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WATCH: Gary Player hilariously criticizes players using green-reading books

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Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player held a dual press conference at The Masters and addressed a number of issues. It’s all a must-watch, and you can watch the full video here, but skip to 23:54 for the real entertainment. Asked about 9-hole golf courses and how golf takes too long, Player took that moment to rip on pro golfers for using green-reading books. It’s a bit get-off-my-lawn-esque, but it’s hilarious and he makes some great points.

“I’m flabbergasted,” Player said. “I’m not gonna criticize it, but I find it hard to understand when you have in a tournament, I see these guys bringing out a book when they get on the green to look where to putt. Really I find this very hard to understand. I and Jack have played many golf courses and exhibitions that we never played the golf course before we broke the course record. I go to a golf course, you can put me on any golf course in the world, I can read the putt as well as if I played it ten times. I’m a professional golfer, this is something I’ve got to be able to do.”

A fair point from a 9-time major champion.

“When I go to a golf tournament and you see guys having three practice rounds, then they play two rounds, that’s five rounds on a golf course,” Player continued. “Now they’re playing in the tournament and they look at the book where to putt. But I’m not gonna criticize it.”

No. No he’s not going to criticize it at all. Hah!

Jack, how do you feel about green-reading books?

“I think you’re absolutely dead right,” Nicklaus agreed. “I think it’s absolutely absurd. You’ve gotta swing coach, a mental coach, a chef, a pilot. You got everything. And now you’ve gotta book to tell you how to do it. And it’s also done by somebody who can’t break 90.”

Jack, the 18-time major champion, also used this opportunity to get a bit sentimental about the game.

“To me the game of golf is learning how to play the game and be responsible for everything you do. That’s the fun of it. It’s fun to learn how to putt greens, it’s fun to learn how to play clubs.”

Ultimately, however, Jack admitted he’d probably do the same thing.

“That said, if it were all given to me back when I started in 1962 on the tour, I probably would have done exactly the same thing.”

What do you think about green-reading books?

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Andrew Tursky is the Editor-in-Chief of GolfWRX. He played on the Hawaii Pacific University Men's Golf team and earned a Masters degree in Communications. He also played college golf at Rutgers University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Mat

    Apr 8, 2018 at 11:08 pm

    You can’t have a compass on the course, but you can have a green reading book? Ya, they’re handy. It’s good to have. But as a consideration for speed of play, they’re hideous. I would much rather give caddies nothing but a laser, and prohibit the use of lasers when the ball is on the green. I’m all for the science-data stuff, but part of having a game is to make pros be pros. Yardage books are fine on Wednesday.

  2. Rich Douglas

    Apr 7, 2018 at 11:20 pm

    Shall we ban yardage books? Distance markers? Laser rangefinders?

    Is judging break and judging distance all that different?

    I’m in favor of them, as long as they don’t slow play. But….they will. The same chops who used to plumb-bob putts–and have no idea what to do with what they MIGHT have been seeing–will stare at a line indicated by the book and not be able to translate that into results, either because they can’t use the information or they have lousy putting skills.

    But the real culprit here is slow play, and this will feed it. How many times in a round do you see people who’s turn it is not be ready? They find out they’re away–usually by being told–and THEN they go into their pre-shot routines. And what routines they are! Two or three practice swings–none of which will resemble the actual hack at the ball–coupled with checking the wind, interminable waggling, and a slice into the woods. (That they won’t watch, so finding their ball will be a chore.) Now we’re giving these guys something to read on the greens? Oh, the humanity!

  3. Bob Parson Jr.

    Apr 7, 2018 at 9:43 pm

    This is even more egregious when I see 20 handicappers using yardage books for everything, bah!

  4. Tom Duckworth

    Apr 7, 2018 at 8:50 pm

    I can see using the books for practice rounds but taking them away for the tournament.
    I have never used one but if I was playing in a club championship and I didn’t have one and others players did that would be unfair. So everyone should be given a book or nobody should have them reading greens is part of the skill in golf it separates OK players from very good players. It has nothing to do with longing for the old days it is part of the game a skill you work on and get better at just like driving or learning how to hit a fade or draw.

  5. Bob Parson Jr.

    Apr 7, 2018 at 5:00 pm

    Rightly so! I’m tired of 7 hour rounds for professionals.

  6. Justin

    Apr 7, 2018 at 4:42 pm

    They should be for practice rounds ONLY, just as electronic distance devices. And when it comes to amateurs I can tell you I walked off the course DQ my self just last week because playing in a men’s club weekly 18 two of the guys in my group had a new greens book and were taking all day to putt and after 10 holes of that I gave up. I do not know about the rest of you but when it comes to men’s clubs and the importance of putting to a 25 handicapper and the 5 handicapper that thinks he should be on tour 5+ hour rounds are the pitts….

  7. acew/7iron

    Apr 7, 2018 at 8:22 am

    Could not agree more with Player & Jack

    How the open use of cheat books ever got by the rules of golf police I will never know except to say holing putts creates TV drama while missing them puts viewers in surf mode. My only guess is that to help the player make that 4,6,8,10,? footer they allow the use of a road map to the hole.

    I see so many avg Joes miss short putts due to a miss-read and I think…If only the would have had the contour map like Dustin & Jordan they could have at least missed on the high side.

  8. CrashTestDummy

    Apr 6, 2018 at 11:18 pm

    I agree with them. There shouldn’t be green reading books. It should be up to the player to read the greens during play and/or do the homework on the practice rounds to make notations on how the green breaks. Green reading is a skill that should be necessary in competition.

  9. Tyler Durden

    Apr 6, 2018 at 9:04 pm

    Im sure gary would like to go back to flying on 1950’s commercial airliners or have to take an ocean liner to cross the atlantic.

    • ogo

      Apr 6, 2018 at 10:47 pm

      He’s just being open and transparent.. like Trump …. :-O

  10. A. Commoner

    Apr 6, 2018 at 8:49 pm

    Simply stated: the use of green reading books stinks.

  11. G. Mangum

    Apr 6, 2018 at 6:23 pm

    Here’s my considered opinion on green-reading books:
    http://puttingzone.blogspot.ca/2010/04/rule-on-artificial-devices.html

    • ogo

      Apr 6, 2018 at 10:46 pm

      That sez it all. Geff knows what he is talking about. However the tour pros want to look good because they are mainly shilling equipment and golf junk to the gullible masses. And that’s why the fairways are shaved and not watered in the landing areas.. so the ball rolls 50+ yards further.

  12. rymail00

    Apr 6, 2018 at 6:09 pm

    Am I the only one shocked to see Jack playing the new and current TM ball during the Par 3 Contest, and not a Titleist Professional 90 or Balata? Being so against how far the ball goes today I figured he would lead the way in the “Ball Rollback” by taking the lead by showing golf is still fun for even older guys who don’t hit anywhere like they used too….seems almost hypocritical to play possibly one of the longest balls out today even on a par 3 course.

    But what I do know…?

  13. Simms

    Apr 6, 2018 at 2:07 pm

    And Gary how about the laugh about $500 plus drivers being fit so amateurs can play better when Pros cannot hit a fairway with custom versions of the same driver…

    • ogo

      Apr 6, 2018 at 10:48 pm

      The ams just want to feeel what the pros feeeel… and they love owning colorful toys..

  14. Patricknorm

    Apr 6, 2018 at 1:14 pm

    The other day I watched the 1975 final round of the Masters on YouTube. Jack Nicklaus ended up winning ahead of Johnny Miller and Tom Weiskopf. What stood out more than anything , and I remembered this quite clearly, was how long and deliberate Nicklaus was over every shot. But his freezing over every putt was epic. I realize that Nicklaus too many is the greatest golfer, but if he played today people would be critical of his putting routine. Ironically giving Nicklaus a green reading book may have sped his putting routine. Who knows though.

  15. wyomick

    Apr 6, 2018 at 12:44 pm

    They’re right. And amateurs mimick the pros. It’s taking all the feel out of the game. Learn to feel with your feet, use your putter for a plumb bob to get the general lay of the land if you must, pick a spot in front of your ball, and HIT THE DAMN BALL TOWARD THE HOLE.

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Opinion & Analysis

I’m practicing. Why am I not getting better at golf?

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We all want to improve our golf games; we want to shoot lower scores, make more birdies and win bragging rights from our friends. As a result, we practice and invest many hours in trying to improve. However, do we improve as quickly as we want to? Is there something we’ve been missing?

“The secret is in the dirt,” Ben Hogan said. And he was right. To date, not one golfer has become an elite player without investing thousands of hours in improving their golf game. And yet, there are thousands of amateur golfers who practice every week and don’t get better. What is the difference? To me, this is a very interesting question. What underpins how or why we learn? Furthermore, how can we super-charge our rate of learning? 

To super-charge our learning, we must first realize that practice itself does not make us better at golf. This is an empty promise. It is close to the truth but incorrect. Instead, practice, when done correctly, will cause changes in our body to make us more skillful over time. This is a subtle, but important difference. There is no magic type of practice that universally builds skill, however, there are a handful of factors that can speed up, slow down or even stop your progress.

Remember: “You are not aiming to hit 50 balls; you are trying to become more skillful.”

There are the two major factors that stop golfers improving. Try not to view them as switches that are on or off. Instead, view both factors as sliding scales. The more you can fine-tune each factor, the faster you will improve your golf.

1) Give your body clear and precise feedback

What is 2 + 2? Imagine if you were never given the answer to this question at school. If you weren’t, you would never know the answer. Similarly, imagine you made a golf swing and the instant you hit the golf ball it disappeared. How would you know what to do on your next attempt to hit a straighter shot?

In both cases, feedback is the missing ingredient. Feedback comes from the shot outcome, watching the ball flight and many other sensations we get during our golf swing. As soon as our body does not have clear and precise feedback our learning will stop.

When we first learn to play golf, the feedback required to improve is simple – did the ball move at all, and did it get airborne? As we progress, we then need more precise feedback to keep developing our skill.

As a 20 handicapper, we need to know if the ball finished 10 or 15 yards right of our target. When we become an elite player, the requirement for feedback becomes even more stringent. The difference between a wedge shot landing 103 or 107 yards becomes important. This type of feedback, known as knowledge of results, is focused on the result of your golf shot.

“If your body can’t tell the difference between two outcomes, you will not make any changes – learning will not occur.”

To learn, we also require another form of feedback, known as knowledge of performance. In essence, your body needs to know what it did to cause “x.” Relevant practice drills, training aids and videoing your swing are all useful ways to increase feedback on performance. The best form of feedback, however, is an internal understanding of your swing and how it causes different ball flights. This is an implicit skill all great golfers master, and a by-product of many hours of diligent practice, refinement and understanding.

Many golfers hit a brick wall in their golfing journey when their practice stops providing the precise feedback they need to keep improving. They may not have enough information about their shot outcome, or they may not understand how the golf swing causes various shots. Both will completely halt your golfing progress.

Next time you practice, think of ways you can obtain clearer feedback. You don’t need Trackman by your side (although this can be helpful), but pay attention to where your shots finish during putting and chipping practice and note these trends. Find landmarks behind your golf range to gauge the lateral error of your long shots.

If you’re working on your swing path through the point of impact, one way of obtaining feedback on your performance is to place a bottle or a second ball on the ground. To put it simply, if the bottle/ball flies, you’ll know you’ve made a bad swing. Another way, if you are trying to improve your iron striking, is to place a towel one inch behind the ball to indicate whether or not you have hit the ground before the ball. These ideas are not mind-blowing, but trust me; they will speed up your rate of learning.

2) Make your practice suitably difficult

When you first go to the gym, lifting the lightest weight you can find is fine. But how much would your fitness improve if you were still lifting that same weight 12 months later? Now think of how your golf practice has changed over the past 12 months. If you were asked, could you explain the level of difficulty of your practice?

The reason many golfers can’t answer this question is they don’t have a good measure of success when they practice. Most golfers don’t have a quantifiable way to say “that shot I just hit was or wasn’t good enough.” Even fewer golfers have a way to say “this week my practice performance was 20 percent better than last week.” If you fall into this category, try the following game the next time you practice your long game.

Structure your practice so that you have set target zones (10 yards and 20 yards wide) with points for hitting each zone (3 and 1 points respectively). Take a set amount of balls (20 balls) and see how many points you can score with a 6-iron and a driver (10 balls with each). Each week, play this game and track your progress. We’ll call this game the “WRX Range Challenge.”

Set a goal for how many points you want to achieve. This goal should be challenging, but not impossible. When you reach this goal, make your target zones smaller and repeat the process. This way you can track your progress over time. As you make the target zones smaller and smaller, your body has to continually refine your swing to make it more effective.

Summary

We all want to improve our golf. We all want to get better at a quicker rate. The two factors discussed here are obvious and yet are not addressed by many golfers when they practice. Next time you head to the range or practice ground, ensure you have clear feedback on your shot outcome and golfing technique. Make your practice measurable, suitably difficult and enjoy watching your scores progress.

If you do try out the WRX Range Challenge, let us know. Post your score and a photo: #WRXrangechallenge @GolfWRX and me @golfinsideruk on Twitter and Instagram.

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The 19th Hole: What it’s like to play golf with a goat caddie

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Live from Silvies Valley Ranch in Oregon for the Grand Opening of McVeigh’s Gauntlet and the debut of its goat caddies (yes, goats), host Michael Williams shares his experiences using a goat caddie. Guests include course architect Dan Hixson and Seamus Golf founder Akbar Chistie.

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

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Opinion & Analysis

Bobby Clampett: “The 2 big problems with club fitting”

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Four million golfers are still quitting golf in the United States each year. My concern about this trend has led me to write several recent articles for GolfWRX. I’ve shared my thoughts because I believe much can be done to help golfers better understand the game, and most importantly, improve their games in ways that are not being done today.

The high frustration level of golfers is a leading cause of their giving up the game. I’ve talked about how I’ve learned this playing in over 200 pro-ams in my five years on the Champions Tour. I’ve discussed the sources of this confusion: style-based golf instruction with an over-abundance of swing tips, as well as confusing and conflicting swing theories offered on television and internet sources, etc. Another cause for concern that no one seems to talk about involves the way club fitting is typically done in our industry. While there are many examples of how improper club fitting causes issues and frustration, there are two main areas that desperately need to be addressed by fitters and even club manufacturers.

Problem 1: Clubs Designed to Correct a Slice

The first culprit is clubs that are designed to correct a slice. I’ve had several first-time students take lessons with me this season who had been recently fit for clubs from a wide range of club fitters. Some of these students had significant out-to-in swing paths through impact and all were chronic faders/slicers of the golf ball. The clubs recommended to them were “anti-slice” clubs. All the grips were small (standard size), and the woods (especially the drivers) were upright with the sliding weights put in the heel. The irons were “jacked-upright” as much as 8 degrees. All of these adjustments were made for the purpose of building in the ability to hit hooks.

Many of the woods with today’s improvement in technology can be easily altered with sliding or interchangeable weights. Adding weights into the heel slows the heel down through impact and allows the toe to close faster. Thinner grips also encourage the golfer to have more active hands and forearms causing the toe to close faster. While some of today’s adjustable woods do allow for a small bit of upright lie adjustment, it would be good if manufacturers went back to longer hosels that can be more lie-adjusted.

If the lie of the club is upright, more “hook” is built into the club through the principle that “loft is hook.” Additionally, the more the available “loft” of the club, the more the upright angle increases hook. So a set of clubs built 8 degrees upright has a very different directional profile with the 4-iron than with the wedge. This is a fact a well trained and experienced club fitter will take into consideration and properly apply.

Without correction, a wedge that is 8 degrees upright will really go left, while the 4-iron won’t have as much correction. Additionally, the uprightness of the club significantly reduces the sweet-spot, making the club less forgiving by increasing the chance that the ball will be struck lower in the face (which has a worse effect on long irons than short irons). Gear effect has now been proven to exist even in irons, and low-in-the-clubface hits will cause a gear effect fade, magnified with lower lofted clubs, even if the face and path are square. So, the uprightness of the club creates a bigger pull/hook in the wedge and the effect doesn’t really work in the longer irons. If fitters are going to use this approach, then short irons should be bent less upright and long irons more upright, but even so, this will reduce the sweet-spot in the longer irons and most golfers will really struggle to get the ball into the air since most of their hits will be low on the clubface.

I’ve had playing lessons with some of these students and have clearly seen how much farther to the left shots go when teeing the ball up, such as on a par-3. With the contact higher in the face, the contact has “zero” gear effect. The upright lie angle, combined with the loft of the club, sends the ball with a pull-hook way off target. This alone is enough of a source of confusion and frustration to send some golfers home, back to the tennis courts, to the card room, or whatever else might take the place of golf.

Additionally, golf clubs that are set to “lie angles” that are not square will not cut through the grass (when taking divots) as they are intended to do. For example, using the example above, if the lie angle of the club is set too upright and the shot is hit a little fat, the heel of the iron will dig or hit into the grass first, usually causing the heel to slow down while the toe of the club speeds up, thus closing the face and causing a big pull/hook. Different grass types, different firmness of grasses and different density of grasses can have differing effects, leading to increased inconsistencies of golfers and greater frustration levels.

Some club manufacturers have built game-improvement irons with bigger sweet-spots (with lower CG’s and higher MOI’s). When club fitters make the lie angle “off-square,” this improvement immediately is canceled and, in most cases, completely nullifying any benefit the game-improvement design can provide. The poor golfer who just spent thousands of dollars getting new equipment comes to the realization that the clubs didn’t work that well after all, and his/her 16 handicap is not dropping.

The real answer to game improvement lies in improving the golfer’s impact first, then getting clubs to match his or ideal impact or the impact they are striving to attain. Then, and only then, will the golfer get the full and just reward for improving one’s impact. Simply trying to buy a new game by getting a new set of clubs just doesn’t work. One must work with an instructor who truly knows what proper impact is and is diligently directing the instruction to improve their impact first. Then they can have a knowledgeable club fitter fit clubs to that proper impact. Unfortunately, in our industry, instructors and club fitters rarely work together. Golfers are continually being fitted to their improper impact and thus effectively playing with clubs with smaller sweet spots that are ill-designed for what they were originally intended to do.

Problem 2: Fitting Irons for Distance

The second problem that seems to be growing in the industry is the focus on increased distance with the irons. I don’t mean to be too blunt here, but who cares how far you hit an 8-iron! Today’s pitching wedge is yesterday’s 9-iron. My pitching wedge is set at 49 degrees, and my 9-iron is 44 degrees (about the standard loft for today’s pitching wedge). The only two clubs in the bag that should be designed for distance are your driver and your 3-wood. All the other clubs should be set for proper gapping and designed to improve consistency and proximity to the hole. That’s why my pitching wedge is at 49 degrees and I only hit it 120 yards (exactly 16 yards farther than my 54-degree sand wedge). Most of my students hit a pitching wedge 20 yards farther than I do, but I drive the ball 30-40 yards farther than they do. When they get into the 7-irons through 4-irons, their gaps narrow. They have a 175-yard shot, and they don’t know what club selection to make since the 7, 6, 5, and 4 irons all go somewhat similar distances.

When I dig a little deeper, I start to find significant differences in spin rates. Like most pros on the PGA Tour, my 7 iron spins about 7000 rpm, I launch it around 17.5 degrees and carry the ball about 158 yards with 88 mph of clubhead speed. OK, I’m retired from playing competitive golf and I’m 58 years old, so I don’t have that youthful club head speed anymore. When I try some of the new products that are the top sellers today, I start launching the ball slightly higher but my spin rate drops below 6,000 rpm. Suddenly, I’m hitting my 7-iron 170 yards like my 6 iron. But is this better?

Yes, my peak height gets slightly higher (I do like that), and the ball won’t roll out much differently, even with the lower spin rates. So, what’s the problem you ask? When I start to look at distance control numbers and proximity to the hole, I clearly see higher distance dispersions and thus proximity to the hole gets worse. Learning to hit the ball flag high is one of the key separators between top PGA Tour Players and those a notch or two below. It’s also a key element in lowering scores. So, greater distance with my irons actually makes my game worse and it does the same with my students, too, because accuracy and ability to get the ball consistently closer to the hole is negatively impacted.

What avid golfers are really wanting is game improvement. They want to see their handicaps go down, shoot their lowest scores, create personal bests. Sure, there is a bit of “wow factor” they like to have with the new, shiny equipment, but the people I give lessons to and have played with in all these pro-ams want a better game! How are they going to get that when the golf industry separates teachers and club fitters? Where can golfers go to get the whole experience of tying in their swing improvement that creates better impact with their equipment properly set up?

If you want to see your scores get better, the best way to do so is to work with a qualified golf instructor who knows how to improve your impact while keeping your style of swing. You want to work with a club fitter who understands that the lie angles of the irons should be set to square, and that proximity to the hole is more important in the irons than distance. Only then can you get the biggest game improvement and take full advantage of hitting better shots with a better impact.

Improve your impact, improve your game; it really is that simple!

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