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Opinion: Courses must be proactive to speed up play

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USGA President Glen Nager recently announced that, “Golf needs to act,” concerning the problem of slow play. Slow play is an issue as old as time itself, and the answer to the problem, as it always has been, is as obvious as it ever was.

The pace of play on golf courses across the world has to be dictated and policed by the golf course staff. For the same reason we have highway patrolmen and police officers handing out speeding tickets and traffic violations, we need the people that manage golf courses to pro-actively manage golfers.

There has to be someone in control. There has to be bosses. People need to be managed. Without authority there is anarchy, and anarchy on a golf course leads to people being discourteous and selfish and to time standing still.

On one golf course where I play they used to have a grumpy older fellow named Gene. Gene ran the pro shop, acted as a starter and marshaled the course with swift justice. He was a little guy who chain smoked, and had no time or patience for people slowing down the pace. Gene knew that just like the selfish and rude people who drive poorly and unsafely on our streets and highways, there are golfers who act selfishly and rude on our courses if they are not stopped. He understood very well that golf courses are really just small little societies, and that we as golfers are “all in this together.”

If your group was slow and people were backing up behind you, he told you to pick up the pace. He pointed ahead of you and said that two holes were open, and he pointed behind you and showed you the three groups stacked up behind you. He knew no favorites and he accepted no excuses. They were glorious times. Gene recently lost a hard fought battle with lung cancer, may he rest in peace, and that golf course has never been the same since he left. I think about him often when slow players bog down a golf course.

The group I was playing in recently caught up to a young man playing by himself. On the tee box he hit multiple tee shots in all directions, oblivious to the fact that we were watching him on a tee box behind him on the same hole. He proceeded to criss-cross back and forth across the fairway, hitting the balls that were findable. Once he made it to the green he proceeded to “putt” while lying flat on his chest and using the end of his putter grip like a pool cue. The young lady riding along in the cart with him finally noticed us and pointed back to us waiting and watching him. He jumped up, made sure to show us an exasperated look to let us know that we were bothering him, and went back and putted normally several times from other positions. He and his “caddy” then walked the 50-yard walk back to the rough where they left the cart and drove off. He piddled around on the tee box long enough that by the time our group caught him, we once again had to watch him take several practice swings between half a dozen “tee shots” that went everywhere. Then he turned around and gave us the stink eye. It was just delightful.

That fellow obviously represented an extreme to the argument that golf courses need to be policed. Maybe he is part of the 10 percent jerk factor. He might be the same guy who weaves in and out of traffic on the highway as he drives at an excessive speed while eating his breakfast burrito and texting. You might be inclined to flip this fellow the bird as you throw your beer at him and rev your engine to get away, but the best option is for a highway patrolman to handle the situation. An authority figure needs to take control.

The other end of that spectrum is a well-known county judge who also plays at the same club as the pool-putting dufus. He’s a super nice guy, and a man who seems really young to have been re-elected multiple times. But at the golf course he is known as “black death.” No one ever makes it more than nine holes with him. He aligns and adjusts, re-thinks, re-aligns and adjusts. And that is him just putting on his glove. He takes countless practice swings, countless looks down the fairway or at the green and spends forever tinkering the alignment of his club face at address. And of course, he walks slow.

A woman wearing a trenchcoat, who was as short as she was wide, and her playing companion who each trickled the ball down the fairway 10 times before they got to the green, actually had to play through him. My group had been behind the man and the woman, only to see the worst possible scenario waiting for us on the next tee. The judge and his partner saw us standing there, and saw the other two groups backed up on the par three we just left. They decided the best way to handle that was to dig in their heels and ruin the day for everyone. No one else was going through. We could have played six holes in the time the man and woman could play just one hole, and this judge and his partner were three holes behind them “immediately.”

A slow group has no more right to play at a pace that backs up the course than a fast group should expect to fly through a course on a busy day. This isn’t a statement about good golfers versus bad golfers. The bottom line is that golf needs to be fun for slow groups as well as fast groups, and without everyone going out of their way to accommodate for each other, the two speeds need to either be policed or separated.

The people that run golf courses need to get together and declare themselves an ardent supporter and enforcer of a faster pace of play, or as a course that welcomes anyone who wishes to play slowly. It’s time to separate the masses.

To the gentleman who commented on my last slow play story that by gosh he likes to smoke cigars, sip cognac, and take his time on the few occasions where he can get out to the course and he doesn’t want to be asked to finish in four hours, he should have golf courses or time slots that are dedicated to his preferred pace of play. And to the groups that play ready golf and finish in three hours or less, they should have courses or time slots that cater to them.

Granted, some properties are just too massive to expect golfers to be able to finish in a certain time frame, but you can bet that if groups are holding up the golf course and they are warned that they will be forced to pick up the pace or leave, they will find a way to be more efficient in their movements and decisions.

If a golf course wants to opt out of a formal play pace announcement, they need to designate slow play times and fast play times, or at the very least have a presence on the course. But they cannot just say it, they need to live it.

Another place where I play regularly has two courses. Every morning on one of the courses they block off all tee times from 9 a.m. to 12-noon for ladies’ tee times that are never half used. They are either scared to death of the ladies who are members, like the rest of us are, or they want them to not feel like they belong on the course at other times.

One afternoon my group caught up to a twosome of ladies. The two of them got into an argument, and took turns getting in and out of a fairway bunker and pointing at something in the yard of one of the homes that lined the fairway. They stood there for several minutes before they moved on. Our group hit our tee shots once they cleared the way, and to our surprise our tee shots came to rest in the fairway next to the cart they were driving, which was parked 70-yards from the green in the middle of the fairway. They finished putting and saw us parked there beside them. They made no effort to acknowledge us, even as they were five feet away. They took their time and were still on the tee box for the next hole when we arrived there. One of them motioned to the other that we were there again, the other lady must have said she didn’t care if we lived or died.

We waited on every shot for the next four holes, each time having to watch them walk back to the middle of the fairway to retrieve their cart. Finally, they apparently got into another argument about letting us play through. The first lady gestured to the fact that there were now four groups backed up behind them on two holes. The second lady, clearly irritated, sculled her chip across the green, chunked the next one, and three-putted before she stormed back down the fairway to her cart and drove off the golf course. When we called the shop to ask them to help us out after the second hole of waiting, they made it clear that they wanted no part of the situation.

These examples of golfer-on-golfer crimes happened at private courses. This is not about private golf versus public golf, this is about the game of golf turning into the house from the movie “Project X.” Slow players and fast players just don’t mix.

What some people posted about what a round of golf entails for them any time they play was an astonishing eye opener. There were posts of people driving for an hour to play, warming up an hour, playing for five or six hours, trying to squeeze in a little 19th-hole time, and driving home for another hour. I admire their commitment, but that is not a sustainable model for the future of golf. They didn’t mention if they drove for that hour because the course they wanted to play was $15 less than the five or six within 15-minutes of them, but the five or six hours on the course means that the golf course staff wasn’t doing their jobs. A packed golf course does not have to be a slow golf course.

For golf to be successful in bringing back players who left the game or play less frequently because in far too many places it has become an all day affair, courses need to take every step possible in shortening a round. No idea to improve the situation is off the table.

Every little idea can have compounding positive effects. Courses with native areas and gunch need to post them to be played as lateral hazards rather than normal lost ball rules. Golfers need to be started on tees that are appropriate for their skill levels. To ease frustration golfers need to be encouraged to not only play tees that are appropriate but also courses that match their experience and skill set. People need to not believe that nothing can be done that mind set has to change.

The USGA likes to talk about growing the game. Growing the game can have many different meanings. A nine-hour commitment for a round of golf will not catch on for many people looking for an outdoor activity. The game will also not grow from a youth movement learning to play the game more quickly if they learn by watching their favorite golfers and their mannerisms on television.

It’s time we stop giving guys like Tiger Woods a free pass. One only had to watch the European Tour event in Abu Dhabi a couple of weeks ago to see a stark contrast between Tiger’s mind numbing pre-shot routine and green reading processes with Rory McIlroy’s ready golf style. Rory was practically pulling the trigger before Tiger’s shots landed on the green or his putts stopped rolling. Tiger doesn’t seem interested in getting any of that work done before it’s his turn either. It almost looked like he knew he was driving McIlroy crazy with his pace. When people see Tiger’s 10 practice swings and his process of walking slow circles around every putt they tend to think all that time is necessary for them too.

Golf means different things to people. It’s time we stop treating golfers like we all approach it the same way. If there is always going to be fast and slow people, we need to separate them. And the slow people need to be helped to see how easily they could play faster. It’s time for the sellers and providers of golf to re-affirm their professionalism and take control of their courses. They need to use cattle prods to move people along when necessary, shorten courses, adjust the rules, spread out tee times…they need to commit to anything and everything that helps.

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Kevin was voted "Most Likely To Live to Be 100" by his high school graduating class. It was all down hill from there.

25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. Troy Vayanos

    Feb 13, 2013 at 3:32 am

    Nice post Kevin,

    At my home course the golf starter every Saturday drives around and checks on the pace of play. It helps only to a point but it can’t stop someone from having a bad hole and slowing down the rest of the field behind them.

  2. Adam

    Feb 12, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    Etiquette certainly needs to be taught to all beginners and refreshed to all players. Every course should have a short note in their carts and/or on the first tee. Just a friendly reminder of what holds the game together. Something like

    Please remember to:
    1- Rake the bunkers
    2- Fix your ball marks
    3- Be aware of your pace of play and position.
    4- Have fun!

    Obviously the last one is dependent on the pace of play, number of ball marks you bounce over and foot prints you land in…

  3. Jeremy

    Feb 8, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    Great article. Slow play is one of my biggest frustrations with golf. In Colorado you can expect a 5+ hour round on any given weekend in the spring and summer. I think that golfers need to stop thinking they are playing for the FedEx cup. Is it really necessary to take 3 or 4 practice swings only to hit a poor shot??? Golfers should focus on the shot at hand rather than their swing during the round. Also, READY GOLF people. I don’t think the entire foursome needs to watch every single shot of every single player. It is comedic sometimes watching a foursome in 2 carts driving to each players ball. Even funnier (not really) is when after all the effort to play in turn and the golf duffs the ball 20 yards. In addition, get over losing a ball. Do you really need to search for more than five minutes for a lost ball? Get over it and take your drop. My preference is to play in 3.5 hours or less.

  4. brooks williams

    Feb 8, 2013 at 1:20 am

    Would never happen but spread tee times. instead of teeing off a shot after the group, maybe wait a hole

    • Joey5Picks

      Jul 11, 2013 at 3:58 pm

      ENFORCED 10-minute tee times should be the norm. Results in better flow, fewer backups, less/no waiting.

  5. Max

    Feb 7, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    Where I live we’ve pretty much been forced to accept the slow play on the county courses and if you want to play close to course time you go farther out of the city. Less skilled and older golfers tend to take over the county courses and you end up having to play slow if for no other reason than ability and age. Unless you’re out there before 7 AM expect a 5.5 hour round. Some of the other counties around us are more proficient and will tell any group to speed up. I’ve been on courses where the ranger doesn’t even know who to tell to speed up, and probably because we’re the young group and she didn’t expect to get lip from us she told us…we kindly explained to her that we’re the 3rd group in line and our pace of play has nothing to do with the slow down on the course. Watched her drive away and just clear past the group that was slowing everyone else down…a group of older gentlemen that she just didn’t want to get in an argument with.

    But that’s life on the public courses, you want to play fast…play during the week.

  6. Kevin

    Feb 7, 2013 at 11:07 am

    I don’t see anything wrong with easier, more basic courses advertising themselves as a beginner friendly place in conjunction with more difficult courses advertising as a place where pace of play will be closely monitored. More really difficult courses, Riviera CC for one, ask people to prove a certain handicap to be able to play. There are different levels of softball leagues based on competitiveness, why not encourage golf courses to pro-actively guide players to the right courses for their skill levels? I am can say that I am not comfortable trying to take my kids out to play because I don’t want to get in people’s way.

  7. Chris Wehring

    Feb 7, 2013 at 9:56 am

    I don’t really have a problem with marshals enforcing a pace of play, but I do not want to spend my money on a green fee and a cart to have a marshal tell me that I need to skip a hole or two. I get a round done in around 4 hours. So, it’s not like I play that slowly. I think, if possible, slower groups just need to let others play through. Also, the quicker players tend to be rude also. So, I think that it needs to change from all ends. It is a gentleman’s sport after all.

  8. Tim

    Feb 7, 2013 at 9:10 am

    interesting article, particularly like your mention of tiger woods, as he was complaining about the group in front of him at Torrey Pines and rightly so, but I thought it was one of the worst cases of hypocrisy I have ever seen as he is often very slow, and you can be sure if he was coming down that stretch with only a one shot lead he would have been a lot slower, and no one would have dared say anything in case they upset him.

  9. old school harry

    Feb 7, 2013 at 8:53 am

    “Pace of play” is a misnomer. If It’s 4h 10m at your local track and you play in 4h 15m, you didn’t play at an ok or acceptable pace. You played at a pace that exceeded the absolute longest time allowable. Quit talking about stupid shit on the tee, put the pedal on the floor and hit to the middle of the green. Not one of you out there is good enough to fire at pins. Including myself. Al put it best “Lets go, while we’re young!”.

  10. George

    Feb 7, 2013 at 8:18 am

    Great article. By the above noted comments there are many side to the story. I am a part time marshall at a southern Ontario course. When on duty I go out of my way to drive the course backwards and when given the opportunity I meet all the players on the course. Our shifts are 6 hours so we have opportunity to usher the groups on and usher them off. If I have a group with a lost ball and it starts to take too long I politely ask them to drop and speed up and quite often will throw them one of my “found balls”. As a believer in the buddy marshall system who engages the groups I have only had one run in with a group and two of the clowns were inebriated. We strive to maintain 15 minutes hole to clock a 4 and a 1/2 hour round. It works quite well.
    Mind you the huge fund raising tournaments are another story – our marshalls might not as well be out there other than to make sure nobody gets hurt and stupidity doesn’t cause damage tour course.

  11. Buck

    Feb 7, 2013 at 8:07 am

    I have only been playing golf for a few years now, and I have played rounds of a full eighteen in as few as three hours and as many as six hours. I have to say, I agree that a slow pace is annoying and we should all take each other into consideration when playing, wheather it be level of experiance, group size or if someone in the group is having a bad round. We are all out there to enjoy the sport, but practice is for the driving range and if you lose a ball, so be it, if it bothers you that much, buy cheaper balls. Marshalls are there to do their job, they should push people to keep pace and be able to tell you why you are being held up. There are enough things in the game to get frustrated about, one of them shouldn’t be wheather you are getting done before dinner when you started before lunch.

  12. Todd

    Feb 7, 2013 at 12:11 am

    People need to play the correct tee boxes. Courses should make players play from certain tee boxes according to their handicap. Courses must invest in gps on the carts that update groups of their pace of play. It also, helps with hole lay-out and distances which all will speed up play. Players should not be told to skip holes during the round, but switch tee boxes if necessary. I have played at courses were the carts can be monitored by the gps and messages can be sent to the carts about pace of play and where to drive and park the cart. Next, adjust the order of groups being sent out if the tee times are right next to each other. Don’t send a group of tourists out in front of a group of regulars if they have back to back tee times. Other adjustments for 3 sums / 2 sums / ladies / Dads with young kids and ect… should be made by starters. Finally, play ready golf!!!!!!!

  13. chuck stone

    Feb 6, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    the city owned course i play along with putting in 1.3 million in a new watering system to speed up play where they had brush between some holes that was left to nature they have mowed it down so balls hit there can now be found… also some trees along side of a fairway have had the lower branches trimmed up to where you can now hit a ball when under the tree… another place to help speed up play is where there is creeks across the fairway that curved back and forth they have eliminated the erosion by tapering the sides of the creek which allows you to find the ball and sometimes allow you to hit a ball thats on the bank where before it would be a deep dropoff. they have been putting some smart thinking into how to speed up play especially when some folks will not give up on a ball.

  14. Frank

    Feb 6, 2013 at 8:10 pm

    This is an interesting discussion. As a newcomer to the sport of golf my experience with slow play comes from a different perspective… As a newbie your obviously not accomplished. You are not confident in determinng yardage distances & proper club selection and accuracy is but a dream. With all these hurdles already in place being scolded & insulted by faster accomplished players does nothing to endear the newbie to the game. When I play I can see who’s learning and trying their best. Pushing a newcomer to the game who has invested in green fees & equipment is hardly welcoming. Golf is already struggling to remain relevant. “Abusing” persons who are new or just trying the sport only drives them away (forever) and reinforces the exclusive nature of the sport.

  15. Jive

    Feb 6, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    The best policy I have seen was at a course where they have dime store clocks every three holes, you know the old school white face with black numbers, 12 inch diameter, minute and second hands, can run for 3 years off of AA battery. What they did was factor in a 4 hour round, and did the math to figure out how long it should take you to play the first 3 holes: eg. 40 minutes. So they set that clock backwards 40 minutes. So when you get to the fourth tee, the clock will say your tee time (because everyone remembers their tee time, but not how long it should take them to play the first 3 holes). And each clock along the way has been set the same way, so on the 7th tee the clock was set 1 hour and 20 minutes backwards. So if the clock shows a time after your tee time you are too slow. The policy reminds you every three holes so you know early on when you get off track. The clocks are easy to see and has a sign underneath reminding you that it should say your tee time.

    • ABgolfer2

      Feb 6, 2013 at 5:15 pm

      @ Jive – our best local muni does that on a few holes. I might adopt Brian’s idea though – play like a turtle and let the marshal be your forecaddie who finds your drives, rakes the bunkers, then fetches your favourite snacks from the clubhouse. That sounds pretty sweet! And all for the same price as the people who are keeping pace? Even sweeter.

      • Brian

        Feb 7, 2013 at 10:43 am

        It’s not that they’re playing like a turtle, it’s a lack of talent. No shot clock or heckling from rangers will get somebody that takes 8+ strokes a hole back on pace. If they need help, then help them, otherwise you’re not growing the game and your not maximizing the courses potential for income. You’re going to piss off one group of the other. The spotting/yardage suggestions are even more appropriate if your course has 1-2 holes that tend to be the bottleneck. Just park a ranger on those holes doing nothing but spotting drives and giving yardages. It’s worked at my club.

  16. hardcaliber

    Feb 6, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    Sooner or later, casual golf is going to have to move to a 9 hole format to keep up with the new modern lifestyle that is becoming more of the norm. Personally, I would love it if my 5 hour round took 4 hours, however the sad reality is that even 4 hours is a huge time when you are trying to balance work and family. I think that 2 hours is kind of a sweet spot as far as scheduling/time commitment goes, around the same time commitment as watching a movie or playing a few sets of tennis. A recreational activity that takes 2 hours is something that can be done on a regular basis, weekly or even multiple times a week. A recreational activity that takes half a day (4-5 hours) is just not something that most people have the luxury of enjoying on any sort of a regular basis anymore. Obviously, we all have varying schedules and time commitments, so opinions may vary widely. I would personally much rather play 9 holes at a relaxed pace than play 18 holes in a rush and be shepherded around by a crotchety old marshal.

  17. Brian

    Feb 6, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    The USGA can determine an acceptable pace for any given course. If a group is meeting that pace, especially on a busier weekend, and the group behind them is playing with their tails on fire, and there’s no more than a hole or two ahead of them, they should be left alone, IMO. If they’re not meeting that pace, then that should be addressed.

    If courses want to get serious about speed of play then they should teach rangers to go beyond policing and start aiding, especially groups that lack talent/experience (which is most often the cause of delays). Spot their drives, drive them to the next tee or their ball(if they’re walking), carry a GPS and get them a distance quickly, ask them what they want to eat/drink at turn and have it ready for them, whatever it takes to get that group caught back up to the pace, or the group in front of them. Then move on to the next group in line that is falling behind.

    • Mike

      Feb 6, 2013 at 4:15 pm

      I like the suggestions Brian makes and I would add to those with even raking the traps for players especially if they go from one fairway bunker to the next. Most of the marshals where I play spend their day riding around to the various water hazards fishing out balls for themselves. Too many men play tees way above their skill level also and fall behind at the #1 tee.

  18. ABgolfer2

    Feb 6, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    * can’t

  19. ABgolfer2

    Feb 6, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    Some people (not me of course) have never had to play quickly. They’ve never had to keep up with quicker players in the group of get left behind. I don’t see a long term solution for slow play. It used to be possible to avoid the turtles by playing very early, but now I play more at twilight. I played more partial rounds in 2012 due to running out of time than the previous 20 years combined. People say, “if you can devote a 6 hour block to golf then don’t play golf”. Okly dokly – I’ll go find something else to do – some place else to spend my money. My wife was suggesting we get a newer canoe and that’s about the same price as a membership. Decision made!

  20. David Bernstein

    Feb 6, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    A golf course can’t take green fees or membership dues from players and then force them to skip holes or play faster. If all golfers learned etiquette before they learned a swing, there would be no slow play. The PLAYER needs to understand what their position is on the golf course and how to react. Time can only be lost on a full golf course. So, if the first group of the day plays in 5 hours, then every other group is doomed to play in 5 hours or more. It just takes one group to spoil the day.

  21. Nick

    Feb 6, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    For many non-golfers, four hours is too long. For many of us avid golfer, four hour rounds are a dream, a thing which existed in better times. Reading the stories of slow play in this article raised my blood pressure and took me back to some very bad memories of waiting for slow players.

    God surely has a special place for men like Gene. Every course needs an old codger (and I say that with the utmost respect and admiration) like Gene to straighten slow groups out. Without them, Golf will continue to hemmorage players and more and more course will operate in the red till they shut down. Seriously, number one issue golf needs to address is not freaking anchored putting, COR on drivers, the ball – its pace of play.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Book That Almost Wasn’t a Book: Ben Hogan’s “Five Lessons”

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Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf,” written by Ben Hogan and Herbert Warren Wind, continues to be the largest selling golf instructional book in history. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the book, which was first published in 1957.

Sports Illustrated

The story of how the book was published revolves around Sports Illustrated, which was owned by Time Magazine. The weekly magazine launched in 1954 as an experiment to see if an all-sport publication could survive. In 1956, the publication was on the brink of disaster, having yet to find its audience.

This is the backdrop against which Sydney James, the magazine’s managing editor, received a call from Ben Hogan. Hogan had an idea for an article. Would Sports Illustrated be interested?

James promised to get back to him shortly with an answer. And he did, telling him that the magazine would be very interested in collaborating with him, and that he would begin making the necessary arrangements to get the project off the ground.

Texas Three-Step

James explained his plan to Hogan, which was to arrange for the magazine’s most talented writer, Herbert Warren Wind, and top-rated freelance illustrator, Anthony Ravielle, to visit Hogan in Fort Worth to further discuss his idea.

“Would that be agreeable” he asked?

“Yes,” Hogan replied. He would make himself available as needed.

Writer and Illustrator

Herbert Warren Wind, a graduate of Yale University, was not just a writer, but a literary craftsman. He was without question the finest writer of his time, contributing regularly as a columnist for The New Yorker magazine from 1941-47.

For his part, Ravielle was quickly earning a reputation as one of the most talented illustrators in the country. His expertise was drawing the musculature of the human body in life-like detail. And then having the unique ability to convey a sense of motion with the human form.

A Single Idea

A few weeks later, the two met with Hogan at his office in Fort Worth, Texas. They then made their way to Colonial Country Club. And once there, they walked out to a part of the course where they would not be disturbed. And then Hogan began to explain to the two men what he had in mind.

As they listened to his ideas for the article, they suggested that he consider a five-part series. What they proposed was a sequential pattern of lessons beginning with the grip, the setup, the backswing, and the downswing. The fifth chapter would be a summary and review of what had been presented in the first four chapters.

Hogan liked the idea and agreed immediately.

As Hogan began to explain his thoughts on the swing, Wind began to scribble in his notebook, not wanting to miss a single word. (In later years, when interviewing a subject, modern-day reporters would use a tape recorder, but at that time it had not yet been invented.)

Wind would at times stop Hogan to ask a question or to clarify an important point. And when he reached the point at which he couldn’t possibly absorb another thought, Wind gave way to Ravielle, who armed with a still camera, snapped one photograph after another, capturing the various positions that would ultimately mirror Hogan’s thoughts.

During the next few days, Hogan continued to elaborate on his theories about the golf swing and the logic behind them. As they finished, the three men agreed that they would meet again, either at the end of 1956 or after the first of the year.

Scratch Board

After returning to New York, Wind began writing a rough draft of the five-part series. At the same time, Ravielle started working from the photographs that he had taken earlier. He began by drawing pencil sketches that he would later show to Hogan for his approval before moving on to the final version.

The three gathered together again for a week-long session in January 1957. Hogan was extremely impressed with Ravielle’s sketches, believing that he had managed to capture the very essence of what he was attempting to covey to his would-be readers.

The pencil sketches would be transformed a final time using a “scratch-board” technique that Ravielle had mastered. The scratch-board technique created a uniquely vivid picture, which invited the reader to reach out and touch the seemingly life-like image on the page.

Wind’s spirits were buoyed after meeting with Hogan a second time as he wrote, “Hogan had gone into a much more detailed description of the workings of the golf swing then we had anticipated. Moreover, he had patently enjoyed the challenge and had given it everything he had.”

On returning to New York, Wind and Reveille begin working together, side by side, laying out the text, the illustrations, and captions in page form for each of the five chapters.

Seminole Review

As Wind recounted, “When an installment was completed and had gone through the production department, we airmailed photostats of the pages to Hogan, who was in Palm Beach getting ready for the Masters. I would telephone Ben at his apartment at an appointed time each week, and we would go over each paragraph line by line. A session usually took between 45 minutes to an hour.”

During these sessions, as they reviewed the copy, Hogan was insistent that each word and phrase precisely communicate exactly what he intended to say. Wind recalls one example, when he had written “that at a certain stage of the swing the golfer’s weight had shifted to his left side.” Hogan corrected, “Let’s not say left side,” Adding “That isn’t accurate. In golf, there’s no such thing as a player’s left side. At this point in the swing most of the golfer’s weight is on his left foot and left leg.”

Wind found these discussions exhausting as Hogan worked his way through the copy with a “fine-tooth comb.” As wind wrote, “After these protracted checking sessions with Hogan, I did some deep-breathing exercises to relax myself, but I also had the bracing feeling that even Sherlock Holmes wouldn’t be able to detect a smudged adjective or a mysterious verb in the text.”

As they were nearing completion of their work, Hogan asked Wind if he had any suggestions for the series name. As Wind recalls, “I thought for a long moment and then tossed up ‘The Fundamentals of Modern Golf?’”

Hogan mulled it over for a moment and then asked, “How about ‘The Modern Fundamentals of Golf?’” Wind agreed that the reversal in wording was a definite improvement. The series now, for the first time, had both a name and an identity.

The Magazine and the Book

The series was very successful, of course, boosting not only the sales of the magazine but also its circulation. The content of what would eventually become the book appeared in five installments beginning with the March 11, 1957 issue, which in Wind’s exact words, “sold like hotcakes.“

The book was released some five months later in September as a joint venture between Hogan and the magazine.

A Triple Play

Why has the book endured?

The first reason is because of the public’s fascinated with Hogan, not only as player, but as a man. He was a great ball-striker, maybe the best of all time, but there was more to the man than his ability to play golf. He is one of the more complex sports figures in the pantheon of great players. He was a man of secrets who preferred the shadows to the light.

The second reason is the wonderful prose of Herbert Warren Wind, which flows with ease from one paragraph to another, giving the reader at times the feeling of floating on air from one sentence to another.

The third reason is the illustrations of Anthony Ravielle, which describe in dramatic fashion the essence of what Hogan wanted to convey to the reader.

“Five Lessons” was then the collaboration of three men, each one of them the very best in their fields. They were, through luck and circumstance, thrown together in space and time. And maybe once joined together, they sensed the opportunity to create something very special with one purpose in mind — to write one of the best golf instruction books ever. And they succeed.

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Opinion & Analysis

Bag Chatter: An Interview with Uther Supply

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Bag Chatter is a series of interviews that spotlights brands around the golf industry and the people behind them. We’re looking to make this a regular thing, so please comment and share through your medium of choice. If you have a brand and are interested in participating in these interviews, you can email mailbag@golfwrx.com for consideration. This interview is with Daniel Erdman of Uther Supply.

Tell us about Uther. How do you pronounce that? What are you all about? How did you start?

It’s actually pronounced “other.” We’ve gotten that question a lot and, to be honest, we’re kind of OK with it. We wanted to brand ourselves as unique, so we think it fits well. We want to create products that no one else creates. That could be towels in unique prints or some other golf goods outside of that. We’re targeting the customer that wants to be different as well…people who want to demonstrate their unique personalities.

Forgive me for being a little direct, but golf towels may not strike a lot of people as being something a lot of people would start a business with. Were you seeing a lack of something in the marketplace somehow? What prompted you to start this company selling golf towels?

It may not be conventional and I definitely recognize that. Some of my friends have laughed at me for starting a golf towel business. I guess it hit me when I was working at private clubs (I have worked at The Thornhill Club and Ladies’ Golf Club of Toronto). When you work in the back shop and storage facility, you handle a lot of golf bags. I just noticed rows and rows of bags that all look the same and I thought it made a lot of sense to inject some personality into it. You know, people go crazy for how all the pros personalize their wedges and their bags. They buy towels and bag tags from courses like TPC Sawgrass and Pebble Beach to personalize their stuff, but in the end it all kind of blends together. Billy Horschel’s octopus-print pants at the 2013 US Open was something that always stuck out in my mind and in that moment when I was staring at all those bags, it all kind of came together in a way. I thought we could really add something to the marketplace.

What do you think differentiates your products from others in the marketplace? Why do you think people would buy your products?

We’ve already addressed the fact that we offer different and bold prints, but that’s obviously the first thing that most customers will notice. Beyond that, though, we put a lot of attention to detail into our products. We went through 40 different suppliers to get things right. My grandparents had a really successful flooring mat company when I was growing up. Watching them run the family business gave me the bug at a very young age to start my own business. It also taught me how much quality matters and getting the right suppliers and materials. It was so much more difficult back then without the internet, but now, a quick google search just does so much of the legwork for you.

Uther Supply’s golf towel lineup

Something that I think is very interesting here is you’re very young at only 22 years old. A lot of the people I’ve talked to recently have been in their twenties as well. Tell me a little bit about what it took to start this company. Did you have to secure an investment? A lot of people shy away from starting a company for fear of the hill being too steep to climb, if you will. Since you’re in the process of climbing it, what’s that actually like?

It definitely was difficult. The only outside funding I got were some grants and loans from business accelerator programs. Those helped tremendously. I remember having to place a very large order at my supplier at the same time my one of my funding opportunities was being processed. That particular one only had like a 20 percent acceptance rate, and if I didn’t get it, I honestly wasn’t sure how I was going to fund the order. The way everything happened to be timed, I had to I place my order before I heard back from my funding application to meet a deadline. It turned out I was accepted, so that was a relief, but it was definitely pretty stressful. You know, in the beginning, you’re working for months before you generate any income. You’re doing everything for the first time like sending stuff through customs, dealing with suppliers, collecting transactions, you name it. You’re bound to make mistakes along the way and when you have zero money coming in, the mistakes you make hurt so much more. You have no processes or systems in place. It’s something you need to accept for what it is and grind through it. Social media helped accelerate things quite a bit (including meeting my sales partner Luke through Instagram). Selling on Amazon and going to the PGA show last year gave us a boost as well. It’s hard to say what the hardest part is specifically. It’s just the grind in the beginning trying to get momentum behind it. Once you get over the hump, it’s really exciting and fun, but getting up to that point is definitely not easy.

It should also be mentioned that you’re based out of Canada. A lot of people would assume being in the Great White North would make the game of golf a challenging proposition. How long/short is your golf season in Ontario? How do you stay sharp over the Canadian winters? And what’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to play golf when it’s far too cold for most of us? To what lengths will you go?

It can get interesting for sure. I first started golfing because of my hockey friends. Yes, a lot of us do play hockey up here. It was a natural transition for a lot of us to play hockey in the winter and golf in the summer. However, if you do happen to get a golf itch in the winter, you will have to get creative. It’s pretty easy to go to just an indoor simulator to practice. Sometimes I would go to Golf Town (our version of Golf Galaxy) to pretend to demo clubs in order to practice my swing. That can get you by for a while, but it’s not the same as hitting an actual golf ball and watching it fly through the air, you know? So when you get to that point, there’s a nice indoor/outdoor range near me with covered, heated hitting bays. Our golf season is from like April through October, so that leaves a lot of time in between. Golf vacations become necessary sometimes.

Before starting Uther, you alluded to your experience working at golf courses. First off, you must have some good stories. No need to mention any names, but what’s your favorite story from that stage of life? Also, what was it like to go from working at a club to having to court those golf clubs to become your customer, stock your products, etc? Was that really easy or really difficult?

Well, I have a bunch of stories involving golf carts. Just in case the old golf directors read this, I won’t give too many details. Working at a course is great. You can’t get a better “office” than going to the course every day. There’s nothing like watching the sunrise on a dew-covered golf course, especially when you’re being paid. Some of my best memories were after tournaments where three of us guys would clean like 80 golf carts. We would all have fun and get to know each other. It didn’t really feel like work.

In both instances (working for a course and now selling to them), it doesn’t really feel so much like work. It does take a lot of work, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t feel like drudgery, that’s for sure. The difference is that there’s a lot more behind the scenes work that I’m doing now. We recently did a towel for the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance in collaboration with State Apparel. It took us a lot of back and forth to get that product right, but once we did, we came up with a custom, one-off product that our customers really loved. And watching them react to it was incredible. Stuff like that really keeps you going.

Bo Links, Co-Founder of the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance, holding custom towel developed with Uther Supply

This question is unabashedly inspired by (ahem…lifted from) one of Rick Shiels’ recent posts. (Giving credit where it’s due here). If you had to “Tin Cup” it (i.e. play a round of golf with only one club), what club would it be and how many extra strokes do you think it would take? So, if you were to play your home course, your normal score is what? And what would your “Tin Cup” score be, you think?

If I had to choose one club for a Tin Cup round, I think it would be a five iron. My home course (and the public golf course I worked for) is Richmond Hill Golf Club. It’s only like 6,000 yards, so I feel like I could totally get by with a five iron and get on any green in 3. I typically shoot like an 80-85. I don’t think I would be that far off the number honestly. I trust the five iron, but also, I know my course pretty well and I think that club would suit it nicely. Now that you ask, though, I feel like I’m dying to try it!

What tour pro would you most like to have a beer with? Not necessarily the guy you’d want to play golf with or pick his brain about the game. Who do you think is the most likeable guy on tour? Who would you most like to befriend, if you will?

I would definitely have to go with Rickie Fowler. He’s got a bold style for sure, but he owns it and I really dig that. I love that he congratulates the other guys on tour and is supportive of them when they win tournaments. He seems so humble. He’s also really adventurous. He’s into motocross. I’m not into motocross, but I love the adventurous spirit. He just seems like a really cool guy from what I can tell.

It’s almost hard to believe, but the PGA Merchandise Show is fast approaching (January 23-26, 2018 in Orlando, FL for those who don’t know). Will you be exhibiting? What are you most looking forward to? That question is, of course, about what steps you think Uther will take, but also, are you looking forward to anything specific from other manufacturers? What companies’ booths are you planning on going to?

We will definitely be at the show and we’re really looking forward to it. Come see us at booth 3988! I walked the show last year but wasn’t exhibiting, so I would go up to potential customers and pitch my products to them. That was a lot of work and it was quite stressful being out on a limb like that. We’ve been working on this year’s show since August and I think it’s going to be a ton of fun. We’ve got some really cool stuff planned. You also get to meet so many people there, which is just a blast. As far as other stuff I’m looking forward to, Greyson Clothiers is definitely at the top of the list. Charlie’s story is so interesting and I just love their products.

Uther Supply plaid towel on the course

Lastly, what do you guys have in the works? Are there any product releases forthcoming? Tell people how to find you on website, social media, etc.

So, the big news is that we will be expanding beyond golf towels. We will be launching some gloves and hats that I’m really excited about. We have six different golf gloves as well as bucket and baseball hats we’ll be rolling out in some very fun prints and colors (because that’s what we do). Definitely a good idea to check out our website, which is www.uthersupply.com. The website has a link to sign up for our email list which will send out some discount codes from time to time. There will also be some exclusive and limited-edition products on the website at times too. @Uthersupply is our handle on all social media platforms. Business customers can reach us at contact@uthersupply.com to collaborate with us on custom products. We’d love to have people come see what we’re about!

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Opinion & Analysis

Tara Iti: A Golfer’s Paradise

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This trip couldn’t have started better. Tara Iti Golf Club is magic! No disrespect to the home of golf, but this course might be as special as it gets when it comes to playing links golf.

Catch Up: The Start of My Golf Adventure

Tara Iti is a masterpiece that opened late in 2015. It’s designed by the famous golf architect Tom Doak, and it’s located on a large piece of land on the North Island of New Zealand around 1.5 hours from Auckland. It’s well hidden from houses and traffic, so you can just focus on your game and the stunning property.

The course brings swift fairways and plenty of risk-reward opportunities, offering a bevy of challenging shots that you need to plan carefully in order to get close to the flag. I loved especially the shapes presented by the fairways and waste areas, which make it feel as though the entire course is seamlessly woven together. I also like the idea they’ve got here of playing the ball as it lies. No bunkers, just waste areas.

On a personal note, my match against Johan was halved. He played very well on the first nine while I did well on the back nine.

What’s key to success to Tara Iti is a polished short game in combination with the ability to hit the fairways. I found my favorite hole at No. 17, a strikingly beautiful short par-3 that pops up between the wild sand dunes. There are three iconic trees to the left with the sea and a beautiful island as a backdrop.

Up Next: Kauri Cliffs on the northern peak of New Zealand. It is said to be one of the most scenic courses in the world.

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