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The ranger reveals!

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Uh oh. Here he comes. Headed right for your twosome, foursome, or fivesome. You spotted him on hole 4, in the faded white cart with the orange pole and yellow flag up ahead in the woods, lurking. And now, what does HE want?

1. “The Truth.” If you and your buddies are standing next to your cart, your athletic-fit golf slacks covered up to the knees with black pond muck, and milfoil trailing from your cart wheels, you’re probably too close to the lateral water hazard. Just own it.

2. “Keep up.” Remember, he wants you to enjoy the six-plus hours you’ll be out there. The snap hooks and peel draws, the towering slices and butter cuts. The miraculous downhill 40 ft. birdie putts: All of it. Just stay in sight of the group ahead of you.

3. “Drinking.” The group ahead of you probably is, and you certainly are. Everyone knows it’s a vital part of tolerating the game. Just don’t flaunt it. Use plastic glasses. Travel light. Half gallons of vodka or your Uncle Shifty’s moonshine take up room for your cigar humidor.

Pro tip: Go right for the “Robustos.” Get the heaving over with. The effects of twice a year cigar smoking on a draft beer breakfast can hurt, or become your handicap.

Once again, if you “Keep up,” everything will be fine. Sort of.

4. “On course advice.” You should know that the beer girl is far better at her game than you are at yours. She gets more practice. So be polite. Tip well. She’s probably working on her masters in psychology and can spot the alpha male in your group in seven seconds.

More advice from the Ranger

Watch the weather. The desire to “play just one more” is quickly overridden when your cart is sliding sideways downhill, on a rain-slick fairway, headed for the hickorys.

Respect the game, the course, the staff, and yourself. If you’re a guest at a resort, don’t drag the furniture out of your fairway villa, set it on fire, and get caught sleeping in a greenside bunker the next morning. (true story)

And please; no skulled lob wedges off the living room carpet, out the sliding glass door, over the balcony railing and headed for the group coming up 18. (also true)

Remember, the ranger’s “hostile resting face” is not his fault. It’s really just bemusement. When he says “Use someone else’s better judgment,” it’s for your own good. Think of the Ranger as a mobile “players assistant.” You want the booming bass music three fairways overturned down, he’s your guy.

You want the groups ahead to speed up? Ask him. It’s already driving him crazy too.

Above all, have fun. Enjoy the scenery. Golf is a difficult game that tests one’s mettle and reveals one’s character.

Just don’t become one.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. TEN

    Mar 13, 2019 at 9:56 am

    This is written by one experienced battle tested ranger! He’s been to the front lines and returned to tell truths in a humorous well written essay. Now if only everyone in the group could read! Ha.

  2. JP

    Mar 13, 2019 at 12:42 am

    And for the love of God, play the tee box appropriate to your skill level and athletic ability!

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Opinion & Analysis

Squares2Circles: Course strategy refined by a Ph.D.

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What do you get when you combine Division I-level golf talent, a Ph.D. in Mathematics, a passion for understanding how people process analytical information, and a knowledge of the psychology behind it? In short, you get Kevin Moore, but the long version of the story is much more interesting.

Kevin Moore attended the University of Akron on a golf scholarship from 2001-2005. Upon completing his tenure with the team, he found himself burned out on the game and promptly hung up his sticks. For a decade.

After completing his BS and MS degrees at the University of Akron, Kevin then went to Arizona State to pursue his Ph.D. Ultimately what drew him to the desert was the opportunity to research the psychology behind how people process analytical information. In his own words:

“My research in mathematics education is actually in the realm of student cognition (how students think and learn). From that, I’ve gained a deep understanding of developmental psychology in the mathematical world and also a general understanding of psychology as a whole; how our brains work, how we make decisions, and how we respond to results.”

In 2015, Kevin started to miss the game he loved. Now a professor of mathematics education at the University of Georgia, he dusted off his clubs and set a goal to play in USGA events. That’s when it all started to come together.

“I wanted to play some interesting courses for my satellite qualifiers and I wasn’t able to play practice rounds to be able to check them out in advance. So I modified a math program to let me do all the strategic planning ahead of time. I worked my way around the golf course, plotting out exactly how I wanted to hit  shot, and minimizing my expected score for each hole. I bundled that up into a report that I could study to prepare for the rounds.

“I’m not long enough to overpower a golf course, so I needed to find a way to make sure I was putting myself in the best positions possible to minimize my score. There might be a pin position on a certain green where purposely hitting an 8-iron to 25 feet is the best strategy for me. I’ll let the rest of the field take on that pin and make a mistake even if they’re only hitting wedge. I know that playing intelligently aggressive to the right spot is going to allow me to pick up fractions of strokes here and there.”

His plan worked, too. Kevin made it to the USGA Mid-Amateur at Charlotte Country Club in September of 2018 using this preparation method for his events just three years after taking a decade off of golf. In case you missed the implied sentiment, that’s extremely impressive. When Kevin showed his reports to some friends that played on the Web.com Tour and the Mackenzie Tour, they were so impressed they asked him to think about generating them for other people. The first group he approached was the coaching staff at the University of Georgia, who promptly enlisted his services to assist their team with course strategy in the spring of 2019. That’s when Squares2Circles really started to get some traction.

At that point, UGA hadn’t had a team win in over two seasons. They also hadn’t had an individual winner in over one season and had missed out on Nationals the previous two seasons. In the spring of 2019, they had three team wins (including winning Regionals to advance to Nationals) and two individual wins (including Davis Thompson’s win at Regionals). Obviously, the credit ultimately belongs to the players on the team, but suffice it to say it appears as though Kevin’s involvement with the team was decidedly useful.

“One of the things we really focused in on was par 3 scoring. They finished 3rd, 2nd, 4th, and 3rd in the field as a team in their spring tournaments. Then at the SEC’s they struggled a bit and finished 6th in the field. At Regionals, they turned it around and finished 1st in the field with a score of +6 across 60 scores (186 total on 60 par 3’s, an average of 3.10).”

Sample Squares2Circles layout for the 18th hole at Muirfield Village. Advanced data redacted.

Kevin is available outside of his work with UGA and has been employed by other D-I teams (including his alma mater of Akron), Mackenzie Tour players, Web.com Tour players, and competitive juniors as well. Using his modified math program, he can generate generic course guides based on assumed shot dispersions, but having more specific Trackman data for the individual allows him to take things to a new level. This allows him to show the player exactly what their options are with their exact carry numbers and shot dispersions.

“Everything I do is ultimately based off of strokes gained data. I don’t reinvent the wheel there and I don’t use any real new statistics (at least not yet), but I see my role as interpreting that data. Let’s say a certain player is an average of -2.1 on strokes gained approach over the last 10 rounds. That says something about his game, but it doesn’t say if it’s strategy or execution. And it doesn’t help you come up with a practice plan either. I love to help players go deeper than just the raw data to help them understand why they’re seeing what they’re seeing. That’s where the good stuff is. Not just the data, but the story the data tells and the psychology behind it. How do we get ourselves in the right mindset to play golf and think through a round and commit to what we’re doing?”

“Even if you’re able to play practice rounds, this level of preparation turns those practice rounds into more of an experiment than a game plan session. You go into your practice round already knowing the golf course and already having a plan of attack. This allows you to use that practice round to test that game plan before the competition starts. You may decide to tweak a few things during your practice round based on course conditions or an elevation change here and there, but for the most part it’s like you’ve gained a free practice round. It allows you to be more comfortable and just let it fly a lot earlier.”

Kevin is in the process of building his website, but follow @squares2circles on Twitter for more information and insight.

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Podcasts

The Gear Dive: Mike Yagley and Chad DeHart of Cobra Golf

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In this episode of The Gear Dive, Johnny chats with Mike Yagley and Chad DeHart of Cobra Golf Innovation on Cobra Connect, new ways to evaluate good play, and the future of golf improvement.

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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Mondays Off: U.S. Open wrap-up | Steve plays against the new assistant pro

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Would Woodland have won the U.S. Open if he had to hit driver on the 18th hole? Knudson doesn’t think so. Steve loved the U.S. Open, but he didn’t really love the commentator crew. Also, Steve tees it up with the new second assistant pro at the club, how did he do?

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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