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Slow down!

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“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

You’d have to live under a rock, or maybe in another country, to not have noticed how in vogue it is to rant about the ills of slow play these days, and how it’s absolutely killing our industry. With feuds between players on the PGA Tour, campaigns like the USGA’s “While We’re Young,” “Play 9,” and this year’s wholesale changes to the game’s centuries-old rules just to combat it, the casual observer could easily get the impression that modern golf has somehow evolved into a proverbial death march. Not so.

The truth is, golf has always been a slow game, and these reactions are nothing more than predictable responses to the perceived time famine of today’s constantly connected, fast-than-ever-paced lifestyles. That, and the fear amongst those in positions of authority that we may actually someday soon stop setting aside the necessary time to play this interminably slow game. But could it be that the pace of the game is perfectly appropriate? And are those trying to get it over with as quickly as possible, possibly missing the entire point? And might the real answer to our current predicament be that we all need to take a collective breath, chill out, and actually SLOW DOWN? Now I’m sure there are those out there who think I’ve gone over to the dark side for even suggesting that slow play isn’t on par with a communicable disease, but walk with me a moment, and I think you might arrive at the end of your next round with a slightly different perspective.

Despite golf’s governing bodies’ best efforts, the average round on a regulation par-72 course still clocks in around four hours, even though we actually only engage in the playing part of the game for a mere 15 to 20 minutes of that time. The rest of that round is in-between time, time spent getting from Point A to Point B over that near five-mile landscape, looking for errant shots, deliberating over the merits of a 7-Iron or a 6-Iron (when most of us should probably hit a 5-hybrid), doing business deals, rekindling dormant friendships, arguing about whether the Democrats or the Republicans are to blame for the mess in Washington, or discussing the health of aging parents whose futures we must now decide upon in one of life’s most tragic role reversals. And in today’s busy life, a round of golf is often one of the few times and places we actually slow down long enough to have these conversations without an intervening digital device of some sort.

Now, the majority of those conversations in this country are had while playing in golf carts. And as a result, a great many of us have all but forgotten what it’s like to walk a round, if we ever even knew. The proliferation of golf carts that began in the 1950’s, and our increasing desire for a faster round of golf, was not only the death knell for caddies, but seemingly for the experience of walking a round of golf in general. But instead of making the game faster, those carts are often only fueling our misperception of how slow the game is. Sure, they get us from that Point A to Point B faster, but that’s created a hurry-up-and-wait type pace that for centuries didn’t exist. And so it should come as no surprise that our game’s caretakers are doing all they can to speed up the rest of the game, even going so far as to change its rules and traditions in desperate hopes of lopping off a few seconds here and there. But have we even considered that it might instead be high time the pace of our busy lifestyles adapts to the game, rather than trying to force the pace of the game adapt to our lifestyles?

The overwhelming preference we have for riding in carts in the U.S. isn’t the case everywhere, though. A decade ago, I spent some time in England and Scotland, playing a few rounds with locals, on courses where it is still far more common to walk, than ride in buggies, as they called them, and it quickly became apparent that walking said as much about how they valued the experience, and their time on the course, as it did their level of physical conditioning. We played in roughly the same amount of time we do here (a little less actually), and when we got to our balls, amazingly, with very few exceptions, the group in front was nowhere to be seen. Is it any wonder they claim not to have near the same issues with slow play over there that we do here?

Now, I definitely don’t want to bad-mouth golf carts altogether, because they allow untold millions to enjoy this great game who would physically be unable to do so otherwise. But at least consider for a moment the physical effects of walking. Golfers who walk nine holes burn an average of 721 calories, while their buggy-bound counterparts weigh in at a mere 411. Walking strengthens the heart, helps the lungs work more efficiently, boosts both the immune and nervous systems, and even helps cognitive function. One study from a Swedish medical university done in 2008 with a sample size of over 300,000 golfers even found the life expectancy of walking golfers to be five years longer than their cart-riding counterparts. So, the sad fact is, if we all slowed down, and walked the course a bit more, we likely wouldn’t be buggy-bound quite so early in our golfing careers. And those careers would certainly last quite a bit longer.

Aside from the physical, walking offers stress-relieving mental and spiritual benefits that might not only improve your score, but how you experience your time playing. With practices like mindfulness and meditation becoming almost as in vogue as ranting about slow play, I’m surprised walking a round of golf isn’t more prescribed, and more practiced, by more gurus everywhere. It provides a much-needed break from that aforementioned fast-paced and stress-filled lifestyle when you slow down, breath deep, and relax, while looking at a familiar course with fresh eyes. It brings your mind, body, and spirit into balance, enlivens your senses, making colors more vibrant and the sounds and smells more alive. You smell the fresh-cut grass, hear the birds more clearly, the rustle of the leaves on the trees, and the crunch of the fallen ones under foot. The babble of the brook, that of your playing partners, and even that of that little voice in your head can sound different while walking, and you remember them all in much greater clarity.

I can recall elements of the courses I walked in England those many years ago, and some of the conversations I had then, in far greater detail than many of the ones I have played much more recently while riding. It reminds me of a passage from the immortal book Golf in the Kingdom, by Michael Murphy, where the Scottish Golf Pro Shivas Irons claimed, “The gemme was meant for walkin’,” upon describing a former club member that it was said for whom the walkin’ sometimes got so good he forgot to even hit his shots, and that a walk around the course was as good for the soul as a day spent in church. Hopefully this is at least some solace to those of us who’ve skipped more than one Sunday service for the lure of the links.

In the end, though, I want you to play golf in whatever way allows you to enjoy the experience most. And if walking’s not possible, or practical, I hope you at least slow down enough to take a hard look at why you’re playing in the first place, and where you’re in such a hurry to get to. Isn’t being on the golf course, after all, one of those well-earned rewards that we all work so hard for? Have the demands of our modern lifestyle become so great that we can’t at least mentally step off the merry-go-round during those times we’ve set aside to do just that? And has the thought of walking, or at least stopping to smell the roses (or fresh cut grass) become so cliché that we merely nod and pay homage to them as the quaint notions of a time long past? I hope not, for as Shivas Irons ultimately said, “If ye’ can enjoy the walkin’, ye can probably enjoy the other times in life when ye’re in between. And that’s most o’ the time’ wouldn’t ye say?”

In the spirit of that, the following is my adaptation of a little poem titled “Slow Dance,” by psychologist David L. Weatherford. I call it “Slow Down.” And for your sake, I hope it doesn’t resonate too loudly.

Do you race through each round, in your cart on the fly? Ask a partner how are you, but not hear their reply?

You better slow down, don’t play so fast. Time is short, this round won’t last.

Ever followed your ball’s erratic flight? Or do you just look away, disgusted at the sight?

When the round is done, do you lie awake in bed, with only bad shots, running through your head?

You’d better slow down, don’t play so fast. Time is short, this round won’t last.

Ever told your child, I’m late for my game, we’ll play tomorrow? And in your haste, not see their sorrow?

Ever lost touch, let your old foursome die? Cause you couldn’t find the time, and now you wonder why?

You’d better slow down, don’t play so fast. Time is short, this round won’t last.

When you try to play fast, just to get somewhere, you’ll miss most of the fun of getting there.

When you worry and hurry, through your round each day, it’s like an un-opened gift thrown away.

This game is not a race, so do take it slower, and figure out why you’re out there, before the round is over.

And Slow Down… Don’t play so fast… Our time is short… And this round won’t last…

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Mike Dowd is the author of the new novel COMING HOME and the Lessons from the Golf Guru: Wit, Wisdom, Mind-Tricks & Mysticism for Golf and Life series. He has been Head PGA Professional at Oakdale Golf & CC in Oakdale, California since 2001, and is serving his third term on the NCPGA Board of Directors and Chairs the Growth of the Game Committee. Mike has introduced thousands of people to the game and has coached players that have played golf collegiately at the University of Hawaii, San Francisco, U.C. Berkeley, U.C. Davis, University of the Pacific, C.S.U. Sacramento, C.S.U. Stanislaus, C.S.U. Chico, and Missouri Valley State, as men and women on the professional tours. Mike currently lives in Turlock, California with his wife and their two aspiring LPGA stars, where he serves on the Turlock Community Theatre Board, is the past Chairman of the Parks & Recreation Commission and is a member of the Kiwanis Club of Greater Turlock. In his spare time (what's that?) he enjoys playing golf with his girls, writing, music, fishing and following the foibles of the Sacramento Kings, the San Francisco 49ers, the San Francisco Giants, and, of course, the PGA Tour. You can find Mike at mikedowdgolf.com.

27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. Myron Miller

    May 14, 2019 at 12:47 pm

    Actually two different subjects in this article: Pace of Play and whether to walk or ride. And contrary to Mr. Dowd, they really are totally different topics. Whether to walk or not is a multi-faceted issue with many points that Mr. Dowd totally ignores. I walked for years until age and infirmities caught up with me. And I’ve played all over the country, walking and riding. Besides the physical condition of the walker, is the outdoor conditions which Mr. Dowd totally ignores. I’ve played in Nevada where the starting temperature in the morning was 108 degrees and when we finished in 4 hours was 115 degrees. Most people cannot walk the 7-9 miles up and down hills in that temperature. In fact, once it reaches about 90 something 99% of the walkers have issues walking. Streamsong in Florida has super prices in the summer and yet almost no one plays after about 11am and 1/5 the winter numbers play even early and most of those use a cart. Did he even consider this issue. And there are other issues about carts not mentioned.

    But the bigger issue and what he is totally out to lunch on in my opinion is the pace of play issues. When I was younger, an average round was about 3-3.5 hours. Rarely did a round last more then 4.25. Today, an average round is closer to 4.5 hours and often is 5.5 to 6 hours. And he is suggesting (title even implies this), to ‘SLOW DOWN’. That means that the average round now will increase even more, 10% which isn’t much will put the average over 5+ hours with many reaching 7 hours. Adding warmup times and a little time for beer with friends after the round and we’re talking 8-10 hours for the round. That’s not just slow, it’s ridiculous. Try to play 36 or 54 holes at this pace. Often I’ve played 36-54 at resorts such as Bandon Dunes (4 courses) or Whistling straits (4 courses). I can enjoy the different environment on each course and marvel how the architect routed the course thru the landscape. 36 holes is easy to walk (normally) and you still should have time to see everything and talk about a lot of things. Couple of weeks ago, a friend (dedicated walker) and myself played 36 at Streamsong in Florida in little less than 9 hours, including time between rounds. And we actually thought we were a little too slow at times, but had time to marvel at some of the features.

    For me personally, 5+ hour rounds are torture chambers because of my serious arthritis that stiffens up when I can’t keep moving. So slowing down would mean I (and many other handicapped people like myself) would have to give up the game which is what all the grow the game programs are trying to avoid. Just what we need someone advocating longer rounds and making the game slower than it is in many parts of the country.

    One can easily walk and enjoy the scenery and still play in under 4.5 hours.

  2. Tom54

    May 13, 2019 at 4:36 pm

    The way a lot of courses have their cart paths set up with having to park so far from the greens and not being able to get too close to them from let’s say 50 yds out, I think that there is still plenty of walking going on when playing. Plus the real bonus is not having to walk so far to some of the next tees. Even though I enjoy the exercise the cart is still the way to go for me. If it gets slow, you’ve got a place to rest. The real treat is of course being outdoors and enjoying the weather and the scenery. What a great game

  3. Brian L

    May 13, 2019 at 4:28 pm

    I agree with the walking component of the game (and it’s meant to be walked vs being in a cart) but disagree walking is akin to slowing down. I’d actually say most the walkers where I play are much much faster than the cart guys. And in Ireland and Scotland they play in 3.5 hours walking or you get yelled at. I think the issue is cart guys tend to be less frequent golfers who have little awareness or appreciation for the flow of the course.

    So please do walk, but don’t take it for a license to play in PGA style 5 hour rounds.

  4. Timbo

    May 13, 2019 at 4:10 pm

    A big cause for slow play is golf courses setting up 7 – 8 minute tee times instead of at least 10. Then you wait alot, only to hear the marshal start yelling to hurry up.

  5. SG

    May 13, 2019 at 10:50 am

    I love how people automatically associate “slow down” with slow play. And 31 shanks, yikes. The best investment in golf next to lessons is a good pair of shoes and a friendly foursome.

  6. Thomas A

    May 13, 2019 at 9:31 am

    I do not golf at courses that don’t allow for walking (unless I’m at my dad’s place in Kississmee). I hate that layout, some holes are 1/4 mile from green to tee. Two weeks ago I walked 18 in 3:15, got rained on for 5 holes, ran into a high school foursome, they invited me to play with them. They were great kids with course edict and having fun. That never would have happened in a cart.

  7. Ronald Montesano

    May 13, 2019 at 7:54 am

    Sorry you drew the short straw and had to write this article, from this perspective. The game is hemorrhaging participants like a wound to the neck, mainly due to slow play. Golf does need its racecar drivers. The choreography of the walk is critical to effecting a properly-timed round. Citing GITK is nice, except it doesn’t refer to golf courses filled to the brim with folks who play once a week and need to get around. If you live on a remote island off Scotland’s coast, let the gemme be fer walkin slew. If you live in an area of dense golfing population and still wish to play, play quickly. Good lord, I could go on and write a total counter article to all the premises in this one. Here’s a lifted glass to the day when we can walk slowly, play quickly, and anger no one.

  8. Juan

    May 13, 2019 at 4:22 am

    Slow play is awfull. But it does not mean to run over the course. A comon player with friends in a foursome should play in less the 4 hours.
    You dont have to look a putt fron the 4 sides and look from behaind every shot or take 4 swings.
    Golf should be a good walk a play as you arrive to the ball.

  9. I

    May 13, 2019 at 12:33 am

    But nobody is going to tell all the country clubs and the whole industry and all the lazy seniors to get rid of carts and start walking. You’re all too chicken to do it. Not only that, a majority of the golf courses being played on the Tour, including the women’s, are not designed for walking. The gaps between the holes are designed to put grandstands for the fans, and some of the gaps between the 9th and 10th holes are on completely different sides of the property that it takes 30 minutes just to get to the other hole, for any normal person to be able to walk it in less than 5 hours is impossible.

  10. James

    May 12, 2019 at 8:24 pm

    As I have grown up in played competitive or I have been forced to play golf on foot rather than on a cart. I enjoy my rounds far more walking than in a cart. When I am tired I will only play 9, and extend my time on the course through shortgame practice around the greens on each hole. Although it would be overly critical to make a statement such as: “nobody has time to walk a round of golf”, I still feel that the majority of people I know have time to do so somewhere throughout the week.. it’s just up to the individual whether or not they choose to spend the extra amount of time on the course walking.

    Walking a course is an opportunity to be in my own thoughts. It presents me an opportunity to deal with my stresses and the challenges life are giving me at the time. Walking allows me to spend QUALITY time with people I enjoy and even with people I discover to be great playing partners.

    Walking also gives me that opportunity to get out and moving. When I cant get to the gym, I still feel great about myself to walking a round. I do believe though that large part to why some may not walk is because of their skill levels and how frustrating the game can be and I can admit that it would be dreadful to walk you around if you don’t have the skills necessary to at least find your ball and play a few holes stretches without taking 3 extra shots from the rough to get to the green.

    Everyone has their perspectives. Im just fortunate to have the time that allows me to walk. I appreciate what it has done for me. I am very stubborn and avoid a cart even when offered. Ill use it if im preserving energy before a tournament or just heading out for some shortgame… but thats rare.

    I appreciate this article. Fresh air for me and hits home. Walk when you can!

  11. David

    May 12, 2019 at 5:32 pm

    wow. i haven’t read an article in years that resonated with me so much. i had a chance to discuss my aging parents issues with my regular foursome recently. no amount of professional help could have allowed me the space or time or opportunity to discuss such a topic while feeling supported and comforted in my surroundings. Golf gives u so much that we forget what a wonderful game it is. thankyou for the reminder.

    • Mike Dowd

      May 13, 2019 at 2:49 pm

      So glad to hear you agree David, and glad you enjoyed the article. I know carts are the reality of the game today, but I can’t tell you how eye-opening it was to spend time walking a course in a country where it was pretty much the way the game was expected to be played. It was just a different feel altogether, kind of like going back in time, and with so many ancillary benefits to walking I hope we don’t completely abandon the prospect altogether chasing the illusion of a faster round because unless you’ve got the course to yourself, it just isn’t likely to happen. Cheers!

  12. Mick

    May 12, 2019 at 4:32 pm

    My best rounds ever were walking. Cant do it as much as I would like, getting to old , however, this sport was really made for the player to walk. Sickening now how many young players never walk, and carts are just $$$$ to courses now. Walking a golf course is great fun and allows one to think more about their shots.

    • Scratchscorer

      May 13, 2019 at 9:49 am

      Completely agree with everything you said.

  13. Putt Stuff

    May 12, 2019 at 3:17 pm

    Cart ball is a disgrace! Make Golf Great Again! Ban the “Arthritis Special” except for those that absolutely require it!

    The number of golfers who have never walked 9 or 18 holes in their life would astonish most of us. How long has it been since you hoofed it? If I had my way I would never play using a golf car again. The golf car should only be used as the mean to extend our ability to enjoy the game when our bodies begin to fail. We should not be surprised about the rhythm and zen which defines the walking golfer.

    The golf car is one of the reasons that the growth of the game has stagnated. Young people are no longer caddies growing up because of the golf cart. Golf professionals transferred the money paid to caddies to themselves through their ownership and subsequent promotion of their golf car fleet.

    I grew up as a caddie and know many people from all socioeconomic backgrounds that used that opportunity to both earn and learn from the game. The privilege of playing and socializing with many minority golfers (mostly black men) illuminated the importance of caddying as their primary courtship in a lifelong relationship with the game. The bond created between young and old, rich and poor through a synchronized march and shared challenge is a significant and powerful testament to the game we love.

    The author’s views on pace of play are in my opinion very accurate and in line with my experiences. I have played a large number of rounds both domestic and abroad where walking is required and have found Pace of Play is rarely an issue. When walking is the norm groups naturally ebb and flow at walking speeds instead of the hurry up and wait pace of golf carts. I have found it difficult when in a cart to resist other conditioned driving behaviors like the urge to pass or go as fast as possible. Carts make me impatient. For me, walking while playing golf presents a challenge that is the opposite from hurried hectic pace of our everyday rat race. I wish leaders would view the pace of the game as an opportunity instead of a threat. As the world speeds up around us golf has to own its pace as part of its identity, in the parlance of today pace is a feature and not a bug.

    Sweep the dew in the morning or chase the sun down in the evening, for any number of holes, please, please, remember to enjoy the walk.

  14. T

    May 12, 2019 at 2:33 pm

    Thank you for writing this article. It is written directly and elegantly, pointing a finger at the failures of the governing bodies, of the game’s so-called “leaders” who are more concerned with profit than they are quality. The constant conversation of “pace of play” directly correlates with the pace of life dilemma – golf was here long before we were, and believe it or not, it will be here long, long after we are gone. Everybody seems to forget that we need golf, golf doesn’t need us. Leave the game alone.

    • Mike Dowd

      May 13, 2019 at 2:54 pm

      You’re very welcome T. Glad you enjoyed it, and I hope in some small way it can at least be a conversation starter. Golf has been around more than 500 years, and I agree, it will endure, whether we leave the flagstick in or not, play in 3 hours or 5, or even spend half that time on our smartphones. And hopefully we’ll each figure out how best to enjoy it, and that time while we’re still here.

  15. FORE!

    May 12, 2019 at 1:47 pm

    The yous of the world just need to let the mes play through. That’s it. If I want to smell flowers, I’ll go to a funeral. I’m there to hit the ball 95 times and go home hating myself. Not being remotely satirical BTW.

    • Bill Pickelson

      May 12, 2019 at 2:30 pm

      Spot on. There’s no problem with people playing slowly, as long as they don’t make everyone else play at their pace.

      I used to work at a very famous golf course as a course marshal, and once had a group tell me they had paid their money so had the right to do whatever they wanted.

      They had paid their money, but so had every other group behind them who wanted to enjoy their round too.

      Don’t be selfish. Stand aside. Let naturally faster groups play through.

      • Thomas A

        May 13, 2019 at 9:28 am

        That’s frustrating. Tell them “more people have paid that are waiting on you.”

  16. Tom

    May 12, 2019 at 1:30 pm

    Beautifully written article. Thank you for your work

    • Mike Dowd

      May 13, 2019 at 2:56 pm

      Thank you Tom. So glad you appreciated it, and hope it helps at least provide some perspective. Keep swinging!

  17. Nack Jicklaus

    May 12, 2019 at 12:59 pm

    I grew up walking my local 9 hole course in the 1990’s. Nowadays, the only course that exists within a 30 minute drive of me does not allow walking. It makes me sad…

    • Radim Pavlicek

      May 13, 2019 at 9:37 am

      Move to Europe. Exactly the opposite here.

  18. Acemandrake

    May 12, 2019 at 12:55 pm

    I do what I can to enable & motivate myself to walk: Carry 6 clubs, play during off-peak hours and allow myself to play as few or as many holes as I want to play that day.

    The stress relief from walking is real as you feel more connected to nature.

    This is the best way to practice.

  19. Chris Kilmer

    May 12, 2019 at 12:30 pm

    Couldn’t agree more!

  20. Max

    May 12, 2019 at 12:15 pm

    I’m a walker 90pct of the time. Mostly carry with some push cart and caddy rounds thrown in. My home course is older and walks quite well. About half the rounds played are walk or pushcart at this course.

    I recently played 3 rounds at some newer housing development centric courses. Walking them would have been a real pain and there would have been some between hole traverses that would have added maybe 30min to the round. Modern course economics are probably half of the problem.

    I chalk up the other half to modern equipment. The member tees at most courses today have to play over 6200yds because most men can hit it 240yds. Even the 20hdcp guys. Of course the extra 20-30yds also means wilder and harder to find shots. That just adds more time. I would say that for most 10hdcp+, modern drivers have made them score worse.

    I grew up playing a course that was 6500 from the tips back in the persimmon and balata days. I played with the occasional tour pro. They shot low scores but nothing obscene. Today, as a 5 index I can shoot around par from 7300yds on an otherwise similar course. I’m 40 years old and can carry driver 300yds+. With my old steel shaft Ping Eye2 wood driver, I would top out at maybe 265yds in high school.

    If you want to see rounds pick up the pace without running between shots, have people play from one tee forward and leave their driver in the trunk. It will shorten the walk/drive along with eliminating the 240yd drive that goes 100yd right.

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Opinion & Analysis

A day at the CP Women’s Open

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It’s another beautiful summer day in August. Just like any other pro-am at a professional tour event, amateurs are nervously warming up on the driving range and on the putting green next to their pros. As they make their way to the opening tees, they pose for their pictures, hear their names called, and watch their marque player stripe one down the fairway. But instead of walking up 50 yards to the “am tees,” they get to tee it up from where the pros play—because this is different: this is the LPGA Tour!

I’m just going to get right to it, if you haven’t been to an LPGA Tour event you NEED to GO! I’ve been to a lot of golf events as both a spectator and as media member, and I can say an LPGA Tour event is probably the most fun you can have watching professional golf.

The CP Women’s Open is one of the biggest non-majors in women’s golf. 96 of the top 100 players in the world are in the field, and attendance numbers for this stop on the schedule are some of the highest on tour. The 2019 edition it is being held at exclusive Magna Golf Club in Aurora, Ontario, which is about an hour north of downtown Toronto and designed by noted Canadian architect Doug Carrick. The defending Champion is none other than 21-year-old Canadian phenom Brooke Henderson, who won in emotional fashion last year.

From a fan’s perspective, there are some notable differences at an LPGA Tour event, and as a true “golf fan,” not just men’s golf fan, there are some big parts of the experience that I believe everyone can enjoy:

  • Access: It is certainly a refreshing and laidback vibe around the golf course. It’s easy to find great vantage points around the range and practice facility to watch the players go through their routines—a popular watching spot. Smaller infrastructure doesn’t mean a smaller footprint, and there is still a lot to see, plus with few large multi-story grandstands around some of the finishing holes, getting up close to watch shots is easier for everyone.
  • Relatability: This is a big one, and something I think most golfers don’t consider when they choose to watch professional golf. Just like with the men’s game there are obviously outliers when it comes to distance on the LPGA Tour but average distances are more in line with better club players than club players are to PGA Tour Pros. The game is less about power and more about placement. Watching players hit hybrids as accurately as wedges is amazing to watch. Every player from a scratch to a higher handicap can learn a great deal from watching the throwback style of actually hitting fairways and greens vs. modern bomb and gouge.
  • Crowds: (I don’t believe this is just a “Canadian Thing”) It was refreshing to spend an entire day on the course and never hear a “mashed potatoes” or “get in the hole” yelled on the tee of a par 5. The LPGA Tour offers an extremely family-friendly atmosphere, with a lot more young kids, especially young girls out to watch their idols play. This for me is a huge takeaway. So much of professional sports is focused on the men, and with that you often see crowds reflect that. As a father to a young daughter, if she decides to play golf, I love the fact that she can watch people like her play the game at a high level.

There is a lot of talk about the difference between men’s and women’s professional sports, but as far as “the product” goes, I believe that LPGA Tour offers one of the best in professional sports, including value. With a great forecast, a great course, and essentially every top player in the field, this week’s CP Women’s Open is destined to be another great event. If you get the chance to attend this or any LPGA Tour event, I can’t encourage you enough to go!

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TG2: New podcaster Larry D on his show “Bogey Golf”

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GolfWRX Radio welcomes a new podcast, Bogey Golf with Larry D and we talk to Larry. He lets us in on his show, who he is, why he loves the game, and even what’s in his bag! Rob missed his member-guest and Knudson got a new driver.

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

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

Getting to know Payne Stewart

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Ever since that final putt fell in Pinehurst in 1999, Payne Stewart’s memory has enjoyed mythical qualities. A man of complex charm, but many of us who grew up without him recognize only his Knickerbocker pants, his flat cap, and his W.W.J.D. covered wrist wrapped around that United States Open trophy.

I had a wonderful opportunity to play a round of golf with two men that know a lot about Payne. One through friendship and the other through journalistic research.

Lamar Haynes was Payne Stewart’s close friend and teammate on the SMU golf team. He’s full of stories about Payne from the good old days. Kevin Robbins is an author who just finished a new book on Stewart’s final year of life, set to release to the public for purchase this October. He works as a professor of journalism at the University of Texas but has also enjoyed an impressive career as a reporter and golf writer for over 20 years.

We met at Mira Vista Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, to talk about Payne. Robbins is a solid golfer who spends time working on his game, which tells me a lot about his personality. He is one of us.  As for Haynes, the guy hasn’t lost much since those SMU golf team days. He can still swing it. Fantastic iron player. And both men are wonderful conversationalists. They offered a unique perspective on Stewart—the golfer I grew up idolizing but never really knew. There’s a good chance you don’t really know him, either. At least not the whole story.

“Most golf fans now know the story of his ’99 U.S. Open win,” Robbins said.  “What they don’t know is where he came from.”

Robbins’ book, The Last Stand of Payne Stewart: The Year Golf Changed Foreverchronicles Payne’s last year on earth with dramatic detail, covering his triumph at Pinehurst and the Ryder Cup at Brookline. And, of course, it tells the story of that tragic plane crash that took our champion from us. What the book doesn’t do is hide any of the blemishes about Payne’s life that have either been forgotten or pushed aside by brighter moments and memories.

“I thought that the other Payne Stewart books, while they have a place, they didn’t tell the whole story,” Robbins said.

The whole story, from what I read, was Payne being brash. A poor winner and sometimes a poor sport when he lost. He often said things he shouldn’t have said and then made those mistakes again and again.

“He had no filter,” remembered Haynes.  “Several close friends on tour had a hard time with him when he won his first Open. He didn’t take into account any of the consequences his words could create. He had a huge heart. Huge heart. But at times there was just no filter. But he grew a great deal over the last 2 or three years.”

It’s most certainly is a book about a change. A change in a man that was better late than never. But also a change in golf that began at the turn of the century and hasn’t really slowed down since.

“The 20 years since his death, to see the way golf has moved, what the tour looks like now,” Robins said.  “There was an evolution that was taking place in 1999 and we didn’t know how it would manifest itself. But now we do. So when you see Brooks Koepka hit a 3-wood in the US Open 370 yards, well that all really had its beginnings in 1998 and 1999. The Pro-V1 ball was being tested in 1999 and being rolled out in 2000. Fitness and equipment, sports psychology, nutrition. All of those things that a guy like Payne Stewart really didn’t have to pay attention to.”

But that change that occurred in Payne, culminating in his final year of life, is something worth learning. It’s a lesson for all of us. A guy on top of the world with still so much to fix. And he was fixing it, little by little.

“He was authentic,” Haynes said. “And he learned a lot later in life from his children. With their Bible studies. You saw a change in him. Very much. He had a peace with himself but he still would revert to his DNA. The fun-loving Payne. Raising children and being a father helped him tremendously.”

Payne was passionate about so many things in life but his children became a primary focus. According to Haynes, he would be so loud at his daughter’s volleyball games…yelling intensely at the referees…that they gave him an option: Either he wouldn’t be allowed to watch the games anymore or he needed to become a line judge and help out with the games. So, Payne Stewart became a volleyball line judge.

Lamar brought the head of an old Ram 7-iron along with him to show me. Damaged and bent from the crash, the club was with Payne on his final flight. He had it with him to show his guys at Mizuno as a model for a new set of irons. That Ram 7-iron belonged to Haynes and Payne had always adored the way it looked at address.

“Payne also used my old Mizunos the last year of his life,” Haynes said.  I had received the MS-4s 10 years earlier from Payne in 1989. They were like playing with a shaft on a knife. The sweet spot was so tiny on the MS-4. They made the MP29 and 14s look like game improvement irons. Payne used those. Then Harry Taylor at Mizuno designed him an iron, which later became the MP33. The 29 and 14s were very sharp and flat-soled. Well, Payne loved this old Ram iron set that I had.. He asked for my Ram 7-iron for Harry Taylor to model his new set. He liked the way it went through the turf. He had it with him on the plane. This is the club that started the MP33.”

It was Lamar Haynes, the man who seems to know just about everyone in the golf community, that set Robbins on this writing journey. Robbins had written one book previously: The story of the life of legendary golf coach Harvey Penick. But this book came a bit easier for Robbins, partly due to his experience, partly due to the subject matter, and partly because of Lamar.

“There’s a story here,” Robbins said. “With any book, you hope to encounter surprises along the way, big and little. And I did. I got great cooperation a long the way. Anybody I wanted to talk to, talked to me thanks to this guy Lamar Haynes.”

“Lamar said the first guy you need to talk to is Peter Jacobsen,” Robins said. “And I said ‘great can you put me in touch with him’ which became a common question to Lamar throughout the process.” Robbins chuckled.  “Literally 2 minutes later my phone rings. ‘Kevin, this is Peter Jacobsen here.'”

“Peter told me the story about the ’89 PGA championship in our first conversation. So literally in the first 10 minutes of my reporting effort, I had the first set piece of the book. I had something. Lamar made a lot happen.”

Lamar Haynes and Kevin Robbins

The book is not a biography, though it certainly has biographical elements to it. It is simply the story of Payne’s final year, with a look back at Payne’s not so simple career mixed in. The author’s real talent lives in the research and honesty. The story reads like you’re back in 1999 again, with quotes pulled from media articles or press conferences. Anecdotes are sprinkled here and there from all of Payne’s contemporaries. The storytelling is seamless and captivating.

“I was pleasantly surprised how much Colin Montgomerie remembered about the concession at the 1999 Ryder Cup,” Robbins said. “Colin can be a tough interview. He is generally mistrustful of the media. His agent gave me 15 minutes during the Pro-Am in Houston. This was in the spring of 2018. I met Colin on the 17th hole and he had started his round on 10. Just organically the conversation carried us to the fifth green. Just because he kept remembering things. He kept talking, you know. It was incredible. Tom Lehman was the same way. He said “I’ll give you 20 minutes” and it ended up being an hour and a half at Starbucks.”

The research took Robbins to Massachusetts, Florida, and Missouri—and of course, to Pinehurst. He met with Mike Hicks, Payne’s former caddie, there to discuss that final round. The two ended up out on Pinehurst No. 2, walking the last three holes and reliving the victory. It gives life to the story and fills it with detail.

“Part of what I hoped for this book is that it would be more than just a sports story,” Robbins said.  “More than just a golf story. The more I started thinking about where Payne began and where he ended, it seemed to me…and I’m not going to call it a redemption story although I bet some people do. People when they are younger, they have regrets and they make mistakes. They do things they wish they could take back but they can’t. So, what can they do? Well, they can improve. They can get better. That’s what Payne was doing with his life. He was improving himself. It was too late to change what he had done already. So what could he do with the future? He could be different.”

“It was accurate,” Haynes said.  “I had a tear when I finished it. I texted Kevin right afterward. I told him I couldn’t call him because I’m choked up so I texted him.”

So here’s two men who knew Payne Stewart, albeit in very different ways. They knew he was flawed in life but he got better. Was Payne Stewart that hero at Pinehurst, grabbing Phil Mickelson’s face and telling him the important thing is he’s going to be a father? Yes. But he was so much more than that. He was so much more than I knew before I read this book. Most importantly, Payne Stewart was always improving. A lesson for all of us, indeed.

If you want to hear more about my experience, tweet at me here @FWTXGolfer or message me on Instagram here! I look forward to hearing from you!

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