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Operation 36: Try to shoot 36 for nine holes no matter your skill level

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Ever tried to take your kids to the driving range? Recently I had my 9-year-old nephew Jack in town. Jack, like most 9-year-old boys is a mixture of curiosity and explosive energy. When he asked me to take him to the range, how could I refuse? One hour later, I had learned a very valuable lesson; teaching little kids is wicked hard. A couple days later, I recounted the story to my friend and fellow Campbell University Alumni (Go Camels!), Ryan Dailey. Ryan, co-founder of Operation 36, laughed hysterically as I recalled the struggles of trying to manage one nine-year-old.

“Been there for sure, my friend!” recounts Dailey, who in 2010 was charged with designing and implementing a program to grow golf among junior players in rural North Carolina, close to Campbell’s campus.

“When we started to look at growing the game, we thought we had one major obstacle; the rural setting. We thought finding kids was going to be hard, but once we had them, we thought they would love us, the game and it would be smooth. Man, was I wrong,” laughs Dailey as he recounts his early days.

“Sure, getting players was hard in a rural setting, but not as hard as keeping them interested! We would spend 2 hours before every class to plan an array of activities to keep their attention for an hour, and spend another hour after sharing ideas on how to make it better next time. We thought we were on the right path by integrating golf and non-golf activities to make it fun,” shares Dailey’s business partner and fellow founder of Operation 36 Matt Reagan, PGA.

Ryan and Matt were stumped more than once trying to create golfers. To get off the ground they started with 3 students and a goal to run a long-term program for 8 months out of the year. They grew to 20 students, 40, 70 and then after year 5…BAM! They lost 30 students! What happened? The fun ran out…

The tagline for Operation 36 is “Creating Golfers.”

“That’s what it boils down to, we are Creating Golfers,” Ryan said. “It’s a lot harder task than you think to guide someone to a point of full engagement in the game of golf. It’s not just motivating them in a class, drill, game or activity. That can be pretty easy with all the fun toys you buy, music you play and endless drills and games you play on the practice tee and putting green.  It’s guiding them on that journey from being motivated in class, being engaged in a drill or activity and then the ultimate, being engaged in the game of golf playing on the golf course. We lost almost half of our program after year 5 because we forgot about the most important part, getting them to play the game of golf on the actual course. Eventually if all you do are games, drills and activities in your programming and you don’t have a set playing component, players will phase out and leave your program.”

So, here’s the game: Operation 36

They tried every playing component imaginable and couldn’t find one that really helped to hook players on the challenge of the sport. They settled in on a format where the goal is to shoot 36 or better for 9 holes. Now students start at 25 yards away from the center of the green and play all 9 holes in a competitive match format.  If they shoot 36 or better, they move back to 50 yards for their next match. If they don’t shoot 36 or better, they remain at the same yardage and keep trying until they develop the skills in class, practice and in match experience to pass.

“We banged our heads against the wall for about a year as we tried to integrate playing golf into the program. After our first Op 36 Match we could see we were on to something for a couple reasons. First, we got around the golf course in under 1.5 hours, where previously even from a forward tee we were pushing 3 hours for 9 holes. Second, the junior golfers who didn’t pass were excited to play again, and the golfers who did pass were asking … what’s next?” says Matt

The original format Ryan and Matt came up with on a drive down US 1 to Pine Needles in 2014 is the same used today. After 50 yards, players go to 100, 150, 200 and then their full tee box based on age. What started out as “for Juniors only” has evolved into a huge success with adults.  It’s a lot easier to learn the game whether you are young or old from a manageable distance where success is experienced right away.

Fast forward to present day. The team at Operation 36 trains coaches globally to implement and manage the program at their own home facility. To date, over 319 facilities use Operation 36 and over 10,000 golfers participate. The team uses the tools, technology and resources to help coaches successfully launch full-service Academies or add a world-class beginner program to their established Academies.

A full 6-level curriculum is included to help coaches know exactly what to teach and when during an Academy Class. Time has been spent coaching over 3,000 Academy Classes to figure out what needs to be taught and how to teach it to have the biggest impact on the player.

To help golfers on the course, golf professionals issue participants with a series of goals to accomplish within the Operation 36 mobile app. The goals are not only educational, but provide a long term roadmap to success. In the next article, Ryan and Matt will share profound results of their having tracked over 2,000 Operation 36 rounds.

“The goal has always been to create a journey or pathway that players plug into and see if they are ahead, behind or right on pace based on their given goals,” Ryan said. “We have arrived at a point now where I can have that conversation with a student and parent. Based on the scores in Operation 36 and the age of the player we share relevant, accurate and impactful data from our research that helps shape decisions in coaching, parenting and training that keep players on track.  I like to compare what we do to a GPS. The student gives us the destination and we use Operation 36 to know where they are on the journey. If they are behind, we motivate them to work harder. If they are on pace or ahead, we communicate that what we are doing is working and let’s stay the course. As our research and number of facilities participating grows, we learn more and more impactful data that only helps parents, players and coaches to be more focused, intentional and motivated. Amazing, effective stuff is coming out of this corridor that we are very excited about, stay tuned.”

To get involved with Operation 36, email support@op36golf.com. To book Matt and Ryan to come speak to your golf association, section or coaching staff, please email Director of Operations Andrew Strom at andrew@op36golf.com. They are also available to do a certification for your chapter, section, or association and are willing to drive, boat, or fly to get there.

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Brendan is the owner of Golf Placement Services, a boutique business which aims to apply his background in golf and higher education to help educate players, their families and coaches about the process! Website - www.golfplacementservices.com Insta - golf.placement.sevices Twitter @BMRGolf

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. E

    Jul 11, 2018 at 12:17 am

    Oh my I LOVE this. Change the expectations and increase the fun!

  2. Dad

    Jul 9, 2018 at 11:49 pm

    “…and then after year 5… BAM! They lost 30 students! What happened? The fun ran out…”
    That happened after 5 years of frustrating golf and they discovered girlfriends and boyfriends… more funner… 😉

  3. swing dr

    Jul 9, 2018 at 4:13 pm

    This is fantastic, but many courses/ people already do this! A great lesson for parents.

  4. Te

    Jul 9, 2018 at 4:05 pm

    What if it’s Par 35 or 37?
    Dumb idea. Why not just call it Operation Par?

    • Jamie

      Jul 9, 2018 at 6:49 pm

      Obviously you didn’t read the article. 25 yards in 3 shots x 9 holes, then 50 yards in 3 and so on.

    • JR

      Jul 9, 2018 at 7:49 pm

      Bet you’re pissed at 8 minute abs too.

    • Karen Gray

      Jul 13, 2018 at 1:39 pm

      There’s always going to be a negative put downer. You didn’t disappoint. “Helping comments” always welcome. Please revisit your need for extinguish enthusiasm for what these fellows have achieved and the long term journey they’ve traveled. Reconsider your approach and you might be surprised to realize your thoughts are actually being seriously received. Just thinking.

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Podcasts

TG2: Snell Golf founder Dean Snell talks golf balls and his life in the golf industry

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Snell Golf’s founder, Dean Snell, talks all about golf balls and his adventure through the industry. Dean fills us in on his transition from hockey player, to engineer, to golfer, and now business owner. He even tells you why he probably isn’t welcome back at a country club ever again.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

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Opinion & Analysis

Could Dollar Driver Club change the way we think about owning equipment?

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There’s something about golfers that draws the attention of, for lack of a better word, snake-oil salesmen. Whether it’s an as-seen-on-TV ad for a driver that promises pure distance and also fixes your power slice, or the subscription boxes that supposedly send hundreds of dollars worth of apparel for a fraction of the price, there always seems to be something out there that looks too good to be true.

Discerning golfers, who I would argue are more cynical than anything, understand that you get what you pay for. To get the newest driver that also works for your game, it may take a $150 club fitting, then a $400 head, and a shaft that can run anywhere from $100 up to $300-$400. After the fitting and buying process, you’ve made close to a thousand dollar investment in one golf club, and unless you’re playing money games with friends who have some deep pockets, it’s tough to say what the return on that investment actually is. When it’s all said and done, you have less than a year before that driver is considered old news by the standard of most manufacturers’ release schedules.

What makes a driver ‘good’ to most amateur golfers who take their game seriously is a cross section of performance, price, and hubris. As for that last metric, I think most people would be lying if they say it doesn’t feel good having the latest and greatest club in the bag. Being the envy of your group is fun, even if it only lasts until you snap hook your first drive out of bounds.

As prices of general release equipment have increased to nearly double what it was retailing at only 10 years ago, the ability to play the newest equipment is starting to become out of the question for many amateur golfers.

Enter Tyler Mycoskie, an avid, single digit handicap golfer (and the brother of Tom’s shoes founder, Blake Mycoskie). Tyler’s experience with purchasing golf equipment and his understanding of uniquely successful business models collided, which led him to start the Dollar Driver Club. With a name and logo that is a tongue in cheek allusion to the company that has shaken up the men’s skincare industry, the company seeks to offer a new way of thinking about purchasing golf equipment without completely reinventing the wheel of the model that has seen success in industries such as car leasing and purchasing razors.

The company does exactly what its name says. They offer the newest, top of the line driver and shaft combinations for lease at a cost of about a dollar per day.

The economics of the model seem too good to be true. When you purchase a driver, you are charged $30 plus $11 for shipping and it’s $30 per month from then on. You can upgrade your driver at no extra cost each year and your driver is eligible for upgrade or swap after 90 days of being a member. After a year, the total cost comes to $371 with shipping, which sounds a lot nicer than the $500 that it would cost to purchase, as an example, a Titleist TS3 with a Project X Evenflow T1100 today.

The major complaint most people would have is that you still don’t own the driver after that year, but as someone with a closet full of old golf clubs that diminish in value every day, which I have no realistic plans to sell, that doesn’t sound like a problem to me or my wife, who asks me almost weekly when I plan on thinning out my collection.

The model sounds like an obvious win for customers to me, and quite frankly, if you’re skeptical, then it’s probably just simply not for you. I contacted the team at the Dollar Driver Club to get some questions answered. Primarily, I want to know, what’s the catch?

I spoke with a Kevin Kirakossian, a Division I golfer who graduated from the University of Texas-Pan American in 2013 and has spent virtually his entire young career working on the business side of golf, most recently with Nike Golf’s marketing team prior to joining Tyler at Dollar Driver Club. Here’s what he had to say about his company.

At risk to the detriment of our conversation, I have to find out first and foremost, what’s the catch?

K: There’s no catch. We’re all golfers and we want to offer a service that benefits all of our members. We got tired of the upfront cost of drivers. We’re trying to grow the game. Prior to us, there was no way to buy new golf clubs without paying full price. We take a lot of pride that players of all skill level, not just tour pros or people with the extra budget to drop that kind of money every year, can have access to the latest equipment.

With that question out of the way, I delved into the specifics of the brand and model, but I maintained a skeptical edge, keeping an ear out for anything that I could find that would seem too good to be true.

How closely do you keep an eye on manufacturers and their pricing? It would seem that your service is more enticing as prices increase in equipment.

K: The manufacturers are free to create their own pricing. We work closely with manufacturers and have a great relationship with them. As prices increase, it helps us, even if they decrease, I still think it’s a no-brainer to use our service, purely for the fact that new equipment comes out every year. You don’t have a high upfront cost. You’re not stuck with the same driver for a year. It gives you flexibility and freedom to play the newest driver. If a manufacturer wants to get into the same business, we have the advantage of offering all brands. We’re a premium subscription brand, so we’re willing to offer services that other retailers aren’t. We’ll do shaft swaps, we’ll send heads only, we have fast shipping and delivery times. We’re really a one-stop shop for all brands.

What measures do you take to offer the most up to date equipment?

K: We will always have the newest products on the actual launch date. We take pride in offering the equipment right away. A lot of times, our members will receive their clubs on release day. We order direct from the manufacturers and keep inventory. There’s no drop shipping. We prefer shipping ourselves and being able to add a personal package.

The service is uniquely personal. Their drivers come with a ball marker stamped with your initials as well as a stylish valuables pouch. They also provide a hand signed welcome letter and some stickers.

Who makes up the team at Dollar Driver Club?

K: We’re a small team. We started accepting members to our service in 2018 and it has grown exponentially. We have four or five guys here and it’s all hands on deck. We handle customer inquiries and sending drivers out. It’s a small business nature that we want to grow a lot bigger.

When discussing the company, you have to concede that the model doesn’t appeal to everyone, especially traditionalists. There are golfers who have absolutely no problem spending whatever retailers are charging for their newest wares. There are also golfers who have no problem playing equipment with grips that haven’t been changed in years, much less worrying about buying new equipment. I wanted to know exactly who they’re targeting.

Who is your target demographic?

K: We want all golfers. We want any golfer with any income, any skill level, to be able to play the newest equipment. We want to reshape the way people think about obtaining golf equipment. We’re starting with drivers, but we’re looking into expanding into putters, wedges, and other woods. We’ve heard manufacturers keep an eye on us. There are going to be people who just want to pay that upfront cost so they can own it, but those people may be looking at it on the surface and they don’t see the other benefits. We’re also a service that offers shaft swaps and easily send in your driver after 3 months if you don’t like it.

At this point, it didn’t seem like my quest to find any drawbacks to the service was going well. However, any good business identifies threats to their model and I was really only able to think of one. They do require a photo ID to start your account, but there’s no credit check required like you may see from other ‘buy now, pay later’ programs. That sounds ripe for schemers that we see all the time on websites like eBay and Craigslist.

When you’re sending out a $500 piece of equipment and only taking $41 up front, you’re assuming some risk. How much do you rely on the integrity of golfers who use your service to keep everything running smoothly?

K: We do rely on the integrity of the golf community. When we send out a driver, we believe it’s going into the hands of a golfer. By collecting the ID, we have measures on our end that we can use in the event that the driver goes missing or an account goes delinquent, but we’re always going to side with our members.

The conversation I had with Kevin really opened my eyes to the fact that Dollar Driver Club is exactly what the company says it is. They want to grow and become a staple means of obtaining golf equipment in the current and future market. Kevin was very transparent that the idea is simple, they’re just the ones actually executing it. He acknowledged the importance of social media and how they will harness the power of applications like Instagram to reach new audiences.

Kevin was also adamant that even if you prefer owning your own driver and don’t mind the upfront cost, the flexibility to customize your driver cheaply with a plethora of high-quality shafts is what really makes it worth trying out their service. If for whatever reason, you don’t like their service, you can cancel the subscription and return the driver after 90 days, which means that you can play the newest driver for three months at a cost of $90.

In my personal opinion, I think there’s a huge growth opportunity for a service like this. The idea of playing the newest equipment and being able to tinker with it pretty much at-will really speaks to me. If you’re willing to spend $15 a month on Netflix to re-watch The Office for the 12th time in a row or $35 a month for a Barkbox subscription for your dog, it may be worth doing something nice for your golf bag.

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Opinion & Analysis

A conversation with a Drive, Chip and Putt national finalist

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I’ve been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend all of the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals at Augusta National since the inception of this amazing initiative. I’ve also been extremely lucky to have attended the Masters each of the past 10 years that I have been a PGA member. Each year, I’m still like a kid on Christmas morning when I walk through the gates at Augusta National, but nothing compares to my first trip in 2010. I was in absolute awe. For anyone that’s been, you can surely agree that Augusta National and the Masters Tournament is pure perfection.

The past few years at DCP finals, I couldn’t help but notice the looks of sheer excitement on the faces of the young competitors as well as their parents. That led me to reaching out to one of this year’s competitors, Briel Royce. A Central Florida native, Briel finished second overall in the 7-8-year-old girls division. She is a young lady that I know, albeit, not all too well, that competes in some of my youth golf organization’s Tour series in Florida. I spoke to Briel’s mom at Augusta and then reached out to the family after their return to the Orlando area to get a better idea of their DCP and Augusta National experience…

So how cool was it driving Down Magnolia Lane?

Briel: “Driving down Magnolia Lane was awesome.  Usually, you do not get to experience the scenic ride unless you are a tour player or a member. Everyone got extremely quiet upon entry. There were tons of security along our slow ride. Seeing the beautiful trees and the Masters Flag at Founder’s Circle in the distance was surreal. Having earned the right and opportunity to drive down this prestigious lane was breathtaking. I would love to do it again someday.”

What was the coolest part of your time at Drive, Chip and Putt at Augusta National?

Briel: “Everything was cool about the DCP. Not too often do you see people taking walks in the morning with green jackets on. We were not treated like kids. We were treated like tour players, like we were members at Augusta. The icing on the cake was when they took us to the practice green and we were putting alongside Zach Johnson and Charl Schwartzel. Everyone was confused when we first got there because we weren’t certain we should be putting on the same green around the pros. Again, we were treated like we were tour players. Where else would I be able to do this? Nowhere other than DCP at Augusta. One of my favorite reflections is having Bubba Watson watch us chip and congratulating each of us for our efforts. He did not need to do that. He took time out of practicing for a very important week in his career to support the DCP players. I think his actions show what the game of golf is about: the sportsmanship, the camaraderie, and support.”

How did you prepare for the finals?

Briel: “I prepared just like I did for every other tournament, practicing distance control, etc. But to be honest, you really can’t practice for this experience. The greens are like no other. The balls roll like they are on conveyor belts. I didn’t practice being in front of so many cameras, Bubba Watson, Condeleeza Rice as well as many other folks wearing green jackets. You need to practice playing under extreme pressure and scrutiny. When it is game time, you need to just do your thing and concentrate; have tunnel vision just like the ride down Magnolia Lane.”

What tour pros did you get to meet and talk to?

Briel: “WOW! I spoke to so many tour pros while I was there. I spoke to Keegan Bradley, Annika Sorenstam, Nancy Lopez, Zach Johnson, Mark O’Meara, Gary Player and Patrick Reed. I also met up with the U.S. Woman’s Amateur Champion, Jennifer Kupcho, and 14-year-old baller Alexa Pano. I’m still in awe!”

 

How fast were those greens?

Briel: “Those greens were lightning quick. The balls rolled like they were on a conveyor belt; you didn’t know when to expect them to stop. Had I practiced these speeds a little more, I would have putted the 30-foot like a 15-foot and the 15-foot like a 6-foot putt.”

I also wanted to ask Briel’s parents a few questions in order to get a better idea from the standpoint of the mom and dad, on what an increasable experience this must have been.

So how cool was it driving up Magnolia Lane for you guys?

Mom and Dad: “Going down Magnolia Lane was a dream come true and we wouldn’t have EVER been able to do it without Briel’s accomplishment. Driving down was so peaceful; the way the trees are shaped like a tunnel and at the end of that tunnel, you see the Masters Flag and Founder’s Circle. Just thinking about all the legends, presidents, influential people driving down that road and we were doing the same thing was extraordinary. We appreciated how slow the driver took to get us down the lane for us to take it all in. A lot of tears. It was heavenly.”

What was the coolest part during your time at Drive, Chip and Putt and Augusta National?

Mom and Dad“The coolest part was seeing 9-year-old Briel compete at Augusta National! Seeing the whole set up and everything that goes into making this event what it is, we have no words. They made these kids feel like they were royalty. We are so truly blessed, thankful, and grateful for everything that was provided to Briel to make this a truly awesome experience. We don’t want to share too much as it needs to be a surprise to anyone else that’s reading this that may make it there.”

How impactful do you feel this initiative is to golf in general?

Mom and Dad: “You can’t possibly make any bigger impact on golf than to let golf’s future attend the best golf course and the coolest event, Drive, Chip and Putt at none other Augusta National during Masters week. The day after the event, we had a handful of people walk up to Briel to tell her that she was an inspiration to their older daughters who now want to play golf. They even requested a picture with Briel; how cool! This initiative is definately, without question, growing the game.”

It goes without saying that you were incredibly proud of your daughter but what may have surprised you most on how she handled this awesome experience?

Mom and Dad: “We are so incredibly proud of Briel! She handled this challenging and overwhelming experience very well for only being 9 years old. She was cool, calm and collected the whole time. The atmosphere at Drive, Chip and Putt can chew you up if you let it, but she didn’t let all of the distractions get to her, she embraced them.  Out of all the competitions she participated in to earn her invitation to Augusta, we truly feel she treated this whole experience like she was not at a competition but a birthday party where she was having a blast. She made many new golf friends and we met amazing golf families we anticipate spending more time with in the future. You don’t get to go to many parties where Bubba Watson is hanging out with you like he’s your best friend.”

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