.? Launching it, marketing it, logistics, billing, whatever…
Starting a business in general was just…so much to take in. It’s overwhelming. Accounting, problems with suppliers… but if you don’t just start it then you’ll never know. I know it’s a cliché, but you gotta start somewhere. It’s not that any one thing was so difficult. It was just the amount of things that come your way.
What are you most optimistic about with 36 Golf Co? What’s got you excited these days?
We just went to a show this past weekend in Toronto, and we just met a lot of people who really seemed to get what we were about and were excited to be a part of it themselves. That’s what gets you excited; when people really understand your vibe and want to be a part of that community and rep your brand for no other reason than it resonates with them. That’s what it’s all about.
Let’s play a game. Imagine golf was like baseball and you got to pick a “walk-up song” when you got to the first tee. What song are you going with?
Haha. I’ve been listening to a lot of Jurassic 5 lately, so we’ll go with “What’s Golden.” I feel like that’d be a pretty good hype song.
If you could only play one course for the rest of your life, which one would it be? It has to be a course you have played before or have access to, though. Don’t just say Augusta.
There’s a little course called Bathurst Glen just north of Toronto. I used to work there, but it kicks my butt every time I go. It’s a friendly spot, which I enjoy. I struggle playing really nice golf courses. They kind of stress me out.
It’s kind of old news, but I’ll ask the following since it’s right up your alley. What was your take on the LPGA dress code announcement last year?
Oh man. I was like, “What the hell are you thinking?” You know, when they said that I was showing it to my girlfriend who’s a non-golfer and she was like, “I don’t understand what the problem is.” It’s not like they’re wearing thongs or something. Obviously, I think that golf needs to be tailored to welcome people into the game, and I think that sent the wrong message.
Lastly, what do you guys have in the works? Let us know what’s coming from 36 Golf Co.
We have limited resourced with just two people, but we have tons of plans. Our main products right now are our hats, which are mainly modern styles. You know, snapbacks and flat brims. We also have T-shirts and quarter zips available. All of that is on our website at www.36golfco.com. We will be getting some golf shirts in soon, which we are calling our “collared T-shirt” this spring, so that’s going to be the most exciting launch for us in the near future. Follow us on Instagram @thirty6ix_golf_co and on twitter @Thirty6ix_golf to keep up with our brand and join our community.
How valuable is hitting the fairway, really?
Hitting more than 50 percent of fairways has long been considered a good goal for amateur golfers. The winners on the PGA Tour tend to hit 70 percent. I have long maintained, however, that it is not the number of fairways HIT that matters. Instead, it is the relative severity of fairways MISSED.
Think about it. By the one-dimensional Fairways Hit stat, every miss is the same. A perfect lie in the first cut is exactly the same as a drive in a hazard… or even OB. There is nothing in the 650+ PGA Tour stats about this. In all, there are 60 stats in seven categories that relate to driving performance, but none about penalties! Like PGA Tour players don’t make any?
Let’s see exactly how important the old tried-and-true Driving Accuracy (Percentage of Fairways Hit) really is. To test it, I used two data clusters: the 2017 PGA Tour season (14,845 ShotLink rounds) and my ShotByShot.com database for the average male golfer (15 to 19 handicappers – 4,027 rounds).
For the graph below, I started with the No. 1-ranked player in the Driving Accuracy category: Ryan Armour. He certainly was accurate by this measure, but why did he only rank 100th in 2017 Strokes Gained Off the Tee with a barely positive 0.020?
Next I looked at the actual top-5 PGA Tour money winners (J. Thomas, J Spieth, D. Johnson, H. Matsuyama and J. Rohm), the 2017 PGA Tour average, and all PGA Tour players that missed the cut in 2017. We all know the significant scoring differences between these three categories of players, but it’s difficult to see a meaningful difference in the fairways hit. They’re not even separated by half a fairway. How important could this stat be?
For those that have not tried ShotByShot.com, our analysis includes Strokes Gained and Relative Handicap comparisons. That enables users to easily differentiate between FIVE MISS categories below based upon severity. The final three categories are what we consider to be Driving Errors:
- Good lie/Opportunity: One can easily accomplish their next goal of a GIR or advancement on a par-5.
- Poor Lie/Opportunity: One could accomplish the next goal, but it will require a very good shot.
- No Shot: Requires an advancement to return to normal play.
- Penalty-1: Penalty with a drop.
- OB/Lost: Stroke and distance penalty, or shot replayed with a stroke penalty.
As we are fortunate enough to work with several PGA Tour players at Shot by Shot, we have access to ShotLink data and can provide those clients with the same valuable insight.
Let’s see how the frequency and severity of driving errors relates to the above groups of players (removing Mr. Armour, as he simply helped us prove the irrelevance of Driving Accuracy). The graphs below display the number of Driving Errors per round and the Average Cost Per Error. Note the strong and consistent correlation between the number and the cost of errors at each of the four levels of performance.
Finally, the average cost of the errors is heavily driven by the three degrees of severity outlined above (No Shot, Penalty, OB/Lost). The graph below compares the relative number and cost of the three types of errors for the average golfer and PGA Tour players. The major difference is that PGA Tour players do not seem to have a proper share of OB/Lost penalties. I found only TWO in the 14,000+ ShotLink rounds. While I accept that the most severe faux pas are significantly less frequent on the PGA Tour, I also believe there must have been more than two.
Why so few? First and foremost, PGA Tour players REALLY ARE good. Next, the galleries stop a lot of the wayward shots. And finally, I believe that many of the ShotLink volunteer data collectors may not actually know or care about the difference between a Penalty and OB/Lost.
Author’s Note: If you want to know your Strokes Gained Off the Tee (Driving) and exactly how important your fairways and the misses are, log onto ShotByShot.com for a 1-Round FREE Trial.
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