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The Top-10 Announcers in Golf

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By Chris Hibler

GolfWRX Contributor

I’m an American, born and bred. I needed to mention that right off the bat. As I sat here reviewing my list of the top-10 golf announcers in the game, I realized that it has a decidedly international flavor, as it were. I’m not sure if I am sucker for a foreign accent or stodgy in my ways.  Whatever the reason, I tended to go “Euro” (or Kiwi) as my list wears on.

My top-10 list is not designed to say who has called the most majors, or who has the best catch phrase, or who has the greatest golf resume (although it doesn’t hurt either). I didn’t do this based on popular opinion, who I liked best five years ago, or anything scientific.

The way I arrived at this list was based on nothing more analytical than personal opinion. I watch nothing but golf and other sports on TV. I use my DVR to record golf from Europe to Asia to the good ol’ US of A. I watch when I get home and when I go to sleep. On the whole, I am very satisfied with current crop of announcers and commentators. It seems that we have arrived at a good state of golf announcing right now as there is a healthy mix guys who are established as well as both women and men who are up-and-coming.

This list is written in reverse order, meaning my favorite is at the bottom of the list (No. 1). So, without further adieu, I present my top-10 list of golf announcers in the game. Feel free to add your comments and share your perspectives of why I’m wrong and/or who I forgot.

10. Jim Nantz 

The sole reason Jim Nantz makes the list is the Masters. I can’t remember a thing he has said and I can’t recall a specific insight or magical moment. But, Nantz does possess a good quality of voice and is, at this stage of his career, synonymous with the Masters, which is undoubtedly my favorite golf viewing tournamentt year in and year out. There are many other announcers better than him. But I put him up on the list solely as being the guy in the right place (Augusta, Georgia) at the right time (The Masters each year).

9. Stephanie Sparks

This is an odd add to my list, I have to admit. I was combing through my mind for announcers and commentators that have made an impression on me. Stephanie Sparks is one of those. I know she covers the LPGA, which I don’t watch as much as I would like. But, I actually put her on this list for her other commentary work, most notably “Playing Lessons with the Pros.” I think the first “Playing Lessons” episode that I watched was with her and Ian Poulter. I realized right then and there that she had a certain flair as an announcer and gained the

respect of not only Mr. Poulter but many of the other notable PGA Tour pros that she interviewed as she played alongside them. She’s got game, too. She also gets an “honorable mention” as being the 50 percent part of the announcing team on the “Big Break” that is actually tolerable!

8. Ken Venturi

My list, my rules. Yes, Ken Venturi retired as a golf announcer. But, after watching him in an extensive interview earlier in 2012 (which was an extremely enjoyable hour); I realized that he could still call golf if given the opportunity right now. He was one of the best ever, was the voice of the Masters and had an incredible resume as both a golfer AND announcer. He also was, and still is,

comfortable both praising and criticizing, which I believe are critical to success as a commentator. Yes, the retired Ken Venturi deserves a spot on any list of current golf announcers, in my opinion!

7. Roger Maltbie

I feel that Roger is one of the best in the business as an on-course reporter. He reminds me of a favorite uncle. He is both likable and engaging. He describes the situation, has the right balance of humor combined with keen insight, and he seems to be at every tournament every week. He has the respect of the players and does a solid job at interviewing them right as they walk off the green in good times and not-so-good times. He does not rely on any kind of gag. He does a solid job and deserves recognition as being the less outrageous of the on-course duo between Gary McCord and Uncle Maltbie.

6. Gary McCord

His frenetic, manic style combined with his own unique look at the world around him, thrown in with an inimitable way of describing things on the golf course lands him squarely on this list. Yes, I imagine that some of you are rolling your eyes and feeling that he is passé, but it is fun to see how hopped up he can be when his mic is on. You never know what he’s going to say.

I have to add that I feel like I got a better sense of who he is when I saw him interviewed on Feherty’s show earlier this year. Okay, I recognize that it is nearly impossible to NOT commentate on him and bring the Masters into the mix when discussing his career as a golf commentator. Personally, I feel that Augusta National has taken it too far with the “McCord ban.” If they can let women into the clubhouse (as they should have long ago), then it’s time to let McCord back on the grounds and let it finally be said that he has served his sentence in full for the notorious “bikini wax” and “body bags” comments. Let’s not forget that Fuzzy Zoeller went further than McCord ever did with offensive comments at The Masters and was never punished with as much force and venom as Mr. McCord was for his attempt at humor. Yes, Zoeller paid a step price in PR, but McCord has been shamed annually for over a decade for an innocent attempt at humor. Oh, Gary’s line about the greens at Augusta was funny, by the way!

5. David Feherty

This was another name that was tough to not only put this high on the list — but on the list at all. Yes, his act has grown a bit tired over the years. Yes, he may have stepped over the line announcing Els at the Tavistock Cup when Els subsequently unloaded on him in print (lighten up, Ernie!). Yes, Feherty rehearses funny lines and then pops them out when the occasion arises. Yes, he can even be a bit awkward at times in his interviews on his own show (although many have been terrific). But, he does still drop the perfect line with a touch of humor every now and then.

I think back to this year’s 2012 Masters when Phil Mickelson flopped a near-impossible shot from behind the 15th green. Feherty then said with a perfect delivery in his Iris brogue, “This is gonna land like a sack of flour.” What a line and what a delivery — and earns him a spot at No. 5. Here’s a link to the “Sack of Flour” flop shot. 

4. Johnny Miller

Had I written a top 10 list of announcers two years ago, Johnny would have certainly been at the top of the list: Numero Uno, the big cheese, the cream of the crop. I am still very high on him, thus I have placed him at No. 4. But, times do change and just like all of us, there are sometimes those that come along that are just a little bit better. We can all lose our edge regardless of what we do. Now, I’m not saying he has lost his edge, but I do feel at times that his criticisms can be a little stronger or seem a little more personal at times. They may even be called for, but they need to come off as constructive rather than destructive.

Just by listening to bits and pieces, I can tell that he wants to be out there playing against the guys. I like that as he still has a player’s cockiness. I don’t know who would win in a match between Johnny Miller 1973 v. Bubba Watson 2012. But, I do know that as an announcer they need to toe the line of staying humble and let us draw the conclusions of who the greatest players of all time were and are. Comparing players between eras is a tricky business in any sport. Johnny is certainly at the top of the list as both player and announcer. But, I would prefer if we were the ones to conclusion and not have it come from the source.

3. Frank Nobilo

Frank Nobilo is kind of like a song that becomes a part of my regular rotation. It goes like this: when I first listened, it was unfamiliar and just kind of there. Then, as I heard more and more, it became catchy. Then, after a period where I am accustomed to it, it is a standard in my library. I think Nobilo is rock solid as an announcer. He doesn’t rely on shtick or take too many shots at humor. But, what

he does do is provide smart insight combined with a strong golf resume all  rapped in a pleasant voice with respect from his co-workers and the pros he works around. His New Zealand accent combined with a sharp mind have made him a cornerstone of golf coverage on the Golf Channel — and an announcer that makes him No. 3 on my list. 

2. Peter Alliss

If you are unfamiliar with this name on the list, Peter Alliss is the voice of the European Tour and has dabbled in announcing over the years on ABC. I highly recommend that you watch his induction speech at the PGA Hall of Fame in 2012. It is an enjoyable 16 minutes, and more specifically, the last three are absolutely classic. Hopefully, you will recognize the voice and a have a window into possibly the best golf announcer ever to live. He combines a dry sense of humor with a quick wit, keen insight, a love of golf, and an accomplished career as bothprofessional golfer and announcer. Here’s a link to his induction speech.

1. Nick Faldo

I have him at No. 1 for a reason. He possesses all of the attributes that make for the perfect announcer: he has a clear and soothing voice, he has the right balance of sense of humor combined with the appropriate level of seriousness when needed, he has the resume from his days on tour and he possesses the right balance to know when to criticize and/or praise and when to back off a bit. That’s the recipe for perfection as a golf announcer and only a few on this list have ever achieved it (or can still achieve it). I also feel that Sir Nick is underrated. I hear a lot of people talk about Johnny Miller, David Feherty and Jim Nance. But, for me, Nick Faldo is the cream of the crop and seems to be only getting better.

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum. 

Chris Hibler is a contributor for GolfWRX.com. His views do not necessarily represent the views of the GolfWRX.

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Chris Hibler is an avid golfer, writer and golf gear junkie. If he's not practicing his game with his kids, he's scouring the GolfWRX classifieds looking for a score.

21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Bill J

    Sep 10, 2016 at 10:18 pm

    Who us the substitute/temp/fill-in TV announcer on PGA Tour broadcasts who handles play by play commentary when the A team is taking breaks? I’ve seRched high and low for his identity but can’t find him.

  2. Al Russell

    May 21, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    How can a spectator have another spectator removed from the golf course, such as the Reed deal at the US Open?? I know some GO IN THE HOLE DUDES should be gone. Thanks Al

  3. Pingback: Ranking the 10 Best Golf Announcers and Commentators | NanSports

  4. kay swift

    Nov 16, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    Who is the announcer on the European tour the takes deep breaths like
    a smoker. He is always out of breath. He is very hard to listen to.
    take that mike away from him

  5. kay swift

    Nov 16, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    who is the announcer right now that is hard to listen to because he sounds like he out of breath? get him off the mike.

  6. PJM

    Aug 31, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    Generally agree, but feel Renton Laidlaw should certainly be on your list. Preferably replacing McCord. He defines insipid, trite, boring, clumsy, sophomoric to name just a few of his distasteful attributes. What a bozo. Any chance of him ever retiring. When his is on we mute the coverage.

    PJM

  7. Anne Moore

    Jun 14, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    induction cooker(modern)How it heats food without heating the vessel,
    is it harmful for health?

  8. Pingback: GolfWRX.com – The Top-10 Announcers in Golf | Golf Products Reviews

  9. Tom

    Nov 15, 2012 at 3:29 am

    I think you pretty much nailed it. “Your article, your rules”, on listing Ken Venturi, again you nailed it. I STILL miss him. He had his “Venturisims” (Jimmy, now he’s bring 6 & 7 into the picture”), for sure, but they were great. The guys I place with STILL use those when someone is trying to hit that “highlight reel” shot. McCord & Feherty, & Nantz, come from Chirkanian’s “don’t talk over the moment” school, the best advice ever. I don’t necessarily agree with the order, (Faldo is good, but I don’t know if #1, Allis I think is higher), but Johnny Miller, like him or not, he’s good. Nobilo may not have won everything, but he knows his stuff. Remember Verne Lundquist only gets rolled out for the Masters & specials, but again from the Chirkanian team, holds some of the best calls ever.

  10. Jonathan

    Nov 14, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    I feel like Peter Kostis should be on that list. At least his swing analysis is particularly insightful.

  11. Simon

    Nov 14, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    How good was Nobilo ? which Majors did he win ? When I listen to him I can only assume he did it all and won it all. I will go and research all his wins and then make another comment.

  12. Simon

    Nov 14, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    Nick Faldo better than Peter Alliss ??? Come on you must be joking. I remind you of the speech Faldo gave when he captained the Ryder Cup (embarrassing) and the speech Alliss gave when he was inducted into Hall of fame (superb). Alliss has graced our airwaves for many years and is a joy to listen to. Faldo only tells us what he Finks and Fort of when he played and is actually boring beyond belief.

  13. JD

    Nov 13, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    JIM NANTZE !?! Thanks to his Love of his own voice I use the mute and fast forward buttons when he is in the booth. Frank Nobilo no.2 to Nick Faldo.

  14. JonMurdy

    Nov 13, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    Miller, Nablo, FALDO, COME ON. All there 3 do is talk about when they used to be able to play! They are about as usfully as a QUITE sign at the Waste Management 16th Hole!

    • Blanco

      Nov 15, 2012 at 2:42 am

      ^This.

      Those crusty European tour guys at least offer a soothing experience with a fair and balanced call of play. Faldo is the drama king and infuses his own ego into EVERYthing. He’s the royal prissy version of Greg Norman.

    • realfan

      Mar 30, 2013 at 3:45 pm

      Don’t forget to add “with arrogance, self importance and deliveries that MANY of us golf fans refuse to tune into when they are announcing.

  15. Peedeecue

    Nov 13, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    What no Chris Mortensen?

  16. Chris Hibler

    Nov 12, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    Chamblee is a good call — I missed on that one!

  17. killerbgolfer

    Nov 12, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    no chamblee?

  18. Courtney Capps

    Nov 12, 2012 at 11:32 am

    HANG on hang on hang on. I know Johnny Miller is popular (mostly among people who think professional wrestling is a real sport and that insulting players is good analysis), but a top 10 list that doesn’t include Renton Laidlaw from the European Tour ? How about Dougie Donnelly ? Miller and Nantz can both go, IMHO.

    Very impressed that you included Stephanie Sparks – she and Steve Sands are easily the best interviewers on the golf channel. Sadly, for the LPGA, they get the bottom of the barrel from TGC’s “talent” pool. Jerry Foltz and Sparks are the two bright spots.

    • sean_miller

      Nov 12, 2012 at 2:44 pm

      In his defense maybe he was pressed for page space and didn’t want to spend 1/2 of it explaining to the casual major network golf audience who those people are. If it wasn’t for thegolfchannel.com I’d have no idea who Stephanie Sparks is either.

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Geoff Shackelford and Louis Oosthuizen join our 19th Hole podcast

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Louis Oosthuizen and Geoff Shackelford join our 19th Hole this week. Oosthuizen talks about his prospects for the 2018 season, and Shackelford discusses Tiger’s setback at the 2018 Genesis Open. Also, host Michael Williams talks about the PGA Tour’s charitable efforts in the wake of tragic events in Parkland, Florida.

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

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Fantasy Preview: 2018 Honda Classic

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It’s off to Florida this week for the Honda Classic, as the lead up to the year’s first major continues. PGA National has been the permanent home of this event since 2007, and it has proved to be one of the most demanding courses on Tour since then. The golf course measures just under 7,200 yards, but it is the often blustery conditions combined with the copious amount of water hazards that make this event a challenge. There is also the added factor of “The Bear Trap,” a daunting stretch of holes (Nos. 15-17) that are arguably the most difficult run of holes we will see all year on the PGA Tour.

Ball strikers have excelled here in the past, with Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy all boasting fine records at PGA National. The par-70 golf course contains six long Par 4’s that measure over 450 yards, and players will be hoping that the wind isn’t too strong — when it does blow here, the course can turn into a brute. Last year, Rickie Fowler posted 12-under par to win the event by four strokes over Morgan Hoffmann and Gary Woodland. It was the first time in the last five years that the winning score reached double digits.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Rickie Fowler 8/1
  • Rory McIlroy 10/1
  • Justin Thomas 11/1
  • Sergio Garcia 18/1
  • Tyrrell Hatton 28/1
  • Tommy Fleetwood 30/1
  • Gary Woodland 30/1

Previous champions Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy are sure to be popular picks this week, but it’s Justin Thomas (11/1, DK Price $11,300) who I feel offers slightly more value out of the front runners. Thomas has begun the year well, finishing in the top-25 in all four events he has played. The numbers show that his game is getting better all the time. His iron play has steadily improved, picking up more Strokes for Approaching the Green week by week. Last week he gained six strokes approaching the green at the Genesis Open, which was fourth in the field.

At the ball strikers’ paradise, Thomas fans will be glad to know that he ranks fourth in the field for Ball Striking over his last 12 rounds. He is also ranked fourth for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green and second in Strokes Gained Total. Comparatively, neither Fowler nor McIlroy rank inside the top-50 for ball striking and the top-40 for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green over the same period.

Thomas’ accuracy on his approaches has been sensational lately. He leads the field in Proximity to the Hole for his past 12 rounds, and on a golf course that contains many long par 4’s it should play into Justin’s hands, as he’s been on fire recently with his long irons. He is third in the field for Proximity on Approaches Between 175-200 yards, and second in the field for Approaches Over 200 yards in his last 12 rounds. Thomas has a mixed record at PGA National, with a T3 finish wedged in between two missed cuts, but I like the way his game has been steadily improving as the season has progressed. It feels like it’s time for the current PGA Champion to notch his first win of the year.

On a golf course where ball striking is so important, Chesson Hadley (55/1, DK Price $7,700) caught my eye immediately. The North Carolina native has been in inspired form so far in this wraparound season with four finishes already in the top-5. The way he is currently striking the ball, it wouldn’t be a major surprise to see him get his fifth this week. Hadley is No. 1 in the field for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green, Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green and Ball Striking, while he is No. 2 for Strokes Gained Total over his last 24 rounds.

Having taken last week off, Hadley returns to a golf course where he has finished in the Top-25 twice in his three visits. Yet there is a sense that this year he’ll be aiming even higher than that. Chesson is fifth in this field for Proximity to the Hole from 175-200 yards and fourth overall over the past 24 rounds. With that level of accuracy on such a tricky golf course, Hadley will be confident of putting himself in position to claim win No. 2.

My next pick was a slow sell, but with the number so high I couldn’t leave him out. Adam Scott (55/1, DK Price $7,700) has been struggling for some time now. He has slipped out of the World’s Top-50, changed his putter from the short putter to the long putter and back again over the winter break, and he doesn’t have a top-10 finish on the PGA Tour since the FedEx St. Jude Classic last summer. Despite all of this, I don’t feel Scott should be as high as 66/1 with some bookmakers on a golf course where he has excelled. To put it in perspective, Scott is the same price to win this week in a modest field as he is to win The Masters in April.

There are also signs that Scott blew off some of the rust last week in LA. The Australian was 12th in the field for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green, which indicates that things might slowly be coming around for a man who is known for his prodigious ball striking. Scott’s achilles heel is the flat stick, and I wouldn’t expect that to change this week. He’s been very poor on the greens for some time now, which must be incredibly frustrating for a man who gives himself so many looks at birdie. But average putters have performed well at PGA National in the past, where it seems that excellent ball striking is the key for having a good week. Scott won here in 2016, and on his two other visits to PGA National in the past five years he twice finished in the top-15. If he can continue to improve his iron play the way he has been, I feel he could forge his way into contention.

My long shot this week is Sean O’Hair (200/1, DK Price $6,800). The Texan hasn’t done much so far this year, but he is making cuts and he arrives at a course that seems to bring out the best in him. O’Hair has five top-25 finishes in his last seven appearances at PGA National, which includes a T11 at last year’s edition. At 200/1 and with a DK Price of as little as $6,800, there is little harm in taking a chance on him finding that form once more this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Justin Thomas 11/1, DK Price $11,300
  • Chesson Hadley 55/1, DK Price $7,700
  • Adam Scott 55/1, DK Price $7,700
  • Sean O’Hair 200/1, DK Price $6,800
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Don’t Leave Your Common Sense in Escrow Outside the Golf Course Parking Lot

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Disclaimer: Much of what follows is going to come off as elitist, harsh and downright mean spirited — a pro looking down from his ivory tower at all the worthless hacks and judging them. It is the opposite. The intent is to show how foolish WE golfers are, chasing around a white ball with a crooked stick and suspending all of the common sense we use in our every day lives.

Much of what follows is not just the bane of average golfers, but also low handicappers, tour players and even a former long-drive champion during his quest for the PGA Tour… and now, the Champions Tour. In other words, if WE take ourselves a bit less seriously and use a bit more common sense, we are going to have more fun and actually hit better golf shots. We will shoot lower scores.

FYI: All of the examples of nutbaggery to come are things I have actually witnessed. They’re not exaggerated for the sake of laughs.

It’s winter time and most of you poor souls are not enjoying the 70-degree temperatures I am in Southern California right now (see, you all hate me already… and it’s going to get worse). That gives us all time to assess our approach to golf. I am not talking course management or better focus; I am talking how WE golfers approach our successes and failures, which for many is more important than the aforementioned issues or the quality of our technique.

Why is it that golf turns normal, intelligent, successful and SANE people into deviant, ignorant failures that exhibit all of the tell-tale signs of insanity? I also forgot profane, whiny, hostile, weak-minded, weak-willed and childish. Not to mention stupid. Why do we seem to leave our common sense and sanity in escrow in a cloud outside the golf course parking lot… only to have it magically return the moment our car leaves the property after imposing extreme mental anguish on ourselves that Gunnery Sergeant Hartman (don’t feel bad if you have to google this) would find extreme?

Smarter people than I have written books on this, but I think they missed a key factor. Clubs, balls, shoes, bags, gloves, tees, the grasses, especially the sand in the bunkers, the Gatorade they sell at the snack bar, hats, visors, over-logoed clothing, golf carts, etc., are all made with human kryptonite. Not enough to kill us, but just enough to make us act like children who didn’t get the latest fad toy for Christmas and react by throwing a hissy fit.

Bob Rotella has said golf is not a game of perfect, and although religious texts say man was made in God’s image, thinking we are perfect is blasphemous. We all play golf like we think there is an equivalent of a bowling 300. We expect to hit every drive 300 yards (the bowling perfect) with a three-yard draw… in the middle of the face… in the dead center of the fairway. All iron shots must be worked from the middle of the green toward the pin and compressed properly with shaft lean, ball-first contact and the perfect dollar-bill sized divot (and not too deep). Shots within 100 yards from any lie should be hit within gimme range, and all putts inside 20 feet must be holed.

We get these ideas from watching the best players in the world late on Sunday, where all of the above seem commonplace. We pay no attention to the fact that we are significantly worse than the guys who shot 76-76 and missed the cut. We still hold ourselves to that ridiculous standard.

  • Group 1: “Monte, you’re exaggerating. No one has those expectations.”
  • Group 2: ”Monte, I’m a type-A personality. I’m very competitive and hard on myself.”

To the first group, the following examples say different. And to the second group, I am one of you. It’s OK for me to want to shoot over 80 percent from the free throw line, but at 50 years old and 40 pounds over weight, what would you say to me if I said, “I’m type-A and competitive and I want to dunk like Lebron James!” Oh yeah, and I want to copy Michael Jordan’s dunking style, Steph Curry’s shooting stroke and Pistol Pete’s passing and dribbling style.” That seems ridiculous, but switch those names to all-time greats in golf and WE have all been guilty of those aspirations.

I don’t know how to answer 18-handicaps who ask me if they should switch to blades so they can work the ball better and in both directions. The blunt a-hole in me wants to tell them, “Dude, just learn to hit the ball on the face somewhere,” but that’s what they read in the golf magazines. You’re supposed to work the ball from the middle of the green toward the pin, like Nicklaus. Well, the ball doesn’t curve as much now as it did in Nicklaus’ prime and most tour players only work the ball one way unless the circumstances don’t allow it. “And you’re not Jack Nicklaus.” Some joke about Jesus and Moses playing golf has that punch line.

Wouldn’t it be easier to get as proficient as possible at one shot when you have limited practice time, versus being less than mediocre on several different shots? This also applies to hitting shots around the greens 27 different ways, but don’t get me started…just buy my short game video. Hyperbole and shameless plug aside, this is a huge mistake average golfers make. They never settle on one way of doing things.

The day the first white TaylorMade adjustable driver was released, I played 9 holes behind a very nice elderly couple. He went to Harvard and she went to Stanford. He gets on the first tee and hits a big push. He walks to the cart, grabs his wrench and closes the club face. She tops her tee shot, gets the wrench and adds some loft. Out of morbid curiosity, I stayed behind them the entire front 9 and watched them adjust their clubs for every mishit shot. It took over 3 hours for a two-some. These are extremely nice, smart and successful people and look what golf did to them. Anyone calling this a rules violation, have a cocktail; you’re talking yourself even more seriously than they were. Old married couple out fooling around, big deal if they broke a rule. No tournament, not playing for money, they’re having fun. They had gimmies, mulligans and winter rules. Good for them.

This is an extreme example of a huge mistake that nearly 100 percent of golfers make; they believe the need for an adjustment after every bad shot… or worse, after every non-perfect shot. How many of you have done this both on the range and on the course?

”(Expletive), pushed that one, need to close the face. (Expletive), hit that one thin, need to hit down more on this one. (Expletive), hooked that one, need to hold off the release.”

I’ll ask people why they do this and the answer is often, “I’m trying to build a repeatable swing.”

Nice. Building repeatable swing by making 40 different swings during a range session or round of golf. That is insane and stupid, but WE have all done it. The lesson learned here is to just try and do better on the next one. You don’t want to make adjustments until you have the same miss several times in a row. As a secondary issue, what are the odds that you do all of the following?

  1.  Diagnose the exact swing fault that caused the bad shot
  2.  Come up with the proper fix
  3.  Implement that fix correctly in the middle of a round of golf with OB, two lakes, eight bunkers and three elephants buried in the green staring you in the face.

Another factor in this same vein, and again, WE have all been guilty of this: “I just had my worst round in three weeks. What I was doing to shoot my career low three times in row isn’t working any more. Where is my Golf Digest? I need a new tip.”

Don’t lie… everyone reading this article has done that. EVERYONE! Improvement in golf is as far from linear as is mathematically possible. I have never heard a golfer chalk a high score up to a “bad day.” It’s always a technique problem, so there is a visceral need to try something different. “It’s not working anymore. I think I need to do the Dustin Johnson left wrist, the Sergio pull-down lag, the Justin Thomas downswing hip turn, the Brooks Koepka restricted-backswing hip turn and the Jordan Spieth and Jamie Sadllowski bent left elbow… with a little Tiger Woods 2000 left-knee snap when I need some extra power.” OK, maybe it’s a small bit of exaggeration that someone would try all of these, but I have heard multiple people regale of putting 2-3 of those moves in after a bad round that didn’t mesh with their downtrending index.

An 8-handicap comes to me for his first lesson. He had shot in the 70’s four of his last five rounds and shot a career best in the last of the five. All of the sudden, those friendly slight mishits that rhyme with the place where we keep our money show up. First a few here and there and then literally every shot. He shows up and shanks 10 wedges in a row and is literally ready to cry. I said, “Go home, take this week off and come back… and what’s your favorite beer?”

He comes back the next week, pulls a club and goes to hit one. I tell him to have a seat. I hand him a beer and we talk football for 15 minutes. Then I pull out my iPad and show him exactly why he is hitting shanks. I tell him one setup issue and one intent change and ask him to go hit one. It was slightly on the heel, but not a shank and very thin. I said to do both changes a bit more. The second one — perfect divot, small draw and on target. I walk over, put my hand up for a high five and say, “Awesome job! Great shot!”

He leaves me hanging and says, ”Yeah, but I hit it in the toe.”

Don’t judge him. Every day I have people with 50-yard slices toned down to 15-20 yards saying the ball is still slicing. These are people who won’t accept a fade, but slam their club when it over draws 15 feet left of the target… and so on. I can’t judge or be angry; I used to be these guys, too. During a one-hour lesson, I often hear people get frustrated with themselves for thin and fat, left and right, heel and toe. Apparently, anything not hunting flags or hit out of a dime-sized area is an epic fail. I also get emails the next day saying the fault and miss is still there.

GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK!

My big miss has always been a big block, often in the heel. Instead, I now often hit a pull in the left fairway bunker out of the toe. I celebrate like I’m Kool & the Gang and it’s 1999… and I get strange looks from everyone. I can manage a 10-15 yard low, slightly drawn pull. I cannot not manage a 40-50 yard in the atmosphere block… that cuts.

So, now that I have described all of US as pathetic, let’s see what we can do.

  1. Be hard on yourself, be competitive and set lofty goals all you want… but you need to accept at least a one-side miss. If you hate hitting thin, weak fades, you need to allow yourself a slightly heavy over draw. Not allowing yourself any miss will make you miss every shot.
  2. Generally, the better the player, the larger the pool of results that are used to judge success. Pros judge themselves over months and years. High-handicappers judge themselves on their previous shot. Do you think pros make a swing change after 10 good shots and one minor miss? We all seem to think that course of action is astute. Bad shot, must have done something wrong… HULK MUST FIX!
  3. Don’t judge your shots on a pass/fail grade. Grade yourself A-F. Are you going to feel better after 10 A’s, 25 B’s, 15 C’s, 4 D’s and 1 F… or 10 passes and 40 fails? If every non-perfect shot is seen as a failure, your subconscious will do something different in order to please you. Again, 40 different swings.
  4. Improving your swing and scores is a lot like losing weight. No one expects to make changes in a diet and exercise routine and lose 20 pounds in one day, yet golfers expect a complete overhaul in a small bucket. Give yourself realistic time frames for improvement. “I’m a 12. By the end of next year, I want to be an 8.”  That’s your goal, not whether or not your last range session was the worst in a month. It’s a bad day; that is allowed. Major champions miss cuts and all of them not named Tiger Woods don’t change their swings. They try and do better next week… and they nearly always do.
  5. DO NOT measure yourself either on the mechanics of your swing or your scoring results according to some arbitrary standard of perfection… and especially not against tour players. Measure yourself against yourself. Think Ty Webb. Is your swing better than it was 6 months ago? Do you hit it better than 6 months ago? Are you scoring better than 6 months ago? If you can say yes to at least two of those questions, your swing looking like Adam Scott is less relevant than the color of golf tee you use.

That is a winning formula, and just like bad habits in your swing, you can’t wake up one morning and tell yourself you’re no longer into self flagellation. It takes effort and practice to improve your approach and get out of your own way… but more importantly, have some fun.

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