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Opinion & Analysis

Past, present, and future: Masters week is magical

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It was 1961 when I watched my first Masters broadcast with my dad on a little black-and-white TV (aluminum foil wrapping the “ears”), and the 16th, 17th, and 18th holes were all CBS covered. A guy named Player was at the top of the leader board, and Arnold Palmer’s name was right under his. As a naive kid of 13 knowing nothing about golf, I thought Arnie was leading because I assumed “Player” was the name of the column and therefore Palmer was at the top of the column!

Anyway, that was 58 years ago and I have not missed a Masters since. As a PGA member, I’ve been fortunate to attend the event several times, but other than those years, I have always arranged my weekend schedule to be sitting in front a TV screen from Holy Thursday to Masters Sunday.

This week, I won’t get any older (I’m actually 70 weeks younger than my 70 years). Oh, I’m not fearful of aging, or the fact that I’m a lot closer to the 18th green than the first tee, but this week I just kind of doubt the reality of all that. I’m all too aware of how fast this whole thing is going by, but this week it slows down just enough that the inevitable trickles instead of flies. Because now it’s springtime in the valley in Augusta, Georgia, and the annual rite of passage into spring is mercifully upon us.

I’m a big fan of tradition — I’m not afraid to admit it, and in the Masters we have “a tradition unlike any other.” What makes it such a tradition? Well for one, whoever puts this whole thing together has channeled their elders and has had the great sense and the courage to leave the damn thing alone. In this crazy, hectic, chaotic world, I need something, anything, that stops changing every time I look up or turn a page.  As a golfer, that thing is the Masters in April in Augusta.

The grass will be just as green this week, the holes will be cut in the same places they’ve always been, the pimento and cheese sandwiches will still be wrapped in the little green bags and still sell for a buck fifty, the back nine will still decide the winner, “fore, please!” will still be Augusta-speak for play away, there will still be limited commercial messages during the broadcast, 30,000 “patrons” will still walk the hallowed ground each day, the azaleas will be as gorgeous as always, the spirits of Bobby Jones and Cliff Roberts will still come alive, and we all will feel, in the words of Bob Dylan, forever young!

The Crow’s Nest, the Butler Cabin, Rae’s Creek, The Hogan Bridge, Sarazen’s double eagle, Arnie’s Army, the honorary starters… There’s nowhere else we know the players and events, the thrilling victories, the tragic defeats like we do at Augusta. Everyone is familiar with everything because it stays the same.

“The Masters,” was a name for the event Bobby Jones was reluctant to use because it seemed a bit precocious. Jones didn’t make many mistakes when designing this “toonament,” but I’m really glad he dropped “The Augusta National Invitational” tag. Oh, and he decided to reverse the nines.  Can you even imagine this event, with the most famous back nine in golfdom, being played as the first nine? Horrors!

Every first full week of April, we get to wipe the slate clean and start all over again. The weather is getting warmer, the days are getting longer, we dust off the sticks and head to links. But this week we stand in awe of the sporting spectacle we know as the Masters. Anyway, let the show is about to begin. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do. I’d like to add one final note to the younger readers and maybe first time attendees at the event: If golf is in your soul, treasure every moment this week because the memories will last a lifetime, and you’ll appreciate it more with each passing year.  Believe me, b there will come a time when you drag your feet just to slow the passage of time, and there is no better time to do so than this week. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

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Podcasts

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Task to target

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In this week’s episode: How having a target will improve your direction and contact you have with the ball.

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Podcasts

On Spec: Blades vs cavity backs | Classic gear vs. modern equipment

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In this episode, host Ryan talks about a recent experience of playing poor golf and what it took from an equipment perspective to get his game back on track.

The talk is wide-ranging and offers an inside look at what equipment tweaks or experiments might help you play better golf—or get you out of a rut.

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Opinion & Analysis

From the GolfWRX Vault: How far should you hit your golf clubs?

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Editor’s note: Jaacob Bowden‘s 2013 piece on how far a club “ought” to carry based on clubhead speed—i.e. how far you should hit your golf clubs–remains one of our most widely read pieces (thanks, Google search). And while seven years have passed since its publication, the data remains the same, and thus the piece remains just as relevant today. 

We’re happy to crack open the GolfWRX Vault for this excellent bit of writing. 


One of the nice things about having all this new fancy technological equipment like Trackman, Flightscope, ShotLink, etc., at various PGA Tour events is that distance data can be gathered for each of the players.

In case you haven’t come across it already, here are the approximate Trackman carry distance averages for men at the professional level.

Average PGA Tour Carry Distances (yards)

Club Carry
Driver (Total) 289
Driver (Carry) 269
3-Wood 243
5-Wood 230
Hybrid 225
3-Iron 212
4-Iron 203
5-Iron 194
6-Iron 183
7-Iron 172
8-Iron 160
9-Iron 148
PW 136

Pretty cool info. Perhaps they hit it farther than you might have thought…or maybe they hit less than you may have been lead to believe based on what you’ve seen on TV, read on the internet, etc.

Since I deal a lot with swing speed training and helping people in general hit the ball farther, a relatively common question I get is, “How far should I hit my clubs for my swing speed?”

Well, since we also know that the average driver swing speed on Tour typically runs around 112 to 113 mph, using a bit of algebra and the above distances we can approximate a guide for how far you could expect to hit the ball (assuming fairly consistent and solid contact) given your personal driver swing speed.

Here are those carry distances.

Approximate Carry Distances by Driver Swing Speed (mph)

 Approximate Carry Distances by Driver Swing Speed (mph)

I took the ranges down to 60 and 70 mph because those are swing speeds I’ll encounter when working with some amateur women and seniors. I also went up to 140 mph because numerous long drivers I’ve trained can get their drivers up that high (RE/MAX World Long Drive champions like Joe Miller, Jamie Sadlowski and Ryan Winther can actually reach over 150 mph).

Aside from using the chart as a general reference point, here are a few other things that I think are worth pointing out:

First, these numbers are based off how the average Tour player strikes the ball. Although Tour players are overall good ball strikers with all their clubs, most of them are actually not as efficient (the Tour average is about 2.58 yards/mph of swing speed) as they can be when it comes to distance with their drivers because on average they hit drives that launch too low and with too much spin.

LGPA Tour players (2.65 yards/mph of swing speed) and Professional Long Drivers are actually more distance efficient with their drivers…but that’s a topic for another article. The good news for you is that greater carry and total-driving distances can be achieved at all the range of swing speeds shown above if you are a more efficient driver than the average male tour player at 2.58 yards/mph of swing speed.

With a 2-degree change in driver loft and some minor adjustments made to his swing path, angle of attack, etc, one of my amateur students went from being an already above-average efficient driver at 2.61 yards/mph to an extremely efficient one at 2.75 yards/mph. So with no change to his 102 mph swing speed, he increased his driving distance average from 266 to 280. Then after some swing speed training, he got up to 112 mph and can now hit drives around 307 yards with that same efficiency of 2.75 yards/mph. That’s 41 more yards!

Second, the club distances are based on the driver swing speeds that you would get from a system like FlightScope and Trackman. So if at all possible, get yourself checked on one of those. Otherwise, if you measure with something like a Speed Stik (which measure higher in my experience), you could get a false sense of how far you might expect to hit the ball.

As another example, Sports Sensors Swing Speed Radars (SSR) also read faster. It should be pointed out that SSRs are still a great personal training aid, and because of their accuracy and relative affordability and portability, they are actually the radar I recommend in my swing speed training programs.

However, the Doppler radar in an SSR measures the fastest moving part of the club head (typically the toe) versus a Trackman or FlightScope, which each have proprietary algorithms to calculate the speed at the center of the club face. For this reason, SSRs will read about 5 to 12 percent faster, depending on how you as an individual move the driver through impact. If you have an SSR, just hit 5 to 10 balls with it and a Trackman or FlightScope at the same time and you’ll find out your personal difference for sake of comparison.

Third, the above numbers can be useful for a good general reference, but like I mentioned in my article about understand distance variance, recognize that carry distances can vary a lot depending on conditions. Slopes, wind, temperature, altitude, etc., are all things that can affect how far the ball flies, so remember to factor that in.

Fourth, keep in mind potential loft differences between your clubs and the ones here. As a general rule of thumb, club manufacturers have made their club lofts (especially in the irons) continually stronger over the years as a way of marketing and selling consumers the new clubs.

Many top Tour players are being paid to play the latest clubs, which could mean they might also be playing irons with stronger lofts than the set you are playing. This isn’t always the case, however, but it’s another thing to be aware of.

Last, once you start approaching less than 80 mph with the driver, notice how the distances start bunching up between clubs.  At this point, you start getting to an area where you really don’t need a full set of 14 clubs. If this is you, perhaps you might also find that you hit a 3-wood or 5-wood further than a normal driver.

My wife is very strong and athletic, however, as a beginner who doesn’t play or practice very much, she hasn’t developed much swing speed. For that reason, we got her fitted for a 9-club set of Wishon 730CLs, a set that is designed specifically for men and women with less than 80 mph of club head speed.

The shafts are very light, the driver is 16 degrees and only 42 inches, the fairway woods are 20 and 26 degrees (versus the commonly used 15- and 19-degree fairway woods), and the remaining hybrids/irons are gapped out in 6-degree loft increments (compared to the normal 3- or 4-degree). Also, since many beginners, lesser skilled players and those with slower swing speeds can struggle with really high lofted wedges, the highest lofted wedge in the set is 54 degrees.

All of these things combine to provide a driver that can actually be hit in the air for distance, clubs that have substantial distance gapping, plus it’s just less clubs in general to lug around and choose from.

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