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Opinion & Analysis

Golfers: Go easy on yourselves!

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Heres a fact for you: nearly half of all golfers will never break 100, according to the National Golf Foundation. Less than that will ever break 90, and only five percent will ever break 80. Golf is not an easy game, so you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it. Period.

I’m not here to go all Zen golf on you; I can only speak from personal experience, but the moment you accept that, regardless of your ability to score, you can have a lot of fun, the more you will truly enjoy the game of golf.

When I first learned to play, like many, I was not very good. Everyone I played with was way better than me, and although I don’t remember a lot of those early rounds, I can remember moments of feeling embarrassed for my play. It wasn’t because of the people I was playing with, they were all very helpful and patient, but for some reason, I knew that I was not helping the group. It is those memories that allow me to make sure no matter who I play with now, I make them feel welcome on the course and help them any chance I can.

We all started somewhere, and regardless of how many rounds we have played or how low our handicaps have gotten, we need to be accepting that anyone that takes the time to try and play golf should be afforded the opportunity to learn and enjoy the game.

Even with my current level of play, the insecurities of being a newbie creep in from time to time, I never want to feel like I am the reason my group is being slow—although I must admit that with my normal pace of play that’s not usually an issue. I played a round very earlier in the year during a trip to Florida where I was paired with what I would call very regular golfers, players who generally break 100, but struggle with aspects of their game. Even then, just like when I was 10 years old, I was having a hard time out of a bunker one the second hole and after blading one into the pond on my second attempt (give me a break, it was my first round in four months), I just walked to the green, tended the flag, and told them I’d take my ESC (equitable stroke control) number for the hole. Thas describes my golf game, and I’m OK with that.

Too many golfers get caught up in how the pros play—from the tips, bombing drivers, expecting to make six birdies a round. Players on the PGA Tour are like the aliens from Space Jam (I just seriously dated myself) the Monstars. They have every skill imaginable, and get to do this for a living—you better believe they are going to be good at it. There is NO reason as a 10-15 handicap you should be slamming clubs and stomping your feet for missing a green from 150 yards. It’s just part of the game. Heck, even Rory McIlroy misses greens from time to time. Do you ever hit it like Rory?

Expectations are part of the human ego, and if we don’t manage them properly, we will always feel like we are inadequate. In reality, we should approach every challenge (even something as simple as golf) with the idea that today I have the opportunity to be great, but there is also the equal chance I will fail. We learn from failure, we improve after failure, and it’s not something we should be scared of.

No matter your score, make it fun, enjoy the day, embrace the challenge. Your expectations can make or break what to take from every round of golf you play, and if you think for a second this is the worst golf ever played—trust me it’s not. It’s just one round of many bad rounds played every day, and the next round is your next challenge. Honestly, you’re not as bad as you think you are.

Go easy on yourself. Golf is a lot more enjoyable that way.

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Ryan Barath is a writer & the Digital Content Creation Lead for GolfWRX. He also hosts the "On Spec" Podcast on GolfWRX Radio discussing everything golf, including gear, technology, fitting, and course architecture. He is a club fitter & master club builder who has more than 16 years experience working with golfers of all skill levels, including PGA Tour professionals. He studied business and marketing at the Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and is the former Build Shop Manager & Social Media Coordinator for Modern Golf. He now works independently from his home shop in Hamilton and is a member of advisory panels to a select number of golf equipment manufacturers, including True Temper. You can find Ryan on Twitter and Instagram where he's always willing to chat golf, from course architecture to physics, and share his passion for club building, and wedge grinding.

22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. ChipNRun

    Sep 3, 2019 at 11:23 pm

    Reasons why people quit:
    * Unrealistic expectations.
    * Disappearance of “adult time” in USA society. With the prevalence of designer children, everyone wants to supervise their kids 365 a year so that the kids “reach their potential”. Sports travel teams, soccer season blending into little league baseball. Once these ambitious couples have their second child, it’s 20 years before they can play Sunday golf together again.

  2. Ashton

    Aug 21, 2019 at 9:55 am

    “Do you ever hit it like rory?”

    Yea…sometimes he putts like me

  3. John Burns

    Aug 18, 2019 at 11:15 pm

    I have found that by playing to a “personal par” the game is less stressful and more enjoyable. Keep track of your average score for a few rounds and then try and beat your average by 1-2 shots (you have played well and were under “your par”}. Mark up the scorecard to change the par on holes so it works out to your personal par score. Maybe your par is 88, so you try and make a bogey or better on 16 holes and a par on two easy holes you pick.

    It s a great way to measure improvement too. I see too many people shoot the round of their lives like a 77, or 87 or whatever and get mad when they can’t duplicate the best round of the season over and over again.

  4. joro

    Aug 18, 2019 at 9:31 am

    Very true. The fact that we who once played great have a different game at 80. But as I always say, the memories are still there and we have to realize they are only memories. We are lucky to be able to play.

  5. TTidey

    Aug 17, 2019 at 7:36 pm

    Well said Ryan!! I was just pouting over a bad round, one week before my club championship. Isin’t there an automatic invite to Augusta if you win your CC? 🙂

  6. David Harris

    Aug 17, 2019 at 5:55 pm

    Why don’t we make the hole bigger-from 4 inches to 8 inches-for amateurs

  7. Ed in NM

    Aug 17, 2019 at 5:14 pm

    Your stats put things in perspective including that only 5% of golfers will ever break 80. I wonder if the false expectations of many amateur golfers who think they should be playing like the pros is a big reason why some people quit the game in frustration.

  8. Dennis Rubery

    Aug 17, 2019 at 3:05 pm

    Over the years i have lost alot of good guys who have passed away and golf was there life.
    Now i apreciate im here to play the game im grateful …

  9. Bogeyman

    Aug 17, 2019 at 12:49 pm

    Totally agree. I tell new golfers that no one cares how well you play – only how quickly you play. Be ready to play your shot and be still and quiet when others are shooting and you will never lack for playing partners.

    • Dennis Rubery

      Aug 17, 2019 at 3:04 pm

      Over the years i have lost alot of good guys who have passed away and golf was there life.
      Now i apreciate im here to play the game im grateful …

    • Bill

      Sep 3, 2019 at 1:49 pm

      great point, Bogieman.
      I’ve played with people that throw clubs, cuss and scream at their shots and basically make it uncomfortable for everyone they play with (usually only play with them once, if possible). Being able to laugh at your mistakes and keep them in perspective is the only way you can enjoy this game long term.
      It’s a hard game. The hardest, actually. You never master it, you only have varying degrees of success. Because of this, it’s also the best character builder of all the sports.
      The ego is a funny thing, but this is true for all. We ALL have a talent ceiling. Accepting that helps you keep the bad rounds and shots in perspective as well as the great shots and rounds. That’s when you fall in love with the game. We can raise that ceiling a bit with lessons and practice, but everyone has a ceiling. Be grateful for the days you get a glimpse above your normal ceiling and have a beer or family to enjoy when you shoot average or less.

  10. Kelly fitzgerald

    Aug 17, 2019 at 11:51 am

    Totally agree. I am trying not to be too hard on myself. Used to average a 79 or 80 now at 59 I average around 85. Just need to realize I can’t play like I used to. Golf should be fun not stressful. I’m trying real hard!

  11. Acemandrake

    Aug 17, 2019 at 10:56 am

    Play once in a while without keeping score. It will reduce the anxiety of playing with expectations.

    You’ll want to do it more often.

  12. Tom Duckworth

    Aug 17, 2019 at 10:29 am

    When I watch golf on TV its interesting to me to see how the top twenty change from week to week. It just highlights to me how up and down their game can be.

  13. bosshog919

    Aug 16, 2019 at 1:06 pm

    Usually playing with better players often motivates some to put in the work and get better as well. At least that’s how it worked out for me. Most ONLY see the results of a lot of practice and time on the course and think it will just come….well that’s DEFINITELY not the case for most. Although, if/when I am on the course my expectations are always to play well, but I have to keep in mind that if I’m only playing twice a month, those expectations have to be adjusted and just enjoy the time out on the course.

  14. Distance Compression Dude

    Aug 16, 2019 at 12:30 pm

    If more golfers invested on some lessons and applied what they learned, they might just break 100 (maybe even 90 and 80).

    The problem is that a lot of “golfers” think that they can just pick up a set of clubs and expect to play well. That’s not how it works.

    If you’re a hack, then keep hacking away. However, if you wish to play better, see your local PGA Pro and practice.

  15. trwaggo

    Aug 16, 2019 at 11:52 am

    Watching PGA Tour Live has made me a much more patient and happy golfer. When you just watch on the weekends you’re seeing the best players in the world with the their A games – because they’re leading.

    Watching a guy on Thursday shoot 75 is pretty informative. The number of times I’ve watched pros miss the green from inside 125 yards is too high for me to count, the number of 3 putts and duffed chips and balls left in the bunker…pros are aliens but even they have bad days and/or bad stretches and they certainly hit bad shots.

    Im still hard on myself – but it’s in a much more positive way than it used to be.

    • Bill

      Aug 17, 2019 at 9:44 am

      This guy gets it. I don’t have PGA live now, but at one point I did. Only watching the leaders on the weekend creates a false reality. Those golfers leading are playing at their very best on the weekend, which is hardly their reality 100% of the time. It’s important to be able to see those 75 score rounds and all of the frankly bad shots out on tour. Most recently I recall Henrik Stenson’s glorious shank. That was good to see and certainly softened up my expectations.

      • GotThaRight

        Aug 17, 2019 at 3:24 pm

        I noticed that too when watching The Masters on their website. They had it where you could see almost every shot. And yes those guys are really good though even they arent the robots that are shown come sat and sun afternoon. What CBS and NBC show us during that coverage is the best of the best at their very best.

        • 3rd times a charm

          Aug 17, 2019 at 3:28 pm

          I think what seperates the pros from very good/elite amateurs is that pros quickly get over a bad shot and only focus on what they can do next. Not what has already happened.

  16. chris pottle

    Aug 16, 2019 at 11:31 am

    Everyone was much better than I or I was – not me

    • Tom

      Aug 19, 2019 at 8:34 am

      Love it when someone tries to play grammar police and it turns out they’re wrong.

      “Everyone was much better than me” is grammatically correct. Easy way to test? Substitute in the third person:

      “Everyone was much better than him”, not “Everyone was much better than he”.
      “Everyone was much better than Chris”.
      “Everyone was much better than you”.

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Opinion & Analysis

PGA Tour players on the rise and on the decline heading into 2020

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At the end of each season, I compile data on every PGA Tour player and then analyze which players are on the rise and the decline for the upcoming season. There are a number of variables that are historically quality indicators of a golfer’s future performance such as age, club speed, adjusted scoring average, etc. I tend to focus on what I call The Cornerstones of the Game, however, and these Cornerstones include:

  • Driving effectiveness
  • Red zone play (approach shots from 175-225 yards)
  • Short game shots (from 10-20 yards)
  • Putting (5-15 feet)
  • Ball speed

All that is needed to execute the Cornerstones of the Game is for the player to be in the top half on the PGA Tour in each metric. That’s the beauty of the concept; a player does not need to be dominant in each metric. He can simply be average at each metric and it increases his likelihood of not only having a great season but recording a PGA Tour victory. I can then use the Cornerstones concept to more accurately project players on the rise for the following season.

This past season, there were 10 players that reached The 5 Cornerstones of the Game and they made an average of $4.7 million on the season. Given their success, I focused my analysis more on players that narrowly missed The 5 Cornerstones and their metrics to determine what players will be “on the rise.”

Players on the rise

*The following rankings are based out of 194 players

Joaquin Niemann

The young Chilean golfer reached every one of The 5 Cornerstones of the Game, but he made the least amount of FedEx points of any of the golfers that executed all of the Cornerstones.

This was due to Niemann’s early struggles with the putter. However, his putting improved significantly as the season went by.

The dotted black line in the chart represents Niemann’s trendline and that shows a strong upward trend in his putting performance.

Niemann ranked 107th in adjusted par-5 scoring average, and given his quality of ballstriking and distance off the tee, that should greatly improve. The projections are for him to win soon. If he can continue to improve his putting, particularly from 3-5 feet (he ranked 160th last season) he could be a multiple winner this upcoming season.

Sung Kang

Kang recorded his first victory at the Byron Nelson Championship but flew under the radar for most of the season. He also executed The 5 Cornerstones of the Game.

Back in 2017, Kang almost executed The 5 Cornerstones, but I was lukewarm to putting him on the list of Players on the Rise as the one cornerstone he failed to reach was red zone play, and that’s too important of a metric to miss out on.

Kang struggled in the 2018 season, but his red zone play greatly improved. In the meantime, his driving greatly suffered. He continued to struggle with his driving early in the 2019 season but made great strides right around the Byron Nelson and ended the season ranked 80th in driving effectiveness. Meanwhile, his red zone play has continued to be strong, and he’s a sound short game performer from 10-20 yards and putter from 5-15 feet.

While I am a little more on the fence with Kang, given his putrid performance from the yellow zone and generally inconsistent play, his putting suffered from ranking 181st on putts from 25-plus feet. That is more likely to move towards the mean and greatly improve his putts gained next season. He’s also 32 years old, which is a prime age for Tour players hit their peak performance of their career.

Sepp Straka

Straka had a good rookie campaign striking the ball and was a competent putter. The only Cornerstone that Straka failed to execute was short game shots from 10-20 yards. However, we can see that as the season went by Straka’s short game improved

That’s also recognizing that short game around the green has a weaker correlation to success on Tour than most of the other Cornerstones like driving, red zone play and putting from 5-15 feet.

Straka should improve greatly on par-5’s (104th last season). He made a lot of birdies last year (25th in adjusted birdie rate), but made a ton of bogeys (155th). These numbers project well at tournaments that are birdie fests like Palm Springs or courses that are relatively easy on shots around the green such as Harbour Town.

Sam Ryder

Ryder only missed The 5 Cornerstones with a poor performance from 10-20 yards. He’s an excellent putter and iron-play performer, and that is usually the parts of the game that the eventual winners perform best from.

Wyndham Clark

 

One of the new metrics I’ve created is called “power-to-putting.” This is a combination of the player’s putts gained ranking and their adjusted driving distance ranking. Earlier this year I wrote an article here about where exactly distance helps with a golfer’s game. In essence, the longer off the tee a golfer is the more likely they will have shorter length birdie putts on average. That’s why long hitters like Bubba Watson can make a lot of money despite putting poorly and why shorter hitters like Brian Gay have to putt well in order to be successful.

The “honey pot” is for a golfer that hits it long and putts well. This means they will sink a ton of birdie putts because they are having easier putts to make and they have the requisite putting skill to make them.

Clark finished first in power-to-putting (Rory McIlroy finished second). On top of that, he was an excellent performer from 10-20 yards which is usually the last step in a long ball hitter becoming an elite performer. Clark’s iron play was very poor and that downgrades his chances of winning on Tour. But, with his length, putting, and short game, he can very well get four days of decent approach shot play and win handily.

Players on the decline

Charley Hoffman

Hoffman ranked 64th in FedEx points but was 139th in adjusted scoring average. Most of Hoffman’s metrics were not very good, but he was a superb performer from the yellow and red zone. The other concerning part of Hoffman is his age: He is at the point of his career that player performance tends to drop-off the most. He only made two of his last seven cuts this past season with the best finish of T51 at The Open Championship.

J.B. Holmes

Holmes finished 166th in adjusted scoring average and was greatly helped by having a favorable schedule as he ranked 21st in purse size per event. The best thing Holmes has going for him is his distance off the tee. He also had a good season around the green that helps long hitters like Holmes when they hit foul balls off the tee.

After that, Holmes did not do much of anything well. He was 179th in adjusted missed fairway–other percentage (aka hitting foul balls off the tee) and his putting was horrendous and doesn’t appear to be bouncing back anytime soon.

Patton Kizzire

Kizzire only made two of his last 11 cuts last season, and it’s easy to see why with his ballstriking struggles. It also doesn’t help that he was poor from 10-20 yards. He’s one of the elite putters on Tour, but elite putting only helps a player so much in the big leagues.

Phil Mickelson

The biggest positive for Mickelson is his newfound power that he exhibited last year. He will also play a favorable schedule as he ranked 16th in purse size per event and has lifetime exempt status on Tour.

For fantasy golf owners, I would be averse to picking Mickelson in the short term. The question with Lefty is if his newfound distance caused him issues with his iron play, short game and putting, or if that is just a temporary slump that once he works thru those issues with his newfound speed, he may be winning tournaments again. But at his age, history is not in his favor.

Francesco Molinari

Molinari turns 37-years-old in November. There’s still plenty of years for good golf, but Molnari’s lack of power and routine struggles with the putter means that he needs to have impeccable driving and iron play in order to be competitive in big tournaments and the majors. Last season he was an average driver of the ball and he was below average from the red zone.

The positive for Molinari is that he has typically been an impeccable ballstriker, so the issues in 2019 may have been a one-time slump. And while he putted poorly, he putted well from 5-15 feet. He ranked 184th on putts from 15-25 feet and 157th on putts from 25-plus feet, and those are more likely to progress towards the mean over time and help his overall putting.

But, Molinari has never been a great putter, and at his age, it will be very difficult to keep up with his impeccable ballstriking to get back to the winner’s circle.

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Bogey Golf

Bogey Golf: Can a club fitting get you to hit longer drives?

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Larry D interviews a club fitter and talks about his first club fitting. They go into detail about how the process can improve your game, even for higher handicap golfers.

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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The 19th Hole: Rory or Brooks?

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Host Michael Williams breaks down the Player of the year controversy in a must-listen open, and we give you a perfect destination for Fall Golf! Guests include acclaimed golf writer Adam Schupak and Giants Ridge Director of golf John Kendall.

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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19th Hole

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