It’s back to the grind this week as the 2018 RBC Heritage gets underway. Harbour Town Golf Links will host the event once more, and unlike last week at Augusta National, it’s a short course measuring less than 7,100 yards.
Harbour Town demands accuracy and good ball striking, so players will often not feel the need to hit driver off the tee this week. Instead, they will prioritize finding the fairway and rely on their iron play and putting to score. As always, expect wind to be a factor at Harbour Town. Last year, Wesley Bryan shot a final-round 67 to take the title by one stroke over Luke Donald.
Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)
- Dustin Johnson 17/2
- Paul Casey 14/1
- Matt Kuchar 20/1
- Cameron Smith 28/1
- Marc Leishman 28/1
- Webb Simpson 33/1
- Brian Harman 33/1
In his eight starts this year, Adam Hadwin (33/1, DK Price $8,100), has finished in the top-25 five times. Four of those top-25 finishes have come in his last four events. The Canadian is hitting the ball as well as ever at the moment, and despite the fact that Augusta National is far from his ideal course, his solid play still allowed him to perform well last week.
Hadwin’s excellent play at the moment is down to many areas of his game being in great shape, particularly his approach play. Over his last 12 rounds, Hadwin ranks first in Strokes Gained Approaching the Green and first in Strokes Gained Tee to Green. He ranks second in Ball Striking and third in Strokes Gained Around the Green over the same period.
It’s a course that should suit Hadwin, and his results at Harbour Town have been trending in the right direction. In 2016, he finished T-30, and he followed that last year with a T-22. If he can regain the touch with the putter that he displayed last year when he finished 18th for Strokes Gained-Putting, then it could be the week where it all finally clicks for the Canadian.
My second pick for the week also performed well at the Masters last week. Kevin Kisner (35/1, DK Price $8,700) had been struggling for form when he turned up to Augusta National, having missed three of his last four cuts. But a T-28 at a course that you wouldn’t think would suit the South Carolina native may just have given him a much-needed boost of confidence.
Unlike Augusta, Harbour Town is the ideal course for Kisner. His penetrating ball flight, combined with his accuracy and solid short game, is perfect for tricky tests such as this one. It’s no surprise that he’s played the course so well in the past. In his four starts here, he’s made the cut four times and posted a second-place finish as well as a T-11 last year. It’s difficult to imagine Kisner not playing well on a golf course such as this, and with last week’s good play fresh on his mind another good showing may well be in the offing.
Just like Hadwin and Kisner, Zach Johnson (50/1, DK Price $7,900) has the ideal game for Harbour Town. Lately, Johnson has struggled here, but the Masters champion looked in good shape last week. Just like Hadwin, he has been playing some beautiful golf as of late. The American is nine for nine in cuts made this season and has finished in the top-25 in six of those events.
Johnson’s game is looking solid across the board lately. In his last 24 rounds, Johnson sits fifth in Strokes Gained Approaching the Green, 18th in Ball Striking, 25th in Strokes Gained Around the Green and 11th in Strokes Gained Tee to Green. Johnson also possesses the ability to play well in the wind, which we saw when he won the Claret Jug back in 2015 at St. Andrews. He’s going in under the radar this week despite his excellent play as of late, and there is a sense that Johnson is due to win again soon. It may be this week that he adds another jacket to his collection.
Making up my foursome of picks this week is Brandt Snedeker (66/1, DK Price $7,400). Snedeker would have been very disappointed not to have made the field for the Masters last week, but he has the game to excel around Harbour Town. He has backed this up with his performance here down the years. The Nashville native has made five of six cuts in his last six outings and last year he finished T-11th.
Snedeker’s lack of length won’t be an issue this week, and his ability to score with the flat-stick is a desirable quality. This year has been no different for him with the putter in hand. In his last 24 rounds, Snedeker sits 20th in Strokes Gained Putting. As solid and reliable as ever. He also has the ability to play his best golf in the wind, and should it blow this week then it may even help him. A combination of his pedigree on the course and his undervalued price means Snedeker is the last man to make my line up for this week.
- Adam Hadwin 33/1, DK Price $8,100
- Kevin Kisner 35/1, DK Price $8,700
- Zach Johnson 50/1, DK Price $7,900
- Brandt Snedeker 66/1, DK Price $7,400
The 19th Hole (Ep 63): Valentino Dixon talks Golf Channel documentary; Marvin Bush remembers his father
Valentino Dixon shares his amazing story in an exclusive interview with Michael Williams. Also in this episode: a tribute to George H.W. Bush, featuring a conversation with his youngest son, Marvin.
Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!
featured image c/o Golf Channel
Hidden Gem of the Day: Park Hills Golf Course in Freeport, Illinois
These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here!
Today’s Hidden Gem of the Day was submitted by GolfWRX member lawsonman, who takes us to Park Hills Golf Course in Freeport, Illinois. The course sits west of Chicago, and in lawsonman’s description of the course, he cites the immaculate condition of the track as one of the reasons he feels it’s a hidden gem.
“Always in pristine condition. 36 hole layout that is as hard as you want to make it. Trees (big) and water are everywhere. Pace of play is usually very good. Located about 90 minutes west of Chicago’s western suburbs.”
According to Park Hills Golf Course’s website, 18 holes around the course costs just $23, no matter what day you wish to play. There is a $16 charge should you want to use a cart for 18 holes.
Louisville Golf: Post time for persimmon
“I knew I had to give it a shot. If I had tried and it didn’t work out, I would’ve been okay with that. But I had to go after my passion and see where it went.”
Jeremy Wright gets it. Taking over at Louisville Golf is not for everybody. This isn’t a multi-billion-dollar revenue generating machine with private research facilities and elaborate corporate complexes. It’s not about money…or fame…or 385-yard drives. Gerard Just, the youngest of the Just brothers who started Louisville Golf might have summed it up best:
“You know, I guess you could say we’re simple people. We don’t really go on vacations. But we work hard and we enjoy what we do. We don’t make a lot of money. I don’t think my kids could afford to work here to be honest, but they hate their jobs. We never really had that problem.”
Louisville Golf was established in 1974 by Elmore Just and Steve Taylor when they left Hillerich & Bradsby (crafters of Louisville Slugger baseball bats and Power-Bilt golf clubs). Elmore ran the business side of the company and Steve oversaw the manufacturing aspect. Back then, in the heyday of persimmon, the club manufacturers were on an allotment. Since persimmon (remarkably well-suited for golf clubs due to its strength and density) is a relatively slow-growing wood, there was only so much material to go around and upstart Louisville Golf had to fight for every block they got. Eventually, they built the business into a major player, making 800 clubs a day for the likes of Hogan, MacGregor, Wilson, Spalding, and others.
Some of Louisville Golf’s more well-known woods that won on the PGA Tour were the Wilson Whale that Payne Stewart used to win the 1989 PGA Championship and the Hogan Apex that Tom Kite used to win the 1992 US Open at Pebble Beach. Then metal woods came into the picture and sales dwindled. When Callaway launched the Big Bertha, sales basically dried up overnight.
Though metal woods took off like a rocket in the 1990’s, there were some holdouts. Justin Leonard, Davis Love III, and Mark Calcavecchia held onto their persimmon woods into the late 90s. The last man standing was widely considered to be Bob Estes, who used his Louisville Golf Smart ProBE (a club Just developed specifically for Estes) in the Accenture Match Play in 2001.
When Elmore Just passed away in April of 2001, his brother Mike assumed control of the company. Elmore is actually buried at Persimmon Ridge Golf Club in Louisville, an Arthur Hills course he developed in the 1980’s. When Mike took the reins, though the company had successfully limped along through the metal wood revolution, the hard reality was that they needed to reinvent themselves if they were going to remain profitable. Mike left his mark on the company in 2004 by deciding to leverage Louisville Golf’s unique expertise into crafting period-correct hickory shafted golf clubs and restoring vintage specimens. That decision marked a resurgence of sorts, as the niche has served Louisville Golf well. Today, Louisville Golf and St. Andrews Golf Co. are the only large scale manufacturers of such equipment.
It’s a peculiar set of circumstances to be sure, but oddly enough, many golfers in the 21st century have found Louisville Golf through 100-year-old golf clubs. This is exactly how Jeremy Wright came into the picture. Jeremy was a medical sales representative in Houston, TX with a wife, three kids, and a serious golfing hobby. He had recently gone on a search for an exotic shaft upgrade for his Scotty Cameron putter. On a whim, he googled wooden shafts, stumbled across hickory golf clubs, and the rest was history.
“One of the things I learned in that search was that, when the golf industry transitioned from hickory shafts to steel, a lot of players either kept their old hickory putters or would fit their new putters with hickory shafts for decades after that transition because the feel was so much better.
“So I kept digging into hickory golf and tried to learn what it was all about. I discovered there were hickory tournaments and the winners shot like 75-78 and I thought, ‘I can do that. I’m going to get a hickory set together and figure this out.’ From that point on, I was hooked. There was no going back.”
So hooked, in fact, that when Jeremy heard the Just family was fielding offers for the company as a result of Mike’s passing in October of 2016, he put his name in the hat. It just so happened that Jeremy and his wife were both at a point in their careers where they were looking for more. Burned out and tired of the cyclical corporate rat race, they decided to go all-in on Jeremy’s passion, submitted an offer to the Just family, and ultimately were selected from multiple potential suitors to carry on the legacy of the company.
As for where Louisville Golf goes from here, you can probably expect a lot more of what got them here in the first place. After all, one of the biggest reasons Jeremy was selected to take the reins at Louisville Golf was his commitment to preserving its heritage. Louisville Golf may not be rubbing elbows with the major OEM’s anymore, but these days, they’re not trying to either. Just like the rest of us golfers, they’re getting by with grit, optimism, and respect for the game. They’ve also seen the fortunate bounces and bad lies that come with a life dedicated to golf, but as the old adage says, the most important shot is always the next one. Time marches on. And so does Louisville Golf. They remain committed to what has brought them this far and see that as a springboard into the future.
“We’ve got some products in the works that I think are really innovative and will show what persimmon is really capable of. I think if you’re a better player who can find the sweet spot on a consistent basis, you really should think seriously about persimmon. Especially if you’re looking to get a specific yardage out of your clubs like with a fairway wood or hybrid. There was a video circulating a few years ago with Rickie Fowler using a steel shafted persimmon fairway wood and he was getting a 1.49 smash factor. You can’t get much better than that. The way the bulge and roll is shaped on a persimmon wood and also the location of the CG allows for a bigger gear effect than modern titanium woods. Persimmons do impart more spin on the ball (especially on a mishit), so we acknowledge the ball may not go as far, but that spin also brings the ball back to the target, too. That’s one of the biggest advantages of persimmon. You’ll be shorter but in the fairway as opposed to long and in the trees.
“The people that find us are looking for a deeper connection to the tradition and the spirit of the game. They’re tired of paying for marketing fluff and silly catch phrases. We make viable alternatives for the modern golfer, we make classic reproductions of the steel shaft/persimmon head era of golf, and we make spot-on hickory shafted clubs as well, so we think we have a place in just about everyone’s bag depending on how you prefer to experience the game. Nothing compares to the joy of a purely struck golf shot with a wooden golf club. You just feel like you’re playing golf the way it was meant to be played.”
A visit to Louisville Golf reveals a group of people who have dedicated their lives to exactly that: playing the game the way it was meant to be played. Hard work, attention to detail, a commitment to quality, and having a lot of fun along the way are the hallmarks of their operation. One strike directly on that persimmon sweet spot will send all of those vibes straight into your bones. Playing golf with persimmon woods in the 21st century may be taking the road less traveled, but it could make all the difference.
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