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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 part of the Digital Content Creation Team for GolfWRX. He hosts the "On Spec" Podcast on the GolfWRX Radio Network which focuses on discussing everything golf, including gear, technology, fitting, and course architecture. He is a club-fitter & master club builder with more than 17 years of experience working with golfers of all skill levels, including PGA Tour players. He is the former Build Shop Manager & Social Media Coordinator for Modern Golf. He now works independently from his home shop and is a member of advisory panels to a select number of golf equipment manufacturers. You can find Ryan on Twitter and Instagram where he's always willing to chat golf, and share his passion for club building, course architecture 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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Equipment

Coming out of the haze: What to expect from the OEMs in the second half of 2020

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As we slowly come out of the lockdown haze, it’s going to be interesting to see which OEMs are primed to come out swinging. From where I sit, there are a few companies that either kept the foot on the pedal or found new ways to interact with the masses. I have been tracking the major companies for different reasons, and I am optimistic on most fronts. Now, it needs to be said that everyone has been keeping the respective momentum going in their own ways—this has been a challenge for everyone, so this analysis is simply a commentary on what may come in the second half of the year.

Many good folks were either furloughed or laid off during this lockdown—that’s where we all lost. It needs to be acknowledged that we are talking about golf here, but the underlying reality of this is still devastating. I so look forward to getting into the trenches with these folks again either back where they were or at new companies.

TaylorMade became educators…and kicked off live golf again

Big giant club company or big giant marketing machine…it doesn’t matter what you label them as. TaylorMade Golf, in my opinion, turned the heartbreak of stalling one of the biggest first quarters in company history into an opportunity to start talking…and teaching. With the help of the tour team and TM athletes, TaylorMade focused hard on talking to us all during the lockdown. With multiple initiatives through social media, the Driving Relief event, and the tour staff engaging way more than usual. I believe TM created a runway to start moving quickly once stores and pro shops open up again.

Let’s face it, with the social media presence, the most robust tour staff maybe ever, and the driver everyone seems to have reserved for the top big stick of 2020, what’s not to be confident about? On the flip side, a company that big could have really taken it on the chin hard, but how they handled the lockdown—from my chair—was fun to watch and will ultimately ensure a quick restart. There is something to be said about having guys like Trottie, Adrian, and Hause in the fold informing and keeping things fun.

Rumor has it new irons are dropping in the fall/winter, which could spell two awesome bookends to a bittersweet 2020.

PXG leaned in

Why online sales for all OEMs spiked is no mystery. Boredom, desire, and a credit card are keys to any great online buying experience, but PXG made certain that if you were not a buyer previously, you may be now.

The price tag has always been a key topic with Bob Parsons’ Scottsdale-based company. It’s no secret that the clubs aren’t cheap, but during this lockdown, they did multiple strategic initiatives to not only crank up direct-to-consumer buying but also expand the PXG conversation into different areas, namely fashion.

Price cuts across the board started early and, rumor has it, enabled PXG to achieve sales numbers unlike any other period in the company’s short history. Yes, cutting prices helps unit sales, but in the case of PXG, it brought in the club customer that ordinarily shied away from PXG for financial reasons and ultimately made them buyers. That’s where PXG seems to shine, once they finally get you in, they are very effective at keeping you in the family. Mercedes-Benz AMG is like that: once you have had a taste of the Kool-Aid, it’s hard to go back to Hawaiian Punch.

In addition to the aggressive price-cutting, PXG fashion, spearheaded by President Renee Parsons, launched a new collection that is designed and manufactured by PXG. Fashion in times like these is always a risk from a financial standpoint, but this launch has been on the calendar since the BOY and the current lockdown did not disrupt that. It speaks to the confidence that Bob and Renee have in what they are doing. Now, is it a guarantee that PXG garments will fly off the shelves? No. but that’s not the point, it’s the fact that this current climate didn’t scare them into pivoting or holding off.

Point to this pick is PXG looks healthy coming out of this and it was possible to believe that perhaps this would have taken a toll on the custom fit brand. There is even a commercial produced during lockdown to attract even more club builders to the fold. Not normal behavior in times like these, but is anything that PXG does normal? No, and that’s what makes them fun to talk about.

The company also released its Essential Facemask with 50 percent of proceeds going to Team Rubicon.

Ping was quiet…but don’t be fooled

Yes, they did some rare social media engagements with Kenton Oates and the tour staff, which were fantastic. But the real magic here was the quiet way in which Ping slipped into 2020 and the mystery they have in hand and what’s to come next.

There hasn’t been really any new Ping product in a good while, and I anticipate a big winter for the Solheim crew. Sometimes, silence is golden and from what I can gather, what Ping has coming in irons and woods will be yet again a launch that gets people talking.

Ping from a business standpoint is a company that gets one percent better every year. Never any dramatic shifts in strategy or product. It’s always good, it’s always high-performance, and it’s always in the “best of” category across the board.

Watch out for them over the next six to nine months…a storm is brewing. A good one.

Cobra introduced the “Rickie iron”

Cobra Rev 33 Irons

Compared to 2019 and the runaway success that was the F9 driver, Cobra Golf seemed to cruise along in the first quarter of 2020. The SpeedZone metal wood line was an improvement tech-wise from the F9 but seemed to get lost in the driver launch shuffle with an earlier release—and frankly everyone in the industry took a back seat to TaylorMade’s SIM.

It’s not placing one stick over the other actually, I have been very vocal about my affections for both, it’s just some years, the story around a club can generate excitement, and if the club is exceptional, boom. Cobra was that cool kid in 2019.

What Cobra decided to do in the downtime is slowly tease and taunt with a “Rickie Fowler” iron. Players blades aren’t typically the driving element of any business model, but what Cobra did was introduce to a beautiful yet completely authentic forging that will not only get the gear heads going nuts but also entice the better players to start looking at Cobra as a serious better players iron company. No small feat.

Point is, Cobra has generated buzz. It helped that Rickie’s performance at Seminole was just short of a precision clinic. Beyond the Rev 33, its rumored Cobra has a new players CB coming and some MIM wedges.

It should be an exciting last half for the Cobra crew.

The Titleist train chugged on

I mean, what else is there to say about Titleist? They are as American as apple pie, have a stranglehold on multiple tour and retail categories, and one of the best front offices in golf. The company is a well-oiled machine.

So what do I expect from them in the last half? Well pretty much what I would expect on any other year, solid player-driven equipment. A metal wood launch is coming, the SM8 was a huge hit in stores and on tour, and the ball portion is the biggest 800-pound gorilla in golf.

It was also nice to see a little more social media interaction beyond the traditional. Aaron Dill has been very active on the social media front and a good portion of the tour staff, namely Poulter, JT, and Homa were proactive in engagement. Might seem trivial to some, but specifically, Titleist and Ping are not super active in the organic interaction game, so it was nice to see both companies dive into the fold.

Cleveland/Srixon should have a lot to look forward to

Let’s be honest here, 2019 was a quiet year overall for Srixon. Shane Lowry won The Open, but in the golf mainstream it was a leap year for them in regards to any launches. The anticipation from me personally of what is to come is quite strong. I adore the irons. I have yet to meet one I didn’t love, and fitters across the country will speak to that in sales. The Srixon iron line has become a popular yet-sort-of-cult-classic among fitters and gearheads and rightly so. They are phenomenal.

The recently teased picture of the new driver on the USGA site more or less teased us of what is to come for the overall line. New Cleveland wedges are coming shortly and the golf ball has always been a solid component to the Huntington Beach company.

As much as anyone in the market, I believe Srixon could finish the year with some serious momentum going into 2021. The irons and ball have always been firestarters. My only wish for them, selfishly, is a more aggressive tour strategy in regards to landing one of the perennial top 10. It seems like a dumb thought, but I have always felt Cleveland/Srixon was always a serious hitter that at times seems to get lost in the conversation. Having a big gun on staff or a couple of them will remedy that quickly.

Callaway has an eye on big things for the golf ball

Callaway, a company that seems to do it all well, was actually a bit quiet since the lockdown started. After a solid release of the Mavrik line and some momentum in the golf ball area, I’m sure this lockdown probably felt like a kick to the shin.

However, this company is shifting in a good way. The idea that they were a golf club company that happened to make golf balls is slowly turning into a company with multiple major components that stand alone. TaylorMade is on a similar shift, and honestly it’s very interesting to watch. Do I think that anyone will ever catch Titleist in the ball category? No, I don’t. All of these mentioned golf balls are ridiculously good, but 75 years of trust and loyalty are hard to compete with. But that’s not the point, Callaway is a monster company that takes the golf ball conversation very seriously, and I believe this will serve them very well coming out of this craziness and help the momentum going into 2021.

 

 

 

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On Spec

On Spec: Is testing clubs bad for your game? Plus listener questions

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In this episode of On Spec, host Ryan talks about the Match Part 2 and then goes into a discussion about whether testing clubs is detrimental to your golf game or not.

After that, it’s time for the ever-popular listener questions to finish off the show.

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Opinion & Analysis

Is 2020 golf’s big chance?

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At the present moment, when discussing the game of golf, I use the word “opportunity” with great caution and understanding that golf is the least of many people’s worries in 2020. With that in mind, just like other industries around the world, there are millions of people both directly and indirectly who make their living working around golf, along with countless more that enjoy playing it for any number of reasons.

Outside of the four major championships, golf is generally a fringe sport that takes a viewership backseat to other team sports like basketball, football, and baseball. But as the only game in town, this past weekend golf brought in a lot of casual fans who don’t normally watch it. The TaylorMade Driving Relief charity skins game to benefit COVID-19 frontline workers featured some of the world’s top-ranked golfers, including World No. 1 Rory McIlroy, carrying their own clubs, getting their own yardages and playing in shorts—exactly how the majority of golfers enjoy the game.

It made the golf look and feel so much more approachable to the casual fans that normally tune in to see professionals debate over yardage with a caddy dressed in a white jumpsuit while patrons quietly murmur amongst themselves (in the case of the Masters).

If “watercooler” sports talk is the way we measure the success of a sporting event, then the skins game was a triumph.

The news sports landscape

Golf is in a unique position since it is one of the few sports that can currently be played with modified physical distancing measures in place. Golf is played outside, in small groups, and allows for players of all abilities to enjoy the game, and this is where the opportunity lies.

People want to be outside, get exercise, and spend time with their friends, and golf is the one game that offers all three of those—along with the ability to fill a competitive void left from the current absence of recreational team sports.

The proof that more people have already made this conclusion can be felt around the industry

  • Pushcart sales have been so unprecedented, many companies have been sold out for weeks.
  • As golf has been regulated to open within the United States, Canada, and the UK tee sheets have been loaded from dawn to dusk. Having spoken with operators of both private and public golf facilities, they have witnessed a huge influx of eager golfers including many who are much more infrequent players. In one case, a public course that I spoke to has seen membership triple from the previous year.

When you think about how many people enjoy sports as a way to be around friends and friendly competition, golf has the opportunity to provide a gateway for many who have never considered playing the game. Within the industry, there have been many well-thought-out-but-failed attempts to counteract declining participation numbers over the years, and one of the best ways to introduce anyone to a new hobby or activity is to do it with friends.

Here’s an example: a regular golfer has three friends they normally play a rec league sport with, with that league not operating, and those friends wanting to enjoy time outside in the company of one another, that one golfer becomes the catalyst to bring three new golfers into game. I realize it sounds simple, but it’s already happening, and this is golf’s opportunity to grow participation more organically than any 30-second commercial.

As a lover of golf and someone who has witnessed the declining participation over the last decade, this is our opportunity as a sport and as individuals to welcome people in with open arms, be supportive, and helpful. We have the chance to permanently change the perception of golf to the masses, and it all started last weekend with the top-ranked golfer in the world carrying his own bag.

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