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More beginners, bigger base: Insights from the NGF’s Industry Report

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A record number of first-time players took up the game in 2017, according to the National Golf Foundation’s Industry Report. 2.6 million beginners swung a club for the first time last year. Additionally, first-timers making their maiden trips to a golf course increased for the fourth straight year.

The NGF took a different route with its report this year, saying,

“To more accurately reflect the evolution of golf’s overall consumer base…[the organization] expanded definition of participation looks beyond traditional on-course golf and also factors in off-course engagement, which tracks those who swing a golf club at facilities like Topgolf, indoor simulators and driving ranges.”

Per the NGF, the on-course participant base held steady at 23.8 million golfers in 2017. 8.3 million people played exclusively off course, interestingly, at Topgolf and similar facilities, driving ranges, and simulators. Thus, the total number of “golfers” in the U.S. is nearly 32 million.

“Golf participation is evolving,” said NGF President Joe Beditz. “On-course, green-grass participation is holding its own and off-course is continuing to grow. There’s no denying that we’re down from our pre-recession highs, but it appears to us that traditional participation is stabilizing and there may be a new support level between 23 million and 24 million.”

The game’s most ardent players continue to account for 95 percent of all rounds-played and spending in an $84 billion industry.

With respect to translating off-course participation into on-course play, the number of non-golfers who said that they’re “very interested” in playing golf increased to 14.9 million from 12.8 million in 2016.

Rounds played were down 2.7 percent to 456 million in 2017. As has been the case every year since 2006, there were more facility closures than openings, with just over 200 facilities shutting their doors. The U.S. still has just under 15,000 facilities: 45% of the global supply.

Openings such as Streamsong Black in Florida, Shepherd’s Rock in Pennsylvania and Bayou Oaks in Louisiana got plenty of attention, but renovation projects remain the major industry investment. The NGF tracked 1,100 major course renovations in 2017.

The average price of an 18-hole round of golf at a public course in 2017: $34. 75 percent of U.S. courses are open to the public. The NGF says this is the highest public-to-private ration in the country’s history.

Looking ahead to 2018, the NGF sees “a further balancing of supply and demand.” 15 to 25 new course openings, 75 to 100 major renovation projects.

NGF members can access the full report here for free ($199 for non-members)

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GolfWRX Morning 9: Koepka! Kang! | TaylorMade to skip PGA Show?| How big of an advantage is big hitting?

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1. Koepka again
AP Report…”Koepka, the reigning PGA TOUR Player of the Year, shot a final-round 8-under 64 for a 21-under total of 267. Koepka led by four strokes after three rounds.”
  • “Gary Woodland certainly made it interesting. Woodland started the day five strokes behind Koepka but pulled level after making six birdies in seven holes on the front nine.”
  • “The two dueled on the back nine, with Woodland birdieing Nos. 15 and 16 to again pull level. But Koepka did the same, and a bogey by Woodland on the par-3 17th gave Koepka the cushion he needed to close out the win despite a birdie on the 18th by Woodland.”
PGATour.com’s Ben Everill…”Just glancing at the leaderboard, which shows the reigning PGA TOUR Player of the Year closing with an 8-under 64 – including a 7-under 29 on the back nine to shoot 21 under – makes it appear this wasn’t a contest on Jeju Island.”
  • “Oh but it was. It’s just Koepka is fast developing the reputation as the clutch king. Give him a sniff of the trophy and you’re going to need a mighty effort to keep it from him. In fact, sometimes a mighty effort won’t be enough.”
  • “Gary Woodland shot 63 on Sunday, joining the lead on a handful of occasions. But Koepka – who had the pressure of the tournament and the fact he could claim world No. 1 status on his shoulders – answered with authority every time.”
2. No. 1
Golf Channel’s Nick Menta with some commentary on the new No. 1
  • “You know,” [Gary Woodland] said, “Brooks doesn’t seem like he cares too much.” Woodland meant that there was little anyone in the field could do to rattle the 54-hole leader.
  • “But his comment also fits the general narrative surrounding Koepka. That he’s just detached enough for fans to have trouble attaching themselves to him. That he’s just a jock here to cash checks and collect trophies, to kick ass and chew bubblegum.”
  • “But for a few moments Sunday in South Korea, it became clear that Brooks Koepka does care. Crouched on the 72nd green with some time to stop and think as Ian Poulter lagged a bit behind, Koepka finally let a moment get to him. Cameras caught the three-time major champion appearing unusually emotional.”
3. Kang battles back
“Danielle Kang shot a 3-under 69 on Sunday to win the LPGA Shanghai by two strokes for her second career title.”
“Kang, who started the final round one stroke off the lead, offset a lone bogey on the par-5 fourth hole with four birdies after the turn to finish at 13-under 275 and hold off a late charge by Lydia Ko, who had the day’s lowest score of 66.” (AP)
Golf Channel’s Randall Mell...”The 2017 KPMG Women’s PGA champion said she has battled anxiety for months now and that her mental struggles have caused her to feel emotionally drained. Kang admitted to standing over the ball for four minutes before she could hit one shot in particular last week in South Korea.”
  • “People might wonder what I’m doing,” she said. “I actually can’t pull the trigger. It has nothing to do with the result. Having to get over that last week was incredible for me.”
  • Kang on her odyssey...”We’re digging deep there. I mean, I had to go through swing changes; I had the swing yips, the putting yips, to everything possibly you could think of.
  • “Overcoming the mentality of the anxiety you feel over the shots, it’s so much that golf does to you and the things that I had to deal with over the course of time that I’ve been on tour. … More so than anything I’m finally at a place where I’m peaceful and happy with my game, with my life. There is just so much more you can get through. I hope I win more; I did the best I can. I’m going to keep working hard and keep giving myself chances and keep putting myself in contention. I’ll win more. I’ll play better.”
4. Garcia on the verge of another (Andalucia) Masters win
ESPN report…”The defending champion was 3 strokes clear of Lee Westwood at the top of the leaderboard after seven holes of his final round before the threat of lightning forced the players off the course in the early afternoon.”
  • “Play was suspended Sunday evening and will restart Monday morning with the tournament already reduced to 54 holes following several suspensions of play during the week.”
  • “Garcia opened with a 4-shot lead after a faultless 64 on Saturday and built on his advantage with a 20-foot putt for birdie at the fourth…The home favourite dropped a shot at the fifth, missing a makeable putt, but then converted two solid pars to stay at 10 under before the klaxons sounded to end play.”
5. No TaylorMade at PGA Show?
Golfweek’s Forecaddie with the news…”TaylorMade will not take part in the 2019 PGA Merchandise Show, The Forecaddie has learned. The deadline to commit came and went last week. The news is a blow to the annual January gathering of golf business principals.”
  • “After conversations with TaylorMade Professional Staff members and key leaders within the golf industry, we will be investing into growth initiatives that we believe will create even greater value for the game of golf,” wrote CEO David Abeles to TaylorMade staff professionals. “As a result of our additional spend, we have decided not to attend the 2019 PGA Merchandise Show.”
  • Abeles delivered the news after noting TaylorMade’s nearly 40-year dedication to the PGA of America and its members, insinuating that savings from eliminating the elaborate show effort will be part of a plan to broaden “support of PGA Professionals across the country.” Abeles said details would be announced in the “coming months.”
6. Brooks cares
Odd we continue to debate this or that a defense is warranted…nevertheless, Ryan Herrington writes…
  • “The golf world has spent the last year, in the wake of all Koepka’s success, trying to figure out the guy-what motivates him, why he doesn’t show much emotion on the course. Koepka seems to wear his nonchalance like his polo shirts, tight around his biceps and loose around the collar.”
  • “Yet that does Koepka an injustice as it suggests that he doesn’t care. His play speaks otherwise. If he didn’t care, why would he keep going out there and beating everyone’s brains in? Wouldn’t it be so much easier just to kick back on his boat, and while away the hours with a fishing rod in one hand, a Michelob Ultra in the other?”
  • “Indeed, if this run of Koepka’s proves anything, it’s that he really does care, more perhaps than he even understood. He cares about the attention he gets-or lack thereof in his mind-from the media, even as he insists otherwise. He cares about proving his game is more than just launching rockets off the tee. He cares about winning, not just major titles, but every tournament he plays.”
7. A slow play penalty arriveth…
John Strege…”After completing play in the Dominion Energy Charity Classic, Corey Pavin was informed by PGA Tour Champions tournament official Michael Petch that he was being assessed a one-stroke penalty. Instead of shooting an even-par 72, he posted a one-over 73 and finished in a tie for 15th.”
Interesting. And by “Corey Pavin,” Strege didn’t mean Bernhard Langer.
8. Distance not the ultimate advantage?
Golfweek’s David Dusek crunched the distance numbers from the season that was. Some of his observations…”The average PGA Tour player last season won $1,329,295, but the chart shows some of the biggest hitters – such as Rory McIlroy, Tony Finau, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas – earned significantly more. At the same time, other players who have high driving-distance averages – such as Trey Mullinax, Harold Varner and Robert Garrigus – earned less. As a group, the 20 longest hitters on the PGA Tour averaged more than $3.5 million in prize money last season, which was 164 percent more than the Tour average.”
  • :As massive as that percentage may seem, it falls within a range that goes several years. In 2017, the 20 longest hitters on the PGA Tour averaged 123 percent more prize money than the PGA Tour average. In the three seasons before that, they earned about 150 percent more, which tells us that as distance off the tee has increased over the last few years, the longest hitters have maintained an edge in terms of earnings.”
9. The importance of practicing under pressure
Our Mike Dowd offered his thoughts on the futility of most practice methods. While this may be something you’ve heard in the past, Dowd’s take is worth a read.
  • “Practice, as most of us employ it, is borderline worthless. This is because most of the practices, if you will, typically employed during practice sessions have little chance of improving our performance under pressure.”
  • “The type of practice that improves performance is, for the most part, rarely engaged in because practicing under typical “practice” conditions does very little to simulate the thoughts, feelings, and emotions we deal with once our performance actually means something. If we want to really improve our performance when it matters, we need to put ourselves in situations, often and repeatedly, that simulate the pressure we experience during competition.”
Check out the piece for his suggestions how to do just that.

 

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Equipment

Laura Davies’ Winning WITB: Senior LPGA Championship

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Driver: Lynx Parallax

Shaft: Fujikura Speeder Evolution 757

3-wood: Lynx Black Cat

Hybrid: Lynx Parallax Hybrid (17 degrees)

Irons: Lynx Tour Blade (2), Lynx Parallax Forged (4-9)

Wedges: Lynx Tour (50, 56, 60 degrees)

We’re investigating the Odyssey putter and SuperStroke grip.

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GolfWRX Morning 9: Caddie suit against Tour dropped | Hand surgery for Wie | Former DJ advisor guilty

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1. Caddie suit dropped
T.J. Auclair, writing for the Caddie Network (an outlet heretofore unknown to me)…”A lawsuit filed by PGA Tour caddies in 2015 against the PGA Tour has come to an end. Very soon, the Tour will be implementing a healthcare program for all caddies on the PGA Tour that will significantly help caddies and their families off-set healthcare costs.”
  • “The Association of Professional Tour Caddies (APTC) had been seeking a way to minimize the rising costs of healthcare insurance. Those measures included trying to find sponsors for a small part of their caddie bibs, shirt sleeves and hats to heavily subsidize the health costs, which for some caddies, was in excess of $25,000 to cover themselves and their families.”
  • “The caddies lost their class-action suit in District Court in February 2016 and then lost an appeal in August 2018.”
2. Michelle Wie has hand surgery
Our Gianni Magliocco…”Michelle Wie was far from her best at last week’s LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship, finishing on a total of eight-over par, which was only good enough for a T66 finish. It was Wie’s first appearance since her withdrawal from the British Open back in August, and today Wie detailed how she has been suffering from an avulsion fracture, bone spurring and nerve entrapment in her right hand since competing at Royal Lytham & St Annes.”
  • “The American stated in a social media post how after countless MRI’s, X-Rays and doctor consultations, she has undergone successful hand surgery, and is on a hopeful path back to being pain free.”
  • Wie…”I made the decision after Hana Bank to withdraw from the rest of the season, come back to the states, and get surgery to fix these issues. It’s been disheartening dealing with pain in my hand all year but hopefully I am finally on the path to being and STAYING pain free!”
  • “Happy to announce that surgery was a success today and I cannot wait to start my rehab so that I can come back stronger and healthier than ever. Huge thank you to Dr. Weiland’s team at HSS for taking great care of me throughout this process and to all my fans for your unwavering support. It truly means the world to me. I’ll be back soon guys!!!! Promise.”
3. Former DJ advisor found guilty
Per Golf Channel…”A federal jury has found Nathan Hardwick, a former advisor to Dustin Johnson, guilty of embezzling $26 million in funds from his now-bankrupt real estate closing firm, Morris Hardwick Schneider.”
“Per Golf.com, citing Law.com, a 12-person jury convicted Hardwick of “one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, 21 counts of wire fraud and one count of making false statements to federally insured banks.”
The Sun News of Myrtle Beach, citing Law.com, explains where the money went.
  • “The alleged spending included $18.47 million on gambling, private jet travel and women from 2011 through August 2014. The prosecution submitted two binders of documentation as evidence that Hardwick spent $4.39 million on “female social companions,” including one testifying witness who claimed to have met him through SugarDaddy.com.”
  • “Other alleged expenditures described in testimony include more than $7 million at casinos, more than $3 million with a bookie, $680,000 for a luxury condo at The St. Regis Atlanta, $273,000 on a diamond ring, $186,000 on a deposit for a party on a private island, and $635,000 on a trip to the 2014 British Open for golfing buddies that included a customized jet and round at St. Andrews.”
4. The PGA Tour (Latinoamerica) returns to Doral
Golf Channel’s Nick Menta…”PGA Tour Latinoamérica announced Wednesday that it will play its season finale, the Latinoamérica Tour Championship-Shell Championship, at Trump National Doral from Nov. 29-Dec. 2.”
  • “The limited-field event will feature the top 60 players on the circuit’s money list competing on Doral’s Golden Palm Course.”
  • “We are very happy that we will continue playing the Latinoamérica Tour Championship-Shell Championship in South Florida, and Doral is a tremendous community that we know will open its arms to our players and this tournament,” PGA Tour Latinoamérica president Jack Warfield said in a statement.”
  • “The PGA Tour ended its more than 50-year relationship with Doral and the resort’s Blue Monster course back in 2016, when Cadillac’s title sponsorship of the World Golf Championship lapsed.’
5. Brooks Koepka’s No. 1 scenario
Golf Channel…”Brooks Koepka got the inside track against Justin Thomas in their head-to-head battle this week for world No. 1.”
  • “Koepka shot 1-under 71 on Thursday at the CJ Cup, while Thomas shot 1-over 73…Chez Reavie leads after 18 holes at Nine Bridges in Juju Island, South Korea, following a 4-under 68.”
  • “Koepka, currently world No. 3, needs to win this week or finish solo second [without Thomas winning] in order to reach the top spot in the rankings for the first time in his career. Thomas, currently No. 4, must win to reclaim the position he surrendered in June.”
6. Does playing the Fall Series matter?
Shane Ryan wonders not just whether we care about fall PGA Tour action, but whether the narrative that getting of to a hot start in autumn can propel a player to a strong season.
  • “Putting aside the appeal of the fall swing, and the tour’s clever ways of ensuring participation, there’s a bigger narrative to contend with: The idea that success in the fall can jumpstart a player’s season, and potentially even establish a spot in the top 30 on the FedEx Cup points list that carries through to the Tour Championship a summer later.”
  • “If that’s true, then sure, it’s a great argument for why the fall matters. It would be like telling an NFL team that if they play really well for the month of September, they can secure a spot in the playoffs. It adds a ton of significance-if you care about the Tour Championship, the narrative goes, then it’s wise to also care about the fall.”
  • “Does the narrative hold up? On the surface, the simple answer is yes: Most fall events are worth 500 points to the winner, just like a normal summer event. (The exceptions are the WGC-HBSC Champions, worth 550 points, and the Sanderson Farms Championship, played that same week and worth 300.) So if a player won in Malaysia, Korea, Las Vegas and Georgia, that player would have 2,050 points. In 2018, only two players had 2,050 FedEx Cup points when the playoffs began, and in 2017 the number was four. Which means if you sweep the fall, you could take the entire year off and still be confident of a top-five position by the time The Northern Trust came around in mid-August….”
Further number crunching confirms the hypothesis. Read Ryan’s full piece here.
7. Bruntsfield joins modernity
BBC Report…”Bruntsfield Links Golfing Society – the fourth oldest golf club in the world – has become the latest to permit women members after a vote.”
  • ‘The Edinburgh club, founded in 1761, has revealed that 83.7% of members casting their vote on Thursday were in favour of the change.”
  • Captain Mike Smith said: “This is an historic occasion for the society…This change, together with a £1.2m investment in our course, will ensure we are well positioned for the future.”
8. Marshal breaks leg
Bernie McGuire writes…”A female volunteer is the latest casualty at a major golf event after breaking her leg in two places while looking for a lost ball on day one of the Andalucia Valderrama Masters in Spain.”
  • “The 64-year old marshal slipped badly on wet grass breaking her fibula and tibia in right leg in searching for an errant dive off the 11th tee by Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal.”
  • “Play on the hole was delayed for close to 30-minutes and with four groups banking-up on the tee  as medical crews treated the woman’s injuries before an ambulance arrived at the clubhouse to convey her to a local hospital.”
Get well!
9. For your listening pleasure…
Johnny Wunder talked to reigning Western Amateur champion, all-around amateur standout, and incoming Texas freshman, about equipment and a host of other subjects.

Listen here.

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