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Hybrids or Long Irons? A Teacher’s Perspective

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In golf instruction, there’s no more important position than impact. It’s called “the moment of truth” for a reason. If you have a good impact position, you’ll hit good shots. It’s as simple as that. When we’re talking about impact, most of our discussions will revolve around three things: angle of attack, club path, and face angle. They’re all very important, and with proper instruction they can be manipulated rather quickly.

One thing that’s very hard to change, however, is club head speed, and it’s the most important factor for golfers to consider when they’re choosing between a long iron and a hybrid.

When hitting a shot from the turf, golfers need to be able to first and foremost get the ball airborne. And when it comes to hitting effective long-iron shots, that takes ample club head speed. Most golfers fall short in that department, which is why hybrids were created. By design, hybrids are easier to get in the air. They create a higher launch angle, more spin, and more ball speed — all good things for golfers who don’t have a lot of club head speed.

I teach a lot of golfers who fall in the lack-of-speed category. I find that many of them are still trying to hit their 4 iron, or even 3 iron, from the fairway. This generally leads to poor habits — for example “hanging back,” or tilting the spine away from the target to help the golf ball in the air. In fact, using the wrong clubs is one of the leading causes of “hanging back.” It has the same effect as using shafts that are too stiff.

Long irons are for high speed players, plain and simple. When I’m asked how much speed, I’ll usually offer a vague answer like, “enough.” But when I considered it more carefully, I decided to design the following guidelines for my students. They can act as a reference for selecting the clubs that should make up their sets.

Hybrid/Long-Iron Guidelines

  • If you hit a 7-iron 140 yards or less, a 6-iron should be the longest iron in your set.  The 3, 4 and 5 should be hybrids. Even the 6 iron is marginal.
  • If you can hit your 7-iron 150-160 yards, think about nothing longer than a 5 iron; 3 and 4 should be hybrids.
  • If you can hit your 7-iron 160-170 yards, nothing longer than 4 iron; 3 should be hybrid.
  • If you can hit a 7-iron more than 170 yards, you can use any set make up you choose.

Speed is vital to lift, and the design of the hybrid can be a huge help. There are, of course, other swing issues involved in hitting the golf ball too low, but this chart is a start for what clubs should be in your bag.

Not sure if your clubs or your swing is the problem? For a video analysis of your swing, visit my website.

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

49 Comments

49 Comments

  1. Crazy About Golf

    Dec 14, 2017 at 11:16 pm

    Single digit handicaps can certainly game either long irons or hybrids….it’s a matter of personal preference. I sometimes substitute my 16-degree hybrid for my 15 degree fairway wood, depending on the day. Hybrids generally offer better distance, loft and foregiveness compared to long irons. However, the difference is more notable for persons with higher handicaps or slower swing speeds.

  2. Geoff

    Nov 26, 2017 at 12:28 am

    Man, what a dumb article.

    The number on the bottom of the irons is such an arbitrary number. My 7i is 34* and I hit it 155-160 yards. Most 7is now are closer to 30*. Which loft are you referencing, Dennis? By your logic, I shouldn’t be carrying a 4i, but here’s another flaw, what loft of a 4i should I not be carrying? The 24* lofted 4i in my bag, or the 20* standard 4i available in most sets. Come on man. Maybe you should spend a little more time thinking about the content of your articles and whether your thoughts are ideas are backed up with numbers.

    • That guy

      Dec 23, 2017 at 8:34 pm

      Sounds like you can hit your long irons just fine regardless. So what is your point?

  3. Matt

    Nov 21, 2017 at 1:04 am

    Hybrids are excellent. Am on the cusp between irons and hybrids – got on really well with a Titleist 585 3h in the past (par 5 tamer) and an X2hot 4h is currently in the bag next to my 5 wood. Planning to try a current model 5h soon, and if it saves me a few strokes will add a 3 and a 4.

  4. Dennis

    Nov 19, 2017 at 1:21 pm

    Can’t hit my iron 4(19°) further than my i6 (27°) from the fairway, which is 170 yards carry max My #3 Hybrid (21°) flies higher, but not further. My i4 flies 200 yards carry from the tee – I can’t hit my driver further than that. Stuck in Bogeygolf I guess…

  5. Ross37

    Nov 16, 2017 at 11:08 am

    Will you clarify the loft of the 7 iron you mention in your guidelines. I play an older set of irons, and typically have to reach for more club than my playing partners.

  6. Woody

    Nov 15, 2017 at 10:08 pm

    Any type of general guide will not fit all…but this is a really good article and guideline for most…I hit my 7 iron 180 and carry 3-PW and have never been concerned about getting the ball in the air..other people I know who hit the ball not as far I have recommended replacing their long irons with hybrids and woods just for the reasons outlined in this article.

  7. Brian

    Nov 15, 2017 at 9:58 pm

    I’m 78 with a low swing speed. Lowest numbered iron in my bag is a #7 and I use a #7 wood off the fairway in lieu of long irons or hybrids. Works for me

  8. Dave R

    Nov 11, 2017 at 5:27 pm

    I’m 68 years old index is 5.3 I hated my hybrids but now since I’ve learnt to hit them properly never going back to long irons . These are so easy to hit have a 5 hybrid with a 4iron length shaft goes 185 to 195 it’s set to 19 degrees. Have another 5 hybrid set to 21 degrees and is good for max 175 yards. This set up workes good for my slower swing speed.

  9. TGK

    Nov 10, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    I am 76 years old, handicap 18. I have not used a 3,4, or 5 iron in 5-6 years. My swing speed with driver is 80mph. I have become much more consistent since i have been using hybrids. Looking for a lefty 6 hybrid in Canada & can’t find one. Anyone?

  10. Dennis Clark

    Nov 10, 2017 at 4:54 pm

    Author’s note: The piece is addressed to low-speed players and is from observations of my students and the feedback i get from them and on Trackman numbers. Thx

  11. Bob Jensen

    Nov 9, 2017 at 5:30 am

    Took me awhile to figure this out. I’m 60, and play to a 12. I added a 5 hybrid last year, and grudgingly a 6 this summer, but it has made a big difference.

  12. JJC51

    Nov 8, 2017 at 10:07 pm

    I’m a 14 handicap and I hit my 3 iron much better than my hybrid. Can’t believe that I haven’t snapped that damned hybrid in two by now, worst club in my bag.

  13. Alan Bester

    Nov 8, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    Very informative article, Dennis, but could you also comment on differences in staff stiffness between high speed and lower speed swings?
    Surely shaft stiffness is an important factor for swing speed and ball flight.
    Do hybrids have softer and longer shafts than long irons? I suspect they do.
    Thanks.

    • Dennis Clark

      Nov 10, 2017 at 4:48 pm

      Sorry I was away for bit, but here goes…Yes shaft stiffness, length, loft etc all make a difference. But don’t misunderstand me here. This is an article about DESIGN, IOW the Hybrid is designed to hit the ball higher all things being equal. When the center of gravity is recessed from the hitting area the golf ball goes higher. And yes I think the iron-like length makes them easier also. For 99% of my mid-high handicaps, they are the best thing going. Thx

  14. Willie

    Nov 8, 2017 at 12:25 pm

    I am not sure i really agree with this. for most golfers maybe, but definitely not all.

    I hit my 7 iron 160. fairly weekly lofted Bridgestone DCP’s. I used to have a hybrid in place of my 4 iron and then a 5 wood and 3 wood. once upon a time i had a hybrid replacing my 3 iron but couldn’t hit it for the life of me.

    I did some testing, and found that I am much better off with a 3 and 4 iron. the 3 iron is a safety club off of a tee. I found that the 4 iron, even when mishit would still go fairly straight. a miss with the hybrid had the potential to go way offline. i would rather miss and be 30 yards short of expectation than dropping or taking a stroke and distance penalty. thats just me though.

    worth noting that i dont think my swing speed is high enough to get the most out of long irons, but they stay low enough that they will roll out to a decent distance

  15. ScottK

    Nov 8, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    This article is perfectly true for me but it took me 2 years to figure it out. I hit my 7 about 155 and always struggled with my 5 (already had hybrids for my 3 and 4). Finally, I checked my ego and swapped it out with a hybrid and haven’t looked back. Golf is much more fun when I’m not dreading a 175 yard shot. My father has followed the same advice and gone down to a 6 hybrid. It’s helped him tremendously.

  16. Jordan Robert Anderson

    Nov 8, 2017 at 11:26 am

    Hit my 7 iron 183. Carry 2-P

  17. Aren van Schalkwyk

    Nov 8, 2017 at 8:32 am

    This guideline is misleading to say the least. I play the 718 CB’s, which obviously have “weak” lofts compared to the AP1. I hit my 7 iron 150 carry, my 4 iron 180 and my 3 iron 190 yards carry. On top of that, I hit the 3 and 4 irons very well. As a matter of fact, they are some of my favorite irons. I do hit the AP1 7 iron 165 on the fly, which is to be expected with a loft of 30*, compared to the CB with a loft of 35*. I’m so over “knowledgeable” people pushing the hybrid narrative. Hybrids may or may not suit certain players, for example someone with a super slow swing speed and beginners may find them to be to more playable than a 3 or 4 iron. But as someone with a “slow”/”moderate” swing speed and as a low single digit handicap, I’m long past the stage where other people tells me what I should play because of how fast my swing speed is or how far I hit a particular club. The bottom line is, play what works for you, not what some other person may think will work for you.

    • Chopper

      Nov 8, 2017 at 10:41 am

      guide·line
      /???d?l?n/
      noun
      plural noun: guidelines
      a general rule, principle, or piece of advice.
      synonyms: recommendation, instruction, direction, suggestion

  18. Ward Wayne

    Nov 7, 2017 at 11:25 pm

    A better answer is “get fitted” because any guideline is too general. Manufacturers can’t even agree what is a 7 iron. The shaft also makes a difference and let’s not talk about the ball. Oh and by the way that TaylorMade 5 iron you bought is about the loft as your fathers Wilson Staff 2 iron so there goes your guide.
    Above all, play what you like because life is too short and live with the consequences! Remeber the game is about putting the ball in the hole with the least amount of strokes not distance!

  19. Dylan

    Nov 7, 2017 at 9:31 pm

    It might help to include what loft you’re talking about here. People’s carry with a traditional 36* 7 iron will vary enormously to a 28* shovel from TaylorMade.

  20. Fitted 5-times

    Nov 7, 2017 at 9:14 pm

    Very helpful and practical guidance. I also find the old school advice of not playing an iron stronger than 24 degrees and longer than 38” very useful.

    What are your thoughts on using utility irons like Ping G400 Crossover in place of 5i and/or 4i before moving to hybrids or high lofted woods?

  21. The dude

    Nov 7, 2017 at 8:47 pm

    Nice article….it amazes me how many players don’t take heed!!

  22. Acemandrake

    Nov 7, 2017 at 5:38 pm

    Also…You need fewer irons & more hybrids if the distance gaps between clubs are getting smaller due to a slower swing speed.

    If you hit your 5-iron the same distance of your 6-iron then why are you carrying the 5-iron?

    Loft is my friend 🙂

  23. DrRob1963

    Nov 7, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    Good article!
    I carry 3 & 4 Hybrids usually, but which 7-iron do you mean?
    My Mizuno bladed MP-68 7-iron has a 35* loft and goes a comfortable 145yds. (The most gorgeous clubs on the planet!)
    My Callaway Xhot Pro 7-iron is 0.25″ longer & has 31* loft which I can get out to 160yds.
    And there are even stronger iron sets with jacked up lofts & lengths (“super-shovels”) – TaylorMade has a 28* 7-iron!!!
    The OEM space-race for the longest iron ever has made these mid-iron comparisons almost impossible.

    • Crazy About Golf

      Dec 14, 2017 at 10:57 pm

      As a fellow Mizuno lover, I have to say that, while the MP68 is superb, the MP4 is the best looking iron ever made…..I currently game MP18s, mostly because they have a brushed finish and are less distracting than the chrome finish on the MP4/MP68. Just wanted to lob that out there to be a pain in the a$$.

  24. pb

    Nov 7, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    Well… My Ping G25 7i goes 160 yrds and my Ping Eye2 7i goes 150 yrds. Modern clubs have stronger lofts. 5i is the highest iron in my bag (both sets) and then I carry a 4H, 3-wood, and 5-wood. works for me! Overall, good points made in this article. No shame in using hybrids over long irons for the average golfer.

  25. TvGuyJake

    Nov 7, 2017 at 3:19 pm

    Generally sound advice; but some irons are more “forgiving” than others. I just switched to a more’modern’ set of Pings and picked up 10-12 yds. per club with moderate swing speed. In my case the only reason to carry a 4-iron is off the tee or punch-outs from the woods. 5-iron is not any more difficult than a 6i, unless your using blades or a forged iron set.

    • Chris

      Nov 8, 2017 at 3:39 am

      Forged irons are not more difficult to hit than cast irons. It’s just a method of manufacturing. Epon 7-series are among the easiest irons out there to hit.

  26. Bob Castelline

    Nov 7, 2017 at 3:08 pm

    I like this article for its practicality. I know there are conversations about MOI and dynamic loft and all that, but most of us need simpler thumbrules. As one person said, it’s a gauge. It’s not completely scientific, and it’s not set in stone. One person might hit a 7-iron 160 but still carry a 4-iron. If it works, great. But for others, hybrids are a great choice. They are for me. Also, hybrids aren’t just for people who hit the big ball first. I hit hybrids with a bit of a divot, and I have great success with them. Everybody’s different as far as what they feel comfortable with. But the ideas in this article give you a nice place to start if you don’t have access to sophisticated launch monitors (or don’t care to go that deep).

  27. Bob Jones

    Nov 7, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    My 7-iron goes 145 yards. I can hit a 2-iron 200 yards off a tee, but forget about the fairway. The 3-iron is useless. Both of them have been replaced with equivalent hybrids. I can hit a 4-iron well, but the equivalent hybrid is so much easier. 5-iron on down, OK.

    • Stephen Finley

      Nov 7, 2017 at 11:10 pm

      Geez, Bob, I though you called these cleek, mashie, and mid-mashie. What gives?

  28. Guia

    Nov 7, 2017 at 2:54 pm

    I think the article is right on. Too many people use long irons because of ego. Hybrids are easier to hit.

  29. Dennis Clark

    Nov 7, 2017 at 2:36 pm

    As always, this is a general GUAGE…nothing cast in stone! Another consideration might be weather: On windy days you may not want the ball in the air, and on clam days, you may? Course: elevated protected greens consider hybrids, flat unprotected greens longer irons might not hurt. Lots of considerations.. Resistance to angular acceleration is another help, on toe and heel hits, less so on angle of attack. In general, hybrids have made my senior days in golf A LOT more fun. Glad it helped may of you! Thx.

  30. Greg V

    Nov 7, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    What’s a hybrid? I’ve gone to a 7-wood… and I like it.

    • Brian

      Nov 15, 2017 at 10:05 pm

      Me too. Usual selection in my bag are a driver, 4wood and 7 wood.

  31. Andrew

    Nov 7, 2017 at 2:12 pm

    So say one is a 2-10 hcp and hits their 7i 165 and carries a 3h. This makes a 2h and 13-15d 3 wood seem incorrect. What’s next? 16-18d fwy wood, 3h, and 4 wedges? Where can this golfer save the most strokes?

  32. John

    Nov 7, 2017 at 2:02 pm

    This is a great article. 20 years ago I read an article that said you shouldn’t hit a 3I unless you were single digits, never swung one again. Then I replaced my 4I as part of 2H/3H/4H (due to high risk). Right now my 5I is almost never swung (180 vs. 175 6I at significantly greater risk) which was a go-to club 10 years ago (probably losing swing speed). So I’m at 2H (195), 3H (185), 5I (180), 6I (175), 7I (165) and carry extra wedges. I save a bunch of money only buying 5I-9I when I upgrade too.

    • James

      Nov 9, 2017 at 2:35 am

      If you take the five iron out of the bag and bend the 6 iron a touch strong you’ll have great yardage gaps and a lighter bag to boot!

  33. Brewdawg

    Nov 7, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    Useful advice, and helpful to those that don’t know their swing speeds. Probably good advice for most, but after years of hitting a 4 hybrid, I’ve ditched it, and started using my 4 iron again. I hit a 7I about 155 yds. When I caught it right, the 4H flight was a thing of beauty, but I wasn’t near as consistent with it- I may be wrong on the reason, but it seemed the longer shaft gave a greater margin of error. My misses could be REAL bad, rather than off a little. A missed 4I is much less punishing for me. But then, I’ve never been normal.

  34. Theo

    Nov 7, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    IMHO launch angle depends on dynamic loft at impact. If you have an iron with the same loft as the hybrid the launch angle will be identical.
    The advantages of a hybrid are: higher MOI of clubhead hence more forgiving and less loss of clubspeed when hitting turf before hitting ball.
    I would phrase it as follows: for golfers who hit ball-divot, mostly irons will do the job.
    For golfers who regularly hit the big ball before hitting the small ball: use lots of hybrids.
    Now the golfers who hit ball-divot are mostly the better golfers with higher clubhead speed, so there is a little bit of truth in your explanation.
    With due respect I disagree with the reasoning: check it with your LM like I did.
    Best Regards.

  35. JJVas

    Nov 7, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    I’m a 2-hcp that hits a pretty weak-lofted 7i 165 yards, and at 41, I finally decided that this would be the year I would replace the 4i with a hybrid (I play D-3W-5W). Too often, these high-end qualifiers play at 7000 yards with rough and firm greens, and mean that I better have an A+ driving day if I’m going to get anywhere. Kids can rip a 7i 180y out of the rough and hold greens that I can’t get to from 200y out with a 4i. For the most part, it’s been a pretty good move, but the fact is that when it’s all on the line, I would still much rather hit a 4i on a long Par 3 or on a risky approach. Even anti-hook hybrids are still a lot easier to turn over than a 4i by accident. My final move was to leave the 4i in the car, and base my decision on the course and situation. Maybe at 50 it’ll stay home.

  36. jeff monik

    Nov 7, 2017 at 1:35 pm

    This is the one of the best things I’ve read….trying to hit long irons leads to bad habits.

  37. Matt-78

    Nov 7, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    Dennis,

    Great article! I would think these 7 iron yardages are somewhat relative to what club you play. I play Mizunos that have traditional lofts and don’t have hot faces. A typical easy 7 iron shot is 155-160 carry. However, if I pick up a Callaway Apex 7 for example it is certainly longer. What do you think?

    • Daniel

      Nov 7, 2017 at 1:39 pm

      Great feedback. I also think there’s some nuances at play with longer irons that should be talked about here. For example, I hit my 7-iron somewhere between 165-170 yds with Titleist 716 AP2’s (project x 6.0 shafts). I play a 3 and 4-iron but they’re Taylormade UDIs with C-taper lite stiff shafts. I am more accurate with irons than hybrids, and much more accurate with those UDI long irons than traditional hybrids. But the lighter shaft and wider sole provide more forgiveness than my AP2’s.

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Opinion & Analysis

Here’s who should be the four U.S. Ryder Cup captain’s picks based on analytics

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After the PGA Championship, the U.S. Ryder Cup team solidified 8 of its 12 players on the team. Now, captain Jim Furyk will have to decide who the other 4 players will be to join the team. In this day and age of advanced data analytics, it is imperative for the U.S. team to utilize an analytical approach. The European team has used advanced analytics in recent Ryder Cups, and they now field one of the best European squads of all time. Any advantage that the Europeans have that the U.S. team can counter would behoove Furyk and his chances of being a winning Ryder Cup captain.

Normally, captains have sought out players that have played well right before the Ryder Cup. This is a sound strategy. My statistical research on the subject is that most players reach peak performance for about four events in a row. Then their performance inevitably dips to a degree before eventually they hit peak performance, again.

The golden rule is that 80 percent of a player’s earnings in a season come in about 20 percent of the events they play in. Thus, if a player earns $2 million and plays 25 events in a season there’s a good likelihood that he earned $1.6 million of that in just 5 events.

These trends show that picking a hot player is fairly important. However, the issue is that Furyk has to make 3 of the picks by September 3rd and the last pick by September 9th and the Ryder Cup starts on September 28th. Thus, it’s very plausible that a player who is picked because they are playing great golf may cool down a bit by the time the Ryder Cup is being played. Therefore, finding a player with a hot hand is not quite what it is cracked up to be. But, I would recommend staying away from players that are playing miserably. History has shown that a hot player that is selected is more likely to perform better at the Ryder Cup than the cold player that gets selected.

There are some simple statistical rules to follow for optimal picks:

  1. Seek out quality performers around the green as it helps most in the Foursome (alternate shot) and individual match play format.
  2. You want birdie makers and quality performers on each of the holes (par-3’s, par-4’s and par-5’s) for the Fourball (best score) format.
  3. Ryder Cup experience doesn’t mean anything if the player is a poor Ryder Cup performer.
  4. All things being equal, take the younger player.
  5. Lean towards the player who fits into both Fourball and Foursome formats over the slightly better player that only fits well into one format.

A good way to start to determine what picks you need is to understand your current team. Here are the rankings in key metrics for the top-8 players on the U.S. team (rankings based out of 205 players):

The top-8 players compile a good driving team that drives the ball effectively thru hitting the ball a long ways rather than being deadly accurate off the tee. One of the best attributes the top-8 has is that they are a very good Short Game team (median ranking of 40.5). They are also pretty good from the Red Zon (175-225 yards), but are better from the Yellow Zone (125-175 yards).

The top-8 has dominated par-4’s (median ranking of 11.5) and par-5’s (median ranking of 20) while being good on the par-3’s (median ranking of 44.5). They also make a lot of birdies (median ranking 27th).

It should also be noted that Brooks Koepka’s data could probably be thrown out since it was skewed by him coming off an injury and he is clearly a different and much improved player in recent months. Koepka has typically been one of the better putters on Tour and a pretty good Red Zone performer.

The potential issues I see is that they do not hit a lot of fairways and have some players with issues hitting shots from the rough which is a bad combination in the Foursome format. Also, Webb Simpson currently stands as their weakest link on the team as he has not played that well in recent months and they will likely need to figure out a way to work around him if his performance doesn’t improve between now and the Ryder Cup.

Here are the picks I would recommend making at this point:

Tiger Woods

This is clearly the easiest pick to make even though Tiger’s Ryder Cup record has not been exactly stellar. Forget about Tiger being arguably the greatest player of all time, his performance has clearly indicated that he deserves to be on this Ryder Cup team. Furthermore, he’s statistically a quality fit in either the Fourball or Foursome format. The only issue I see is that given his age and his back issues, it would be wise to use him in no more than 3 matches in the first two days and even that may be too much for him. But, I would love to see him paired in the Foursome format with a player who hits fairways and can play well from the rough for those drives that Tiger struggles with.

Tony Finau

Finau has had 8 top-10 finishes and 2 second place finishes this season. He’s a nice looking fit at the Ryder Cup because he’s a great fit in the Fourball format and a pretty good fit in the Foursome format. In fact, my simulations find that he and Tiger would be a good fit together in either format.

Bryson DeChambeau

Again, versatility and youth play a key role in his selection. You never quite know who is going to show up at the Ryder Cup and who may get injured. Thus, there’s always a need for a player that fits both formats and can play in ever match if needed. The simulations I’ve ran really like a Justin Thomas and Bryson DeChambeau pairing.

Patrick Cantlay

This was a difficult choice between Cantlay, Mickelson and Zach Johnson. The pros for Mickelson is that he has played well in recent Ryder Cups and certainly has the experience. He’s also not a bad fit in the Foursome format and a really good fit in the Fourball format if paired with another birdie making machine that avoids bogeys and plays well on par-3’s (i.e. Koepka, Fowler and Tiger). Zach has been a quality Ryder Cup performer as well and is best suited for the Foursome format. However, he’s not such a bad fit in the Fourball format. He doesn’t hit it long, but he does make birdies (43rd in Adjusted Birdie Percentage).

From a pure numbers point of view, my simulations favor Cantlay. I wish he was better from the Red Zone and from the rough, but he’s still a quality candidate in both formats and has youth on his side. For sentimental reasons, I would pick Mickelson because the simulations such as him and Tiger in the Fourball format, and this will likely be the last time that the two can ever be paired together. The numbers don’t care about emotions, though. And that’s why Cantlay is the pick for now. It would just be wise to wait until September 9th to make the final pick.

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Opinion & Analysis

Prospective NCAA Golfers, are you ready for September 1? Here’s what you should be doing

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In June, I reported changes to the NCAA rules, including new legislation that prevented college coaches from contacting a prospective student athlete before September 1 of their Junior Year. With September 1 just around the corner, the question is: are you ready?

If not, don’t worry. As always, I am here to help you understand the college landscape and find the best opportunity to pursue your passion in college! Here’s what you need to know:

Be Prepared

Over time, you are going to hear from some coaches. It is important that students are prepared to talk to coaches. Before speaking to a coach, it is important to do research about their institution; what are the grades required for admissions? How many players are on the team? How much of the student population lives on campus? Know the basics before your conversation.

It is also important that you are ready to answer a couple questions. Coaches are very likely to ask, why are you interested in my school? Tell me about your grades or academic interests? Or, tell me about your golf game? Be honest and remember a passion for the game goes a long way.

Coaches are also likely to ask if you have any questions. Having a couple questions written down is important. If you are not sure what to ask, here are some questions I recommend:

  • What is your coaching philosophy?
  • What is your favourite part of coaching?
  • What type of student best fits in at your university?
  • What type of athlete best fits in?
  • What are the goals for the golf program?
  • How do you determine who play play in your top 5 at tournaments?
  • Do you ever take more than 5 players to a tournament?
  • What access does the team have to golf courses?
  • Is it expected to have your own vehicle?
  • Do you do any technical swing work with the players?
  • What is your greatest strength as a coach?
  • Do you offer academic support, such as tutors for students?
  • What percent of teachers have terminal degrees?
  • How does my major (X) impact golf? Can I do it and golf?
  • Do you support graduates in getting jobs?
  • What success do people have getting jobs?
  • What success do people have getting into grad schools?

Know the Numbers

With only a couple weeks before September 1, I would recommend you take time and see where you (or your son and daughter) stands on websites such as Junior Golf Scoreboard or Rolex AJGA Rankings. Now that you know the number, consider in several previous articles I have presented how rankings related to college signings. My analysis of the numbers demonstrates that, for boys, the average Division I player is ranked approximately 300 in Junior Golf Scoreboard in their class with a scoring differential of about .5. The average Division II player is ranked about 550 in their class. For girls, it appears that ranking is less important, but there is a strong relationship between scoring differential and college signings. Girls that sign at schools within the top 50 have scoring differentials of at least -3 or better, while the average for any Division I player is approximately 5.

Keep in mind that when you search on Junior Golf Scoreboard for yourself, it will show your ranking overall. This number is going to be much lower for your ranking in your class. Without a subscription, you will not be able to find your exact rank, but I would generally say you can cut the number by about 50 percent to give yourself a fair gauge. So if you are 3750 overall, you are likely close to 1875 in your class.

For many members of the junior class reading this article, they may see that their ranking might be significantly higher than these numbers. Don’t panic; the rankings are over a 1-year period. After a year, old scores drop off and new scores can be counted. Also, on Junior Golf Scoreboard, your worst 25 percent of rounds are not counted. So, you have time to continue to work on your game, improve your ranking and get the attention of coaches!

Do your research

Now that you have an idea about your ranking, start researching. Where did players of similar rank sign last year? What is the rank of that school? What schools are ranked about the same? Answering these questions will require some time and two resources; Junior Golf Scoreboard and Golfstat.com. To find out where similar players signed from last year, go to njgs.com, then under the tab “rankings & honors,” the bottom option is college signees. Click there, and then you can order the signees based on class rank by clicking on “scoreboard class ranking as of signing date.” You will notice that last year, players ranked about 1800 in their class signed at such schools as Kenyon, Glenville, Southern Nazarene, Central Alabama Community college and Allegany college. Pretty good considering these schools have produced a president of the United States (Hayes, Kenyon), and a 5-time Major Championship participant (Nathan Smith, Allegany).

Now that you have a list of schools where similar students have signed, look up the golf rankings of these schools on golfstat.com. The rankings of schools are under the “rankings” tab on the home page and segmented by NCAA, NAIA and NJCAA.

First find out where the school is ranked and then consider schools ranked 5-10 spots ahead and behind that school. Are any of these of interest? Any where you think might sound interesting? Take time and build a list, then send an email to those schools introducing yourself, along with a swing video.

Have a Plan

Regardless if you are a Junior in High School or a Senior in High School, come September 1, remember that there is still time and regardless of what people say, coaches are always looking. For High School Juniors, it is likely that next summer will have a critical impact on your opportunities in college golf, so what can you do over the next 9 months? Where are you missing out on the most shots? Take time, talk to people and develop a plan to give yourself the best chance to succeed in the future. And then, put in the time!

For Seniors, although many might be in your ear saying it’s too late, don’t listen to them. You still have some time. Take a careful look at how you can use the next 2-3 months to improve and prepare for events such as the AJGA Senior Showcase in Las Vegas. Remember that data suggests that up to one-third of players sign in the late period (for all levels) and up to 60 percent of players who compete in the AJGA Senior Showcase in December in Las Vegas, go on to get offers.

As always, if you have any feedback on this article or a story idea, please feel free to reach out to me! I always love hearing from people and helping them connect with schools that meet their academic, athletic, social and financial needs! Best of luck to you, or your son/daughter.

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