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Read about Justin Rose’s putting coach, David Orr

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In and of itself, the structure is unremarkable.

The dimensions of the building are of smallish proportion and the concrete block is in need of pressure washed scrutiny; at the base of the front awning, the numerals of the address plate hang in a casual state of limbo.

But as with most things, the exterior counts for little; for it is inside, just a step over the threshold, where some of the game’s finest players are redefining their approach to putting.

Scrawled in varying degrees of penmanship, and occupying a corner section of David Orr’s Buies Creek, N.C., putting studio, are the signatures of some of the world’s most prominent touring professionals.

More so than a novelty, they diagram the current needle position of a career arc remarkably polished, yet completely unfinished.

Rose. Molinari. Castro. Wi. Cheyenne Woods. A global consortium, if you will — one that stretches from North Carolina to Asia, and all points in between.

The wall is a unique tableau — only full-field entrants in golf’s major championships and those exempt on worldwide professional tours may leave their mark — and is the constellation matrix of Orr’s career in the game of golf. It represents 23 years of diligent research, practical application and sustained personal relationships.

He clearly laments the facility’s untidy appearance, but his students prefer it this way. “They really love it,” he explains. “I’ve been told not to change a thing.”

And whether by Gulfstream V or Ford Taurus, his students arrive to stand their post in Orr’s lifelong battle against, in his words, “being average.”

If the modern game is synonymous with cozy lifestyles, posh settings and uncommon perks, Orr’s sanctuary represents its raw antithesis. Amidst a stockade of old putter models and diagnostic tools, commitment is reaffirmed. Important decisions are made. The finite, despite his background in technical analysis, is communicated in plain language.

There are periodic notions to alter its condition, sure; but he simply does not enjoy the time required by such a task.

Class, it seems, is always in session.

David Orr at his Buies Creek, N.C., putting studio

It’s 2 p.m., and a small group ambles into the studio, each dressed in the familiar patterns of a Tour player. Ranging in age from 18 to 21, they are present to discuss their individual progress against the bar of the PGA’s playing ability test.

If brevity is indeed the soul of wit, then hard data is David Orr’s deoxyribonucleic imprint.

“Is 18 inches past the hole a speed?” he asks. “No. It’s a distance. And what would make it an actual speed?”

His students, neither lost nor disengaged, ponder the question. And while their individual opinions vary, they reach the desired common ground with assistance from Orr’s guiding hand.

“It’s feet per second,” he explains, “so what’s in the denominator? Time. That’s break. That’s touch. Curve is the roll time.”

His point is ultimately quite simple — one’s level of awareness, with specific regard to personal space, must be developed in order to construct a functional cache of putting skills.

“Here’s what the golfer doesn’t realize. Let’s say we had a 10-foot putt, zero point zero slope. No break, no nothing,” he explains. “One degree open is right edge. One degree closed is left edge. Now let’s add a 2 percent slope, putting at an angle — what just happened to the capture width of the hole? The cone just shrinks.”

For lack of a more sophisticated phrase, it’s mad science.

“No. It’s measurement,” he says. “There’s a big difference in being technical and being accurate. I disagree that great putters are born. I think great putters learn their tendencies and use them; they don’t fight them.”

The hour has slipped into rear view, and Orr is now standing atop a table in a room behind the Keith Hills golf shop. At issue is the short game concept of controlling the radius — in other words, what is lengthening and shortening during a player’s chipping motion.

“The reason why the average golfer has the chip yips is because they’ve set up to hit a low shot, and in their mind they are trying to hit a high, soft shot,” he reasons.

This session, presented to a graduate level contingency of Campbell University’s Professional Golf Management (PGM) Program, is canted in the direction of real world application — paper theory, he suggests, simply does not register with everyone.

“Put a ball about a foot from the edge of a mat,” he explains, “and try to get it on the ground as quickly as possible. What is that teaching them (students) to do? The ball goes in the air because of the loft, not because of the angle of attack.”

His message, rooted in one’s ability to communicate, is equal parts Daniel Kaffee from ‘A Few Good Men’ and professor John Keating from ‘Dead Poet’s Society’ — unafraid of the truth, its potential impact on a student’s psyche, and a coach’s willingness to walk a different path to generate success.

Over the years, Orr has employed this concept to successfully transit from a full-swing coach to a specialized entity — one who helps players motivate the golf ball to disappear with increased regularity, regardless of ability, green complex or high-stakes environment.

To that end, Orr respects the sweat equity of his students. In a game full of five footers, he prefers to place more value on the person standing over the putt — or the future instructor, for that matter — than the putt itself.

“People skills,” he exclaims. By his estimation, they make or break any professional, regardless of occupation. And as his students well know, they are non-negotiable.

“What’s work?” he asks. “It’s what you actually accomplish. What’s effort? That’s putting energy toward something, right? So, work is what you actually accomplish. Do you want to be average?”

Perhaps it is John Wooden who best captures the breadth of David Orr’s substance. The iconic UCLA basketball coach, whose dynastic teams won seven consecutive NCAA Division I titles, operated on a simple premise: Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.

“Here’s the thing about it,” he explains. “The brain works off movement, plans and strategies. You react to the plan.” To further this notion, he leans forward, saying, “We don’t give tips around here. We figure out what you’re doing. This is what you need to work on; go work on it.”

For many involved in the high profile web of a Tour player’s corporation, life can become difficult. Even for the world’s most sought after instructors, the balancing act can be difficult to manage. What begins as a working relationship can quickly flash into something complex and unyielding, and ultimately, distant.

Orr, however, remains grounded in the culture he has helped define at Campbell University. For students at “The Creek,” it is solely about the work. The environment is pure — wholly devoid of ego, personalized social media presence, entitlement or the high art of resting upon one’s laurels.

Ever the perfectionist, one would be hard pressed to imagine Orr anything less than excited about passing on what he has learned from countless others over his career.

“At Wells Fargo last year, I was walking back from the short game area with TJ Yeaton — who went through the program here — and we saw this kid down in a bunker,” he says, smiling, clearly fond of the memory. “It was another one of our guys, Jorge Parada (currently the instructor for Jonas Blixt).

“That was pretty neat. Moments like that are the most rewarding. They’re the fruits of your labor.”

Any coach worth his salt will tell you that creating a running sense of leverage often means success for his players. Suffice to say, this concept has allowed Orr to forge ahead in his scaled battle of work versus a job, of success versus being average.

For many in professional golf, life is scored in the harsh ledgers of longevity and winning percentage. Orr, however, views the matter differently, and does so through the looking glass of time well spent.

“I’m very fortunate,” he explains. “I don’t want to be rich, and I don’t want to be famous. I just want to be comfortable with what I do, and grateful for the relationships I have.”

At present, he appears content; almost relaxed. But that posture does not have much of a shelf life. There is a private lesson in five minutes, and more time to be spent refining the studio.

For David Orr, the writing is clearly on the wall.

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Justin Hayes is a freelance writer from Wilson, N.C. A life-long fan of Wake Forest University, he enjoys fiction and independent film.

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Its like you learn my mind! You seem to understand a lot approximately this, such as you wrote the e book in it or something. I feel that you just can do with some p.c. to force the message home a bit, however instead of that, this is excellent blog. A fantastic read. I’ll definitely be back.

  2. johnny

    Mar 11, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    have had the pleasure of spending a full day at the “creek”. david is a wealth of knowledge and a better man at that. one of the best experiences i have had. would love to go back in the next couple years

  3. Pingback: 2013 Goal - Visit to David Orr, Putting Guru

  4. Pingback: Meet putting guru David Orr | JR's site

  5. Rufiolegacy

    Mar 4, 2013 at 11:25 am

    Interesting read here, and well written. I can honestly say that this is at the very lest inspiring to get back to the grind stone and practice. Off to the gym to prep for the season.

  6. nick

    Mar 3, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    david orr is the truth. nuff said. he’s my coach and i wouldnt want anyone else looking at my putting stroke or full swing for that matter.

  7. Phil Howard

    Mar 2, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    GREAT ARTICLE!! Thanks for sharing!!

  8. siteseer2

    Mar 2, 2013 at 10:07 am

    David Orr is equal parts genius and humility…rare in the “me” golfworld in which he exists. Those who are fortunate enough to call him friend are truly blessed…

  9. Ben Alberstadt

    Mar 1, 2013 at 11:05 pm

    Fabulous writing, Mr. Hayes. Glad to see this got placement on Golf Digest, as well.

  10. Edmond Brooks IV

    Mar 1, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    David has helped me with putting and is a great coach easy to work with. I just hope he doesn’t get too famous or I will be waiting in line;) Way too go David and best of luck…..

  11. munihack

    Mar 1, 2013 at 9:28 am

    To some extent great putters are born and made. The subtle aspects of reading a green have a lot to do with how true your vision is. I have astigmatism (sp?) in both eyes and even with correction I miss things that good green readers see. The modern, flat greens give me more trouble than the old push-up tilted greens of earlier arhitects. I simply can’t read the flat ones well. I have a friend who has qualified for USGA national events and he sees all the subtle design aspects. Grain is another issue. That is why even at the tour level some guys are “regional” putters. Most people believe Tom Watson was a good or great putter but he didn’t win in Florida until years on the Champions Tour. Putting asks the golfer to see, feel and read the ground the way the full shot maker is expected to see, feel and read the distance, wind and topography to the target. Tough greens separate putters the way wind separates ball strikers. What all great teachers do is expose the student to the perspective and tools needed to resolve the question at hand. This teacher is one of them.

  12. Juan

    Feb 28, 2013 at 10:13 pm

    I have had the privilege of having David enable me to be a MUCH better putter. He is an excellent technician, but a better person. Congrats to Dave for getting some visibility

    • Anon.

      Mar 3, 2013 at 7:49 pm

      I worked with David a considerable about a number of years ago. I will lead off that he is a good person and has come a long way in life. With that being said, I was not entirely displeased with the experience.

      We worked on the principles from a book known as “the golfing machine”. Shortly after I stopped working with him he flopped over to a “new school” of golf known as the stack and tilt. I was extremely displeased that I had spent considerable time and money working with him building a swing engraved in the golfing machine, and he switched mechanics mid-stream on me.

      If you are an average-decent golfer or worse you cannot make a mistake with him. At this level generic advice will help you immensely. If you have a game where you bounce between a scratch and a +4 handicap, and you are trying to further your game I would not recommend him.

      Golf “advice/coaching” is tailored to your game, your swing, and your physical attributes. I strongly encourage anyone seeking advice from any “teacher” to take a couple lessons with a grain of salt and really think about what the person is saying before you embrace it and start making changes.

      *Disclaimer: If you are interested in taking one lesson, no matter who from, please ignore this article.

      • Ronnie Martin

        Mar 5, 2013 at 7:36 pm

        Here’s your problem bro, TGM is not a “method” but S&T is. In fact, TGM could inly help
        You understand what is taught by Plummer and Bennett and help you understand why the golf ball does what it does after the collision. I had the good fortune to hang out and learn from DO at Campbell while certifying as an Authorized Instructor of the Golfing Machine. in 2009. David Orr is a pathological teacher. He just wants to help people and he would probably do it for free if he had to. It’s dissapointing that you feel the need to disparage the man just because you don’t know the difference in a catalogue of components, and a method.

  13. Carson

    Feb 28, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    Great article! Thank you for sharing.

    A fellow North Carolinian,
    -Carson Henry

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Opinion & Analysis

A Letter from the Editor: Big changes are happening at GolfWRX

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For those of you who don’t know who I am, my name is Andrew Tursky. I recently went from the right-hand-man of former GolfWRX Editor-in-Chief Zak Kozuchowski, to running the show here at GolfWRX as the Editor-in-Chief myself. In my new role, I’m going to help GolfWRX fulfill its fullest potential as the best golf website in existence, and that means making a number of immediate changes, all of which I’ll highlight below.

First, a look back. Over a decade ago, GolfWRX started as a small community golf forum for golfers to discuss golf equipment, courses, instruction, rules, bargains, and everything else golf related. The forums continue to grow everyday, and they’re stronger than ever with over 250,000 members who are the most knowledgable and passionate golfers on the planet. They also helped us determine the Best Driver of 2018. Additionally, sometime around 2011, Kozuchowski took GolfWRX.com from simply a community golf forum to a golf media powerhouse by adding a front page section of the website, equipped with ultra-professional editorial. He built a team of Featured Writers — consisting of some of the biggest names in the golf industry — to help produce content that readers love and need. Since 2013, I’ve been helping Zak run the site by writing/producing original content myself, and working with the Featured Writer team. Currently averaging over 1.8 million unique readers per month, GolfWRX has been doing just fine. But I believe so strongly in the GolfWRX brand that I don’t want to settle for “just fine.” I believe we have more to offer, and I want every golfer in the world to garner entertainment or knowledge from our website.

As such, and building upon the foundation that is GolfWRX.com and the forums, I’ve been empowered by the “powers that be” at GolfWRX — you know, the guys who cut paychecks — to grow and shape the best golf website on the Internet.

So what does that mean going forward? Well, that’s what I wanted to discuss.

Here at GolfWRX, we’ve always been great at telling stories through the written word and images, and we will continue to do so with our Featured Writers team and legion of golf writers who love and know the game of golf. But after taking over the editorial direction of the website, I also wanted to help give GolfWRX a voice and a face. There are so many amazing people in the world of golf, and I wanted to provide platforms for us to help them tell their stories… to provide our readers the chance to see how golf clubs are made, how courses are designed, why professionals play certain equipment, and so much more. I wanted to bring readers where they’ve never been and hear from the people they’ve never heard from. Here at GolfWRX, we have the opportunity to speak with amazing people and play golf at amazing courses, and it’s about time the GolfWRX readers got to enjoy those experiences with us.

Therefore, we’re implementing our own original video and radio initiatives.

On the video-end of the spectrum, GolfWRX has recently hired Johnny Wunder full-time to the GolfWRX Staff. He’s a Hollywood producer (check out his new film Josie, starring Sophie Turner from Game of Thrones, that was recently in select theaters across the country!) and is also the new Director of Original Content at GolfWRX. If you’ve enjoyed the Bob Parsons interview, Paige interview, PXG Gen2 Editor’s Journal, or how PXG irons get built, you have Mr. Wunder to thank. Also coming soon are experiences with Mike Taylor at Artisan Golf, David Edel, Bert Lamar of Iliac Golf, the Criquet Golf team in Austin, a short game series with Gabe Hjertstedt, a new fashion series and much more. We’re extremely excited to bring our own original content to the world, and help highlight the people in golf who we think deserve a platform. See the things you’ve never seen, go places you’ve never gone, and meet people you’ve never met; that’s what we want to do with our new GolfWRX original video content. We truly hope you enjoy it, and learn a lot from the content we produce.

We’ve also started three great podcasts — the “19th Hole with host Michael Williams,” “Two Guys Talkin’ Golf,” and “Gear Dive” — with plans to expand in the very near future. Check all of them out here on SoundCloud, or here on iTunes.

The 19th Hole is hosted by Michael Williams, who was the PGA Mediaperson of the Year in 2014 and is a longtime titan in both golf media and radio in general; he has produced and hosted shows on CBS Radio, Fox Sports Radio and Voice of America. Michael is a true professional, knowledgeable golfer, and knows how to conduct one heck of an interview. So far on the show, his guests have included Greg Norman, Bob Vokey, Rees Jones, Robert Trent Jones Jr., Scott Van Pelt, Byron Scott, Michael Breed, Louis Oosthuizen, Jim Nantz, Roger Cleveland, Mike Taylor, and many more.

Two Guys Talkin’ Golf (TG2), is hosted by equipment expert Brian Knudson and myself, a former Division I golfer and GolfWRX Editor. Together, we discuss all things golf, but mostly focus on golf equipment… and the occasional hot take. TG2 welcomes guests on the show as well, ranging from GolfWRX forum members to club builders to Tour professionals to caddies. If you’re hungry for more equipment knowledge and high-level golf conversation, TG2 is your type of podcast.

The third, and all-new podcast, is called “Gear Dive,” hosted by Johnny Wunder. What you can expect is a weekly podcast where Wunder interviews anyone who’s anyone “in the know” of golf equipment… and he’s going deep. To give you an idea, his first guest was legendary clubmaker Larry Bobka who made Tiger Woods’ old Titleist irons.

Also, as I discussed before, GolfWRX is great with telling stories via the written word. To make sure we continue to do so, we’ve hired Ben Alberstadt who’s been writing for GolfWRX for over 5 years now. He was previously a freelance journalist who worked with a variety of media and news outlets, and he now wears the GolfWRX hat full time. I cannot be more excited to have him aboard the ship because he’s a true, hard-working journalist and he’s great at telling a story in his own unique style. If you’ve read any of his stuff, you know what I mean.

And as for me, I promise to continue providing GolfWRX readers with the content they want and need to read/hear/see on a daily basis. It’s my duty to help our readers be the most knowledgable golfers and golf buyers, and be entertained while learning more about the sport we all love. I simply love GolfWRX and our readers/listeners/viewers, and I want you to have the best website of all time to visit every day… a website to be part of and proud of.

What do I ask from you GolfWRX readers? Your feedback! If we write a bad story, tell us why you think it’s bad. If we publish a video you like, tell us why in the comments or on social media. If you love the new podcast, tell us that you loved it and support by subscribing. (If you want all of our podcasts transcribed, we’re working on it!) We want to have the best website in the world, and we want to provide information to golfers in the way they want to consume it. We care deeply about your opinion. GolfWRX began as a forum community, and we will always be a community. Personally, I was a GolfWRX reader myself before ever writing for the site. So was Alberstadt and Williams and Knudson and Wunder. We love golf and we love GolfWRX. We want to see it thrive, and you, the readers, are a huge part of that success.

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read this letter, and I hope you continue to be a GolfWRX reader and participant. And if you do, make sure to tell your golfing buddies how much you love the site… in real life or on social media. The more we grow, the better stories and podcasts and videos we can create. I love and appreciate the opportunity to be your GolfWRX Editor, and I won’t let you down!

 

Hit em between the tree line,

Andrew Tursky

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Zurich Classic of New Orleans

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Just as in 2017, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans will once again provide a change in format for the players this week. Players will team up once more at TPC Louisiana for a combination of Best Ball (Rounds 1 and 3) and Alternate Shot (Rounds 2 and 4). Unfortunately, the change in format means that there is no DraftKings this week.

The course is long at over 7,400 yards, but it’s also very generous off the tee. TPC Louisiana offers the opportunity to go low, and players took advantage last year despite the inclement weather conditions. It took a Monday playoff to separate them, but eventually Cameron Smith and Jonas Blixt pipped Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown by making birdie on the fourth playoff hole to take the title after both teams had posted 27-under par in regulation.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Justin Rose/Henrik Stenson 7/1
  • Patrick Reed/Patrick Cantlay 12/1
  • Justin Thomas/Bud Cauley 14/1
  • Bubba Watson/Matt Kuchar 14/1
  • Jordan Spieth/Ryan Palmer 14/1
  • Jon Rahm/Wesley Bryan 16/1
  • Rafa Cabrera Bello/Sergio Garcia 22/1

For the first time, Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar (14/1) will team up for this event. Last year, Watson played alongside J.B Holmes. The two performed well, finishing in a tie for fifth place. TPC Louisiana has been a course that has suited Watson’s game over the years, his prodigious length being a significant factor. Along with his T-5 in 2017, Watson has a victory and three other top-20 finishes at the course when the event was an individual stroke-play tournament.

While Watson can be feast or famine at times, Kuchar is Mr. Consistent. He hasn’t missed a cut in over a year, and he has been a top-10 machine over the past few years on the PGA Tour. Despite this, Kuchar hasn’t been able to convert many of his top-10 finishes into wins, but playing alongside Watson this week — who has already notched two victories in 2018 — may help his cause. Over their last 24 rounds, Watson ranks third for Strokes Gained-Off the Tee and eighth in Strokes Gained Total. Over the same period, Kuchar has been predictably consistent, ranking in the top third in the field in every major Strokes Gained category. It’s an intriguing partnership, with Watson’s explosiveness combined with Kuchar’s consistency, and it’s a cocktail that should prove to be a formidable force at TPC Louisiana.

Two men with the hot hand coming into this event are fellow Americans, Jimmy Walker and Sean O’Hair (25/1). Last week at the Valero Texas Open both men excelled, posting the highest finishes of their year thus far. Walker finished solo 4th, while O’Hair grabbed a T-2. It’s the pairs first time playing TPC Louisiana together, but Walker has some good course form to lean on. Back in 2012 and 2013, he posted back-to-back top-20 finishes, which shows that TPC Louisiana is a course that fits his game. Accuracy off the tee has never been Walker’s strength, but the generous fairways may be one of the reasons that he has performed well at this course.

O’Hair has been in good form as of late. The Texan has three top-15 finishes in his last six events, and last week he recorded his highest Strokes Gained Total at an event in years. Walker also seems to have turned a corner with his game. Along with his excellent performance last week, he managed a top-20 finish at the Masters, and his Strokes Gained-Total at the Valero was his highest since his 2016 PGA Championship victory. With both men coming off their best performances in a long time, they should be confident. The duo looks to be a decent value to mount a challenge this week.

Last year’s runners-up Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown (40/1) are hard to ignore at their price this week. Brown has struggled mightily for form in 2018, missing six cuts out of 11 events played so far this year, but the prospect of playing alongside Kisner may be the boost that Brown’s 2018 is needing.

Kisner’s form has been strong as of late. He backed up his runner-up finish at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play with a T-28 at Augusta before grabbing a T-7 at the RBC Heritage. At Harbour Town, Kisner’s iron play was especially sharp, with his Strokes Gained-Approaching the Greens total being the highest since the Memorial last year. Despite Brown’s slump, in a highly tricky format to predict, the pair showed enough chemistry last year and an ability to excel in the format, which is enough for me to consider their price a little undervalued this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Bubba Watson/Matt Kuchar 14/1
  • Jimmy Walker/Sean O’Hair 25/1
  • Kevin Kisner/Scott Brown 40/1
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Podcasts

Gear Dive: Legendary club builder Larry Bobka speaks on Tiger’s old Titleist irons

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Legendary club builder Larry Bobka joins us in the first episode of our new podcast called “Gear Dive,” hosted by Johnny Wunder, GolfWRX’s Director of Original Content. Gear Dive is a deep look into the world of golf equipment, and Wunder will be interviewing the craftsman, the reps and the players behind the tools that make up the bags of the best golfers in the world.

Bobka, our first guest, is a former Tour rep and club builder involved in some of the most important clubs of the past 25 years. From his days at Wilson Golf working with legends such as Payne Stewart, Hale Irwin and Bernhard Langer, he transitioned into the Golden Age of Titleist/Acushnet building clubs for Tiger Woods, Davis Love, David Duval and Brad Faxon. He currently runs Argolf where he builds and fits handmade putters for Tour players and amateurs alike. He’s one of the Godfather’s of modern golf equipment.

Skip to 45:30 for the discussion about Tiger’s Titleist irons.

Check out our podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

What do you think of the new podcast? Leave your feedback in the comments below!

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